Basketball fans and fantasy managers anxiously awaiting progress on the Damian Lillard saga got a Woj bomb Wednesday — a three-team trade involving the Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks — and no mention of the Miami Heat. Jimmy Butler had something to say about that, but I digress.
Of course, this blockbuster deal centers around Damian Lillard — who now joins forces with former two-time MVP and Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo with the Milwaukee Bucks. Maybe now Giannis signs that extension?
Here are the details of the blockbuster trade:
One domino remained in wake of the trade, and that was the fate of former Bucks guard Jrue Holiday. Almost every team was at least interested in acquiring his services but who had the assets to pull it off?
The Boston Celtics.
The Celtics reportedly acquired Holiday from the Blazers on Sunday in exchange for Robert Williams III and Malcolm Brogdon with 2024 and 2029 first-round picks. The move is a substantial haul for the Blazers whosd focus turns to adding more future assets and front-court depth to their young backcourt.
And here's the fantasy impact for all the key pieces.
Damian Lillard to the Bucks
I discussed why I thought Lillard shouldn't be falling into the second round of drafts, which was an overreaction. Now that we have clarity on his situation, I'm even more comfortable selecting him as a mid-to-late first-round pick. His usage will remain high even alongside Giannis, and we'll see a slight uptick in assists now that he's playing with one of the most dominant frontcourt players in the league.
Who else sees a fantasy bump?
Deandre Ayton - C
The five-year pro goes from the fourth wheel to potentially the first or second option on offense with the Blazers. Ayton was looking for a way out, and now is the presumed starter — though he’ll have a formidable backup now that Time Lord is in the building — alongside Jerami Grant, Anfernee Simons, Shaedon Sharpe and rookie Scoot Henderson.
Ayton was 57th in my category ranks, and I moved him to 50 after he was dealt to Portland. He gets a slight downgrade due to competition, but not much, so I'm keeping him there for now. He’s efficient and should be a threat to drop 20 and 10 this season. Fantasy managers would love to see more of a commitment from him on the defensive end, but either way, he’s the immediate winner of this trade.
Jusuf Nurkic - C
I don't suspect his role to change that much in Phoenix. Instead, he's in a favorable situation where he'll be responsible for doing less. A double-double is in the cards, and he's a sneaky distributor from the center spot, averaging close to three assists per game over his last five seasons. He was 121st in my previous ranks, and I'll give him a bump after this trade is finalized.
Scoot Henderson - PG
Dame is gone, and Jrue is, too. That's the best news possible for Scoot and his fantasy value because the front office is committed to him before training camp gets underway. His ADP should rise and I'm anticipating him to make a strong case for Rookie of the Year while being a top 100 player in fantasy.
Anfernee Simons - PG/SG
His role was safe whether Lillard was traded or not. He’ll likely take on more of a scoring role now, and in 55 games without Damian Lillard, Simons averaged 20.6 points, 4.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game. A boost in assists would undoubtedly increase his fantasy stock heading into the season.
Who's fantasy value has fallen?
Jrue Holiday - PG/SG
Holiday is currently 34th in my 9-cat rankings but I’ll be moving him down into the low 40s. He’s maintained a usage rate of over 22% over his last three seasons and I don’t expect that will change as the new starting PG of one of the best teams in the East. His scoring will likely take a dip from last year’s 19.3 ppg, but his FG efficiency, steals, assists and three-point shooting will keep him in top-50 territory despite playing with ball-dominant guys like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Derrick White - PG/SG
White gets the most significant downgrade with the arrival of Holiday. He moves from starting PG to likely the starting SG and thus, less of a facilitator than previously expected. He’ll still be worth adding in category leagues as he’s one of the best defenders at the guard position.
Khris Middleton - SF/PF
Adding another 30-point scorer is going to hurt Middleton’s usage. He’s coming off a down year and I’d anticipate Lillard’s arrival negatively impacting his ADP ahead of the season. He’ll be fine for category leagues but less volume doesn’t make him appealing for points leagues. If his efficiency regresses to the norm, his peripherals will be good for roto leagues as a Tobias Harris-like asset.
Grayson Allen - SG/SF
A casualty of acquiring Dame, the Suns added a defensive-minded guard who’s a 40% shooter from three. I don’t expect him to make an impact in fantasy now that he’s on the bench, but he could emerge as a waiver pickup if an injury occurs.
Giannis Antetokounmpo - PF/C
I'll pay close attention to the Bucks' training camp to see how a Lillard-led offense meshes with Giannis. I can't imagine there's much drop-off by acquiring an All-NBA player, so I'd keep Giannis safely as a first-rounder in points and category leagues. Where he goes in the first round will depend on the league format.
Jayson Tatum (PG/SG) and Jaylen Brown (SG/SF)
Tatum and Brown are largely unchanged but I expect Tatum to see a slight downtick in potential assists with another true point guard in the starting lineup.
Kristaps Porziņģis - PF/C
Porziņģis is largely unchanged but there’s a sizeable gap in the Celtics' rim protection that he’ll have to fill. There could be more block potential for KP now that he can’t rely on Williams. Playing with a high IQ and facilitating point guard like Holiday should also boost Porzingis’ efficiency — more pick-and-roll action will help create mismatches that KP can exploit, especially in the mid-range and foul-line extended areas.
Robert Williams III - C
The Celtics didn’t reveal whether Williams or Horford would start alongside KP but I assumed Horford would have gotten the edge because he’s more capable offensively. But now it's a moot point! Williams will likely see 20+ minutes off the bench while backing up Ayton and he’s shown that he can still be effective in limited minutes. I had him 86th in my 9-cat rankings and that won’t change much now that he’ll be in a similar role in Portland.
Malcolm Brogdon - PG/SG
Brogdon is likely going to be bought out since he doesn’t fit with Portland’s rebuilding franchise. If he does stay, he’ll be the sixth man at best and likely has a similar fantasy profile as he did in Boston.
Al Horford - PF/C
Horford remains bench depth in most fantasy leagues but his minutes are trending up now that Robert Williams has been traded.
The timing of these two big trades couldn’t have been better as things settle in ahead of training camp next week. There’s also a slew of picks involved in this deal, but from a fantasy perspective, I think Ayton’s change of scenery is the most impactful. The five-year pro goes from the fourth wheel to potentially the second option on offense with the Blazers and is being paired with a true point guard in Scoot Henderson.