After months of jockeying but nearly a dozen teams, the Damian Lillard trade is done. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Portland Trail Blazers are sending Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks in a three-team deal that also includes the Phoenix Suns.
Additional details may emerge but the original reporting by Woj lays out the deal like this:
This trade could have significant championship implications for both the Suns and Bucks (and, I suppose the Miami Heat for missing out on Lillard) and sets the Blazers up for a big rebuild.
NBA trade grades: Who won the Damian Lillard trade?
Milwaukee Bucks trade grade: A-
This is a huge swing for the Bucks, dramatically shaking up their core and carving out some depth. Jrue Holiday has been a two-way rock for Milwaukee, playing more minutes than anyone else on the roster over the past three seasons (Giannis included). They'll miss his defense and their championship aspirations will be resting even more heavily on their injury luck, considering how often Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Lillard have been out of the lineup the past few seasons.
And, as much as I hate to say it, losing Grayson Allen is a factor too, if only because he was a starter who played a lot of minutes. That means they'll be asking even more of Pat Connaughton, Malik Beasley and MarJon Beauchamp.
That being said, this is a swing the Bucks had to take. Giannis has spent the past few weeks signalling that he's prepared to leave Milwaukee if they can't get back to the NBA Finals. Lillard's shooting and playmaking are the exact things the Bucks' offense has been missing the past few seasons. He might make their margin for error slightly smaller, but he makes them better and they simply have to take every chance they can to improve at this point.
Phoenix Suns trade grade: B
For the Suns, the thinking here is addition by subtraction. Ayton is younger than Nurkic and has been healthier. He's better at both ends of the floor and has far more upside. It's also clear that he didn't really want to be with the Suns anymore and often played like it.
Nurkic gives them another defensive-minded big man. Allen is some additional shooting on the wing which, frankly, is the least of the Suns problems at this point. Nassir Little is actually a nice get, a young wing with some defensive upside who can handle 3s and 4s. Johnson probably doesn't play much.
In the end, the Suns come out negative in the talent side of the ledger but get depth and some players who they can probably count on to give maximium effort and engagement. In a vacuum, it's hard to imagine this is the best deal they could have gotten for Ayton, but it's a reasonable swing.
Trail Blazers trade grade: B+
The Blazers held the line for months and were able to squeak out a bit more value for their stubborness. I would have preferred OG Anunoby to Ayton (and both to Tyler Herro) but it sounds like the Raptors weren't really ready to trade Anunoby.
They get Ayton, the young big they wanted to build around, an unprotected future first far enough in the future that it might be pretty valuable and a pair of pick swaps that will allow them to basically capitalize on any misfortune the Bucks suffer in a three-year window.
The added value that makes this a better deal than the one they were offered by the Heat is Jrue Holiday. The Blazers will almost certainly be looking to turn him around in another trade. That could come soon or closer to the trade deadline but he's valuable enough that he should be able to land them another talented young player and at least on first-round pick, maybe more. Roll that eventual return into this package and it's clear they were better off keeping the Heat at arm's length.