After countless days of getting the same “updates” over and over, the trade we’ve all been anticipating has finally happened. The Portland Trail Blazers and long-time team superstar Damian Lillard have parted ways after 11 seasons, shipping him out in a blockbuster, three-team deal.
Turns out, the Blazers are indeed going to grant Lillard’s wish, just not to the full extent he had wanted. It’s been known that the decorated All-Star point guard’s preferred destination is the Miami Heat. Portland sent him packing to a “Mi” – Milwaukee that is.
Who knew a deemed throwaway rumor in January 2021 would come to fruition two years later?
In any case, it is considered a landscape-changing move. Let’s discuss its different angles.
Giving up defense for offense
First, let’s briefly look at what they gave up. The initial layer includes Grayson Allen, an unprotected 2029, first-round pick, and unprotected pick swaps in 2028 and 2030.
The next layer is Jrue Holiday, which is basically unloading top-tier defense in place of sure-fire offense. The veteran floor general is a two-way weapon, having been named to either a first or second All-Defensive team in five of the last six seasons. He is also a capable scorer when needed, compiling an average 19.0 points per game since the 2017-18 season.
Holiday helped stir the Bucks to an NBA championship in 2021, and he’ll leave a void on their defense, but Milwaukee would also be silly to pass up acquiring someone like Lillard, especially with the ultimatum that Bucks franchise man Giannis Antetokounmpo gave just a week ago.
This is one of the many subtle warnings he expressed over the last few weeks.
Will the new-look Bucks work?
Though no one can really tell, it’s tough not to envision the explosiveness of the crew alongside Dame. Holiday is basically the only significant player that left. The group that won the ’21 title—Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Bobby Portis, and Pat Connaughton—are still there.
The Lillard and Antetokoumpo tandem could be very, very interesting to watch. On one side, you have a human freight train, able to bully defenders both in transition and in the paint, on top of being an elite defender and having a towering 7’0 frame. Pairing all that might with a scoring machine who’s also a deadly shooter from anywhere—considering he can casually pull up from half-court—and you have an insane 1-2 punch, both of which are MVP-level guys. Further, their skillset will spread the defense’s attention, and they each benefit off of that. They are two Alpha stars that now how to exploit such holes.
The growing hunger can be huge as well, and could be taken into account as to how dangerous this team can be. Antetokounmpo and company are itching for another crack at a ring after yet back-to-back disappointing playoff exits, while the 33-year-old Lillard is salivating to finally reach the summit as he is about to hit his dog years.
In the end, of course, it’s the sacrifices and the ability to slide into the adjustments that will further catapult a talented squad. Middleton, for one, may have diminished opportunities on offense since it’ll be the Giannis and Dame Show for pretty much every game – how well can he take it? Lillard, meanwhile, has to provide better effort on defense as he can’t afford to rely on hiding behind defensive-minded teammates. It always turns costly, especially in a postseason stage.
We haven’t even mentioned the change in the coaching department. The Bucks are parading a rookie head coach in Adrian Griffin. That may be a factor too.