Damian Lillard is headed to the Milwaukee Bucks as part of a three-team trade, according to Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN’s senior NBA insider.
In the deal, per Wojnarowski:
- The Portland Trail Blazers will receive Jrue Holiday, Deandre Ayton, Toumani Camara, an unprotected 2029 first-round pick from Milwaukee and unprotected swap rights from Milwaukee for 2028 and 2030.
- The Phoenix Suns will receive Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Nassir Little and Keon Johnson.
- The Bucks will receive Lillard.
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. https://t.co/Ge0H91AiIA— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 27, 2023
Why did Damian Lillard get traded?
Lillard, who spent the first 11 seasons of his NBA career in Portland after a standout career at Weber State, requested a trade in July, according to NBA.com. The request came after Lillard repeatedly expressed frustration about the team falling short of championship-level performance.
“For as great as his resume is, Lillard hasn’t enjoyed much in the way of postseason success. The Blazers (won) only four playoff series in his 11 seasons, making the Western Conference Finals once during that span. The team went 33-49 this past season, the second consecutive year of finishing well outside the playoff picture,” NBA.com reported.
Still, the trade request was somewhat surprising, in light of the fact that Lillard has openly criticized players who chase rings.
“Lillard thinks more emphasis should be placed on the journey to winning a championship, rather than on the end result,” the Deseret News reported earlier this year, noting that Lillard previously said he’d never switch teams just to improve his shot at a championship.
This summer, Lillard made it clear that he wanted to be dealt to the Miami Heat. He and his agent were actually so open about that fact that league officials sent out a memo warning players that they could not threaten to only perform for one trade partner.
“We have advised (Lillard’s agent) and Lillard that any future comments, made privately to teams or publicly, suggesting Lillard will not fully perform the services called for under his player contract in the event of a trade will subject Lillard to discipline by the NBA. We also have advised the Players Association that any similar comments by players or their agents will be subject to discipline going forward,” the memo said, according to Chris Haynes, the senior NBA insider for TNT.
In the end, the Bucks were able to put together a more appealing trade package for Portland. Lillard will now team up with Giannis Antetokounmpo, a two-time NBA MVP.
The Bucks won the NBA championship in 2021 under Antetokounmpo’s leadership. In the 2022-23 season, they were considered a favorite to reclaim the title, but lost to the Heat in the first round.
How the sports world reacted
When the trade news broke, NBA fans were quick to point out that Antetokounmpo has repeatedly praised Lillard in the past.
“Flashback to when Giannis picked Damian Lillard on his All-Star team and predicted he would hit the game-winner. Now they’re together in Milwaukee,” posted Jordan Schultz, an NFL insider, on X.
The Bucks star has urged his team to improve the roster in recent months, others pointed out.
Still others started cracking jokes, like Jason Hirschhorn of SB Nation, who wondered why major sports stars like Lillard waited to come to Wisconsin until after former Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had left the state.
“Ok. But how does this involve Taylor Swift?” joked Scott Hanson, host of “NFL Red Zone” on NFL Network.
When was Damian Lillard drafted?
Lillard, 33, has been in the league since 2012, when he was drafted sixth overall by the Trail Blazers.
While in Portland, Lillard set a franchise record for points scored and was a seven-time All-Star. In February, he joined the NBA’s exclusive 70-point club when he scored 71 points against the Houston Rockets, as the Deseret News previously reported.
“Lillard’s 32.2 points per game (last season) is the most by a player to change teams the following season,” according to ESPN.
The Bucks’ first game of the 2023-24 season is on Oct. 26 against the Philadelphia 76ers.