Bucks got their guy
The Milwaukee Bucks were already one of the favorites to win the 2023-2024 NBA Championship, but now, after pulling off a blockbuster deal for all-world guard Damian Lillard, oddsmakers have them as THE favorites.
Before the three-way trade with the Portland Trailblazers and Phoenix Suns, the Bucks were +750 at Caesars Sportsbook to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy next year, behind reigning champs the Denver Nuggets, the Boston Celtics, and the Phoenix Suns, who the Bucks defeated in the NBA Finals in 2021. At some books, the Bucks were +850.
Now Caesars has the Bucks at +375 and FanDuel has them as low as +360, now the title favorites.
Here is the complete trade:
Milwaukee receives: Damian Lillard
Portland receives: Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee’s 2029 first-round pick, pick swaps with Milwaukee in 2028 and 2030, Deandre Ayton, Toumani Camara
Phoenix receives: Jusuf Nurkic, Nassir Little, Keon Johnson, Grayson Allen
The stars have aligned
Lillard is one of the most incredible offensive talents the NBA has ever seen; a future shoo-in Hall of Famer, he was named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team in 2021 (along with Bucks’ star Giannis Antetokounmpo). Pundits have already called his pairing with Giannis the modern day version of Shaq and Kobe. Then combine the two of them with bucket-getter Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez and Milwaukee could have a really scary offense.
Now, the Bucks did give up Jrue Holiday, a guy the league’s best scorers, to a man, call the league’s best perimeter defender. And he’s a very good offensive player, as well. But the Bucks weren’t going to get someone like Lillard for free and as good as Holiday is, he has had trouble offensively in the playoffs the last couple years, as have the Bucks as a group. Milwaukee might take a step back defensively, but the offensive improvement should outweigh that, especially in the playoffs.
Lillard just signed a contract extension with Portland in 2022, so he clearly intended to stay there for years to come, but the last couple years have been bad for the Blazers and once they showed they were going into rebuild mode, he told them he wanted out. At 33 years old, Lillard decided he didn’t have time to trudge through a rebuild.
He had expressed a desire to go to the Miami Heat and Miami did offer Portland a trade package, but the Trailblazers’ brass held firm, not willing to bow to the pressure to send their franchise player to South Beach. Milwaukee didn’t have the young players or draft picks to send Portland, but it is believed that the Trailblazers intend to move Jrue Holiday to another team, as he doesn’t fit the youth movement they are going for right now.
Image credit: Flickr.com / Erik Drost