By Shams Sarania, William Guillory and Jason Quick
Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard has requested a trade from Portland, league sources said. Athletic on Saturday. Here’s what you need to know:
- According to multiple league sources, the Trail Blazers have been informed that Lillard is interested in a trade to the Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat.
- The seven-time All-Star is coming off the most productive offensive season of his career. In 2022-23, he finished with career highs in points per game (32.2), field goal percentage (46.3), free throws attempted per game (9.6), 3-pointers made (4.2) and attempts per game (11.3).
- Portland is set to replace Lillard with 2023 No. 3 pick Scoot Henderson.
Why Lillard would be a perfect fit in Miami
Now that Lillard has finally requested a trade from Portland, the Heat are on their way to the biggest winners of the season. Lillard appears to want to go to Miami, and his arrival could make the Heat favorites to repeat as Eastern Conference champions. Lillard, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo might be the best Big 3 in the NBA, and all of their skills complement each other.
Lillard will give a massive boost to a Heat offense that hit major roadblocks at times last season. Even if that includes shipping Tyler Hero in 2028 and 2030 and future first-round picks, the Heat will have to do whatever it takes to pull this off. Lillard’s arrival would extend the title window in Miami and make Lillard “the new ambassador for Heat culture.” Sounds like a match made in heaven. — Guillory
Why is Lillard leaving Portland now?
One day in Portland is infamous, but it’s been brewing behind the scenes for three summers. As Lillard tried to reassure fans by continuing to say he wanted to stay in Portland, behind the scenes Lillard and his agent continued to threaten the Blazers with an exit if they didn’t improve the roster. After the Blazers were eliminated by Denver in the 2021 playoffs, Lillard’s big gripe was that the Blazers management was trying or cared about winning as much as he did at one point, portraying a scene where he struggled to sleep.
Despite a change in general managers two seasons ago and Joe Cronin vowing to take win-now action, Lillard sees the Blazers as a contender and actually spending more. Time to prepare for life without him rather than with him. — Quick
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What’s next for the Blazers?
Henderson will start at point guard and get a chance to make a full mark in his rookie season before the Blazers get a return. Also, guard Anfernee Simons will be depended on as the Blazers’ leading scorer since the trade block.
Simmons is coming off a breakout season as he averaged 21.1 points while shooting 37.7 percent from 3s. As he did with Lillard, Simons is still standing as the backup point guard when the roster is sitting. As much as it will cost Blazers fans the loss of the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, it’s one of the most promising and exciting times for the franchise since Lillard burst onto the scene and won Rookie of the Year in 2012.
The Blazers will move forward with a young core that will create a league-pass darling for NBA fans: Henderson at point guard, Simons at shooting guard, high-flying Shayden Sharp at small forward and Jeremy Grant at power forward. Jusuf Nurkić remains at center and under contract for three more seasons, but I expect the Blazers to move on from Nurkic, whose main value has been his pick-and-roll chemistry with Lillard. — Quick
Scoot Henderson says Blazers ‘ideal situation’ for him. But will that change?
What are they saying?
Blazers general manager Joe Cronin released a statement later Saturday regarding Lillard’s trade request.
“We’re very clear that we want Dam here, but he informed us today that he wants to leave and he wants to play elsewhere,” Cronin said. “What hasn’t changed for us is that we’re committed to winning and we’re going to do what’s best for the team to pursue that goal.”
Several reports including Athletic Sam Amick had Liamy as Lillard’s top pick. Even he himself admitted it While recording a podcast on Showtime a few weeks ago.
“Miami is obvious,” Lillard said. “And Pam n Doc, indeed.”
(Photo: Eric Hartline/USA Today)