The Miami Heat may have missed on trading for Bradley Beal, but they've reportedly already set their sights on a far greater prize. According to Bleacher Report's Chris Haynes, Miami is focused on the possibility of acquiring Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard, and has a genuine belief that this could finally be the summer in which he seeks a deal.
Lillard has been the subject of trade rumors for several years now. He's affirmed his loyalty to Portland at every turn, even stating that he expects to start next season with the Blazers. However, he also named the Heat and Nets as two teams he'd be interested in playing for if he's not in Portland, and his future there could hinge on what happens over the next week or so.
The Blazers currently hold the No. 3 overall pick in the NBA Draft. A number of teams reportedly want to trade up to that pick in the hopes of landing Scoot Henderson, with the New Orleans Pelicans seemingly at the top of that list. The Blazers would reportedly like to use that pick to add a star teammate for Lillard. However, the list of players they have been linked to so far this offseason is shrinking by the day. For now, it does not look like Boston plans to trade Jaylen Brown. The same seems true of Mikal Bridges in Brooklyn. If the Pelicans move up to No. 2 instead of No. 3, or if the Hornets simply decide to take Henderson, there may not be a trade available for Portland.
In that case, it's worth noting that Lillard has expressed unwillingness in being a part of a rebuild. "That's not what I'm interested in," Lillard said in March. "That's what the frustrating part of it is. Talking about what's gonna happen next season. And us 'building'. That's not what I'm here to do, especially at this stage of my career."
The Blazers have missed the playoffs two years in a row and have made it past the first round just once in the past seven seasons. If they ultimately stay at No. 3 and pick a prospect, they are expected to take either Henderson or Brandon Miller. Henderson is just 19 years old, and Miller is 20. Neither appears likely to contribute to winning right away. Lillard will turn 33 in July.
Even if Lillard does hit the trade market, he would undoubtedly cost more than Beal, whose market was stifled by his no-trade clause. That allowed Beal to force his way to Phoenix with the Suns giving up almost nothing in exchange. Lillard doesn't have a no-trade clause, and Portland would likely set an astronomical price if they ever decided to trade him.
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Right now, the Heat have three first-round picks to trade. They could theoretically get to four with some gymnastics involving the protected pick they currently owe the Thunder, and Tyler Herro would likely have to be in the deal as well. Brooklyn, another notable Lillard suitor, has four first-round picks from Phoenix to dangle as well as picks from Dallas and Philadelphia. Miami could win such a bidding war by including Bam Adebayo, but he is one of the reasons Lillard would want to go to Miami in the first place.
Players tend to be able to exert some degree of control over where they wind up in trades. If Lillard's heart is set on Miami, that is probably where he winds up. But it wouldn't come cheap, especially with the Nets as another bidder. For now, Lillard remains in Portland. It's unclear whether or not the Heat could have landed Beal, but if they don't get Lillard, they'll likely look back on those negotiations and wonder what might have been.