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Sources: Raptors current front-runners for Lillard

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Published in Basketball
Monday, 25 September 2023 17:03

The Toronto Raptors enter this week as the front-runners to trade for Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard, two high-ranking NBA team executives told ESPN's Andscape.

While the Raptors have had recent conversations with the Blazers about Lillard, no pact was close to being imminent as of Monday morning, according to a source.

On July 1, ESPN reported that Lillard requested a trade, with his preferred destination being the Miami Heat. In the nearly three months since that request became public, no substantial trade conversations have taken place between the two teams, sources said.

The Heat offered a trade package that included sharpshooter Tyler Herro and two first-round picks, a source said.

A Raptors offer could include a package featuring players from a roster that includes two-time NBA All-Star Pascal Siakam, 2022 NBA Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes, forward O.G. Anunoby, who is eligible for a contract extension, and rookie sharpshooter Gradey Dick. The Blazers are intrigued about adding a young 6-foot-8 sharpshooter in Dick, a source said.

The two NBA executives said that they expect Lillard to be traded before media day, which is Oct. 2 for most teams, including the Blazers, Heat and Raptors. Practices begin the next day.

Along with Toronto and Miami, the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Chicago Bulls have shown interest since Lillard's initial trade request. Regardless of whether Lillard is traded or still in Portland come media day, a source said he is not expected to be a media day or training camp holdout.

Raptors president and vice chairman Masai Ujiri showed with his previous acquisition of Kawhi Leonard that he is not afraid of trading for an NBA star who could be reluctant about playing in Toronto. Ujiri got Leonard in a 2018 trade with the San Antonio Spurs, and Leonard went on to lead the Raptors to their lone NBA title while winning Finals MVP honors in 2019. Unlike Leonard, who departed Toronto for his hometown LA Clippers in 2019, Lillard still has three more years remaining on his contract paying $45 million next season.

Lillard is attracted to the Heat because the reigning Eastern Conference champions have title potential and have two stars in Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo whom he wants to team with, sources have said. Additionally, the work ethic and discipline that come with the renowned "Heat culture," and the lack of a state tax in Florida and greater marketing potential, are also of interest to Lillard, according to sources.

The 33-year-old guard has spent his entire career in Portland since being selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft. A seven-time All-Star, Lillard was named to the NBA's 75th anniversary team.

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