It now seems increasingly unlikely that the Nets will be part of a Damian Lillard trade, either as the team that lands the seven-time All-Star or the one that facilitates a deal between the Portland Trailblazers and Miami Heat.
Adrian Wojnarowski in an ESPN+ analysis Thursday of where things stand does not mention the Nets as a player in a possible deal or as a facilitator. Instead, he notes that Lillard and his agent have made it clear that the 32-year-old wants Miami — and only Miami. As for the facilitator role, Woj reports that there are several teams who might want to get involved but does not mention Brooklyn.
First, the latest on Lillard’s push for South Beach...
As [Blazers GM Joe] Cronin explores the broader landscape, Lillard’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, has been calling prospective trade partners and warning against trading for his client, team executives told ESPN. Goodwin is telling organizations outside of Miami that trading for Lillard is trading for an unhappy player. As interference goes, this is a time-honored agent maneuver to depress offers and clear a path to a predetermined destination.
While league GMs tell Woj that might not deter them and Cronin insists he will get the best value for Lillard, no matter it can be found, the move shows how much Lillard wants to play with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Complicating things further is that Portland, as a small market team (owned by the estate of late governor Paul Allen), knows this is a critical juncture for the franchise.
In the end, trading a superstar is an imperfect process for a small-market franchise. Cronin has made it clear his allegiance is to the franchise’s future, not its past.
Lillard’s age and massive contract complicate his value, which will probably land somewhere between the Phoenix Suns’ two blockbuster trades before and after the new collective bargaining agreement. A historic package for Kevin Durant and a far lighter deal for Bradley Beal — it’s a wide gulf of assets. Beal’s $208 million contract and no-trade clause were unique factors.
Whether that is realistic or not will be determined by the market, of course. The Heat which seems to want Lillard as bad as he wants them is a bit hamstrung by its lack of first round picks available for trades. Specifically, Woj notes:
Miami can offer a maximum of two first-round picks (2028 and 2030), five years of first-round pick swaps, 2022 first-rounder Nikola Jovic and the rights to 2023 first-round pick Jaime Jaquez Jr., both potential rotation players. Because he just signed his rookie-scale contract, Jaquez can’t be traded until July 31.
And Cronin has also made it clear he does not Tyler Herro a 23-year-old who averaged 20+ points the last two years. The reason is Herro’s new contract extension which runs for four years and $120 million. That’s where the Nets were supposed to come in, as a possible facilitator, having eight firsts, all but one unprotected, they could move. But while Woj reports there are teams interested in being facilitators, he does not mention Brooklyn as a possibility ... and he notes facilitating teams aren’t willing to give up more than one first rounder. (His colleague, Bobby Marks, had speculated that the Nets could give up two or three firsts.) Per Woj:
Portland doesn’t want guard Tyler Herro and the four years and $120 million owed on his extension, but there are teams that have told ESPN they would surrender a good first-round pick to the Blazers — maybe something more — to become a facilitator by taking on Herro in a three-way deal.
But if Cronin is looking for a team that could satisfy Portland’s need for multiple first round picks and a good young player, Woj speculates that the Jazz could fill that bill, with Lauri Markkannen as the key player headed to the Rose City.
The Heat’s draft picks are typically closer to the end of the first round, so Portland will want a blend of picks and young building blocks ... Not just picks, but a player like Lauri Markkanen.
Small-market teams, like Utah, can’t acquire the likes of Lillard in free agency, but armed with draft picks and developing young players, they can become dangerous lurkers in the trade process. The Jazz made a call to check on Lillard, sources said, but that isn’t a significant development. An offer would be a development. First, the Jazz must consider if Lillard’s timeline at nearly 33 years old makes sense for their young team --- and could they acquire him at a reasonable cost to stay flexible for the next young star who becomes available in trades?
Woj also reported that the trade may not go down immediately, but could take some time to put together.
[T]here’s reason to expect a methodical, grind-it-out process that could run the length of July and August. For Cronin and the Blazers, Las Vegas Summer League is a chance to talk face-to-face with team executives, separating those reaching out with a perfunctory call on Lillard simply to appease an owner or superstar from those legitimately eager to engage in the groundwork of negotiating a trade.
However, Brian Windhorst took a different tack on Wednesday night,..
.@WindhorstESPN said he's heard the Nets would have interest in acquiring Tyler Herro:— Erik Slater (@erikslater_) July 5, 2023
“It’s been reported that the Nets would have interest in Herro, and I have heard that as well. They offloaded three contracts in the last few days… They're actually a candidate to make a… pic.twitter.com/mwUz859POp
“It’s been reported that the Nets would have interest in Herro, and I have heard that as well. They offloaded three contracts in the last few days… They’re actually a candidate to make a trade where they bring in more salary than they send out.”
Meanwhile, Kristian Winfield in the Daily News offers a laundry list of potential pick ups for the Nets, but doesn’t suggest anything is close. Among those who he mentioned is Bol Bol, the 7’2” Magic center waived on Tuesday. But word out of Brooklyn is that there’s a reason why players like Bol — and Mo Bamba, who was picked up by the 76ers on Wednesday — are free agents and they don’t appear to be interested. The waiver wire on Bol will close later Thursday.
Winfield does speculate that the loss of Joe Harris, Seth Curry and Patty Mills could create an opening for Cam Thomas.
The Nets filled the void at the reserve guard slot by signing both Dennis Smith Jr. and Lonnie Walker IV to one-year deals at the veteran’s minimum, but the belief is the Mills trade and Seth Curry’s departure frees more minutes to give Cam Thomas a legitimate shot as first guard off the bench.
Word from HSS Training Center is that Thomas has been working hard to improve his overall game.
- Inside the Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard trade talks - Adrian Wojnarowski - ESPN+
- NBA Free Agency: Who’s left for the Nets to sign? - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News