2023 Free Agency

Blazers trade Damian Lillard to Bucks in blockbuster 3-team swap

All-Star guard Damian Lillard heads to Milwaukee as part of a 3-team trade also involving Phoenix and Portland.

Teams will have to 'pick their poison' with the star duo of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard in Milwaukee.

Damian Lillard is headed to the Milwaukee Bucks, the team announced Wednesday night. Lillard is part of a three-team deal also involving the Phoenix Suns that sees Bucks guard Jrue Holiday and Suns center Deandre Ayton on the move, too.

Bucks receive:

  • Damian Lillard (via Blazers)

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)

Suns receive: 

  • Grayson Allen (via Bucks)
  • Keon Johnson (via Blazers)
  • Nassir Little (via Blazers)
  • Jusuf Nurkic (via Blazers)

The trade was finalized night after NBA attorneys, as is always the case with trades, reviewed the terms and approved the deal.

“The casuals won’t be addressed but the trailblazers fans and city of Portland that I love truly will be … and they will be addressed truthfully. Stay tuned,” Lillard wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Excited for my next chapter!”

What this means: The Bucks have strengthened their pursuit of a championship, pairing Lillard with former two-time Kia MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo as he seeks to lead Milwaukee to its second title since 2021. For the Trail Blazers, a new era begins behind their No. 2 overall pick Scoot Henderson and the former No. 1 overall pick in Ayton.

For Phoenix, it ends its run with Ayton and moves on to Nurkic to man the middle as it hopes to make a title run. Allen is a valuable floor-spacer and 3-pont shooter while Little and Johnson will provide the Suns with added depth.

How we got here: Lillard met with Portland multiple times this offseason, asking for the roster to be upgraded to the point where he can compete for a championship. But those efforts, evidently, have not gone to Lillard’s liking and led to him asking to be moved.

His decision was revealed on the second day of NBA free agency after Portland made a huge splash on the first night by retaining Jerami Grant with a $160 million, five-year deal.

Lillard spent 11 seasons with the Blazers. Over the years, he consistently reiterated his desire to stay in Portland and win a title with the team that drafted him. That plan has changed.

He wanted to go to the Miami Heat and made that clear. Portland decided not to accommodate that request, and instead, it’s the Bucks who now have an incredibly strong 1-2 punch of Lillard and Antetokounmpo heading into the new season.

Giannis & Lillard: The acquisition of Lillard comes after Antetokounmpo told The New York Times over the summer that he wanted to see how committed the Bucks are toward winning another championship before deciding whether to sign a long-term deal to stay in Milwaukee.

Antetokounmpo’s contract runs through the 2024-25 season, with a player option for 2025-26.

Lillard is owed a ransom over the next four years. He will make almost $46 million this coming season and could make as much as $216 million over the next four years if he exercises his option for the 2026-27 season.

“Damian Lillard is an elite player in our league and someone we’ve long been fans of,” Bucks general manager Jon Horst said. “These opportunities are rare and hard to measure and execute.

“His character, competitiveness, talent and experience complement our group and gives us the best chance to win at the very highest level as we create new memories together.”

Lillard was asked on Twitter in May 2022 to pick one current player he’d want to help him reach the playoffs. He gave a one-word answer: “Giannis.”

Lillard’s resume: Lillard is coming off a season in which he averaged 32.2 points per game for the Trail Blazers. He is a seven-time All-NBA selection and was selected to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team.

He has averaged at least 24 points per game in each of the last eight seasons, and his career average of 25.2 points ranks fourth among active players (with at least 375 games) behind Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid and LeBron James.

Last season, Lillard became the all-time leading scorer in Blazers history, passing Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler for the mark in a Dec. 19 game in Oklahoma City.

Lillard had a 71-point game this past season against Houston, becoming the seventh player in NBA history to score more than 70 points in a game. The other names on that list are Wilt Chamberlain (who did it five times), Kobe Bryant, David Thompson, David Robinson, Elgin Baylor and Donovan Mitchell.

He has 17 games of at least 50 points in his career — two of them in the playoffs — and is a past winner of the J. Walker Kennedy Citizenship Award and the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award. He’s even an Olympic gold medalist.

The only glaring omission on Lillard’s resume is a championship. And now he’ll seek a move to change that.

His words: “I would say I want to be remembered for who I was, not as a player, but the principle that I stood on regardless of how successful I was, how major the failure was, the criticism, what people thought I should have did, what people think of me … no matter what was happening, I want to be remembered for who I was,” Lillard said in an interview with former teammate Evan Turner for the “Point Forward” podcast earlier this year.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.