It finally happened. After months of speculation, Damian Lillard was traded, but not to the Miami Heat, but instead as part of a three-team deal with the Bucks and Suns. The trade will have league-wide impact, including on the Detroit Pistons.
Shams Charania of The Athletic (among others) reported the details of the blockbuster trade:
I was hoping the Pistons might be able to cash in on the Lillard trade as a third team, but reports that the Suns were interested in Jusuf Nurkic made them the best team to help facilitate the trade.
But that doesn’t mean the Detroit Pistons won’t feel the impact.
Detroit Pistons: Another superstar in the Central Division
As if the Detroit Pistons weren’t already up against it in the Central Division, now it will be getting another superstar and top-75 player of all time in Damian Lillard.
The Bucks were already title contenders, but Lillard helps their biggest weakness, which was trying to generate half-court offense in the playoffs. Even though Jrue Holiday is an excellent two-way player, Lillard is still one of the best scorers in the NBA and will give Giannis a bail-out option when the game slows down.
It does make the Bucks slightly older, but also increases the chances that Giannis Antetokounmpo sticks around, as he was looking for evidence that the Bucks would be contenders for the foreseeable future.
If the Bucks hadn’t made this trade, they could have had a hard time getting Giannis to re-sign, but this all but guarantees the perennial MVP candidate will stay in the Central where the Pistons will have to play him four times a year. Yay.
The Pistons weren’t going to win the division next year anyway, but this just made their job more difficult.
The Detroit Pistons lost a potential trade partner
There were some NBA insiders who thought the Bucks may pursue a trade with the Pistons for veteran sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic. You can debate whether Detroit should be trying to trade their best veteran player, but if they do decide to move him, they want as many options as possible.
This likely removes the Bucks as a possibility and maybe even the Suns, as both teams have expended what few assets they had in the Lillard deal.
The Portland Trail Blazers are now better than the Detroit Pistons
If they weren’t already, the Trail Blazers now look like a team that on paper is better than the Pistons. They aren’t in the same conference, but Detroit still has to play them and ultimately the standings matter when it comes to things like draft picks.
With Ayton and Holiday on board (if they keep Jrue Holiday), the Blazers quietly have a very good roster with a nice mix of veteran talent and young players. If Scoot Henderson is as good as advertised, they might be able to sneak into the play-in next season.
It goes to show you how much easier it is to rebuild when you have a superstar trade to jumpstart it, which the Pistons did not. Troy Weaver had zero assets when he took over, so it’s hard to compare teams like the Blazers or Thunder who had big trades to kick off their rebuilds and speed them up.
It will be interesting to see the domino effect this trade has on the league. Next up, James Harden.