After months of speculation, Damian Lillard was finally traded, except not to the team that many expected. The Portland Trail Blazers dealt their once-franchise centerpiece to the Milwaukee Bucks as part of a three-team deal that also included Jusuf Nurkic being sent to the Phoenix Suns. In return, the Blazers got veteran guard Jrue Holiday, Deandre Ayton from the Suns, Toumani Camara, a 2029 unprotected first-round pick and unprotected pick swaps in 2028 and 2030 from the Bucks.
It was a shocking move that certainly came out of nowhere after the months of reporting that Lillard would end up in Miami, but if one thing is true about the NBA it's to always expect the unexpected. As a result, Lillard has a legitimate shot at winning a championship this season, and the Trail Blazers get to close this chapter and turn their focus to incoming rookie and No. 3 overall pick in June's draft, Scoot Henderson.
But before we get too ahead of itself, there are still some loose ends to tie up on this deal. Holiday, who was dealt to Portland, isn't expected to stay with the Blazers, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Portland has already been talking to teams about a trade to send Holiday to a championship contender, per Wojnarowski, and given his talent and championship experience there will surely be no shortage of teams calling Portland's front office today to try and get something done.
While there aren't any firm details of which teams could be in on trying to land Holiday, there's a handful of teams which it could make sense for. With that in mind, here are four teams that could be possible landing spots for Holiday.
I'm sure the Heat don't want to hear this right now, but think of landing Holiday as a nice consolation prize? He's not the offensive stick of dynamite that Lillard is, but imagine a defensive backcourt of Holiday and Jimmy Butler. That truly sounds terrifying for opposing teams. While the Heat clearly didn't have the assets Portland wanted to land Lillard, they surely have enough to bring in Holiday, the only thing is are the two sides willing to do business? It has to be pretty disheartening for Miami after seeing what Milwaukee got Lillard for, as the Heat definitely had a better offer than the Bucks.
It may be a sore subject right now for Miami, but maybe a deal centered around Tyler Herro and some picks could get Holiday down to South Beach. Holiday would fit Miami's culture perfectly, he'd take some of the playmaking responsibility out of Butler's hands, and he's certainly an upgrade to the rotating number of guards the Heat went through last season. We'll just have to see if Portland is willing to pick up the phone when it sees a Miami area code.
Maybe there's another three-team trade in here that would involve the Los Angeles Clippers finally getting James Harden, Philadelphia getting Holiday and the Blazers getting more assets back. It would be a win-win scenario for the Clippers and Sixers, and it would serve as a full-circle moment for Holiday who started his career with the Sixers back in 2009. Just like with every team on this list, Holiday would fit perfectly next to reigning MVP Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. While Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo have far different games, Holiday already has experience playing alongside a dominant big man and would know how to help elevate Embiid's game to an even higher level.
It's already been reported that Philadelphia is interested in acquiring Holiday, it's just a matter of what it takes to get him. The most logical solution seems to be a three-team trade to get off a disgruntled Harden who has his sights set on L.A., but multi-team trades take longer to construct. And if every team with a shot at winning a title is on the line with Portland, Philly could miss out on Holiday if there's a less complicated deal on the table.
The Raptors were a late addition to the Lillard sweepstakes, and while they didn't land the big fish, Holiday would be a nice pivot in plans. Toronto lost Fred VanVleet in the offseason to the Houston Rockets, and while they brought in Dennis Schroder to likely fill that lead guard role, Holiday would be a better upgrade. A defensive trio of Holiday, Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam would make the Raptors a very difficult team to score on, and Holiday's 19.3 points a game last season would fill in the hole left behind by VanVleet.
It would probably take trading OG Anunoby and a first-round pick to the Trail Blazers to get him, but with Anunoby on an expiring deal, Portland would likely need some assurance that he would re-sign with them. Maybe throwing in 2023 first-round pick Gradey Dick for good measure could get the deal done, though the Raptors will be competing against nearly every contending team for the best offer.
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Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers have had their eyes on Harden, and while there was some initial traction on a possible deal months ago, there really hasn't been any news on that front. In fact, the Philadelphia 76ers Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Clippers have long been looking for an answer at the starting point guard spot, and while Russell Westbrook had an impressive stint last season and re-signed this summer, from a fit standpoint Holiday makes more sense in that spot.on Harden ahead of training camp. So now maybe the Clippers shift focus to Holiday, who would slot in nicely alongside
Holiday shot 38.4% from 3-point range last season, an area where Westbrook has struggled, which limits L.A.'s ability to really space the floor. If Holiday was the starter, L.A. could have Westbrook lead the second unit, where he has full reign on attacking the basket against weaker opponents. It would give the Clippers great depth, and a starting guard who can facilitate and create for himself efficiently.