The Toronto Raptors face the very real possibility of trading some of their more prized assets for Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard. Amid some reports that Lillard may not be too keen on coming to Toronto, Masai Ujiri has remained undeterred in his pursuit of the star point guard.
Lillard has specifically requested a trade to the Miami Heat, but the Blazers have been so unimpressed by the trade offers that Pat Riley has sent over that they have explored other options. As many as six teams, including the 76ers and Bucks, have checked in.
However, according to Marc Spears of ESPN, the Raptors have emerged as the clear frontrunner for Lillard’s services, overtaking even Miami. Spears reported that Miami’s original package included Tyler Herro and two first-round picks, which is not enough to acquire Dame.
Spears said that the buzz surrounding No. 13 pick Gradey Dick is real, as Portland has an interest in acquiring him. With the league expecting a trade very soon, the Raptors may end up getting some sort of foundation-shaking deal with Portland completed relatively soon.
NBA rumors: Toronto Raptors frontrunner for Damian Lillard.
According to Spears, Lillard’s reasons for preferring Miami over Toronto make sense. On top of the fact that Florida has no state tax and greater marketing potential, Lillard desires the chance to play in Miami’s renowned culture alongside Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.
The Raptors have been preaching the idea that 2023-24 is going to be about development and working with their young players, but Ujiri knows that Lillard becoming available is a golden opportunity that he can’t pass up. Everyone except Scottie Barnes or Pascal Siakam should be on the table.
Even though Lillard is getting older and will be under the mentorship of a first-year head coach in Darko Rajakovic, he has more than enough gas left in the tank to help Toronto be a championship contender. Lillard, Siakam, and Barnes could pile up the points in a hurry against even the staunchest defense.
The Raptors have pulled off a trade like this before during the Kawhi Leonard mayhem, and Ujiir might get a chance to replicate that deal if he can pull off a trade for Lillard. Other teams may want him, but they don’t have the assets available to move that Toronto has.