Damien Lillard has finally been traded, but shockingly, he is not heading to South Beach. In a move that shocked NBA fans worldwide, the Portland Trail Blazers agreed on a trade, sending Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks in a three-team trade involving the Phoenix Suns.
The Bucks shipped Jrue Holiday, a 2009 first-round pick and multiple first-round pick-swaps to Portland before Holliday was sent to Boston on Sunday. They also sent Grayson Allen to Phoenix.
Lillard joins Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee as he looks for his first NBA championship. Antetokounmpo has been hinting throughout the offseason that he may not stay on the Bucks if they do not make a championship run. The addition of Lillard, a seven-time All-Star and one of the best shooters in NBA history, makes Milwaukee a clear favorite in the Eastern Conference.
The depth and the perimeter defense are a question. Holiday is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, and Allen is a starting-level player who is not a liability on the defensive side of the ball. Milwaukee will be banking on a second-year jump from MaJon Beauchamp and strong play from veterans like Pat Connaughton, who will most likely start in place of Grayson Waller and Jae Crowder.
The Blazers acquired Holiday, Deandre Ayton and Toumani Camara along with the already-mentioned package of picks. They also moved Jusuf Nurkic, Nassir Little and Keon Johnson to the Suns.
The holiday is not expected to be in Portland for long. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that “Portland is committed to its young group of talented guards” and will look to trade the two-time All-Star to a contending team.
Ayton has had a long-running issue with the Phoenix organization, which saw him try to leave just a season ago. The trade will give Ayton a fresh start on a team that doesn’t have championship expectations.
Trading a superstar player like Lillard, Portland’s all-time leading scorer, means that there will be minutes and opportunities for a multitude of players. Scoot Henderson, the No. 2 overall pick of the draft, is now being handed the keys of the franchise in his rookie year. He is surrounded by Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe, young players with high potential to take some of the pressure off.
Phoenix adds some much-needed depth and can free themselves from the toxic Ayton relationship. The Suns have completely torn down and rebuilt the roster that made the NBA finals just two seasons ago. Devin Booker is the only remaining player from the team who was two games away from winning the franchise’s first championship.
The swap of Ayton and Jusuf Nurkic doesn’t raise the Suns’ ceiling, with neither being great rim-protectors, but adding Grayson Allen does give Phoenix another good 3-and-D role player.
The Suns and Bucks are very similarly built teams; neither have the deepest roster, but they hope that the star power up top is enough to power them to a championship. It will be interesting to see how both of these top-tier contenders will play and if any more additions will be made.