Amid rumors about star Giannis Antetokounmpo’s frustration with the franchise, the Bucks took a swing for seven-time All-Star Damian Lillard—and pulled off a massive three-team deal to do so. The home run move by Milwaukee sent Jrue Holiday, a 2029 first-round pick and pick swaps in 2028 and ’30 to the Trail Blazers. The third team involved in the deal, the Suns, will acquire a handful of players from Portland, along with Grayson Allen from Milwaukee. The Blazers will acquire Deandre Ayton.
SI senior writers Chris Herring and Chris Mannix weigh in on the two trades.
Did the Celtics get better?
Mannix: Yes. This deal wasn’t the no-brainer that the Bucks faced last week to flip Holiday for Lillard. In surrendering Williams, one of the NBA’s top rim protectors, Boston’s front line is now a 37-year-old Al Horford, a chronically injured Kristaps Porzingis and Wenyen Gabriel, who agreed to a deal shortly after the Holiday trade went official. Brad Stevens still has some work to do.
Still, this was the right call. The Celtics get the lockdown defender they lost when they traded Marcus Smart, and one who will be highly motivated when it comes to playing Milwaukee. Boston eliminated what could have been an uncomfortable training camp with Brogdon, who wasn’t happy the team nearly traded him in the Porzingis deal. And they still have a decent-sized trade exception and multiple first-round picks to work with.
Herring: At the top of their rotation? Probably Holiday replaces the ballhandling and defensive stopper role that Smart left behind upon being dealt to Memphis. That said, one of my biggest questions about the Celtics’ offseason was their center rotation and whether it was reliable enough from a health standpoint to win a title. In trading Williams, Boston now has Porzingis (who’s typically missed dozens of games per season) and Horford. Both are solid, but the C’s will obviously need more depth there.
What do you think of the Damian Lillard trade now?
Mannix: Anyone still think Joe Cronin screwed this up? After dealing Holiday, the Blazers’ haul stands at Deandre Ayton and three first-round picks. If Brogdon is healthy—and the Celtics swear he is—he will likely return another. Same with Williams, who appears to be a poor fit alongside Ayton. There’s a scenario, and not an unlikely one, where Cronin could end up with Ayton and five first-round picks. But sure, he just wanted to spite Miami.
Herring: The Blazers came out of this extremely well. Cronin didn’t limit himself to just the Heat as a trade partner, and Portland—which got three future first-round picks and a few pick swaps, plus can still trade Brogdon and Jerami Grant, among others—saw that pay off by involving other clubs. It gives them a great opportunity to flourish in a rebuild.
Who is the title favorite now?
Mannix: Remember Denver? The reigning champs? Still hard to bet against the Nuggets, who should compensate for offseason losses (Bruce Brown, Jeff Green) with organic improvement (Jamal Murray, Christian Braun, Peyton Watson). No matter whom you like, the competition will be fierce, with injuries, even minor ones, likely to play a role. For now I’m taking the team with unquestioned chemistry and the best player in the game.
Herring: Denver still has to feel pretty good about its chances, even with a couple other contenders having loaded up. But I’d personally favor the Bucks now, even if their defense becomes a bit less dominant without Holiday. Their halfcourt offense with Lillard should be miles better than it was before.