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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

At long last, Dame is free

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GRAPHIC: MINDY CHOI ’25/THE HAWK

The NBA world was jostled once again by the news of superstars switching teams. Point guard Damian Lillard, a seven-time All-NBA selection and All-Star, was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in a three-team deal with the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers, Sept. 27.

In return, Portland received Milwaukee guard Jrue Holiday, Phoenix center Deandre Ayton, rookie forward Toumani Camara and some draft picks. Phoenix received Portland forwards Jusuf Nurkić and Nassir Little, Milwaukee guard Grayson Allen and Portland guard Keon Johnson.

Milwaukee is coming off a league-high 58-win season, which was followed by a first-round departure at the hands of the Miami Heat. In September, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo implied that he would leave Milwaukee if it meant he had a better chance at winning the NBA Finals.

“I’m a Milwaukee Buck, but most importantly, I am a winner. I want to be a winner… If there is a better situation for me to win the Larry O’Brien [trophy], I have to take that better situation,” said Antetokounmpo on the 48 Minutes podcast.

After winning the NBA Finals in 2021, the Bucks heard this message from their superstar loud and clear.

Enter: Damian Lillard. Lillard, 33, is coming off a year in which he posted a career-high 32.8 points per game. He officially requested to be traded from the Trail Blazers July 1. After years of tweets from NBA fans preaching “free Dame,” Lillard would finally be leaving the team that drafted him in 2012, and Antetokounmpo, 28, would get to play with another superstar.

In 11 years with Lillard, Portland went to the playoffs eight times, reaching the Western Conference Finals once, in 2019, losing 4-0 to the Golden State Warriors. After years of first and second-round exits, Dame finally had a chance to join up with another superstar to compete for a championship. Although he famously wanted to go to the Miami Heat, as he stated on the Last Stand Podcast with Brian Custer, Lillard said Sept. 27 on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he is excited for the new era in Milwaukee.

He will now be joining Antetokounmpo, a two-time NBA MVP and the 2021 NBA Finals MVP, who averaged a career-high 31.1 points per game this season. Lillard and Antetokounmpo are the second pair of teammates in NBA history to play together after averaging 30 or more points per game the previous season.

However, Milwaukee was not the only Eastern Conference contender to trade for a new All-Star player. On Oct. 1, the Portland Trail Blazers flipped Jrue Holiday to the Boston Celtics in exchange for forward Robert Williams III, guard Malcolm Brogdon and two future first-round draft picks.

Boston, after falling to Miami in the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals, is committed to winning a championship with their young core of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. After losing Williams III and Marcus Smart, 2022 Defensive Player of the Year and guard, Boston’s defense was in need of revitalization. Holiday, a three-time NBA All-Defense selection, will bring just that, as he posted the fifth highest defensive win shares last season.

With these trades ahead of the Oct. 3 opening of training camp, Milwaukee and Boston are the two favorites to compete for this year’s Eastern Conference title as well as the NBA Finals. According to OddsChecker, Caesars Sportsbook gives the Bucks 7-5 odds of winning the conference (implied probability of 41.7%), while the Celtics have 7-4 odds (implied probability of 36.4%). The next closest team to win the East is the Philadelphia 76ers, with 9-1 odds (implied probability of 10%).

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