On the Wednesday before the Bucks settle in for their 2023 Media Day and open training camp, the front office has swung a blockbuster trade.
Milwaukee acquired Damian Lillard from the Blazers in a three-team trade that includes the Suns.
More Trades For Portland Forthcoming?
The acquisition of Holiday and Ayton begs the question of whether Portland will make additional moves, similar to how the Wizards operated when they traded Bradley Beal and brought back Chris Paul. Paul would later be dealt to the Warriors in the Jordan Poole deal. Likewise, Holiday could be headed out to another team, assuming Portland is entering a rebuilding phase.
Milwaukee Prepped For Success
Lillard, who helped lead USA Basketball to a gold medal during the 2020 Olympics, will form one of the best duos in the NBA, playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo. The pair will be flanked by Khris Middleton, who remains on the Bucks and previously played alongside Lillard with Team USA.
The Bucks had limited draft pick flexibility, emptying the cupboard back in 2020 in a deal that brought Jrue Holiday to town. The 2029 first-rounder was their top asset in the draft department and given the uncertainty six years down-the-line, that pick, along with the pair of swaps, proved to be enough to upgrade from Holiday to Lillard.
Milwaukee should be considered the favorite to win the Eastern Conference after the trade. The roster around the Bucks’ new trio has some question marks, though with Bobby Portis, Brook Lopez, and Pat Connaughton returning, the club is positioned to return to the NBA Finals after failing to do so over the past two seasons.
The Suns’ Angle
It was no secret that Deandre Ayton wasn’t going to work out long-term in Phoenix. Putting aside all the drama with his contract situation last year, he simply wasn’t going to play out the remaining three years of his four-year contract after multiple poor playoff showings.
In comes Nurkic to play center for Phoenix as well as some depth around Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Beal. Keon Johnson, Nassir Little, and Grayson Allen should each have the opportunity to carve out rotational roles. In addition to Ayton, Phoenix also surrendered Toumani Camara, who was the team’s second-round pick (No. 52 overall) in the 2023 draft out of Dayton (for those who’ve read this far or heard the news and wondered who Camara was).