Three months ago, Damian Lillard sent shockwaves around the NBA world by demanding a trade from the Portland Trail Blazers. To complicate things further, he said he only wanted to go to the Miami Heat, putting the Portland front office in an awkward positioning when it came to trying to get back a haul good enough for a star player.
Unfortunately for the Heat, the Blazers never bit on any of their early trade offers and apparently lost complete interest into speaking with them at all. The Dame saga came to an end when he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. That was already bad, considering that the Bucks and Heat have met multiple times in the playoffs recently. The Bucks also signed Cameron Payne on a one year deal.
Things went from bad to worse, though, when the Blazers then sent Jrue Holiday back east to the Boston Celtics for Malcolm Brogdon, Robert Williams and picks. That effectively reloaded the Celtics roster as well, and these Celtics took the Heat to seven games in the previous Eastern Conference Finals.
The sudden arms race in the Eastern Conference now puts the Heat in a painful position. They did not upgrade their roster in any meaningful way and instead lost two key contributors in Max Strus, who went to Cleveland and Gabe Vincent, who went to the Los Angeles Lakers. Barring a miracle, or a big midseason trade, the Heat are going to have to hope that Jimmy Butler morphs into Michael Jordan again to carry them to their third NBA Finals in five seasons.
Signs are not looking good, though. The trio of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Lillard and Khris Middleton along with their supporting cast will be itching to get revenge for Milwaukee’s 4-1 defeat in the first round last season. Then, the quadruple-threat of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis will also be looking to make it to the 2024 NBA Finals. The Heat will have to get through at least one of those teams to make the promised land, and they’re severely lacking in firepower.
They also don’t have that many great trade assets, since Tyler Herro and a bunch of picks was clearly not good enough to net them a third star. Any smart team will be asking for Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo in a trade package for a star.
What can Miami hope for? Potentially the discontent of someone like Joel Embiid, who must now feel that his Philadelphia 76ers can’t compete either. With James Harden also trying to force his way out of Philly, there could be a wild trade that allows the Eastern Conference to form a third superteazm.
For now, though, things look bleak in South Beach. It will be interesting to see how their season develops.