Grading the blockbuster Damian Lillard trade: Bucks become title favorites

Damian Lillard (Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports)
Damian Lillard (Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Portland Trail Blazers
Portland Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin (Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports) /

Portland Trail Blazers trade grade: B

Heading to Portland: Jrue Holiday, Deandre Ayton, Toumani Camara, Milwaukee’s unprotected 2029 first-round draft pick, draft pick swaps in 2028 and 2030

This grade could be later bumped to an “A” if Portland gets even more out of this deal. I’ll explain.

Blazers General Manager Joe Cronin was put in a tough position when his star guard requested a trade out of Portland. He said all along that he would only make a trade involving Damian Lillard if it benefited the Portland Trail Blazers, even if it took months.

This was despite Lillard’s agent Aaron Goodman reportedly telling interesting teams that he would only play for the Miami Heat. This was despite Pat Riley allegedly daring Cronin to find a better deal than his. This was despite the Toronto Raptors making a late push to land Dame.

The Blazers got younger and more athletic at the center position by swapping the 29-year-old Jusuf Nurkic for the 25-year-old Deandre Ayton. Ayton is a double-double machine. Toumani Camara was a 2nd round pick of the Suns in this year’s draft and could be a solid frontcourt prospect.

The 2029 unprotected first-round pick that Cronin managed to get from Milwaukee could be valuable. The Milwaukee Bucks are built to win now. Both Lillard and Giannis could leave Milwaukee by 2029.

The Bucks would likely be a lottery team in that scenario. The Blazers could be a team on the rise in 2029 and will have an asset in that potential lottery pick. They could also move up in the draft if Milwaukee is in the lottery in 2028 and 2030 with the draft pick swap they agree to.

The most valuable player that the Blazers received in the deal is Jrue Holiday. The Trail Blazers are already rumored to be shopping the 33-year-old All-Star guard to a contender. Cronin could flip Holiday for a young star player, multiple young players, or a combination of players AND picks.

Cronin traded his franchise player to a contender while putting his team in a position to succeed. He is apparently trying to do right by moving Holiday to a contender. He kept his word and didn’t give in. Both fans and players alike will remember that.

For now.