Can the Toronto Raptors acquire Damian Lillard from the Portland Trail Blazers
If you’ve been following the Blazers star’s story, then you know that he wants to join the Heat. The funny thing is, the Raptors want him to join them.
The Damian Lillard saga has been a roller coaster ride since the star point guard requested a trade out of Portland and now it seems we’ve got a major plot twist in the form of the Toronto Raptors attempting to hijack the whole deal.
The Toronto Raptors are serious about Damian Lillard
We’ve known for a while now that Damian Lillard has his heart set on playing for the Miami Heat. Indeed, not only did he make that clear on several occasions, but he also incurred the wrath of the NBA itself after he indicated that he would not turn up for any other team were he to be traded elsewhere. That of course resulted in the league threatening both Lillard and his agent who ‘aided and abetted’ with a fine. This all brings us to the most recent development which is that the Toronto Raptors - out of nowhere - have reportedly jumped to the front of the queue.
Indeed, the Raptors are said to have convinced the league that they are in fact very serious about acquiring Lillard. There’s also ESPN’s Marc Spears who called the Raptors the “hottest name” he’s hearing with regards to Lillard, before adding that a deal is expected to arrive before Portland’s media day on October 2nd, and most importantly that Lillard, though he’s always maintained he wants a move to the Heat, would turn out for the Raptors.
How can the Raptors pull this off?
Well, that’s a tough one. On one hand, we know the Raptors have a knack for acquiring want-away stars as was the case with Kawhi Leonard back in 2018, after he had consistently stated a desire to play in LA. Of course, Leonard finally joined the Clippers in 2019, but he and the Raptors claimed an NBA championship before he did. This brings us to the other hand, which is to say Lillard’s situation is different. For starters, Leonard’s contract at the time was expiring, while Lillard presently has three guaranteed seasons left on his. Conversely, Leonard was 27 years old at the time, while Lillard is 33. With his age in mind, the pressure would be on the Raptors to provide Lillard with the requisite supporting cast almost immediately.
Now, we arrive at the crux of the matter: What can the Raptors offer the Blazers in exchange for one of the best point guards in the league? There’s been no official word on that front, but one has to assume that any deal would almost certainly have to include Scottie Barnes. The 2022 Rookie of the Year would give the Trail Blazers a long-term forward to pair with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, Scoot Henderson, and another young guard in the form of Shaedon Sharpe. Yes, we’ve got to consider that the Raptors wouldn’t budge on Barnes when a purported deal involving Kevin Durant came up last season, so there is that. Also, it should be said that if we consider the gap between Barnes’ rookie-scale contract and that which Lillard is on, there would be a lot of difference to make up when it comes to salaries.
Lastly, we’ve got another option in OG Anunoby. It’s been said that Onunby is looking for more freedom as a ball-handler. Clearly a talented forward, a move to Portland may just be what both he and the team need. Where his defense and shooting are concerned, it’s not hard to see how he could work with the aforementioned young guns Henderson and Sharpe. Then there is the fact that he’s on an expiring contract. Again, this is not set in stone but it’s certainly something to consider. Ultimately, it remains to be seen how this will pan out, but as mentioned before the Blazers’ media day is not far away, which is to say if ever there was a time to move Lillard, that time is now.