Toronto Raptors emerge as new frontrunner to trade for Damian Lillard
Despite Damian Lillard's desire to be traded to the Miami Heat and only the Miami Heat, the new frontrunner to land the Portland point guard is the Toronto Raptors. This makes sense considering beyond Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo the Heat don't have any blue chip trade assets.
Due to his hefty contract extension and injury history, Portland doesn't even want Tyler Herro. Add in the fact that Heat have refused to offer their best offer yet (Jovic, Jacquez Jr, two first round picks, whatever pick they can get from a third team for Herro, and potentially Caleb Martin) and it was only a matter of time that another team decided, "We can beat Miami's 50 cents on the dollar offer."
OG Anunoby has more value than any piece Miami is offering, while Scottie Barnes would be an amazing get for Portland if they could pry him loose. Toronto has put their chips all-in once before in recent history when they traded for Kawhi Leonard.
As for the Celtics, when they came to terms on an extension with Jaylen Brown to give him the richest contract in NBA history they in essence ceased being an option to land Lillard. Brown can't be traded for a calendar year, and with the addition of another big ticket contract in Kristaps Porzingis, it's extremely doubtful Celtics ownership would fit the heavy 2nd apron tax bill to pay for a Big 4. Tatum being the 4th max/near max contract.
Also unless the Blazers were in love with Robert Williams, the Celtics offer would unlikely top all others. I have a feeling here that the Raptors and the other Eastern Conference teams rumored to be pursuing Lillard I'm sure do have interest, but as a consolation prize would at least like to see the Heat have to give up all their assets beyong Butler and Bam.
People will prematurely say that a Heat team of Butler, Adebayo, and Lillard would have no depth, but players tend to flock to the glamour warm weather teams in Miami and Los Angeles, so I doubt by playoff time that Pat Riley will have filled out that rotation with some very good players who were bought out after the midseason trade deadline. Plus Miami has done a great job finding rotation pieces off the scrap heap.
With this in mind, I'd prefer to see Lillard traded to a team like the Raptors, Nets, or Bulls, than Miami. And while ESPN claims Toronto is the frontrunner, again I see a scenario where Portland and Eastern Conference teams are working together to extract more from Miami.
A month ago I'd have put the odds heavily in favor of the Heat landing Lillard. I'd still be surprised if they don't. Pleasantly surprised, but surprised nonetheless.