Miami Ranked as Top NBA Player Destination as Damian Lillard Eyes Trade | Miami New Times


Destination Dame: Study Ranks Miami as Top Destination for NBA Players

The study results were released as the Portland Trailblazers' star guard Damian Lillard is in a tug-of-war over his desire to be traded to Miami.
Damian Lillard, keeping busy.
Damian Lillard, keeping busy. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
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The NBA offseason is always filled with roster-juggling drama as players assess their options and decide where they will take their talents for the upcoming season. But while fans tend to focus on the on-court possibilities, the players take a much more rounded look at where they'll next call home.

According to a new analysis by the sports-gambling website, among the many cities beckoning players this offseason, Miami stands out as a premier choice to set up shop, ranking near the top of the list of "Most Desirable NBA Free Agency Destinations."

The study results, which come as no surprise to Miami locals, were released as the Portland Trailblazers and future Hall-of-Fame candidate Damian Lillard are in a tug-o'-war over where the high-paid, prolific scorer will play next season.

Though he's not a free agent, Lillard recently expressed his desire to be traded exclusively to the Miami Heat, severely limiting Portland's chances of recouping a market-made return for his services. The demand has turned what was expected to be a ho-hum Heat offseason into a daily game of social-media-feed scrolling for fans across the league, while excited Heat supporters dream about Lillard teaming up with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo to form a new Big 3.

The study — along with Lillard's desire to be shipped to Miami — seem to confirm not only how alluring the competitiveness of Heat Culture is to outsiders, but how the city's idyllic image can draw in top-tier players.

Data Says Dade

To determine the most desirable NBA cities, compiled an aggregate ranking using various metrics, including state tax burdens, media market ranking, city popularity, attendance rankings, winning percentage, and 2024 NBA Championship odds. The analysis included a "team rank" and a "city rank" which were weighed equally for the final score.

Miami secured an impressive second-place ranking, trailing behind only the Philadelphia 76ers, which is, as it happens, one of a handful of teams in the running to secure Lillard's services for next season.

Trailing Miami on the list are Boston, both Los Angeles teams (Lakers, then the Clippers), and Dallas, in that order.

Someone alert Bill Simmons and The Ringer — no matter how much they gripe about Lillard not wanting to play for the Celtics, it won't change the fact that the numbers profess Miami is a better bet.
Miami-Dame County

One of the factors contributing to Miami's appeal is, well, it's Miami.

The nightlife and, um, one might call it, a rich cultural scene, combined with the warm weather and luxurious living options can't hurt the city's allure for a man that has already made more than $200 million on the court alone.

If it's good enough for Messi...

Dame Dollar

From a financial perspective, Miami's appeal is enhanced by the absence of state income tax in Florida, an enticing prospect compared to the five percent charged in Massachusetts and 13 percent in California.

Many folks looking to predict the landing spot for a super star player make the mistake of looking at contract numbers without considering how deep Uncle Sam has his hand in their pockets. For Heat players, all games played in Florida — including those against the Magic — add up to some hefty tax savings. 

It's Not Florida Magic

While non-Heat fans may be screaming foul over Miami's upperhand in attracting players, it's not all sunshine and butterflies when it comes to attracting free agents to the State of Florida.

According to, the Orlando Magic often fare poorly in the NBA free agent market.

With a total aggregate score of 17.17, Orlando finished in the 18th spot on the list, just behind the Utah Jazz.
The Magic's team score of 22.67 significantly impacted the city's overall ranking, meaning performances on the court have driven away free agents.

No NBA titles or playoff success since 2010 tends to turn the best players off.

Miami Play Underrated?

If there was ever a question as to why Damian Lillard, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, or any other NBA free agent would want to make Miami their home, the study should go a long way in providing an answer.

Notwithstanding the nod, the team's play on the court continues to be underrated. Skeptics suggested the Heat would make an early exit in the playoffs this year, and the naysaying continued all the way through the Eastern Conference Finals. Though Miami fell short of sealing the deal, the NBA Finals run showed the team had a penchant for eking out wins when the odds are firmly against them.

The Heat find paths to victory, one way or the other, and those avenues will only multiply if Lillard is behind the wheel.
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