After months of intense rumors and years of speculation, Damian Lillard has finally been traded from the Portland Trail Blazers. The Miami Heat were previously favored to acquire Lillard, but the Toronto Raptors emerged as a contender in recent weeks. The NBA world was left stunned on Wednesday, however, as the Blazers traded Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks in a massive three-team deal.
The trade includes a lot of moving parts so buckle up as we grade the deal. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski provided all of the details from the trade on X (formerly Twitter):
“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,” Wojnarowski reported.
Bucks give Giannis a superstar in Damian Lillard
Much has been made about Giannis Antetokounmpo's future in Milwaukee this offseason. Adding Lillard will at least make Giannis think about staying with the Bucks for the long-term future.
That said, it doesn't necessarily guarantee it. We've seen super-teams fail in recent memory (Brooklyn Nets…) so Giannis may prefer to see how Lillard fits with the team before going all in with the Bucks. Nevertheless, it's clear Milwaukee wants him to stay.
It's difficult to argue against Milwaukee's decision here. They are trying to win another NBA championship and Lillard is a winning player. Yes, the Blazers have struggled at times but that hasn't been Lillard's fault. He's proven to be a clutch player in big moments.
Losing Jrue Holiday is far from ideal. He's been a key part of the Bucks' success over the past few years. In the end, replacing him with Lillard is understandable.
Before revealing our official trade grade for the Bucks, let's break down Phoenix's and Portland's returns.
Blazers receive surprising trade package
It was always going to require a massive trade package in order to acquire Damian Lillard. Fortunately for Milwaukee, they were able to get a third team involved.
Jrue Holiday and Deandre Ayton headline Portland's return in this three-team trade. There's a chance Holiday still could end up elsewhere, but for now he's headed to the Blazers.
Holiday, if he stays in Portland, would replace Lillard and provide veteran leadership. He isn't the same caliber of superstar that Lillard is, but Holiday is a very good player. He wouldn't be a bad fit with the Blazers.
Ayton stands out though. He's been mentioned in trade rumors over the past couple of seasons due to rumored drama in Phoenix. Ayton is in the prime of his career and gives Portland another young star to build around.
Losing Damian Lillard hurts. There's no doubt about it. But this Blazers squad suddenly has an exciting core of players who could help the team compete sooner rather than later.
In addition to Holiday and Ayton, the Blazers received Toumani Camara, a 2029 unprotected Bucks first round pick, and unprotected Bucks swap rights for the 2028 and 2030 drafts.
The picks aren't bad. Sure, Portland may have preferred to receive a pick within the next few seasons, but getting a 2029 unprotected first cements this as a positive for the Blazers. The swap rights are important as well.
Toumani Camara is interesting. He's a 6'8 wing from Belgium who the Blazers received from the Suns. At just 23-years old, Camara offers intriguing potential. At the very least, he will provide depth for Portland. Perhaps he can turn into a reliable player down the road.
Suns' return in the Damian Lillard trade
The Suns were the third team in the Damian Lillard deal. They played a significant role, sending Ayton to Portland.
Phoenix is obviously trying to compete with Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal leading the charge. They didn't do themselves a disservice by dealing Ayton away as Phoenix acquired Jusuf Nurkic.
Nurkic is a physical big man who's been underrated for many years. He doesn't need to score to be successful, which translates perfectly into this Booker-Durant-Beal-led offense.
Phoenix also landed sharpshooter Grayson Allen, big man Nassir Little, and 21-year-old guard Keon Johnson. The Suns weren't in this for picks. They want to win a championship now. Little and Johnson are young players who can factor into their future plans. Allen will play a big role this season, however.
Grading the trade for all three teams
There isn't a clear loser in this trade. The winner is Milwaukee, as their championship odds increased by acquiring Damian Lillard.
Portland certainly could have done worse, while Phoenix simply replaced their starting center and added more depth.
Bucks trade grade: A
Blazers trade grade: B
Suns trade grade: B+