Analyzing the Blockbuster Damian Lillard Trade

The impacts on the Blazers, Bucks and Suns

Jordan Pagkalinawan
Boundless & Ballin’

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Image via Action Network

After two months, Damian Lillard was finally traded…to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns pulled off a monster three-team deal that saw Lillard join forces with Giannis, De’Andre Ayton get moved to Portland and Jrue Holiday go west to Portland.

While the trade definitely changes the landscape of the Eastern Conference (and the league as a whole), it has an even bigger impact on the three teams involved.

Milwaukee Bucks

It looks like Giannis Antetokounmpo willl be staying in Milwaukee after all, joined by a seven-time All Star who is just as hungry for a title as he is. Though Antetokounmpo previously expressed doubts about his future with the Bucks —three years removed from their second NBA title — this trade puts those rumors to rest.

Aside from Antetokounmpo, Lillard is joining a talented core of Bucks players who complement the team very well. Khris Middleton struggled with injuries last season, but is a scintillating scorer who will thrive as a third option. And Brook Lopez is the team’s defensive anchor, having averaged a career-best 2.5 blocks per game at 35 years old.

Milwaukee is also surrounded by solid role players. Bobby Portis is expected to remain the team’s sixth man, having averaged 14.1 points on 49–37–76 splits last year. Pat Connaughton will continue his role as the team’s three-point specialist, with the potential to start in certain situations. Jae Crowder enters Milwaukee as a rotational 3-and-D wing, coming off of a season where he shot 43% from deep. Even though the Bucks have questions to answer regarding their bench, fans can be excited about the team’s starting lineup and top rotational players.

Milwaukee’s championship odds have shot up since the trade, and rightfully so. The Bucks have a lethal rotation that could potentially run through the Eastern Conference, filled with stars, star role players, and a winning mindset above all.

Portland Trail Blazers

After 11 years, the rebuild begins.

Portland officially made the call and ended the Lillard sweepstakes, earning a significant haul of assets to join Scoot Henderson, Jerami Grant, Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe.

According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Sam Amick, the Blazers tried to fulfill Lillard’s wishes of a trade to Miami, but those talks deteriorated over time. As a result, Lillard began to consider other contenders besides the Heat, particularly after a call with Celtics star Jayson Tatum:

“As the Blazers began to start serious trade talks across the league on Sept. 18, a bevy of teams — the Bucks, Celtics, Pelicans, Raptors, Timberwolves and Bulls — all showed interest in Lillard, league sources have told The Athletic. For all involved, the questions revolved around the price tag for Lillard and whether the roster would be able to compete for a championship post-acquisition.

Meanwhile in Lillard’s camp, sources briefed on the matter say there was a realization that he would need to start seriously considering the prospect of playing somewhere other than Miami. That had been the case since the start, back when Lillard fielded a recruiting call from the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum not long after his trade request and was reminded that the game’s best players had the utmost respect for his game.”

In the end, Portland received standout center DeAndre Ayton, rookie Toumani Camara, and draft capital — not counting the package they will receive once they find a new home for Jrue Holiday. All of them join a veteran forward in Jerami Grant and the aforementioned young talents of Henderson, Simons and Sharpe. The Blazers can finally begin a new era in the Pacific Northwest, as they chase their first championship since 1977.

Phoenix Suns

Finally, the Suns got involved as the third team after trying to trade De’Andre Ayton for months. They managed to get involved with Portland and Milwaukee and add several role players to their own contending roster.

According to The Athletic, the talks surrounding Ayton came after the team’s “lackluster finish” in the 2023 Western Conference semifinals:

“The Blazers began discussing the framework of the Suns’ involvement with the Ayton-for-Nurkić swap in mid-July but needed two months to find the third team for Lillard and ensure that they wouldn’t be entering the luxury tax given Ayton is on a max salary.

For the Trail Blazers, Phoenix was an essential component to any Lillard trade. Portland valued Ayton, 25, as a foundational piece to anchor a roster headed by Henderson and Sharpe, and the talented big man is sure to be a 20-and-10 threat in his new home.”

Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Nassir Little and Keon Johnson are all solid pieces to add to a title contender. Nurkic is a solid veteran coming off of a 13-point, 9-rebound per game season; he shot 52% from the field and 36% from deep. Grayson Allen — despite his negative reputation — is a competitive two-guard who shot nearly 40% from deep last season. And Little and Johnson are two developing young players who can slot in at small forward and shooting guard, respectively.

All four can contribute well to a roster spearheaded by Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. The Suns continued to add depth behind their stars with this trade, and they have furthered their status as a title contender in the West.

Overall, the Bucks, Suns and Blazers all had something to gain from this insane trade. Whether it’s continuing a title pursuit or starting fresh, all three teams can rest easy knowing their respective futures are set.

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Jordan Pagkalinawan
Boundless & Ballin’

Top Writer in NBA & Sports. Student journalist & podcaster. Socials manager at PerThirtySix, editor for Last Word on Hoops, & writer for YRMedia. Emerson ’26.