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HomeBasketballNBAIs Dame Lillard really 'the missing piece' for a title contender?

Is Dame Lillard really ‘the missing piece’ for a title contender?

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NBA training camps open this week and there’s still one offseason move lingering.

The Portland Trail Blazers can’t seem to find a good enough deal to pull the trigger on a Dame Lillard trade. Lillard asked out of Portland over the summer, putting the wheels in motion to end his 11-year tenure with the Blazers.

The 33-year-old Lillard didn’t do himself nor his (still) current team any favors. Lillard has made it clear his preferred destination is the Miami Heat. Reports have said Lillard would not play for any other team he could potentially be traded to. 

It’s clear why Lillard has chosen the Heat. Not only is Miami a great organization — the team has been on the doorstep of a championship for the better part of the last four years. Ironically, Lillard is essentially making a move he chided Kevin Durant for.

It’s easy to see why a deal hasn’t come to this point.

Miami would likely have to include wings Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson to match the $45.6 million Lillard is due this season. A team like Portland, with no real championship aspirations, wants young players and draft picks. Herro, a 20-point scorer last season, would be a nice piece for Portland to add. The Blazers should want more than a nice piece for Lillard.

But where is Portland going to get that fair value from? 

There have been a number of teams rumored to have interest in Lillard — most notably Miami, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Boston and Toronto. Any move with any of the aforementioned teams would significantly harm its depth, as multiple players would have to be shipped out for Lillard. That’s unless a team like Boston does a deal for Lillard with only Jalen Brown going over to Portland. Sure, you get one of the best scorers of his generation — a cold-blooded killer who can score from anywhere on the court. But you’re second, or first if you’re Toronto, option becomes a small-ish guard who has never been known as a plus defender.

The East is wide open this season. Milwaukee’s core is older. Boston is too dependent on the 3 in the postseason. Philadelphia’s best players may not be built for the playoffs. Toronto’s roster isn’t good enough, even with Lillard, to be a real contender. Any of those teams, or New York or Cleveland, could come out of the East. 

A move for Lillard would definitely make headlines but it wouldn’t put any of those teams, nor Miami, over the top. The Heat made its run this past spring with multiple players having career runs from 3. Miami already lost two of those players — Gabe Vincent and Max Strus — in free agency. Dame would give Miami another reliable scorer to pair with Jimmy Butler, which would be intriguing to see and would lessen Butler’s load in the playoffs. I don’t see Lillard as a Durant or Kawhi Leonard-type who could push a team over the top.

A Lillard trade will get done eventually. I don’t think it happens before the season starts, though. If Lillard loves the game, he’ll report to Blazers training camp, and play the high-level ball he has the last decade-plus. I do think Dame Time will eventually be in a different time zone, though. Whether he helps guide that new team to the Finals remains to be seen.

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