Celtics fans will love Pierce’s take on possible Lillard-to-Heat trade

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Celtics fans will love Pierce’s take on possible Lillard-to-Heat trade originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The team that just toppled the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals appears poised to acquire a seven-time All-Star.

To which Paul Pierce would reply, so what?

The Miami Heat reportedly are the frontrunners to land Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard via trade, a move that seemingly would keep them in the title conversation after their run to the NBA Finals last season.

Yet Pierce isn’t buying that the Heat would be any better if they brought in Lillard. In fact, the former Celtics star believes a Dame-led Heat squad would be done playing by late April.

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“You put (Lillard, Jimmy Butler, and Bam Adebayo) together, they won’t make it out of the first round,” Pierce told Showtime’s Rachel Nichols and former NBA star Tracy McGrady on Thursday.

Pierce’s hot take shocked Nichols, but The Truth had an explanation ready.

“You’ve got to understand how they got to the championship this year,” Pierce said. “A lot of this had to do with their depth and guys playing way above their pay grade. Caleb (Martin), (Gabe Vincent), these guys were averaging 20 points on Boston. We ain’t never seen that from them. Then you had Duncan Robinson.

“So if you get Dame, they’re gone. They’re already gone, and then you have to give up another 18-to-20 point scorer (in Tyler Herro). … You’re gonna have to gut that team out.”

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The Blazers reportedly are seeking four first-round picks and one or two quality players in return for Lillard, so Miami would have to give up at least Herro and potentially Robinson. Both Vincent and Max Strus signed elsewhere in free agency, so Pierce is right in that the Heat would be much thinner if they swung a Lillard trade. (Vincent, Robinson and Strus combined to average 36.6 points per game against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.)

Then again, an All-Star trio of Lillard, Butler and Adebayo has plenty of potential, and we wouldn’t be surprised if head coach Erik Spoelstra gets production out of other unheralded role players such as Haywood Highsmith and Nikola Jovic this season.

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The bottom line is that Miami seems like a complete wild card if it lands Lillard. Spoelstra’s group could flame out in the first round or return to the NBA Finals, and we wouldn’t be surprised either way. But the Celtics have the superior team on paper regardless, and they should be the favorites to come out of the East in 2024.

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