The Miami Heat and Damian Lillard are both in a similar position this summer. The NBA franchise and the disgruntled Portland Trail Blazers guard are trying to team up to win a championship. What makes things difficult for both sides is that the Trail Blazers don’t feel like they are getting value for the star guard.
But Lillard is digging in on going to Miami. If Lillard heads to South Beach, he could potentially become another in a long line of NBA players who were dealt to other franchises to help someone pursue a title. When it comes to how successful Lillard can be and if Miami’s title window is still open, here’s a look at where things stand now and how they got here.
Portland Falls Apart
The Trail Blazers haven’t been the same team since they reached the Western Conference Finals during the 2018-19 season. After two consecutive first-round exits, Portland fired coach Terry Stotts and hasn’t found a star to pair with Lillard. Portland is 60-104 over the past two seasons and hasn’t made the playoffs under coach Chauncey Billups.
The last two years haven’t been good for Damian Lillard personally, either. Lillard has only played in 87 games due to injuries. During the 2022-23 season, Lillard appeared in 58 games and averaged 32.2 points per game when he played. Lillard also shot 37.1 percent from the 3-point line.
Miami Catches Everyone Off-Guard Again
The Heat were nearly eliminated from the most recent NBA playoffs due to being forced to win the eighth seed matchup during the play-in tournament. Miami took full advantage of a weaker Eastern Conference and reached the NBA Finals. The Heat found out in the finals that it needs more shooting power.
Without Tyler Herro, who missed the series due to an injury, Miami didn’t have enough outside shooting to threaten the Denver Nuggets. Heat star Jimmy Butler is an old-fashioned type of player that needs someone else to be on the perimeter to open things up from the outside.
Lillard Anywhere Else but Portland Seems Strange
Trade talk for Damian Lillard wasn’t at the forefront of many people’s minds when the offseason started. Lillard has played for the Trail Blazers since he came into the league during the 2012-13 season. However, the desire to play for a title and frustration with Portland’s roster not being close to contention has swayed Lillard’s mind.
When Lillard requested the trade, Portland wasn’t bound to send him to any team in particular. Lillard doesn’t have a no-trade clause, but his agent has made it clear he would prefer to go to Miami. The rumor for the Heat is that Lillard won’t report to any of the other teams in the league should he be traded somewhere else.
During Lillard’s 11 seasons in Portland, he has set the record for most 3-pointers made with 2,387. He also surpassed Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler as the team’s all-time leading scorer by putting up 19,376 points for Portland.
What’s the Holdup?
Herro may be the person holding the deal back. Miami wants Damian Lillard but knows it can’t afford to trade away all its young players to bring him on board, but the Heat need to move Herro because of his salary. Miami has been exploring getting another team involved in a three-way trade or moving Herro to another team entirely.
No One is in a Hurry
Training camp is still two months away, so neither side is in a panic over getting a deal done. Recent reports show that Portland is telling Miami to present its best possible offer, and the teams are hoping to settle things from there. Lillard will be eager to keep playing as he has a $63.2 million player option for the 2026-27 season.
Portland hopes to get a mix of young players and draft picks back in the deal. The Trail Blazers had the No. 3 pick in the recent NBA draft and chose guard Scoot Henderson.
Pat Riley Loves a Deal
Miami Heat President Pat Riley isn’t unaccustomed to making a big splash in South Beach. Riley helped bring Shaquille O’Neal to Miami in the early 2000s. He also helped convince LeBron James to come to Miami with Chris Bosh to form a super team. Riley’s desire to win titles has appealed to many players.
While Shaq had won championships with the L.A. Lakers before coming to Miami, neither James nor Bosh had been so fortunate. Riley hopes he can continue to play Kingmaker and that Damian Lillard can bring the team similar success. Since James left, Riley hasn’t quite been able to get that type of talent together again. With Riley running out of time in his career, acquiring Lillard may be one of the most important transactions he does late in his tenure with the franchise.
Miami Wants to Convert to Dame Time Before it Runs out of Time
The Heat have appeared in the NBA Finals in two of the past five seasons. In each instance, Miami appeared to count on Jimmy Butler to carry too much of the workload. The Heat have decided that it needs another superstar, like Lillard, to help carry the load.
It would be nice for Miami to get a motivated Lillard out on the floor. He has never had a chance in his career to play on the NBA’s biggest postseason stage. The Heat are hoping to be able to revitalize the veteran with a chance of scenery.
Portland is ready to turn the page and get enough assets to vault back up the standings. This marriage should happen at some point, but the people in charge need to settle on the rings for the occasion first. Expect Damian Lillard to be knocking down jumpers in South Beach at some point, but that day isn’t quite here yet. There is still a long summer ahead before any transaction will be made.