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RUMOR ROUNDUP: Will Nets become third team that helps Damian Lillard get to Miami

Miami Heat v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

It has been all the rage the last 12 hours or so: Will the Brooklyn Nets become the needed third team in Damian Lillard trade talks between the Portland Trailblazers and the Miami Heat?

In the proposed scenarios being offered by various reporters in the three cities, the Nets would supply the draft capital Pat Riley needs to secure Blazers in return for Tyler Herro, the 6’5”, 23-year-old wing who’s averaged 20 points a game the last two years and was Sixth Man of the Year in 2022. In some permutations, Ben Simmons and his $37.9 million contract would also be moving. There are even rumors that the Spurs, fresh off drafting Victor Wembanyama, want to get in on a Lillard deal, possibly as a third team.

“This is going to be a brawl,” Brian Windhorst said Monday on ESPN’s Get Up “You could see this going a hundred different ways.”

Key reporters (but not Woj or Shams) believe that talks have been underway since Sunday. Here’s a sampling of their reporting.

From Jake Fischer at Yahoo! Sports...

From Ian Begley of SNY...

From Frank Jackson of the Miami Herald...

From Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report...

Begley has also reported that the Nets would want draft capital in addition to Herro.

This, of course, is a certified climb down from the original Dame trade rumors, spurred by Lillard himself last month, that Brooklyn could be interested in the seven-time, All-NBA shooting guard who is a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary gathering. The general belief is that while Lillard mentioned the Nets as a possible new home, he is well outside their timeline. He’s going to be 33 and the Nets are getting younger and younger. As of Monday morning, all 15 of their roster players are 30 or under. Half the roster is less than 25.

So how real is the three-team possibility? Hard to tell. The drumbeat is certainly getting louder and as Bobby Marks and others have opined, it can work under the new CBA.

BUT there are questions, have to be.

  • While Herro certainly fits the Nets timeline at 23 years old, how does he fit on a roster with Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, to whom the Nets have already made huge commitments, both financially and culturally? Is giving up two or three of the precious, hard-earned Suns first rounders worth what could turn into a duplicative and maybe complicating piece? Not to mention the Nets still need a big man.
  • Also, in the same calculus, is Herro worth taking on additional salary? He is entering the second year of a four-year, $130 million contract (bolstered by unlikely incentives like a million dollars for winning the Defensive Player of the Year!) He will make $27 million this year, not much more than Johnson under his new contract. The Nets just dumped $27 million in salary in the trades that sent Joe Harris and Patty Mills packing. That put them well out of range of the dreaded aprons that Sean Marks and Joe Tsai want to avoid.
  • Does taking on such a big contract change their long-term trajectory, that is, build a competitive roster without superstar contracts, then pounce on the next superstar opportunity? That could take till 2025 when a ton of free agents once again hit the market. Herro is not going to win you a chip. If you have the patience, a free agent addition in 2025 might.
  • Is Portland really interested in Ben Simmons? They were in 2021-22 when Simmons was holding out in Philadelphia, but that was before his back surgery.

There is no doubt that Herro is a winner. At age 20, he was a big reason why the Heat made the NBA Finals in the “bubble,” becoming the youngest player to ever start a Finals game. That was after he scored 37 points vs. Boston in the conference finals. He would also play well in a New York, a fashion dandy and charismatic type that the city loves.

How long will it take for this to work out? The Blazers are not committed to sending Lillard to Miami, his preferred destination. Nor do they have a deadline. They can wait for the best offer possible. It may not even have emerged yet. No doubt, they’d prefer for the deal to be less rather than more complicated: a clean one-on-one deal with young players and draft picks going to the Rose City. Indeed, Blazers GM Joe Cronin, not Damian Lillard, not Pat Riley, not Sean Marks, controls the clock. Get out the popcorn.