Damian Lillard Trade Grades: Bucks Hit a Home Run

The Bucks are building a new big three.

In a major twist, Milwaukee is acquiring Damian Lillard in a three-team trade after months of rumors about the seven-time All-Star. Lillard requested a trade with the Heat earlier this summer, and now he has joined a Miami team that reached the Finals.

The Bucks would send Jrue Holiday and a first-round pick to the Trail Blazers, while also sending Grayson Allen to Phoenix. Meanwhile, the Suns will send DeAndre Ayton to Portland. In addition to Allen, Phoenix is acquiring Jusuf Nurkic, Keyon Johnson and Nassir Little in the trade.

Let’s break down the deal for all parties involved.

Bucks: A+
In late 2020, after losing to the Heat in the playoffs and rumors swirling about Giannis Antetokounmpo’s future, the Bucks made a deal for Jrue Holiday. Nearly three years later, after another disappointing playoff exit and more rumors about Giannis’ unhappiness with the franchise, Milwaukee goes out and acquires Lillard. This is a home run move. It proves to Giannis that the Bucks are serious about remaining a title contender, and it’s an impressive job from a front office that doesn’t appear to have many options. Yes, Milwaukee will have depth concerns, but the trio of Lillard, Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton is the class of the East. Both Lillard and Antetokounmpo are now on the best terms of their careers. And with Lillard staying put long-term, there’s reason to believe Giannis will want to stay in Milwaukee, too. This is a great business now and for the future.

Trail Blazers: Incomplete

This move can’t be evaluated until the Blazers move on from Holiday, as this return has not been tremendous. Ayton is a solid player, but he wasn’t welcomed in Phoenix despite being the No. 1 pick two years in a row. While upgrading to Nurkic, he will be asked to take on a lot more responsibility in Portland than in Phoenix. The first-round pick and pick swap from Milwaukee doesn’t really move the needle much. Throughout the summer, reports indicated that Portland was not interested in the Heat’s assets. These returns so far are theoretically no more than what Miami could put on the table. (Of course, we don’t know what the Heat’s final offer was.) Until Portland gets a return from Holiday — which should be coveted by many contenders — he can’t be objectively evaluated on this move.

Suns: C
Due to the second apron, Phoenix was not in a good position to perform the maneuver. But upgrading to center just to add depth in the form of Allen and Little is confusing to me. How far will Allen lag behind Devin Booker, Bradley Beal and Eric Gordon? Little is completely unproven. Is it worth losing the team’s best defender? Unless Ayton really was that unhappy, this seems like a bit more of a financial move than anything else for the Suns.

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