5 ways Damian Lillard’s trade request could play out

Damian Lillard told Portland Trail Blazers he wanted to be traded just 24 hours into free agency on July 1st. Free agency is now nearly over, but Lillard remains with the Blazers. Lillard has been clear that he only wants to play for the Miami Heat, but Portland is determined to make the best deal for the team’s long-term future.

The Blazers have reportedly urged Miami to make its best and final offer for Lillard. The Heat don’t want to bid against themselves with other potential suitors worried Lillard won’t be there. This is a true stalemate and there is no apparent end in sight.

Lillard’s trade request may feel like a seismic event in the NBA landscape, but similar situations occur every year. Before Dame, it was Kevin Durant who requested a trade. Before KD, it was James Harden who forced his way out of Houston. Before Harden, it was Anthony Davis. The superstar trade request is as much a part of the NBA’s fabric as the pick-and-roll. Portland has been in this situation before, back when MVP center Bill Walton requested a trade in 1978.

Years of NBA superstar trade requests have informed us of how Lillard’s situation will ultimately play out. There are only five ways it can end.

1. Damian Lillard is traded to the Miami Heat before the season

Lillard wants the heat. The Heat want Lillard. There is a path to a potential trade here, but it would either require the Heat to pony up every asset they have or the Blazers to accept a substandard offer.

Miami can offer its own unprotected first-round picks in 2028 and 2030. It can add a third first-round pick in 2026 if it changes protection on a future pick owed to the Thunder. The Heat can also include Tyler Herro, but the Blazers don’t want him. Kyle Lowry’s expiring salary could also be in play. Expect freshman Jaime Jaquez and sophomore Nikola Jovic to be diverted to Portland as well if this deal falls through. The Blazers likely want Miami to take on Jusuf Nurkic’s contract as well, which is considered a “player friendly” deal to put it nicely.

The possibility of flipping Herro to a third team for another pick or two feels like a stretch right now, but that would require another team to actually value Herro that highly. It feels unlikely. Instead, the inclusion of the unprotected 2026 pick feels like it will truly be the deciding factor. If Portland can land Jaquez, three unprotected first-round picks and shed Nurkic’s contract, it feels like a pretty good deal for the Blazers. Of course, Miami has to put it all on the table.

2. Damian Lillard returns to the Blazers and is waiting to be dealt

It is widely believed that Lillard has played his last game as a Trail Blazer, but it is not yet a certainty. Top Blazers director Joe Cronin has already said a Lillard trade could take months to complete. If it extends into the season, there is a scenario where Lillard returns to Portland and plays while he waits to be traded.

A year ago, Kevin Durant was in the same limbo as Lillard when he requested a trade from Brooklyn Nets. The Nets couldn’t find an acceptable trade package, and KD played 39 MVP-level games for the team before finally being traded to Phoenix. The difference in that situation was an ownership change for the Suns, with Mat Ishbia leading the effort to add Durant once he took control of the team. A similar situation won’t happen to come in and save a potential Lillard trade.

Lillard is under contract in Portland until 2026, with a $63 million player option for next season that he will surely pick up. When the Blazers drafted Scoot Henderson with the No. 3 overall pick, the team said it hoped to play Henderson and Lillard together. At the same time, the organization knew Lillard wanted the pick traded for a veteran, so they weren’t too surprised when he submitted his trade request. Can a few months heal the bad blood between the player and the team? We could be about to find out.

3. Damian Lillard withdraws his trade request

This is the most unlikely possibility, but still one to consider. Lillard could go back to Portland, realize the team is better than expected with the development of Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe, and decide to stick with the Blazers.

Maybe Henderson is already playing at a star level as a rookie. Maybe Nurkic is having a breakout season and Jerami Grant is enjoying a career year. Maybe the Blazers can trade him on a big veteran addition coming soon.

I don’t see it happening, but it’s possible.

4. Damian Lillard is holding out until a trade happens

Would Lillard really choose to sit out training camp and into the season if he isn’t traded? It’s a measure Durant didn’t take last year when he waited for Brooklyn to trade him, but there is recent precedent in the form of Ben Simmons. Simmons did not play as he awaited a trade from Philadelphia 76ers after his flameout in the 2021 playoffs.

It seems unlikely that Lillard would take his trade request that far. He would be opening himself up to being fined and also ruining his reputation. Still, if Lillard is dead set on being in Miami and nowhere else, he could try to force Portland’s hand by not playing.

5. Damian Lillard gets traded to a team that isn’t the Heat

This is the funnest scenario to think of. To this point, teams have reportedly been intimidated from offering Portland competitive trade packages for Lillard since he has been so committed to playing for the Heat. If Miami continues to refuse to put its best offer on the table, however, it will ultimately be open season for other clubs to try to get into the Ladies Derby.

The Brooklyn Nets always made sense as a potential Lillard destination with the ability to include future first round picks from Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks brought in with the Durant and Kyrie Irving trades. I liked the suggestion of old friend Michael Pina, now on The Ringer that the Toronto Raptors were to be involved by offering Scottie Barnes. There have been whispers about Boston Celtics build a trade package around Derrick White and Robert Williams. The Philadelphia 76ers would love to add Lillard next to Joel Embiid, but it’s hard to see a scenario where they could pull it off.

Either way, the longer it goes on, the more room there is for other teams to get involved. Lillard will eventually be traded from Portland — to where and for what remains unclear as the offseason drags on.

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