Damian Lillard trade: Wild card teams that could get in the mix

It’s been nearly two months since Damian Lillard requested a trade from the Portland Trail Blazers, and updates on negotiations between them and his preferred destination, the Miami Heat, have been sparse. There is no indication if a deal is closer or if negotiations have gained significant traction this summer.

Last year when the Utah Jazz made Donovan Mitchell available for trade, it felt like a matter of time before he would get sent to his preferred destination, the New York Knicks. As the Jazz held out for the best possible offer, the Cleveland Cavaliers came out of nowhere and topped the Knicks for Mitchell’s services.

If this continues to stretch out, could we see other teams emerge in the bidding for Lillard? Although he made it clear he would only be content playing for the Heat, the remaining four years on his deal puts him in a disadvantageous position to truly dictate his destination. Perhaps he could get convinced to buy into another interested team with an offer the Blazers prefer.

New Orleans Pelicans

(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

The New Orleans Pelicans have accumulated lots of valuable assets in the form of young players and future first-round picks for several years now. They haven’t “cashed in their chips” for an All-Star and instead have made selections with most of their picks and developed those players. They soon could run into the problem of having too many talented players to pay, but that is a good problem to have under the new CBA.

The Pelicans can arguably make one of the strongest possible offers for Lillard without including Zion Williamson or Brandon Ingram. They have all their own first-round picks going forward as well as one owed from the Lakers in 2024 or 2025, and two owed by the Bucks in 2025 and 2027. They also have several intriguing young players that could interest the Blazers in Trey Murphy III, Dyson Daniels, Jose Alvarado, and Jordan Hawkins. They could send out CJ McCollum to make up the bulk of the salary matching, who could go to a third team that reroutes additional assets to Portland.

Toronto Raptors

Scottie Barnes celebrates a play
(Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

The Toronto Raptors are at a crossroads as they weigh a potential shake-up with reports of Pascal Siakam’s availability in the trade market. All indications are that they plan on remaining competitive, especially since they owe a top 6 protected 2024 first-round pick to San Antonio. But they have a massive void at point guard after losing Fred VanVleet in free agency. They are going to need to get another lead guard if they’re going to have a chance at competing in the East.

It would be on brand for the Raptors to swing for a star like Lillard when everyone believes they should take a step back. They can trade up to two first-round picks in 2028 and 2030 and could get more draft equity to Portland by rerouting Siakam or OG Anunoby to a third team. The inclusion of Scottie Barnes could satisfy the Blazers more than anything else the Raptors could offer, but he seems to be untouchable.

Orlando Magic

Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic are putting together an exciting and talented core led by Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner. Their biggest question mark going forward is their point guard situation. Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs are still developing and it could take time for Anthony Black to pan out. Markelle Fultz has been their most reliable lead guard, but they may have to look elsewhere if they want to raise the ceiling of their backcourt.

The Magic have plenty of young players to offer in a trade, including the guards mentioned earlier and recent first-round pick Jett Howard. They can offer up to five first-round picks, including four of their own in the next seven drafts including one owed by the Nuggets in 2025. Lillard may not be the best fit for their timeline, but it would make sense for the Magic to expedite it with an All-Star guard.

Utah Jazz

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz are in the middle of a rebuild featuring five players on rookie-scale contracts. They are also ahead of schedule with several talented starter-level players like Walker Kessler, John Collins, and Collin Sexton, and an All-Star in Lauri Markkanen. The Jazz could attempt to operate with two timelines where they’re competitive now while developing their youth and future selections.

The Jazz have 13 first-round picks over the next seven drafts, an amount that they can’t conceivably all make selections with. They could look to trade some of them for an All-Star guard like Lillard, especially some of the later ones in 2025, 2027, or 2029 when they have multiple firsts in those seasons. Even if they don’t view Lillard as a part of their next great team, they could try to acquire him if the price is right and they think they could flip him for more later.

Story originally appeared on HoopsHype