Unexpectedly, the Milwaukee Bucks went all in late in the off-season to pull off a blockbuster deal for superstar guard Damian Lillard.
For the first time in his 11-year NBA playing career, Lillard will be donning a different uniform than the Portland Trail Blazers jerseys. How seamlessly will his transition be?
Age: 33 (Birthday is July 15)
Position: Point guard
2023-24 Salary: $45.6 million
NBA Experience: 11 years
Last Season’s Stats: 32.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 46.3 percent field goal shooting, 37.1 percent 3-point shooting, 91.4 percent free throw shooting in 36.3 minutes per game.
How seamlessly will Damian Lillard fit in?
On paper, Lillard’s transition shouldn’t be too difficult. Outside of perhaps Stephen Curry, it would be challenging to find a star who fits better alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo, largely due to the excellent perimeter shooting he provides. They also can be a lethal pick-and-roll duo. With others like Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, Lillard is expected to gel with those guys quickly as well.
Sure, it sounds easy on paper, but it’s not always like that. Not only is Lillard playing in a new city for the first time in his NBA career, but he’s also got to adjust to playing alongside the best player he’s ever suited with. Again, on paper, the two fit perfectly alongside one another, but that doesn’t mean they will click instantly. Lillard and Antetokounmpo have to establish that chemistry.
The two will have to work on who takes on ball-handling duties. With all due respect to all of the players he’s played with, Giannis has never played with an elite ball-handler like this. There will be times when he has to defer the ball-handling duties to Lillard, which is not something he is used to – he logged the highest usage rate out of qualifying players in the NBA last season.
Giannis doesn’t have to relinquish all of the ball-handling duties, but there will be times when the ball will have to be in Lillard’s hands. It’s something the pairing will certainly work on and get more comfortable with the more they play with one another. They’ll figure it out, as all of the greats do. Fans just shouldn’t expect this thing to click from the start, but they can be a historic duo.
Chemistry aside, Lillard has all of the tools to help this team reach its championship goals. As said previously, he’s one of the best shooters in the game, which should help clear out room down low for Antetokounmpo. He’s also a lethal scorer himself, having put up 32.2 points per game last year while also averaging 7.3 assists per contest. He checks all of the boxes offensively.
The biggest question revolves around what Lillard can give the team on defense. Everyone knows he’s never been much of a defender, and while the Bucks don’t need him to be All-Defensive level, it would help if he could find a new gear on that end.
There will likely be some growing pains at first, much like there were in the preseason, but as soon as the guard finds his footing for good, things could be very fun.
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