It is an exciting time in Milwaukee, as the Bucks have made arguably their biggest trade in franchise history, trading away Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen, and picks to acquire star point guard Damian Lillard.
Everyone knows the caliber of player Lillard has been throughout his career — he has seven All-Star selections, seven All-NBA selections, averages over 25 points per game for his career, and was named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team as a top 75 player of all-time. But how exactly will he fit on this Bucks team?
Well, offensively, he should fit like a glove.
Assessing Damian Lillard’s fit on the Milwaukee Bucks following trade
Dame is one of the best shooting and scoring guards in the history of the game, as he and Stephen Curry are the only two players in league history to attempt over eight threes per game for their careers, and Lillard is a career 37.2 percent shooter from distance per Stathead (Subscription required). He also is one of just 20 players in league history to have multiple seasons where he averaged at least 30 points per game.
Lillard has earned the nickname “Logo Lillard” from his ability to drain threes from 30-35 feet. He has made 176 threes from 30+ feet since 2018 and shoots nearly 34 percent on those shots during that span… just ridiculous. Defenses need to pick him up as soon as he crosses half-court, and he consistently draws double teams on the perimeter. Pairing arguably the most dangerous outside scorer in the league with arguably the best interior player in the league in Giannis Antetokounmpo will be absolutely lethal.
One way the Lillard-Giannis combo should be particularly deadly is in the pick-and-roll. Dame is a fantastic pick-and-roll scorer with his pull-up shooting ability off of screens, ranking in the 90th percentile or better in pick-and-roll scoring in six of the last seven seasons.
Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo is one of the best roll men in the game who has been waiting to have a point guard he can consistently run the pick-and-roll with. According to ShotQuality, he ranks in the 97th percentile at generating good shots as a roller to the basket. The Bucks during Giannis’ tenure have lacked players who can create off the dribble and pass well out of the pick-and-roll to Giannis, and they now have one of the best in the game at it.
And if the defense collapses on the pick-and-roll to stop Lillard and Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton will be waiting on the perimeter for an open three-point attempt, a guy who shoots 40.6 percent on catch-and-shoot threes since 2019.
Lillard also fills the huge need of isolation scoring for the Bucks. Milwaukee has relied so much on Khris Middleton for perimeter shot creation throughout the years, and while Middleton is a very good isolation player, that is a pretty big burden to put on him, and other late-clock bucket-getting options have been needed.
That is exactly what Dame is, as he consistently ranks between the 85th-90th percentile in the league in isolation scoring (Jrue Holiday was in the 20th percentile last season, Giannis was in the 35th percentile, and Middleton was in the 49th percentile). He can go one-on-one on the perimeter with a variety of moves in his bag, and his deep shooting ability makes him difficult to defend at all times. He will be possibly the most dynamic scorer to ever put on a Bucks uniform.
The Bucks now have one of the best perimeter scorers in the game in Lillard, one of the best midrange scorers in the game in Middleton, and one of the best paint scorers in the game in Antetokounmpo. They should be unstoppable on that end.
Defensively, however, Lillard will be a massive downgrade from Jrue Holiday. Lillard is just 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, so he is always at a disadvantage on that end, and he will be hunted.
With that being said, there is no better defensive frontcourt to back up a poor defensive point guard than Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez, as both are elite defensive anchors. If Khris Middleton or Jae Crowder can step up as a decent defender on the wing this season, the Bucks should still have a very good defense overall.
And with how good the Bucks should be offensively, they no longer need to be the insanely elite defensive team that they have in recent years. They shouldn’t have the offensive lapses that they did periodically in the Budenholzer era, and they are expected to be possibly the best offensive team in the NBA, so if they can just be a decent defensive team, they will be fine.
Overall, the loss of Jrue Holiday will be felt defensively, but what Damian Lillard adds offensively will more than make up for that. This trade drastically raises the Bucks’ ceiling and doesn’t hurt their floor, and it should be considered a huge win for Milwaukee.
If Lillard fits on this team as well as it seems like he will, the Bucks are likely to be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy again in June.