Is It Dame Time In Miami?
Damian Lillard finally looks like he’s calling time on Portland, and if we can successfully predict where Dame Dolla lands, we might be able to start our 2024 Championship book with a lovely bit of value.
Lillard will go down in history as the greatest Blazer of all time, with many predicting he’d stay in Portland his whole career.
Getting lucky in this year’s draft brought matters to a head however. The Blazers picked Scoot Henderson with the 3rd pick and really did not want to trade him, with the future of the franchise in mind and Henderson predicted to be a multi-year All Star who would have been the 1st pick in many other NBA drafts.
That timeline, along with last year’s pick of the exciting and improving Shaedon Sharpe, does not match up with that of Lillard who recently turned 32. He’s coming off a great season, and is still one of the top 10 players in the Association, but by the time Scoot, Sharpe and the rest are ready to win, Dame will be winding down.
Not only does it now look like the breaking point has been reached and Lillard has decided to move to a team ready to win, because of what he’s done as a Blazer, and his standing as the franchise’s all-time greatest player, means he will no doubt have a lot of say in where he goes. In so much he will give Portland management a list of teams and tell them to trade him to one of those.
The one that makes most sense to me, and who I will be taking a financial interest in, is the Miami Heat.
They’re coming off an amazing postseason run to the NBA Finals and their Band of Brothers’ never say die attitude coupled with the supreme play of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, who seems to get better and better, looks the perfect set up.
There’s a vacancy for a point guard, with Kyle Lowry in the twilight of his career and on a big contract. If Lowry is part of the trade with Portland, that’s fine, and if he’s not, having him to back up Lillard is pretty good too.
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Any package Portland receive from Miami is likely to be built around last year’s 6th Man of the Year, Tyler Herro, plus all the draft picks the Heat can send of course. Miami showed this postseason, when Herro went down with an injury early, that they’re just fine without him, and adding Lillard to the majority of the team that played so well in beating Milwaukee, New York and Boston before losing in the Finals, is an exciting prospect.
If Miami don’t land Dame, we’ve had a fair priced bet on a dangerous team that still might have a move or two up their sleeve. If Lillard lands in Miami, as I think he will, I’d expect the Heat to be slashed very close to 5/1 favourites Denver and Boston, halving in price over night.
RECOMMENDATION: 3pts Miami Heat win the 2024 NBA title at 17.00
Note: The odds for Miami are being slashed off the back of this rumour, we recommend taking them down to 12.00.
Opportunity Knocks For Portland Youngsters
Wherever Damian Lillard lands, his exit from Portland spells out that it’s rebuild time for the Blazers.
Shaedon Sharpe looked one of the most exciting prospects in the NBA in the flashes we saw last season, and his role will be a much bigger one with Lillard out of the picture and no expectation on winning.
And Scoot Henderson, the number 3 pick, will now be handed the keys to the Portland offense and play a much bigger part in Portland’s immediate future than would have been the case if the Blazers were still trying to win now with Dame.
The Rookie of the Year market has looked a one-horse race even before this draft was complete, with Victor Wembanyama the name on everyone’s lips. The giant number 1 pick, who will play for the San Antonio Spurs next season, has had his game analysed to death, and not everyone is so keen on the lanky Frenchman’s game.
Clips of him struggling to establish post position against smaller but beefier opponents while playing for France have been doing the rounds, with many experts deciding that veteran Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will have his hands full getting Wembey’s game NBA ready on the court, while the 19-year-old player himself will have to put a lot of work in to get his body NBA ready off it.
Add that to the massive new opportunity Scoot has just been presented with, and the Portland man looks to be a bit of value at 5.00
More exciting for those of us who like our bets with a bit more meat on the bone, is Sharpe for Most Improved Player at 23.00
The high flying dunks and amazing athletic ability already caught the eye last season, and Sharpe was predicted to kick on in his second year anyway.
But without Lillard, and without the pressure to win, we can expect the 20-year-old Canadian to get a lot more of the ball, take a lot more shots and appear on a lot more highlight reels.
By the nature of it, Most Improved Player is a lot more wide open than Rookie of the Year, with any NBA player not a rookie able to win.
There is also the possibility of more moves that open opportunities up like the one Sharpe has found himself presented with.
I like to throw a few darts at this market each season at decent prices, and Sharpe is the first of my 2024 portfolio.