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Damian Lillard Becomes A Milwaukee Buck In A Wild Three-Team Trade

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard in a game between the Bucks and Blazers
Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Stove hot! Damian Lillard is leaving Portland to co-star with Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee, per Woj. Neither player has ever had a teammate this good. The Bucks become the East's team to beat, blessedly banishing the Celtics from our minds. And after a full summer of apparent inactivity, the Blazers made out pretty well, brokering a three-team deal that looped in Phoenix. Meanwhile, the sorry Heat and Raptors are left to dream about what could've been, moan about Pat Riley's intransigence, and make grim tampering accusations.

This was an oddly satisfying deal, advancing each team's agenda. The Blazers glide right into a rebuild around freshly drafted point guard Scoot Henderson. They ship out a battered Jusuf Nurkic and replace him with a young Deandre Ayton, who, as the NBA's most desperate candidate for scenery change, probably has something more to give. They got a 2029 Bucks first-round pick and swap rights in 2028 and 2030, all unprotected. They also picked up Jrue Holiday, who they reportedly intend to flip, and who should net them something nice and forward-looking. The Suns have been granted bench depth—even if some of it is called Grayson Allen—plus the privilege of no longer employing Deandre Ayton. The Bucks upgrade at point guard and keep their man Giannis from getting frustrated and leaving Milwaukee. (Unless...! No, he couldn't.)

As for the rest of us who are not Heat fans: We get entertainment. In recent years, most of the action has shifted over to free agency, but this here is an intensely juiceful trade. Lillard's 32.2 points per game is the highest mark ever for a player who changed teams the following season, per ESPN Stats and Info. It will be easy on the eyes, too. As superstar duos go, the fit doesn't get much cleaner. Lillard's shooting gravity and Antetokounmpo's rim pressure are an intoxicating and mutually beneficial combo. Every pick-and-roll will tear defenses in opposite directions. After several seasons sharpening his decision-making, Antetokounmpo will finally get to spend more time off the ball, taking on more conventional big-man responsibilities. Lillard gets to play with an enormous screener, and a world-class lob option, which he never had in Portland. Whenever the 6-foot-2 guard is hunted on defense, he can rest easy that Giannis and Brook Lopez will clean up messes in the paint.

Giannis and Dame have apparently wanted to pair up for some time. Or as the elegant scoop stylist Chris Haynes put it: "Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo in recent years flirted with idea of playing with one another but the hold up was each star wanted the other to join their team. Milwaukee landed Antetokounmpo’s desired star mate." May we all find our desired star mates! On his way out, Lillard informed the world that "fans and the city of Portland" will be addressed truthfully, but "casuals" would not be addressed at all. Maybe it's for the best that this guy didn't end up as Jimmy Butler's teammate.

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