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Blockbuster Trade Sends Damian Lillard to the Bucks

By Jeff Stinger

The Damian Lillard trade saga ends today. Basketball fans and bettors were hit with a curveball following rumors that mostly speculated the All-Star guard’s move to Miami. A three-way deal between the Blazers, Bucks, and Suns was struck. Dame’s direction points him to 2021 NBA champions Milwaukee Bucks. This potentially solves the franchise’s present and future problems with the addition of the 33-year-old sensation.

What does this mean for the Milwaukee Bucks and their chances of grabbing another NBA title? Nitrobetting uncovers possible narratives for the seven-time All-Star and the organization moving forward.

Dame Time in Milwaukee

Now that the trade talks surrounding Damian Lillard are over, which concluded with an incredible move to Milwaukee, the 2020-21 champions are ready for another run to the top. The Bucks suffered a humiliating upset as the top-seeded team in the opening round of the 2022-23 NBA Playoffs. Despite rumors of dissatisfaction from franchise face Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks came out on top of the Lillard sweepstakes.

The three-team deal shocked the basketball space. Only rumors about Lillard and the Heat surfaced, and then everything unraveled before us. Now, the Bucks locked in Lillard in a deal that involves moving Jrue Holiday and potentially three unprotected future firsts–a 2029 pick, and swap rights in 2028 and 2030–are headed to Portland. The third dimension involves Deandre Ayton and Toumani Camara moving to the Blazers via Phoenix, while Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Keon Johnson, and Nassir Little are all headed to Phoenix to seal the deal.

Milwaukee now has one of the league’s best offensive players and arguably the best frontcourt. This signals another run to the Finals. It also shifts the odds in their favor. Last season’s finalists Boston Celtics dropped as the second favorite team to make way for a refreshed Bucks side that is +158 Eastern Conference favorites. More than that, the Central Division team also hardens its stand as division heavyweights and top favorite, coming in at -385 odds.

Some say that the deal sacrifices any future flexibility in the draft and cap room for the Bucks. However, the positive outweighs any drawbacks on paper. In doing so, they might have solved potential issues in both the present and future. First and foremost, Lillard’s offensive advantage is unparalleled. It’s impossible to overlook his talent as a lead ball handler. He holds some of the leading figures that measure overall offensive impact, going neck-and-neck with NBA Finals MVP Nikola Jokic last season.

Dame averaged 32.2 points in 58 games last year. He finished the regular season shooting 46.3% from the field, 37.1% from deep, and 91.4% from the line. On top of that, the point guard recorded 4.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists to complete a Player Efficiency Rating of 26.7.

The deal represents more tactical flexibility for the Bucks at the point guard position. We will miss Holiday as he adds defensive depth to the side, but we’ve seen him go through erratic postseason runs when it comes to scoring. Lillard, meanwhile, is a ruthless offensive piece and an average defender at best. His defensive flaws are easily overlooked thanks to a competent Bucks defense that can back him on the court.

Lillard’s half-court creation and a plethora of scoring tools can help the Bucks reduce their reliance on Khris Middleton, whose health and effectiveness after a few seasons declined. Moreover, Milwaukee can rely on a frontcourt led by Giannis and Brook Lopez to compensate for any defensive lapses in the backcourt.

The swap might come at a tremendous cost, but the Bucks had no control of their next four first-round picks anyway. They still owe New Orleans a pair of swaps and two outright picks from the previous Holiday deal. They are out three more, meaning they can’t move a future first to upgrade their roster for the next two years. Ultimately, this scenario is likely to play out well for the team in the next two or three seasons.

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