The Frontrunner in the Damian Lillard Sweepstakes

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he NBA’s rumor mill is spinning at full speed, and at the center of it all is none other than Damian Lillard, the star guard of the Portland Trail Blazers. The man’s got skills, no doubt about it, and he’s got the eyes of several teams on him. But it seems like the Miami Heat are leading the pack in the race to secure his services.

Lillard, in a move that sent shockwaves through the league, requested a trade last week. And guess what? He’s got his eyes set on the sunny beaches of Miami. But here’s the catch – he doesn’t have a no-trade clause, so his wish isn’t exactly a command. The Trail Blazers can ship him off wherever they please.

Now, the Heat have already made their move, but it seems like the Trail Blazers’ general manager, Joe Cronin, isn’t in a hurry to let go of his star player. The Heat’s offer was swiftly rejected, indicating that this saga might drag on a bit longer.

The recent Bradley Beal trade between the Washington Wizards and Phoenix Suns was a quick affair, but the Lillard situation is shaping up to be a different beast altogether.

The Heat, who fell short against the Denver Nuggets in the 2023 NBA Finals, are in dire need of an additional scorer and playmaker to match up against the high-powered Nuggets. Lillard could be the missing piece of the puzzle that propels the Heat to the top of the Eastern Conference.

Imagine a “Big Three” of Lillard, Jimmy Butler, and Bam Adebayo. That’s a terrifying prospect for any team, and it could make the Heat a top title contender next season. As of now, the Heat are pegged at +900 odds to win the 2023-24 NBA championship, ranking fifth on DraftKings’ NBA futures board.

In the meantime, DraftKings has also posted a next team prop bet. This allows bettors to wager on where Lillard will be playing when he steps on the court for the first time next season. It’s a high-stakes game of guesswork, and only time will tell where Lillard will end up.

The Front-Runner with a Price Tag

The NBA grapevine is buzzing with the news that the Miami Heat is the most likely destination for Damian Lillard. The consensus among the bigwigs of NBA media is that it’s not a question of if, but when the Trail Blazers will trade Lillard to the Heat. The two sides are reportedly ironing out the details of a trade, even after the Trail Blazers turned down the Heat’s initial offer.

The Trail Blazers are looking for a hefty trade package, something along the lines of what the Utah Jazz received last offseason when they traded Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves. That deal saw the Jazz bag four first-rounders and multiple players. Joe Cronin, the Trail Blazers’ general manager, also pointed to the Kevin Durant trade to the Phoenix Suns as a benchmark. The Nets got four first-rounders and three potential starters for Durant.

So, what’s the asking price for Lillard? The Trail Blazers want four first-round picks and two “quality” players. Now, “quality” is a bit of a vague term. It could mean two starters, two prospects, or a mix of both.

The Heat have a couple of promising prospects in their ranks – power forward Nikola Jovic and small forward Jaime Jaquez. Jaquez, a UCLA product, was the Heat’s first-round pick in the recent NBA Draft, going at the #18 spot. Jovic, who had a quiet rookie season last year, was picked by the Heat at #27 in the 2022 NBA Draft.

The Heat’s first offer included former NBA Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro, but Cronin doesn’t seem to be a fan. As the Heat work on their next offer, they’re also exploring the possibility of bringing in a third party to facilitate the trade. The San Antonio Spurs have shown interest in Herro and could either acquire him directly or become a third team in the Lillard deal.

This is a high-stakes game of chess, and the Heat are making their moves. Let’s see how it all plays out.

Portland Trail Blazers: A Possible Surprise?

There’s a real possibility that the 2023-24 NBA regular season could kick off without a Lillard trade. While all parties involved would prefer to wrap up a deal before the end of the preseason, there’s no concrete deadline. Cronin, who’s still relatively new to his role in Portland, isn’t in a hurry to finalize his first major trade. So, negotiations between the Heat and the Trail Blazers could extend into the start of the season.

This scenario makes the Trail Blazers a decent value bet at +550 odds as the team where Lillard plays his first game of the season. It’s crucial to pay attention to the specific wording of the prop bet. It’s not about where Lillard ends up in a trade, but where he’s playing at the start of the season.

So, while the Miami Heat might be the favorites to land Lillard, don’t count out the Trail Blazers just yet. The start of the season might just see Lillard donning the Portland jersey once more.

Boston Celtics +650

The Boston Celtics, with odds at +650, are also in the running for Damian Lillard. Brad Stevens, the Celtics’ general manager, has been active this offseason, having traded away Marcus Smart and added Kristaps “Unicorn” Porzingis in a three-team trade. He also arranged a sign-and-trade for Grant Williams to the Dallas Mavericks. Local reporters in New England believe that Stevens has been accumulating draft picks to make a bid for Lillard. All-Star forward Jayson Tatum has been advocating for Lillard’s move to Boston, but Lillard is reportedly uninterested in ending his career in Boston.

Bill Simmons, on his podcast, stated, “I don’t see a trade, other than the Miami trade, unless it’s the Celtics.” If the Celtics were to pursue Lillard, they would likely have to part ways with Jaylen Brown, who has been waiting to sign a supermax contract extension. A third team interested in Brown, such as the Atlanta Hawks or Houston Rockets, could make a Lillard deal possible if negotiations with the Heat fall through. As of now, the Celtics are the third-highest team on the prop bet board to acquire Lillard in a trade.

The Brooklyn Nets are at +1200 odds to add Lillard in a trade.

The Brooklyn Nets have been making waves in the NBA trade scene. They’ve been amassing a wealth of draft picks after dealing Kevin Durant to the Suns and Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks at the 2023 trade deadline. However, they’re still grappling with the Ben Simmons issue, who had a disappointing performance in just 42 games last season.

Lillard isn’t keen on playing for the Nets, so a direct deal seems unlikely. Fans can forget about a dream trade where they ditch Simmons and draft picks for Lillard. However, the Nets might be willing to help the Heat acquire Lillard. They could decide that assisting the Heat in a three-team deal would be the quickest way to part ways with Simmons.

A prevalent rumor in Brooklyn suggests that the Nets could acquire Tyler Herro and a second-round pick from the Heat if they send Simmons and a first-rounder to the Trail Blazers. In this scenario, the Heat would send point guard Kyle Lowry, Nikola Jovic, and two first-round picks to Portland, and the Trail Blazers would send Lillard and center Jusuf Nurkic to Miami.

New York Knicks: A Long Shot for Damian Lillard Trade

The New York Knicks, despite being a long shot at +6000 odds, are not entirely out of the race to acquire Damian Lillard. The Knicks are stocked with draft capital and young players like Immanuel Quickley, Deuce McBride, and RJ Barrett. They can meet the Trail Blazers’ hefty demand of four first-round draft picks and two quality players.

Lillard once said that Madison Square Garden is his favorite venue in the NBA, so every basketball fan in Gotham is keeping close tabs on this story. A legion of diehard Knicks fans hope that president Leon Rose work his magic. If Rose can pull off a Lillard trade to the Knicks, it would be the biggest score in the Big Apple since the infamous Lufthansa plane heist of 1978.

The Knicks are also linked to trade rumors involving James Harden and Joel Embiid from the Philadelphia 76ers. However, the focus remains on the potential acquisition of Damian Lillard, which could significantly bolster the Knicks’ roster and make them a formidable force in the upcoming NBA season.