September 28, 2023
How the Warriors could be surprisingly impacted by the Damian Lillard trade
The NBA had at least one more blockbuster trade to complete before the 2023 season began. Golden State wasn’t directly involved, but the big swap will surely impact the team this year and beyond. All-Star Damian Lillard will join forces with former MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in a three-team trade featuring Milwaukee, the Portland Trail Blazers and the Phoenix Suns. Former Suns center Deandre Ayton and Bucks guard Jrue Holiday move to Portland along with a 2019 draft pick and two pick swaps as part of the deal, while center Jusuf Nurkic and guard Grayson Allen move to the Suns. For the Warriors, though, the trade will impact their short- and long-term roster plans. Steph Curry has long praised Holiday as the toughest defender he has played against, and reports indicate the Blazers are open to moving Holiday for assets. With Holiday in the last season of his four-year contract with a player option for next season, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Warriors check in to see what a trade might look like. The downside: A trade might involve giving up one of Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody or future draft picks along with Chris Paul to match money – Paul will earn a non-guaranteed $30.8 million while Holiday will earn $34.9 million next year. If the Blazers hold on to Holiday to start the season and the Warriors’ Paul experiment falls through, it could be an option. Lillard’s move to Milwaukee may also extinguish chances that Antetokounmpo requests a trade. This offseason, the former MVP said on the that he “doesn’t want to be stuck” on a team that is not making moves to win championships. Lillard was the best available guy to fill the team’s most needed role: With Kris Middleton’s inconsistent health, the Bucks yearned for a guard who can create his own shot to help free up Antetokounmpo – and sharp-shooting Lillard fits that bill. Can’t argue the Bucks’ front office isn’t making winning moves. The Warriors would have been to swing a trade for a discontented Antetokounmpo. Now odds that he’ll demand out are slim. As for the 2023 season, the trade adds some twists to the Warriors’ playoff pursuit. Lillard is out of the West, but his pairing with Anntetokounmpo makes the Bucks a challenging potential NBA Finals matchup; Milwaukee is now the favorite to win the title at multiple U.S. sportsbooks. The Suns may not have gotten stronger after swapping 25-year-old Ayton for veteran big Nurkic, though they exchanged a large contract for needed depth. Ayton’s discontent with his inconsistent role on the Suns made him a likely trade candidate, but it’s to be seen how much better the Suns will be defensively with the additions of Nurkic and Nassir Little. The Trail Blazers could make a little noise with third overall pick Scoot Henderson heading up an intriguing young team, but they are years away from contending with the Warriors near the top of the Western Conference.
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