In The Zone

In The Zone

In the Zone with Brandon Kravitz weekdays from 3-6pm on FM 96.9 The Game - Catch up with the best segments, interviews, and features from that day’s show.


Damian Lillard Trade: In The Zone Grades

As many of us know by now, Damian Lillard has been traded as a part of a three-way trade involving the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns.

Lillard will be heading to the Bucks, while other superstars are trading places as well. Former Milwaukee star Jrue Holiday has been traded to Portland along with DeAndre Ayton, a 2029 first-round pick from Milwaukee, and two pick swaps with Milwaukee. Here is the full breakdown of the trade along with BK and I's trade grade.

Portland Trail Blazers:

In: Jrue Holiday, DeAndre Ayton, Toumani Camara, 2029 First Round Pick (MIL), 2028 & 2030 Pick Swaps with MIL.

Out: Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic, Nassir Little, Keon Coleman.

BK: Grade - A

They were able to fortify their front court and balance out that roster a bit with Ayton. I think he provides the long term potential that pairs well with the timeline of their new core. 

TC: Grade - B-

I won't be as forgiving as Brandon. I give them the edge of a B- because at the end of the day, the Blazers were able to bring in one first round pick, one all star, and one potential future all star. I assume Ayton, at 25-years-old, fits the timeline that the Trail Blazers plan to follow and can mesh well with the young backcourt of Scoot Henderson, Shaedon Sharpe, and Anfernee Simons. Nurkic was impactful for the organization but struggled with injuries, so replacing him with a younger and less injury-prone player in Ayton isn't the worst thing in the world.

My issue is that Jrue Holiday isn't going to play for this team. It is a log jam in the backcourt in Portland with youth and potential being the number one priority. It is one of the driving factors that made the Blazers accepting of trading a star the caliber of Damian Lillard. The 76er's and Heat have emerged as the two most likely to land Holiday, but Portland may have just shot themselves in the foot by underselling Lillard. I believe the best they'll get is a first round pick and a bad contract to make the money work. So best case scenario, you traded Dame for DeAndre Ayton, 1-2 first round picks, and most likely a middle-aged wing player on a bad contract (Tobias Harris). Tyler Herro and 3-4 unprotected first round picks would have been the better deal.

Milwaukee Bucks:

In: Damian Lillard.

Out: Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen, 2029 First Round Pick, 2028 & 2030 Pick Swap with POR.

BK: Grade - A+

They got a star to pair with Giannis and are instant favorites to win the title because of it. 

TC: Grade - A

Reports and rumors have been swirling that Giannis Antetokounmpo's future in Milwaukee was in jeopardy if he felt he wasn't surrounded by people who were ready and willing to work as hard as he does. I also believe that firing Coach Bud, who led the Bucks to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season, may have factored in to Giannis' frustration. This move not only provides the Bucks offense with an upgrade at a late-game scorer and facilitator to play alongside Giannis, but it also shows that they value the thoughts and opinions of their 2-time MVP.

Holiday and Allen shouldn't be underappreciated pieces to the Bucks success in recent years, but they simply don't pack the offensive punch that Damian Lillard provides and that the Bucks desperately needed in the playoffs last season. Plus, the Bucks were able to get the 32 PPG scorer from a season ago for only one guaranteed first round pick. That's what really sells this trade to me after seeing Rudy Gobert and Donavan Mitchell getting traded for a handful of picks a piece last offseason. This trade also grants Portland two pick swaps in 2028 and 2030. If this move works and Giannis resigns another supermax to stay in Milwaukee through that time period, I see the Bucks continuing their winning ways and at least the 2028 pick not being a factor.

Phoenix Suns:

In: Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Nassir Little, Keon Coleman.

Out: DeAndre Ayton, Toumani Camara.

BK: Grade - A

They got rid of a headache in Ayton and replaced him with a guy that fits better with this roster anyway. Plus, they have some depth now. 

TC: Grade - B+

The DeAndre Ayton equation clearly was not going to work in Phoenix, regardless of the pieces you put around him. Even with lethal three-point shooters in Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and now Bradley Beal, having an offensive liability at the center position is becoming hazardous in today's NBA. Last season, Nurkic averaged about 15 PPG, 9 RPG, and shot 36% from beyond the arc. If he stays healthy, he'll fit right in with the rapid fire Phoenix offense.

Along with Nurkic, the Suns add bench pieces in Grayson Allen and Nassir Little. The Suns actually seem to have a full rotation now, bringing in Eric Gordon, Saban Lee, Yuta Watanabe, and Bol Bol in free agency. It won't be the best second unit in the league, but it's something you can afford when you have one of the most talented starting five in the league.

Hear more of BK and I's thoughts at the podcast below (Available wherever you get your podcast).

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