Milwaukee Bucks superstar and two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo just became eligible this month to sign another massive extension with the team, but Giannis said earlier this summer that he wouldn’t sign one until he was comfortable knowing the organization will continue to compete for a championship. The Greek Freak likely is comfortable now after the Bucks stunningly acquired seven-time All-NBA guard Damian Lillard from Portland in a three-way deal.
That has turned Milwaukee into the 2023-24 NBA title favorite regardless of which major book with Denver now at No. 2. Generally, the Bucks are now around +400 (were +650) and Nuggets +450. Since winning the 2021 NBA title, #FearTheDear hasn’t even reached the East Finals.
The 33-year-old Lillard has dealt with some injuries the past few seasons but otherwise has shown no signs of slowing down. Last year, he set career highs in scoring (32.2 ppg) and shooting (46%) while dishing out 7.3 assists (No. 3 in his career) for the Blazers. That scoring average as the most by a player 32 years or older in NBA history and also that average is the most by a player to change teams the following season. The Bucks will become the only team with two 30-point scorers from last season in Lillard and Giannis (31.1 ppg).
Lillard, who has never reached the NBA Finals, is one of four active players who averages 25 points and 5 assists per game for his career along with LeBron James, Trae Young and Luka Doncic. The only other players in NBA history to average those numbers are Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West. Giannis just misses the mark because his career assist average is 4.7.
The trade cost Milwaukee excellent two-way point guard Jrue Holiday as well as sharpshooter Grayson Allen. Holiday is a fantastic defender and Lillard is not. This offseason, the Bucks spent big to keep the core together otherwise in resigning former All-Star Khris Middleton and 2023 NBA Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Brook Lopez.
Portland got Holiday, a 2029 first-round Bucks pick and unprotected Milwaukee swap rights in 2028 and 2030 as well as center Deandre Ayton and rookie Toumani Camara from the Suns – although the Blazers are expected to try and flip Holiday to another contender. Phoenix got Jusuf Nurkic, Nassir Little and Keon Johnson from Portland and Allen from Milwaukee.
The Bucks’ regular-season opener is home vs. Philadelphia on Oct. 26 (Milwaukee currently -5). The Sixers may find it easier to trade James Harden now that Lillard has been moved – he wanted to go to Miami. Harden might fight there now. Lillard will return to Portland on Jan. 31.