On July 1st, Damian Lillard officially made his desire to leave the Portland Trail Blazers known. While he has reportedly requested a move to the Miami Heat without a no-trade clause, the Blazers organization has no obligation to fulfill Lillard’s wish. They will likely pursue the best return they can get for the 11-year veteran.
There will be plenty of teams, in addition to the Heat, that express interest and offer Portland various packages. Still, there is one that I think could end up being the best trade destination for both Dame and the Blazers.
This team is the Toronto Raptors.
After Fred VanVleet walked and received an astonishing three-year, $130 million contract from the Houston Rockets, the Raptors have a glaring opening at the guard position. While they signed Dennis Schröder to a two-year deal, the Raptors still may want to go out and get a new signature guard.
There have already been trade rumors surrounding the Raptors for the past year, as they are in the awkward stage of under-succeeding with the talent they have on the roster. VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby were all names mentioned in trade rumors near last year’s deadline. However, none of them were moved, and, in fact, the Raptors brought back Jakob Poeltl in a deal that saw them lose a first-round pick.
Not much went right for the Raptors throughout the rest of the season, and they ended up losing to the Chicago Bulls in the nine versus ten seed play-in game. But, what those deadline decisions indicated is that the franchise is not ready to go into rebuild mode.
The last time they were in this type of uncertain situation, Masai Ujiri made the splash move for Kawhi Leonard, a controversial trade in which Toronto had to wave goodbye to DeMar DeRozan. It was a risk they were willing to take to return to playoff relevancy. Therefore, the organization’s president may have a similar thought process this time around with Lillard.
And the Raptors have plenty to offer. A trade could be centered around Siakam or Anunoby; they own a majority of their future first-round draft picks and could orchestrate a sign-and-trade with Gary Trent Jr. with the Blazers or a third team to get the trade done.
Toronto might not have as much star power as a team like the Heat, but a trade there would still give Dame the opportunity to contend and be the centerpiece of their organization.
The Blazers, as well, might not get an offer much better than a potential one from the Raptors if Ujiri and company decide to enter the running for Portland’s impressive guard.
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