Lillard and Giannis together
It’s Dame Time in Milwaukee. On Wednesday afternoon, the Milwaukee Bucks shocked the NBA, trading for Damian Lillard, one of the most electrifying offensive players the league has ever seen. It was expected that the Portland Trailblazers would trade their long-time star, but few thought the Bucks had the assets to spin a deal. And now the Bucks have both Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
before the trade, the Bucks had the fourth-best odds to win the championship
Milwaukee was already among the favorites to win the 2023-2024 NBA Championship, but this trade has vaulted the Bucks to title favorites. Before the trade, the Bucks had the fourth-best odds to win the championship, behind the defending champs Denver Nuggets, the Boston Celtics, and the Phoenix Suns. Now they are number one.
Wednesday morning, Caesars Sportsbook had the Bucks at +750 to win the NBA title. Now their odds have halved to +375. Behind them are the Nuggets at +425, the Celtics at +500, and the Suns at +550. The Golden State Warriors are a distant fifth at +1000.
Jrue Holiday was key to the deal
Of course, the Milwaukee Bucks had to give something up to get a player as great as Damian Lillard. Using the Suns as a third team to facilitate the deal, the Bucks relinquished All-Star and mega-elite perimeter defender Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen, a 2029 first-round draft pick, and 2028 and 2030 pick swaps.
Trading someone as great both on and off the court as Jrue Holiday was not easy for the Bucks, but the team has had trouble recently in the playoffs in end-game situations on offense, so in acquiring an electric offensive player like Lillard, they hope to solve that problem.
What they give up on defense they should get back in spades on offense (not that Jrue is an offensive slouch – he simply struggled the last couple years in the playoffs). The potential pick-and-roll combo of Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo will frighten the league and Khris Middleton should get a lot more open looks from the perimeter.
The Bucks, thanks in large part to the addition of Holiday, won the NBA championship in 2021, but despite being the best regular-season team in the last five years, they have had disappointing playoff runs other than that one year.
Lillard had asked out of Portland
As mentioned, it was known that Portland was going to trade Lillard. He has been the Trailblazers’ rock for over a decade, but has never really had the supporting cast to take the team to a title. In his tenure, Portland only made it as far as the Western Conference Finals once.
Word is that Portland will look to turn Holiday around for young players and/or picks.
Lillard has previously expressed a desire to stay in Portland long-term and even signed a contract extension in 2022. But the Blazers have been bad the last two seasons and have committed to a youth rebuild, so Lillard told the team he wanted to be traded. Word is that Portland will look to turn Holiday around for young players and/or picks.
Lillard had also said he wanted to play in Miami, so for the entire offseason, it was thought that the Miami Heat were the most likely team to get him. Plus, the Heat had more assets than the Bucks with which to swing a trade. Just this week, reports were that the Toronto Raptors may be the favorites in the Damian Lillard sweepstakes, but the Bucks (with help from the Suns) just melted faces and grabbed the all-time great.