Damian Lillard trade to Miami is complicated, even for third-party Nets

18 July 2023

The Miami Heat alone do not have the assets to pull off a Damian Lillard trade.

No matter how many times you try in the NBA Trade Machine, there’s no straight-up deal that sends Lillard from Portland to Miami that results in an acceptable haul for the Trail Blazers.

It’s not because Tyler Herro isn’t a talented basketball player. The former Sixth Man of the Year is coming off a respectable second consecutive season averaging 20 or more points per game.

Portland’s backcourt, however, is already accounted for in No. 3 overall pick Scoot Henderson and emerging scoring guard Anfernee Simons.

The Trail Blazers simply do not need Herro, even more so considering Shaedon Sharpe’s emergence as a legitimate NBA starter.

Portland is not trading the most important player in its franchise’s history in a deal that doesn’t make basketball sense — even more so when you consider Miami only owns two tradable first-round picks, and their next-most attractive trade asset is rookie Jaime Jacquez Jr., who becomes movable on Aug. 1.

This is precisely why the Nets will continue to linger as a potential third-party team until a Lillard deal ultimately gets done.

Four first-round draft picks and starting-caliber impact players has been the going price for a superstar in recent seasons, as the Nets well know after moving Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns. That deal fetched Brooklyn two franchise cornerstones in Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, plus an additional four first-round draft picks.

Miami’s best offer for Lillard simply doesn’t compare.

Brooklyn, however, is armed with eight tradeable first-round picks through the 2029 NBA Draft. The franchise also holds a number of tradable contracts — namely Spencer Dinwiddie’s expiring $20M deal; the remaining two years, $77M on Ben Simmons’ mammoth contract; Dorian Finney-Smith, and the remaining three years, $43.2M on his deal; and Royce O’Neale, whose $9.5M salary for the 2023-24 season was fully guaranteed by the Nets last week.

Simmons has been dealing with back issues and his status remains uncertain, but the final year of his contract worth $40M is scheduled to come off the books the same summer the NBA is set to renegotiate its broadcast deals. The Trail Blazers currently have just $122M in guaranteed salaries and could shed more to position themselves to overpay in pursuit of a max free agent in a scenario where they acquire Simmons as part of a Lillard deal.

Free agents, of course, historically don’t choose Portland, which is why draft compensation is so vital for a team like the Trail Blazers to home-grow their own talent. As is out-bidding the market, which a potential Simmons deal would allow the Trail Blazers to do with the projected cap boon from the renegotiated TV deals.

If the Trail Blazers are set against acquiring Herro, there are multiple trade scenarios that send the former Sixth Man of the Year to the Nets, Lillard to the Heat, and four first-round picks (two from Brooklyn) plus additional players to the Trail Blazers. These trades could even involve a fourth team: The Toronto Raptors (OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr.), San Antonio Spurs (Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson), Indiana Pacers (Buddy Hield), Atlanta Hawks (Deandre Hunter, Saddiq Bey) all have players who can fit Portland’s need and timeline for a young, three-and-D wing.

The Nets have positioned themselves as both ready for involvement in a Lillard mega deal but also poised to enter the NBA season with the roster as currently constructed.

There’s no question, however, acquiring Herro would be an immediate upgrade for a team that struggled to generate offense in the first round of the playoffs last season.

Just how much would the Nets be willing to give up for his services? That could be a question factored into the conversation sending Lillard to the Heat to form a super team on South Beach.


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