I mean, about DAME time. When Damian Lillard requested a trade from the Portland Trail Blazers on July 1, I had just graduated from high school 12 days earlier. Fast forward almost three months later, I am now done with my first month of college, and…Dame was FINALLY TRADED.
Lillard was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, in a deal that saw Jrue Holiday, DeAndre Ayton, Toumani Camara, and draft picks traded to the Blazers, and Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Keon Johnson, and Nassir Little head to the Phoenix Suns, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. One of the more massive trades we have seen in the NBA, recently.
After kicking and screaming to get his way to Miami, Lillard is going to team up with Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the impact for the Eastern Conference is huge, particularly for the Cleveland Cavaliers. I have said I believe the Cavs will make a run to the Eastern Conference Finals. After the blockbuster that created the best (yes, I said it) duo in the NBA, I am not so sure.
I have stated multiple times that the teams to worry about for the Cavs in the East are the Bucks and the Boston Celtics. That has not changed after the Bucks added Lillard. He is without a doubt one of the best guards in the league when he plays, and gives the Bucks a legit scoring threat at the guard spot.
I love Jrue Holiday, but the Bucks needed an offensive boost in order to sustain a long postseason run. They needed a guy that can explode for 50 at any given moment, and alleviate the pressure on Giannis when it comes to scoring. Where the trouble comes for the Cavaliers is accounting for Lillard and Giannis defensively.
Yes, the Cavs had the number one defense in the NBA last regular season, but the Bucks now have the most dangerous offensive duo in the NBA. They also have to play them four times in the regular season, not to mention a potential date in the playoffs. Prior to the Lillard trade, I had the top three seeds in the East being the Celtics, Bucks, and Cavs.
Now, the Bucks become the one seed in my opinion, knocking Boston down to two, and the Cavs stay at three. I also had the Cavaliers beating the Bucks in a potential second round playoff series, as I believed the Bucks had a maxed out roster that didn’t make any major improvements, and the Cavs matched up very well with them. Not only do I think the Bucks come out of the East, but now the Cavs path to the Conference Finals is a lot tougher.
Instead of facing an older, weaker Bucks team, they would likely have to go through the formidable Celtics, who boast one of the best rosters in the NBA, in the second round. Again, anything can happen, but the Cavs chances of a high seed and deep postseason run took a hit. They have to play the Celtics and Bucks a combined seven times this coming regular season, and then likely at least one of them prior to the Conference Finals. Yikes.
The Wine and Gold must advance further in the postseason than they did last season if they want to not only eliminate the bad taste in their mouths from last year, but also if they want to keep Donovan Mitchell around long term. This is a critical season for them, and it just got a lot harder with Damian Lillard now in the East. I am still optimistic, as the Cavs had a great offseason, and will enter the season with a chip on their shoulder.
However, this upcoming season got even harder than it was before. Time will tell if they can hang with the new-look Bucks, but don’t count on it.