The last two weeks have been an unending carousel of rumors and updates surrounding the status of Damian Lillard on the trade block. Is he going to Miami? Toronto? Possibly staying in Portland? Maybe even to the Chicago Bulls? All seemed like very real possibilities at the time, but no one could have guessed just where Lillard would end up after all was said and done.
Despite nary a single rumor leaking regarding their involvement, the Bucks sprung at the opportunity to take advantage of a stale market and bring yet another top-10 player in the NBA to Milwaukee. Lillard will be joining forces with the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Brook Lopez as he seeks to win the first NBA championship of his career.
Shams Charania of The Athletic was the first to break the shocking news, with the trade reportedly centered around Lillard going to Milwaukee, Jusuf Nurkic heading to Phoenix, and Jrue Holiday and Deandre Ayton landing in Portland. Several other role players — including Chicago’s most wanted criminal Grayson Allen — were also peddled around, but this comprises the core of the three-team trade agreement.
The path to contention looks more perilous than ever for the Bulls now that Damian Lillard has joined forces with the Bucks.
Off the bat, it’s easy to see this move elevates an already consensus top-five team in Milwaukee to an even higher echelon. Entering the season, they’ll be the clear betting favorites as teams look to find an answer to the seemingly unstoppable pairing of Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Suns made a savvy move here to bolster the bench depth around their All-Star trio, and the Trail Blazers now have a young core that would make any rebuilding team envious (and they’re only just getting started building it).
The Bulls had a difficult time overcoming the Bucks before, but it now looks like a nearly insurmountable task for this team to achieve. Since trading for DeMar DeRozan in 2021, Chicago has only managed to win two of eight regular season meetings with Milwaukee. They were also promptly dispatched by the Bucks in just five games during the first round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs. And now, the Bucks are even better than they were before.
It’s possible the Bucks suffer a surprise regression without Holiday and Jevon Carter around to patrol the perimeter on defense, but I wouldn’t count on it. Not only is this Bucks team stacked with talent, but each of their integral pieces has the perfect skill set to mesh with one another. One week ago, I would have called it a massive overachievement for the Chicago Bulls to win the Central Division this season. Now? I’d call it little more than a prayer.