The Portland Trail Blazers have traded Damian Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks in a stunning three-team deal, per Adrian Wojnarowski, that also sees the Suns get involved. Lillard will join Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton to bolster the Bucks’ attempt to win a second championship. For Portland, Jrue Holiday is at the center of the deal from Milwaukee’s side and Deandre Ayton likewise is headed to the Blazers, as had been rumored to be a target in recent weeks.
Lillard goes Milwaukee as part of a 3-team deal with Jrue Holiday, Deandre Ayton, Toumani Camara, a 2029 unprotected MIL 1st, and unprotected MIL swap rights in 2028 and 2030 to Blazers. Phoenix lands Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Nassir Little and Keon Johnson. https://t.co/Ge0H91AiIA
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 27, 2023
After previously saying that he expected to be in Portland at the start of next season, Lillard requested a trade less than a day into the start of free agency, making clear he wanted to be sent to the Miami Heat. For months, the Blazers have balked at Miami’s offers, and the two sides sat at a stalemate for most of the offseason after never being able to find the right combination of players and picks — or a third team to facilitate that right combination.
Ultimately, the Blazers were able to land what they felt to be a superior deal to what the Heat were offering in the form of a three-teamer with Milwaukee and Phoenix.
Lillard’s trade request came on the heels of back-to-back campaigns where the Blazers finished 13th in the Western Conference. Last year, they parlayed that into Shaedon Sharpe, one of the building blocks for the next era of basketball in Portland, and this year, there were questions about whether they’d use their lottery pick to get some more immediate help in an effort to convince Lillard that the team is in win-now mode. Instead, Portland ended up keeping the pick and taking Scoot Henderson, the dynamic guard out of the G League Ignite team who has the potential to be an All-Star over the course of his career. But despite how bright the futures of guys like Henderson, Sharpe, and Anfernee Simons are, Lillard’s priority at this point in his career is understandably to win.
Now, he’ll get the chance to do that, but it won’t be in the place most expected him to be — or that he wanted to go. Still, there’s no question that Lillard will have an opportunity to compete for a title in Milwaukee, as the Bucks were the East’s 1-seed a year ago and Giannis is among the league’s perennial MVP candidates. After Giannis applied pressure to the Bucks this summer to prove they were serious about winning titles long-term, they went out and land Lillard who is on a long-term deal to be a seemingly ideal backcourt partner for the two-time MVP forward. The Bucks will now be the prohibitive favorites in the Eastern Conference, leapfrogging the Celtics for that honor, and the Miami Heat will have to go back to the drawing board — especially because this would now seemingly take the dream scenario of Giannis pushing his way out of Milwaukee off the table.
For the Blazers, they chose a package with a current All-Star caliber guard in Jrue Holiday, who one would expect to end up potentially back on the trade market soon, and Deandre Ayton as their new starting center over what the Heat were offering. Ayton gets a fresh start in Portland and gives them a center more in line with their timetable, while the Suns bring Jusuf Nurkic and Grayson Allen as the headliners for Phoenix’s effort to break Ayton’s deal into a few players as they attempt to bolster their depth.