The Damian Lillard trade sweepstakes continue to drag on in the NBA as the season is just over a month away. However, a mystery team in the Eastern Conference is now in the potential bidding for Lillard. Could it be the Milwaukee Bucks?
Marc. J Spears, a senior NBA writer, reported Monday that the Portland Trail Blazers are talking to “several teams”, not just the Miami Heat. The Miami Heat have been known to be Lillard’s preferred destination since he requested a trade back in July. However, if Portland is not pleased with the deal that Miami is offering, could the Trail Blazers pivot and send him somewhere else?
In the interview he did Monday with NBA Today, Spears name-dropped the Boston Celtics before mentioning he’s hearing rumors about another Eastern Conference team. Could that team be the Milwaukee Bucks?
If it’s not Miami or not Boston, the other two best teams in the Eastern Conference are the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers, who have their own disgruntled stars. The Cleveland Cavaliers traded for Donavon Mitchell last off-season, so the Cavs are probably not it. The New York Knicks pried Jalen Brunson away from the Mavericks last year, so while possible, the Knicks aren’t probable. Other than that, there aren’t any teams in the Eastern Conference who leapfrog the top four teams in the East by trading for Lillard. So it very likely is the Bucks or the 76ers.
Should the Milwaukee Bucks consider Damian Lillard?
With Damian Lillard naming the Miami Heat as his preferred destination, the conversation about anyone else trading for him centers around his effort. The question becomes “would Damian Lillard give 100 percent for a team not named the Miami Heat?”
Seeing how competitive of a player Damian Lillard has been in the past, I believe that any contender that Lillard potentially gets traded to would get his full effort. Now, if the Portland Trail Blazers were petty and sent him to a rebuilding team that offered a lot for Damian Lillard in an effort to sell tickets or just to get a superstar player, then I could see Lillard not giving 100 percent.
However, the Milwaukee Bucks are not in a rebuild, they are re-tooling as they look to make another title run with a similar core to what they had when they won the NBA championship back in 2021.
Not only are the Milwaukee Bucks contenders, but the “get Dame to Milwaukee” narrative has been pretty consistent ever since Damian Lillard named Giannis Antetokounmpo as a player he would want to help him win a championship. So the Milwaukee Bucks may have a leg up on anyone else not named the Miami Heat trying to trade for Damian Lillard.
The other part of this that makes sense for the Milwaukee Bucks is the comments that Giannis Antetokounmpo himself has been making this summer when asked about his next contract. Giannis has said pretty similar things to when he was last a free agent before he signed his first supermax contract. Giannis wants the Milwaukee Bucks committed to winning a championship. Giannis places winning above everything and wants to be in the place that gives him the best chance to win a second ring. If the Milwaukee Bucks wanted to make a grand gesture to Giannis Antetokounmpo by making a blockbuster trade for Damian Lillard, now is the time to do it.
What could the Milwaukee Bucks offer the Portland Trail Blazers for Damian Lillard?
What would a potential Milwaukee Bucks-Portland Trail Blazers trade look like?
Now this package deal that the Milwaukee Bucks put together potentially may not be better than what the Miami Heat CAN offer, but it may be enough to get Portland interested versus what Miami is willing to offer.
Say the Milwaukee Bucks made the deal, trading three players and a first round pick for two players, what does that do to their roster construction?
Firstly, it essentially solves their point guard problem. While the Bucks still wouldn’t have a primary backup, Damian Lillard does not leave the floor for long. Lillard has never averaged under 35 minutes per game in his career, even leading the NBA in minutes per game in the 2019-20 season.
It would also open up another roster spot that the Bucks could use to bring in another point guard, a veteran like bringing back Goran Dragic for depth, or a younger player like Kendrick Nunn. The Bucks could also use the roster spot elsewhere and trust the players on the team to handle the backup point guard duties.
The bottom line for the Milwaukee Bucks to be interested in trading for Damian Lillard is that it upgrades their already potent Big 3, especially offensively, sacrificing some defense to do so because there are no other guards who defend like Jrue Holiday. A trio of Damian Lillard, Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo would be a nightmare for opposing teams to try to handle defensively.
However, possibly more importantly, a move of this magnitude would go a very long way for Jon Horst to show Giannis Antetokounmpo that he is dedicated to putting a championship-caliber team around him.