NBA players talk. They’re closer to each other than most fans realize, and some of them like each other betters than other. It happens, and the leagues’ tampering policy has never been fully imposed. Notably, the 2023 Milwaukee Bucks are proof of that.

Recently, Damian Lillard admitted that he had been trying to recruit Giannis Antetokounmpo since the 2023 All-Star break and vice versa, so this trade to the Bucks was months in the making, all behind closed doors:

“Just the fact I’ve been trying to tell him he should come to my team and he’s been telling me I should come to his, and eventually the stars aligned. It ended up happening in his favor,” Lillard said.

Still, this was kind of a shocker for most people in the NBA. Lillard’s camp have leaked that he only intended to play for the Miami Heat, but the Portland Trail Blazers didn’t seem eager to grant him that wish.

The Bucks Were Always Lurking

Multiple teams were reportedly keeping tabs on Lillard. Even so, there was little incentive to make a move for him if he didn’t want to play somewhere else. That didn’t stop the Bucks from making some calls, though.

It became evident at one point that GM Joe Cronin was reluctant to send Lillard to Miami; it didn’t matter how much they offered. It was a matter of principles and making a statement to avoid setting a dangerous precedent of All-Stars handpicking their trade destinations.

That’s when the Bucks swooped right in to one-up every other offer. They offered Jrue Holiday, one of the best defensive players on Earth, and a guy they knew would be easy to flip for more assets.

How Does This Affect The Rest Of The League?

The Bucks had the best record in the league last season, and that was without Damian Lillard. Of course, they’ll miss Jrue Holiday’s pesky backcourt defense, but they got significantly better on the offensive end of the floor, not to mention the fact that they got a better fit next to their star player.

The Boston Celtics also benefitted from this ripple effect. They basically swapped a former Defensive Player of the Year like Marcus Smart for another defensive stalwart at the same position, all while adding Kristaps Porzingis.

From that stanpdoint, this move shouldn’t move the needle in the East, as the Bucks and Celtics were already the No. 1 and No. 2 clear-cut candidates in the conference, and that didn’t change at all.

Nonetheless, the talent gap between them and the rest of the conference got significantly wider. The Miami Heat lost two key rotation pieces in Max Strus and Gabe Vincent, and it’s just a matter of time before the Philadelphia 76ers part ways with James Harden.

If that wasn’t enough, the Phoenix Suns were also big winners, as they were able to flip a wantaway player like Deandre Ayton into even more depth and a defensive-minded big who’s a better fit for Frank Vogel’s system. They’re now the team to beat in the West.

Lillard, the Bucks, and the Blazers shocked the world with this transaction and pretty much played us all. Now, we’re set to enjoy one of the most competitive seasons in recent history, all thanks to a league-shaking transaction.

SURVEY Will the Bucks win the NBA championship this season?

Will the Bucks win the NBA championship this season?