As NBA Training Camps loom, Damian Lillard trade rumors are starting to reach a boil again. The latest speculation surrounds the Blazers and the Toronto Raptors. Proposed deals would have Portland swapping their All-Star guard for forward OG Anunoby or perhaps Scottie Barnes. How real are the rumors, though? That’s the subject of today’s Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.
The Raptors are the new hot team for Dame. OG or Scottie would look nice in Portland. getting Ayton would be a nice bonus. Do you put much credibility in the rumors? How excited should I start getting?
There’s smoke here, but is it a legit fire or just a smokescreen?
Let’s get the environmental caveats out of the way first. Lillard trade rumors were always going to heat up again as the season approaches. The Raptors are the “hot” team as you suggest, but not the only one. If you scratch beneath the reports, they fall slightly north of unsubstantiated speculation, but well south of the kind of sourced rumor that makes you sit up and notice. Most of them are variations of, “We think this could be a really good idea and we got an anonymous person somewhere in the league’s orbit to say, ‘Yeah, that could work.;” The layering of the ideas—Barnes or Anunoby frosted by an earlier Ayton for Nurkic suggestion—gives the story bulk, but that doesn’t mean any of those layers are particularly strong or likely.
At no time has Toronto indicated that they are willing to part with Scottie Barnes or OG Anunoby. At no time has Damian Lillard indicated that he’d be cool with a trade to the Raptors, about as far away from the Miami Heat scenario as you can get. In my mind, that makes this somewhat less likely.
Beyond those factors lies another difficulty. At the very start of the Dame Storm, the Raptors were one of the very first teams I looked at as a part of prospective trade scenarios. I explored trading Lillard directly, also using Toronto as a third team in a Miami deal. The Raptors would also be one of the few franchises who might welcome Tyler Herro or Kyle Lowry, two of the presumed assets the Heat would be willing to move to a third team in order to get a deal done.
After two hours, I closed the windows in frustration. No matter how you slice it, the salaries don’t work out easily.
Lillard is making $45.6 million this year. Herro is making $27 million, Lowry $29.6 million.
Even if they were willing to trade him, Anunoby makes $18.4 million. Barnes makes just $8 million himself.
The Miami pieces don’t really match Lillard on their own. Closing the gap even further on Toronto’s trade bait is a chore. You have to throw in people like Gary Trent, Jr., Thaddeus Young, Grady Dick.
It’s easy to craft a three-for-one where the Blazers get Anunoby, Trent Jr., and Young for Lillard. The salaries match almost exactly. But Anunoby hasn’t signed an extension. He has a player option next year and becomes an unrestricted free agent the season after. Meanwhile Trent, Jr. and Young play on expiring contracts. There’s no guaranteed the Blazers could—or would want to, in the case of the side players—retain anybody from this deal long-term. Remember when people howled at Joe Cronin when the CJ McCollum deal with the New Orleans Pelicans netted nothing? Imagine if the same thing happens with Dame.
Let’s say Toronto throws in picks or Grady Dick to sweeten the pot. Now the Raptors are trading 5-6 assets, including one they covet extremely highly, for one 33-year-old point guard. Admittedly, that’s Damian Lillard, but in two years, they also might have buyer’s remorse.
Tossing Miami into the equation doesn’t really solve anything. It just makes the complications worse. Besides, if we don’t know the Raptors will trade Anunoby or Barnes for Lillard, we really don’t know if they’ll be willing to move them for other guards.
Stacking that up, you have zero indication of any player in the deal being happy about it, zero indication that the Raptors would actually move Anunoby or Barnes, a specific (and large) set of contracts/assets needed to get the deal done, zero guarantees on long-term gain for the Blazers outside of Grady Dick if he’s included, and zero guarantees for Toronto that spending all those assets will result in much more than a year or two of happy service for them, and no clear path forward with Miami included either.
This deal isn’t impossible. It would require almost everybody involved to not only change their minds from their currently-stated stances, but cross fingers and hold breaths about the future. For that reason, I judge it fairly unlikely, absent further indications that it’s a live prospect. I wouldn’t keel over if this deal gets done, but you’re going to have to convince me it’s real before I’m biting.
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