Why The Portland Trail Blazers Get An “A” Grade In The Damian Lillard Trade

Patrick Rogers, Oregon Sports News

In case you haven’t heard (and if you haven’t, where have you been?), Damian Lillard is set to join the Milwaukee Bucks, as announced by the team last week. The trade finally ends the month-long stare-off between Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers after Lillard requested a trade shortly after draft night. This move is part of a three-team deal involving the Phoenix Suns, sending Bucks guard Jrue Holiday and Suns center Deandre Ayton to the Blazers.

Here’s the full breakdown of the trade:

Milwaukee Bucks receive:

Damian Lillard (via Blazers)

Portland Trail Blazers receive:

Deandre Ayton (via Suns)

Toumani Camara (via Suns)

Jrue Holiday (via Bucks)

2029 1st-round pick (via Bucks)

Two first-round pick swaps with Bucks (2028, 2030)

Phoenix Suns receive:

Grayson Allen (via Bucks)

Keon Johnson (via Blazers)

Nassir Little (via Blazers)

Jusuf Nurkic (via Blazers)

Immediately after this trade was announced, the Blazers said they were trading Jrue Holiday to a contending team because they believed in their young backcourt of Anfernee Simons and Scoot Henderson. It only took four days for a trade to materialize, this time with the Boston Celtics:

Boston Celtics receive:

Jrue Holiday

Portland Trail Blazers receive:

Malcolm Brogdon

Robert Williams

2024 1st-round pick (via Warriors)

2029 unprotected 1st-round pick (via Celtics)

As you know, I like to grade trades. Let’s check out what grades I would give each team for the trades, starting with the team that did the worst:

Boston Celtics: C+: The Celtics used the opportunity to acquire Jrue Holiday to make amends to Malcolm Brogdon. Earlier this year, Brogdon was included in a trade package that would have sent him to the Clippers as a part of the Kristaps Porzingus trade, but the Clippers pulled back at the last minute due to concerns over Brogdon’s right arm injury. Brogdon was reportedly upset at being shopped and demanded a trade. He was included in this package to acquire Jrue Holiday, removing a possible team chemistry issue to start the season. That was great, but the Celtics threw in potential defensive All-Star center Robert Williams AND two unprotected picks. This leaves newly acquired and often injured Kristaps Porzingus, veteran Al Horford, and serviceable backup Luke Kornet as their only centers on the roster. I’m giving this a C+ because it takes just one injury to one of the centers to be put in a tough spot.

Phoenix Suns: B: The Suns needed to make a move this off-season, and trading Ayton away made the most sense. After acquiring Bradley Beal, the Suns were cash-strapped to sign free agents thanks to big contracts from Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton. Deandre Ayton was also reportedly disgruntled and no longer wanted to be a part of the team, so Ayton hit the market last year. Shipping him out, in return for crucial bench players from both the Bucks and the Blazers, solved their problems. Now, the Suns have a legit team with depth at each position. The move from Ayton to Nurkic is a lateral one at best in terms of skills, but Nurk will at least buy into the culture, and that’s already better than what they had before in Ayton. This should make them top contenders in the West for the Finals.

Milwaukee Bucks: B+: While Milwaukee had to ship out the most players, they made perhaps the most significant move in terms of the future of their franchise. Giannis Antetokoumpo is set for free agency next year and won’t commit to the Bucks just yet. He was noted to have said that he wanted the front office to shake things up and acquire some better talent after a shocking playoff exit last year in the first round to the Miami Heat. Damian Lillard is a better piece than any combination of the players they traded. While losing Grayson Allen hurt the depth and Jrue Holiday’s defense, Lillard should provide them with more than enough offense to overcome those two departures. Milwaukee was burned by the Heat last year, but I don’t see that happening again. They should be the East pick for Finals contenders.

Portland Trail Blazers: A: Portland Trail Blazers come out on top of all this for several reasons. The first, possibly most significant, is that we can finally rest. Before the NBA Draft, Lillard announced that the Blazers better trade their number three pick in the draft to acquire veteran players that can help them win a championship. The Blazers front office didn’t do that, and Lillard announced he wanted to be traded, but only to the Miami Heat. After some back and forth, talks fell apart, and fans were left in limbo. The Blazers agreed to the trade with Milwaukee and Phoenix out of nowhere, staying away from the Miami Heat. I’m assuming that Lillard had an agreement with the Bucks that he would play. Then, once the trade went through, the Blazers announced that they were moving Jrue Holiday to a contender, which happened to be Boston. All in all, they acquired Deandre Ayton, Robert Williams, Malcolm Brogdon, Toumani Camara, three first-round picks in 2024 (Golden State, Top-4 protected), 2029 (Bucks and Celtics unprotected), and 2028 and 2030 Milwaukee pick swaps, all for Damian Lillard, Keon Johnson, and Nassir Little. This is a far cry from the Herro, and the two firsts floated at the start. We get to move on from the best player in franchise history for a playoff run this season, which is very rare in situations where teams trade their superstar player away.

Lillard leaves the Blazers with a fantastic resume. The seven-time All-Star grabbed a Rookie of the Year award and put up 25 points per game and seven assists over his career in Portland. He’s had a 70-point game, drilled the infamous game-winning shot versus the Thunder in the 2018-2019 playoffs, and is the all-time leader in scoring for the Portland Trail Blazers. I’m sure the team will eventually retire that number zero jersey.

I can speak for most Blazers fans at this point. We’re sad to see Damian Lillard go, but we were exhausted by the trade rumors. We want Dame to win a championship in his career, and Milwaukee is a great opportunity to do that. While we don’t want another rebuild, it was clear that the Blazers were not competing over the last couple of years. Acquiring the former number-one pick in Ayton and pairing him with the high flyer Shaedon Sharpe and the exciting Scoot Henderson will keep us entertained throughout the year and beyond. Adding Robert Williams and Malcolm Brogdon was icing for the entire situation. Their defensive ability will help turn around the atrocious defense played in the past few years. Get ready for a playoff run, Portland!

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