In a surprising development in the Damian Lillard trade negotiations, the Toronto Raptors have become a serious potential landing spot for the star. The Raptors’ interest in Lillard is curious, to say the least since they seemed to be teetering between running it back and a full teardown.
Now they appear to be contenders to acquire Dame from the Portland Trail Blazers. The Miami Heat have been the frontrunners to trade for him since July, but if the Raptors are making a play for him, then there might be an ulterior motive. Here are three possibilities.
Motive #3: Toronto is trying to drive up the price for the Heat.
It’s possible that Toronto is serious about building a team around Dame, or maybe they are looking to sabotage the Heat by feigning interest in him. Why would they do that? Because the Heat are not only conference rivals but potentially their top competition to lure Giannis Antetounmkpo away from the Milwaukee Bucks. Forcing them to give up more assets to acquire a player they were already the frontrunners to land is smart.
Not to mention, Miami acquiring Dame would virtually take them out of the running for Giannis. Another possible reason is that the Raptors have been shopping Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. If a team such as Atlanta, which had been in discussion to acquire Siakam, believes that Toronto is considering keeping him and forming a super team, then they may up their previous offer to prevent that from happening.
Motive #2: Toronto is trying to sabotage the Heat.
Another potentially far-out motive for the Raptors is trading Dame to the Heat, themselves. In theory, Toronto could try to undercut Miami by offering a trade package to Portland. If they actually land him and things don’t work out, then they could actually trade him to Miami, and jack up the price. That is technically possible since they could trade him 60 days after acquiring him, though there is plenty of risk involved with that strategy.
For one, while Portland may not want to trade him to Miami, they probably aren’t going to accept less than what the Heat have offered. That decreases the chances of Toronto flipping Dame for more assets than they gave up to acquire him.
There is also the chance that his value tanks after suiting up for Toronto, especially if he plays poorly. Then there is a chance that the Heat will pursue other avenues to acquire a star, such as waiting until next summer to try and add Donovan Mitchell, who is 7 years younger than Dame. All of those things make this motivation less likely, though Toronto could actually be interested in adding Dame with the possibility of trading him later as a backup plan.
Motive #1: Toronto is really interested in Lillard.
The most obvious motive is that they believe that they can contend with Dame. That might be wishful thinking, however. Even at full strength, they failed to make the playoffs, and it wouldn’t be a scenario where they would be adding Dame and that he could be the difference-maker.
Instead, the Raptors would have to give up several assets, including potentially Anunoby, lottery pick Grady Dick, perhaps another future first-round pick, and trade filler. Whether the Raptors offer that much or the Blazers agree to that deal is uncertain.
But, if they did, then that would give them a leg-up on the Heat, who reportedly haven’t actually spoken with the Blazers since Dame’s trade request.