It appears that the Miami Heat are not the only suitors for Damian Lillard ahead of the 2023-24 NBA season.
Marc J. Spears of ESPN reported on NBA Today that a "mystery Eastern Conference team" has emerged in the pursuit of Lillard.
A mystery eastern conference team has held trade talks centered around Damian Lillard, per <a href="https://twitter.com/MarcJSpears?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MarcJSpears</a> <br><br>"I'm kind of hearing rumors about another Eastern Conference team that I'm not gonna throw out there just yet." <a href="https://t.co/tAmpFG5nw3">pic.twitter.com/tAmpFG5nw3</a>
Spears did not feel comfortable revealing who the team was. Lillard requested a trade from the Portland Trail Blazers in July, noting that the Miami Heat were his preferred destination. The talks between the two teams have hit a snag, with ESPN's Brian Windhorst noting that the two sides have remain far apart on compensation.
"They want the Heat to literally scrounge into every nook and cranny and produce everything they possibly can," Windhorst said on his podcast, The Hoop Collective. "The Heat don't feel the need to do that."
It's possible that the extreme leverage the Heat felt in the situation could have added to a lack of desire to part with significant pieces, but another suitor could speed the process up.
The Philadelphia 76ers, who are also looking to move guard James Harden, could be a suitor, although Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports previously reported that the team wasn't a preferred destination for Lillard.
The Boston Celtics have also been linked, with star forward Jayson Tatum making a recruiting pitch, but Lillard's focus has seemingly always been on Miami.
The Brooklyn Nets appear to be another team that could fill that mystery role, with the possibility of uniting Lillard with Mikal Bridges being something worth pursuing.
Lillard's request is to be traded, but the Trail Blazers technically have no obligation to deal him. He is under contract through 2026 with a player option for 2027. However, the team looks like it's in a rebuilding stage following a 33-49 season in '22-23, and Lillard's production could be huge for a contender.
Lillard averaged 32.2 points with 7.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds in 58 games for Portland in '22-23 and earned his seventh All-Star nod. Adding this dynamic play to any of the aforementioned teams would surely make it a threat to take the Eastern Conference.