The NBA landscape has been shaken by a stunning trade that sent Damian Lillard, one of the best point guards in the league, to the Milwaukee Bucks to join forces with two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The deal, which also involved the Phoenix Suns, was reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Wednesday.
How the trade went down
According to Wojnarowski, the Bucks acquired Lillard from the Portland Trail Blazers in a three-team blockbuster trade that included Jrue Holiday, Deandre Ayton, Toumani Camara, Milwaukee’s 2029 unprotected first-round draft pick, and unprotected Bucks swap rights in 2028 and 2030. The Suns received Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Nassir Little, and Keon Johnson in the deal. The Blazers are expected to trade Holiday to another contender this season, as they are committed to their young group of talented guards.
Lillard had requested a trade from Portland in July, after growing frustrated with the team’s lack of success and direction. He had spent his entire nine-year career with the Blazers, averaging 25.2 points and 6.7 assists per game, and making seven All-Star appearances. He is widely regarded as one of the most clutch and fearless players in the NBA, with a reputation for hitting game-winning shots from long range.
Antetokounmpo, on the other hand, had been rumored to be unhappy with the Bucks’ performance in the playoffs, after they were eliminated in the first round by the Miami Heat this year. The Greek Freak had led the Bucks to their first championship in 50 years in 2021, winning the Finals MVP award along the way. He had signed a five-year, $228 million supermax extension with Milwaukee in December 2020, but had hinted that he might request a trade if the team did not improve.
What this means for the Bucks
The Bucks have instantly become the favorites to win the title next season, with a formidable duo of Antetokounmpo and Lillard. The two stars complement each other perfectly, as Lillard provides elite shooting and playmaking, while Antetokounmpo dominates inside with his athleticism and defense. The Bucks also have Khris Middleton, an All-Star forward who can score from anywhere on the floor, and Brook Lopez, a versatile center who can stretch the defense and protect the rim.
The Bucks have shown their willingness to go all-in on winning now, by giving up a lot of assets and future picks for Lillard. They have also taken on a huge financial commitment, as Lillard has four years and $216 million left on his contract. However, they have secured themselves a window of contention for at least the next four years, with two of the best players in their prime.
What this means for the Blazers and the Suns
The Blazers have decided to rebuild around their young core of guards, led by Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe, who were drafted with the No. 3 and No. 16 picks respectively in this year’s draft. They have also acquired some promising young forwards and draft picks from the trade, which will help them develop their roster for the future. They have parted ways with their franchise icon in Lillard, but they have received a fair return for him.
The Suns have made some minor adjustments to their roster, after reaching the Finals for the first time since 1993 last season. They have traded away Ayton, their starting center who was due for a contract extension soon, and Camara, a rookie forward who was selected with the No. 18 pick this year. They have added Nurkic, a skilled big man who can pass and rebound well; Allen, a sharpshooter who can space the floor; Little, a young wing who can defend multiple positions; and Johnson, a rookie guard who has potential as a scorer and defender. The Suns have maintained their depth and versatility, while saving some money in the process.
How this changes the NBA landscape
The NBA has witnessed another major shift in power dynamics, as Lillard joins Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee to form a new superteam. The Bucks will face tough competition from other contenders in both conferences, such as the Brooklyn Nets (with Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving), the Los Angeles Lakers (with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook), the Golden State Warriors (with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green), and the Denver Nuggets (with Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr.). However, they have arguably the best duo in the league right now, and they will be hard to stop.
The NBA fans will be treated to some exciting matchups and rivalries next season, as these star-studded teams battle for supremacy. The league has once again proven that anything can happen in any given moment, and that the offseason can be just as thrilling as the regular season and the playoffs.