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Can Heat make a Damian Lillard trade without a third team being involved?

Miami’s trade package isn’t the best, but there might not be better ones out there.

The Miami Heat are the frontrunners to land Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard after he requested a trade from the franchise this summer, but making the actual deal is a lot harder than wishing for it to happen. Lillard doesn’t have a no-trade clause, so he cannot force his way to the Heat. And the Blazers have no obligation to send Lillard to South Beach, even if they want to do right by one of the greatest players in franchise history.

The Heat do have assets but the conversation surrounding Miami is that it would need a third team to send draft capital to Portland in any deal. The Blazers might not be enamored with Tyler Herro, who would be the centerpiece of a Lillard trade as a young player ready to contribute right away.

The first pick Miami can give away outright is in 2027. The Heat can offer swaps in 2024 and 2026, although the likelihood of those swaps actually happening are slim. A swap in 2028 and a first-round pick in 2029 are more likely to attract Portland’s attention from a draft standpoint. However, it’s important for a rebuilding team to recognize that the most important first-round picks are its own. Portland controls all its picks outside of a 2024 lottery-protected selection, and that’s more important than banking on future draft assets landing in high spots.

As far as contributing young players are concerned, who else is out there for Portland? The 76ers aren’t throwing Tyrese Maxey in a deal, especially with James Harden set to be traded out himself. The Nets aren’t putting Mikal Bridges, who is entering his late 20s, in the deal. Unless the Celtics are willing to put Jaylen Brown in a trade package, Herro might be the best immediate young talent for Portland. The Blazers would still have too many guards but they’d have that even with Maxey coming back. The Heat can also offer Nikola Jovic and Jaime Jaquez Jr., although the latter cannot be traded before July 31. Even though it was just one Summer League game, both players were dominant and could be contributors down the line when Portland is ready to contend.

The Blazers can push Miami to take Jusuf Nurkic’s contract back in any trade, which likely means Kyle Lowry’s salary gets added to the deal going back to Portland. Lowry is an expiring contract. Duncan Robinson carries the same salary issues Nurkic does but he’s younger and can shoot the triple.

Most importantly, who is the third team that can facilitate this deal? The Thunder have the most draft assets to give but they’re not getting involved in this. The Rockets were interested in Herro in the initial Harden trade talks, so there’s a chance they could get involved. However, Houston is in a rebuild of its own and would likely want to hold onto its draft capital. The 76ers have their own star guard to trade, and the Nets would likely put Lillard in a situation very similar to Portland. The Blazers don’t have to just give away their star, but they’re going to have to be a bit more realistic about what they can and cannot obtain in this current trade landscape.

A Heat package involving Herro, Robinson, Lowry, Jovic, Jaquez Jr., the 2027 and 2029 first-round picks, the 2028 first-round swap and some second-round picks should be more than enough to push Portland to send Lillard and Nurkic to Miami. The Heat get the big star they’ve chased for some time, while Portland lands an expiring contract, draft assets and young talent to rebuild.