Rival Watch: Would Lillard trade make Raptors a contender?

Michael Grange joins Ken Reid to discuss the on-going Damian Lillard rumors, including if the Raptors are back in the mix, the pieces they would have to send, and if this is the right deal for Toronto at this time.

The NBA has been waiting all summer for the Portland Trail Blazers to trade Damian Lillard and now, with training camps only days away, there seems to be more momentum to get a deal done.

On Monday, Sportsnet’s Michael Grange reported that the Toronto Raptors “are very much in the mix” to acquire the seven-time all-star.

ESPN’s Marc Spears went one step further, writing that the Raptors “are the front-runners” while citing two high-ranking NBA team executives as sources.

Naturally, these reports sent the NBA media world into a frenzy as everyone shared their takes on a potential Raptors-Lillard partnership and what the return to the Trail Blazers might be.

Here is a roundup of what the media in the United States had to say about a possible trade.

ESPN: Stephen A. Smith says Lillard trade to Raptors would be “a waste of time”

Never shy to share his opinion, Stephen A. Smith said a possible Lillard trade to the Raptors would be “a waste of time” if the sharpshooter wants to contend for a title.

“The reality is, he wants to be in a position where he can compete for a championship, if Toronto is an option, why not stay the hell in Portland?” Smith said on First Take Tuesday. “I don’t like it one bit.”

Instead, Smith said Lillard should be pushing to be moved to two of the Raptors’ division rivals — the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. Or, by some wild twist, the Los Angeles Lakers.

“Damian Lillard should have Miami at the top of his list. … He should also have Philly on that list for the possibility to play with [Joel] Embiid … he should have Boston on that list for the possibility of playing with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum … teams like that,” Smith suggested. “If he can be in L.A., with LeBron [James] and Anthony Davis, lord have mercy.”

Smith’s co-host Shannon Sharpe agreed with him.

“It doesn’t make sense because you’re either going to have to give up [Pascal] Siakam or Scottie Barnes,” Sharpe said. “Damian Lillard is not going to be able to compete for a title in Toronto.”

The Athletic: Would Lillard show up if traded to Toronto?

The lead item in The Athletic‘s NBA newsletter “The Bounce” discussed the Lillard-to-Raptors idea through the framework of a previous report from Shams Charania, who wrote earlier this month that Lillard wouldn’t report if traded to “a team like Toronto.”

Zach Harper wrote in “The Bounce” Tuesday that he thinks Raptors president Masai Ujiri is confident enough to trade for Lillard despite the superstar’s reported desire to play in Miami and nowhere else.

“Let’s say the idea of Lillard trying to make this hell for the Raptors is legitimate. What does that even mean? Holdouts don’t exist in the NBA as they do in the NFL. Short of shredding his passport and going to live in the forest, Lillard would have to go and play for Toronto. And Ujiri has been more than willing to roll those dice before,” Harper wrote.

“I bet he’s willing to call any bluff of Lillard’s … if it gets to that point. We just don’t know if the Blazers are absolutely going to rebuff the idea of Lillard in Miami.”

Sports Illustrated: Chris Mannix ponders whether or not a Damian Lillard trade makes sense for the Raptors

In his latest NBA Mailbag, SI’s NBA Insider Chris Mannix was asked why would the Raptors entertain acquiring Lillard when the cost to do so would be astronomically high.

Mannix agreed with the person asking the question and said the Raptors being in the mix may just motivate the Heat to step up and close the deal themselves.

“Logistically it’s extremely challenging,” Mannix wrote. “In 2018, when Toronto acquired [Kawhi] Leonard, the cost was DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected first-round pick. Steep, but manageable (obviously) given what the Raptors had.

“To land Lillard, who will make $45 million next season, the Raptors would likely have to include a combination of [O.G.] Anunoby, Chris Boucher and Otto Porter Jr. just to make the numbers work. Toronto likely won’t trade Barnes, and Pascal Siakam (age/contract) probably doesn’t interest the Blazers much. But Portland will certainly want the pot sweetened with a blue-chip prospect (Gradey Dick, a lights-out shooter at Kansas) and multiple first-round draft picks.

“Where does that get Toronto? Does a Lillard-Siakam-Barnes trio put the Raptors in the mix in the Eastern Conference? If Barnes takes another step after a sluggish second season, maybe. But it’s iffy, and it doesn’t even take into account Lillard’s interest in being there.

“What this could do is motivate Miami. Talks between the Blazers and Heat have reportedly been dormant for some time. And, yes, Miami is certainly among the teams keeping an eye on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s situation in Milwaukee. But are the Heat really willing to, ahem, burn another season of Jimmy Butler in the hope that Giannis is available? Or is the threat of Toronto landing Lillard enough for Miami to plus up whatever offer it had on the table?”

ESPN: The Jump weighs in on what a Lillard trade to Toronto would look like

ESPN’s “The Jump” had multiple guests on Tuesday to share their thoughts on the Lillard trade talks.

Former NBA player Richard Jefferson said he thinks the Raptors surfacing in reports is a message from the Trail Blazers that they are looking for every team’s “best and final offers.”

“For me, I think this is an alert … to every single team,” Jefferson said.

Kendrick Perkins said it “makes no sense” for the Raptors to trade established players like Siakam and Anunoby for Lillard.

Zach Lowe backed Perkins up.

“The question the Raptors have to ask themselves is this. Given what the price is going to be, if we get Damian Lillard in the door, are we ready from Day 1 to win a championship?” Lowe said. “It doesn’t look like on paper at first glance … that Dame plus Siakam and Barnes and (Jakob Poeltl) is enough.”

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