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Heat reportedly favorite to sign Kelly Oubre, but only if they trade for Lillard

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Charlotte Hornets

Mar 20, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) runs the offense against the Indiana Pacers during the second half at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Kelly Oubre remains the best free agent still available, a player who averaged 20.3 points and 5.2 rebounds a game last season in Charlotte.

Most teams expect him to sign with the Miami Heat — but only if they trade for Damian Lillard, reports Marc Stein in his latest Substack newsletter.

There’s logic to that idea. In any iteration of a Lillard trade the Heat will be sending out quality depth — most likely Tyler Herro, but Caleb Martin and other names have come up as well — and signing Oubre would bring in some scoring off the bench to help. There are flaws in this plan, Oubre is not a traditional Heat player: He’s not a good defender, not a strong playmaker for others, nor is he an efficient scorer. But he can get buckets and that is a very valuable skill.

Of course, this all hinges on a Damian Lillard trade to Miami, and those talks remain stalled.

Those talks are expected to restart with some urgency in the next couple of weeks, but the core issue remains that the Trail Blazers don’t like the Heat’s offer (at its best three first-round picks plus Herro and maybe Nikola Jovic), but no other teams are pushing to make a trade for the 33-year-old Lillard who has four years and $216 million remaining on his contract. There is a growing sense that Portland is willing to go into training camp (and maybe the season) with Lillard, but he may be away from the team during training camp. The Trail Blazers need to turn the page to the Scoot Henderson era, and while Lillard is not going to say anything bad about the Blazers or intentionally be a disruption, just his presence would lead to a media zoo and a lot of distractions.

Through it all, Oubre just waits.