Damian Lillard is now officially standing in the Celtics’ way in the East
For a while, it looked like seven-time All-Star point guard Damian Lillard would end up in the Eastern Conference. That move finally happened on Wednesday – but not in the way people expected.
Lillard, 33, requested a trade from the Portland Trail Blazers at the beginning of the offseason. At the time, the Miami Heat were viewed as the heavy favorite to land him, with reports repeatedly backing up that assumption. That assumption didn’t change for the duration of the offseason, making Wednesday afternoon’s trade a major surprise.
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As first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, it’s the Milwaukee Bucks – not the Miami Heat – that have landed Lillard. It’s a three team deal that sends Lillard to the Bucks, with Jrue Holliday and multiple first round picks going from Miami to Portland. Portland will also receive center Deandre Ayton from the Suns, with Phoenix getting a package highlighted by Jusuf Nurkic and Grayson Allen. The full details of the trade can be found here.
This trade sees Lillard team up with two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee. With Antetokounmpo the Bucks won the NBA Finals in 2021, but have had early exits in the playoffs the last two years. This offseason, Antetokounmpo had talked about potentially leaving Milwaukee if the team didn’t do more to compete to win a championship.
Trading for Lillard does just that. In the wake of the deal, many are labeling the Bucks the new favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference, if not win the NBA Championship. Following the trade, DraftKings lists the Bucks as the new favorite to win the title at +390, and the new favorite to come out of the East at +165.
That bumps the team previously holding that top spot – the Boston Celtics. The Celtics had been the betting favorite in the NBA for most off the offseason. Following this move though, the Celtics’ title odds dropped to +500, the third-best behind the Bucks and defending-champion Denver Nuggets. In the East the Celtics are now +225, behind only the Bucks.
We’ll get a good idea pretty early on in the season how the new-look Bucks stack up with the Celtics head-to-head. The Bucks come to Boston for the first matchup between the two this year on Nov. 22 – the Celtics’ 15th game of the year. The Celtics then go to Milwaukee on Jan. 11, with two more matchups late in the year on March 20 in Boston and then April 9 in Milwaukee. That last game is in the final week of the regular season, and could be key for playoff seeding.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.