The NBA can now rejoice, besides perhaps the Miami Heat, now that Damian Lillard is no longer a Portland Trail Blazers. Lillard was sent to the Milwaukee Bucks yesterday afternoon as part of a three-team trade in what could be a win-win for everyone involved.
What’s Next For the Three Teams Involved in Damian Lillard Trade
Milwaukkee could ultimately be the loser in this deal, as he is their only incoming player. While Lillard is better offensively than Jrue Holiday, who was sent to the Trail Blazers, he isn’t even close to Holiday on the defensive end.
Besides Holiday, Milwaukkee sent out Grayson Allen to Phoenix and a 2029 unprotected first-round pick to Portland. The Trail Blazers also have the right to swap picks with Milwaukee in 2028 and 2030.
Milwaukee only wins the trade if Lillard helps the Bucks to another NBA championship.
Meanwhile, Portland and Phoenix are clear winners. The Blazers also received Deandre Ayton and Toumani Camara from the Suns. In addition to Allen, the Suns got Jusuf Nurkic, Nassir Little, and Keon Johnson from the Trail Blazers.
So, where does the trade leave each as training camp begins next week?
Milwaukee has a 20-man training camp roster. The Bucks also appear ready to enter the season with one open roster as they have 14 players with fully guaranteed. The Bucks are less than $1.2 million from hitting the punitive Super Tax Apron.
However, the Bucks still need a backup point guard and could wait to see what is on the open market after training camp cuts. Another option would be to convert TyTy Washington Jr.’s two-way contract to a standard deal.
With the trade, the Bucks still have a Big 3 with Lillard –replacing Holiday — Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Brook Lopez is the Bucks’ fourth starter. But Allen’s loss means the Bucks will have a new starting shooting guard. Malik Beasley and Pat Connaughton are the leading candidates for the job.
Bobby Portis will once again be the Bucks’ sixth man. While the loser of the Connaughton/Beasley battle, along with Jae Crowder, Robin Lopez, and either A.J. Green/MarJon Beauchamp/Andre Jackson Jr./Washington, will round out the second unit.
Omari Moore and Lindell Wigginton also hold two-way pacts. Meanwhile, Alex Antetokounmpo, Drew Timme, Marques Bolden, and Jazian Gortman have Exhibit-10 training camp deals. All four players are expected to start the season with the G-League Wisconsin Herd. However, if Washington gets promoted, the Bucks would have an open two-way slot. Alex Antetokounmpo was waived by the Bucks, and is slated to play with the Herd this season. But with the Bucks now have an open training camp spot, he may attend.
Phoenix gained two players from the trade. Therefore, the Suns have 17 with standard contracts, with 15 players holding fully guaranteed deals. Jordan Goodwin (partial guarantee) and Ish Wainwright are the players without fully guaranteed pacts. As a result, the Suns will have cut two players before opening night. Goodwin and Wainwright are the leading candidates not to make the club due to their contract situation and the Suns being well over the NBA second tax apron.
With the trade, the Suns return to having a Big 3 instead of a Big 4. Due to their added depth, the trade also gives the Suns a little more flexibility to make future trades.
Projecting the Suns’ Rotation
Nurkic will start alongside Bradley Beal, Kevin Durant, and Devin Booker. After those four, coach Frank Vogel has a lot of decisions to make. The first one will be who starts at shooting forward. Will it be Allen or Little?
Vogel then will have to figure out the Suns’ entire second unit rotation as the Suns have 11 new players. Either Little or Allen, Eric Gordon, and Drew Eubanks figure to be assured of spots on the second unit. Josh Okogie, Damion Lee, Bol Bol, Yuta Wanatabe, and Chimezie Metu will likely also be considered for the second unit.
Johnson is also a candidate to be cut, but he has a $2.8 million guaranteed contract this year. If he remains with the team, the Suns will have until October 31 to pick up his $4.47 million option for next season. It is unlikely that the Suns will exercise the option.
Phoenix has an open two-way spot. However, since the Suns don’t have their own G-League affiliate, they have no incentive to fill the spot. Udoka Azuibuike and Saben Lee are the players with two-way deals.
Portland Trail Blazers
Portland still has some work to do. The Trail Blazers have 12 players on standard contracts, so they must add at least two players before opening night. Moses Brown is the only player with a standard contract who doesn’t have a fully guaranteed pact.
Ayton is the prize of the trade for the Trail Blazers. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Blazers are looking to trade Holiday for more assets as they are committed to developing their young guards Anfernee Simons, Scoot Henderson, and Shaedon Sharpe.
The Blazers remain engaged elsewhere on deals and will are expected to immediately engage contending teams on trade talks to move on Jrue Holiday, sources tell ESPN. Portland is committed to its young group of talented guards. https://t.co/6IR7bcFVrr
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 27, 2023
Holiday can become a free agent this summer if he declines his $37.3 million player option.
Besides deciding what to do with Holiday, Portland has until October 31 to pick up Sharpe’s $6.6 million club option. This is something that the Blazers will easily do.
Assuming Holiday is not with the team on opening night, Henderson projects to start at the point. Simons will likely start at the off-guard, with Sharpe coming off the bench. However, the Blazers could flip it and go with Simons at the point and Sharpe at the two, with Henderson coming off the bench.
However, the Blazers work the guard rotation, and Ayton and Jerami Grant are engrained as frontcourt starters. Mattise Thybulle or Sharpe could start at small forward. Otherwise, we will have to wait to see what the haul is for Holiday.
However, the Blazers are expected to have a full or close to a 21-man roster. George Conditt IV has officially signed an Exhibit-10 deal. Meanwhile, Kevin Knox, Antoine Davis, Ashton Hagans, Duop Reath, and Malachi Smith have agreed to attend the Blazers training camp.