All-Star guard Damian Lillard stated multiple times that he hasn’t requested a trade from the Portland Trail Blazers, but that hasn’t stopped the Miami Heat from relentlessly pursuing him, which in turn, has fueled trade rumors.
Lillard signed a super-max contract extension with a no-trade clause, and he stated he intends to finish his career in Portland. He turns 33 in July and will earn $45.6 million this upcoming season. In the 2024-25 season, Lillard will earn $48.8 million. He gets a huge pay jump in the 2025-26 season with a $58.5 million salary. He has a player option in 2026-27 worth $63.2 million.
Lillard averaged 32.2 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.8 rebounds per game last season. During an 11-season career in Portland, Lillard was named to seven NBA All-Star teams. In 769 career games, Lillard averaged 25.2 points, 6.7 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game while shooting 37.2% from 3-point range.
In the modern era of free agency, players are no longer loyal to the teams that drafted them. On the flip side, teams are ruthless when it comes to trading away fading stars if there’s a financial incentive to do so.
Lillard has been the subject of trade rumors over the past two seasons, and the chatter has been relentless this offseason. We must rewind a couple of seasons to see how the Trail Blazers arrived at their current spot, where they could even consider trading away one of the greatest players in franchise history.
All Downhill After 2019 Playoffs
The Trail Blazers peaked in the 2018-19 season when Lillard led them to a berth in the 2019 Western Conference finals. They won a thrilling semifinal series against the Denver Nuggets, which went a full seven games before they were swept by the Golden State Warriors in the conference finals.
The Trail Blazers hoped they could build upon that success, but that was the high-water mark of that era and not the start of a championship run.
Long-time head coach Terry Stotts stepped down at the end of the 2020-21 season because he didn’t believe he could not get the Trail Blazers over the playoff hump. Stotts led the Trail Blazers to eight straight postseason appearances, but they suffered five first-round eliminations, including two disappointing back-to-back exits in the 2020 and 2021 NBA playoffs.
The front office in Portland had a shakeup, and a new regime took over. They ousted long-time executive Neil Olshey and hired Joe Cronin as their new general manager.
The Trail Blazers also hired Chauncey Billups to coach the team and replace Stotts. During their rebuild, the Trail Blazers finished in 13th place in the Western Conference in the past two seasons.
Source of Lillard Trade Rumors
Lillard hasn’t been shy about his love of Madison Square Garden. The home arena for the New York Knicks is one of the greatest stages in all of basketball. Lillard was honest when he said that MSG was his favorite road arena and he thought it could be cool to play for the Knicks. The media went berserk with that statement, which fueled numerous “Lillard to the Knicks” trade rumors.
A steady flow of Lillard trade rumors began prior to the 2022 NBA trade deadline when the Trail Blazers gutted their team. In one of his first bold moves as general manager, Cronin traded beloved guard CJ McCollum to the New Orleans Pelicans. The Blazers also shipped Norman Powell to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Trail Blazers made a conscious decision to keep Lillard with the intent to build a team around him.
The Trail Blazers have a risky plan to reboot a team around Lillard, and there’s a small window in which to execute it, with Lillard not getting any younger.
The 2023 NBA Draft Lottery was a success for the Trail Blazers. They secured the #3 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, but there was speculation they would package the third-overall pick to bring in veteran players to help Lillard.
On draft night, the Trail Blazers retained the third pick and selected guard Scoot Henderson. Henderson was the top guard prospect in his draft class, but the Trail Blazers now have an abundance of guards, including Lillard, Anfernee Simons, and Shaedon Sharpe, who was the #7 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. They have a deep backcourt, but the team needs to bolster its frontline this offseason.
Miami Heat Won’t Back Down on Lillard
The Miami Heat were exposed in the 2023 NBA Finals when they couldn’t keep up with the eventual champion Denver Nuggets. They lost shooting guard Tyler Herro to a fractured hand in the first round, and also lost guard Victor Oladipo to a knee injury, which could prematurely end his career.
The Heat need an additional playmaker and high-volume scoring guard on their roster if they expect to win a title with point forward Jimmy Butler and center Bam Adebayo.
The Heat had been pursuing All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal for the past couple of seasons. The Washington Wizards discussed a trade with the Heat, but they traded Beal to the Phoenix Suns instead.
With Beal off the board, the Heat shifted their focus to Lillard. He’s exactly what the Heat need to help put them over the top in the Eastern Conference.
Zach Lowe from ESPN reported that the Heat offered the Trail Blazers a trade package for Lillard that included Herro, two first-round draft picks, a veteran for salary filler purposes (e.g. Kyle Lowry), plus one of their prospects. The Heat recently selected UCLA forward Jaime Jaquez with a first-round pick in the 2023 Draft, and they also have big man Nikola Jovic available for trade considerations. The Trail Blazers weren’t keen on Herro, so trade talks fizzled out.
Lillard had a meeting with the Trail Blazers after the draft to discuss the future of the team. After the meeting with front office executives, Lillard told reporters that he didn’t request a trade. The Heat aren’t giving up, however, which is why the Lillard trade rumors won’t go away.
Rip City Futures, Lillard Trade Prop Bets
DraftKings posted a prop bet on Lillard’s team next season. He’s -300 odds to play the first game of the season with the Trail Blazers, and +225 odds to join the Miami Heat. The Brooklyn Nets are +600 odds to add Lillard in a trade, followed by the Pelicans (+2000), Boston Celtics (+2000), Philadelphia 76ers (+2200), Los Angeles Clippers (+3000), and Knicks (+4000).
The Trail Blazers are the 10th-lowest team on the NBA futures board at DraftKings. They’re +12000 odds to win the 2023-24 NBA Championship. The Trail Blazers won one NBA title in the 1976-77 season with center Bill Walton.
The Trail Blazers are +6500 odds to win the Western Conference next season. They’re near the bottom of the board, and only the San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz, and Houston Rockets have longer odds.
The Trail Blazers won three Western Conference titles, including in 1976-77, 1989-90, and 1991-92. Despite their success in the early 1990s, the Trail Blazers advanced to the NBA Finals twice, but lost to the Detroit Pistons in 1990 and to the Chicago Bulls in 1992.
In the NBA awards betting markets, Lillard is +2200 odds to win the 2024 NBA MVP. Henderson is +350 odds to win the 2024 NBA Rookie of the Year, and he’s the second favorite on the awards board behind #1 pick Victor Wembanyama from the Spurs at -225 odds.