NBA

Milwaukee Bucks trade for All-Star Damian Lillard

By Sports Desk September 27, 2023

Damian Lillard finally has a new team, though it's not the one the NBA world had been expecting.

The Portland Trail Blazers have agreed to send their franchise icon to the Milwaukee Bucks in a blockbuster three-team trade that also involves fellow star players Jrue Holiday and Deandre Ayton, ESPN reported Wednesday.

Portland will receive Holiday from the Bucks and Ayton and rookie Toumani Camara from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Lillard, a seven-time All-Star who requested a trade this summer with the Trail Blazers in a rebuild.

The Blazers will also get Milwaukee's unprotected 2029 first-round pick as well as the right to swap first-round selections with the Bucks in 2028 and 2030.

Phoenix will receive veteran center Jusuf Nurkic and forwards Nassir Little and Keon Johnson from Portland, as well as guard Grayson Allen from Milwaukee.

Lillard had expressed a preference to be dealt to the Miami Heat, but the Blazers were unable to work out a trade to his desired destination that would satisfy their requirements for multiple draft picks and young players to add to their young core of rookie point guard Scoot Henderson and second-year wing Shaedon Sharpe.

The 33-year-old will instead be joining the team that finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference last season, but was dealt a stunning loss by the eighth-seeded Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

Lillard joins two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, three-time All-Star Khris Middleton and first team All-Defensive Team centre Brook Lopez as the nucleus of a Bucks squad that will be considered one of the favourites in the East after finishing 58-24 last season.

The trade, which is still awaiting league approval, also ends the 11-year tenure for arguably the most popular player in Trail Blazers' history. Lillard leaves Portland as the franchise's all-time leader in points (19,376) and three-point field goals (2,387), while his 5,151 assists rank second in team history.

Lillard is also coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 32.2 points per game and matched a personal best by shooting 46.3 per cent from the field, though a calf injury limited him to 58 games and he did not play after March 22.

The Blazers' season didn't go nearly as well, as they finished 13th in the Western Conference with a 33-49 record. Lillard's displeasure over the team's poor finish, plus its decision to keep its first-round draft picks instead of moving them for a win-now player, prompted him to formally issue a trade request in July.

Holiday, who earned a second career All-Star nod in 2022-23, could be on the move again soon, as ESPN reports Portland is expected to field trade offers for the 33-year-old point guard after taking Henderson with the No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft.

The 25-year-old Ayton figures to remain part of the Blazers' long-range plans with three seasons left on a four-year, $133 million extension he signed in 2022. The No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 draft averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds per game last season and has averaged a double-double in each of his five NBA seasons.

Phoenix gets a ready-made replacement for Ayton in Nurkic in addition to building needed depth to its star-laden core of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and offseason pickup Bradley Beal.

Nurkic averaged 13.3 points and 9.1 rebounds while starting 52 games for Portland last season. 

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