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Damian Lillard trade to Bucks shakes up the top of the Eastern Conference

BOSTON -- Damian Lillard has been traded to an Eastern Conference powerhouse. Just not that Eastern Conference powerhouse.

After months of rumors and speculation that Lillard's talents would eventually land in South Beach, the Portland Trail Blazers have traded the seven-time All-Star to the Milwaukee Bucks, as first reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Lillard will now join forces with Giannis Antetokounmpo to try and get Milwaukee back atop the conference. 

The Boston Celtics would like to keep that from happening, but Milwaukee just became an even bigger foe with Lillard now in tow. 

The Bucks are looking to bounce back after getting swept in the first round by the Miami Heat despite owning the best record in the NBA last season. They fired head coach Mike Budenholzer after that disappointing finish, and there have been rumblings that Antetokounmpo wasn't very happy with the direction of the franchise.

But in landing Lillard, the Bucks are showing that they are very much all in on winning another title and keeping Giannis happy. Lillard is signed through the 2025-26 season, and has a $63 million player option for the 2026-27 campaign.

Among the players that Milwaukee is sending out of town in the three-team deal (which also includes the Phoenix Suns) is Jrue Holiday, who was Milwaukee's defensive leader. It will be interesting to see the Bucks adapt on that end of the floor now with Lillard.

But make no mistake, the Bucks are very much back in the conversation for the best team in the NBA. It will make like a little more difficult for the Celtics in the East. The Bucks will likely now be joining them and the defending champion Denver Nuggets as pre-season favorites to win it all in 2023-24. 

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