Damian Lillard apparently is headed to the Eastern Conference, after all.

Lillard on Wednesday was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in a three-team blockbuster, as first reported by ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski.

Lillard had been involved in trade rumors throughout the offseason, so the fact he was moved by the Portland Trail Blazers isn’t totally shocking. However, Lillard being sent to Milwaukee rather than a different, well-documented suitor is surprising. Lillard reportedly wanted to be traded to the Miami Heat, who were involved in rumors all offseason.

At the time, we thought Lillard-to-Miami would be bad news for other teams in the Eastern Conference, including the Boston Celtics. But now the argument can be made that Lillard landing with the Bucks is actually worse for others in the East, including the Green.

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The move for a seven-time All-NBA honoree proves Milwaukee is committed to building around Giannis Antetokounmpo. And it figures to make the Bucks a better team in both the short- and long-term.

It’s worth noting how Antetokounmpo weighed in on his future earlier this offseason and hinted he might not be long for Milwaukee. Winning championships was the first and foremost priority, he said.

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The Bucks figured to be a contender entering the 2023-23 NBA season with Antetokounmpo, Kris Middleton and Jrue Holiday leading the group. The 33-year-old Lillard replacing Holiday in that trio, however, should make Milwaukee even better. That’s good news for Bucks fans who want the 28-year-old Antetokounmpo, a two-time NBA MVP, to remain in Milwaukee for a long time.

Oddsmakers clearly feel the same way. The Bucks jumped the Denver Nuggets and Celtics, to name a few, on the NBA Finals betting board at FanDuel Sportsbook immediately after the trade was reported. Milwaukee now has the shortest odds (+360) to win the championship, and the shortest to win the Eastern Conference (+145).

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The Nuggets (+430) and Celtics (+480) are second and third on the betting sheet. Boston is not far behind at 2-1 to win the East.

Lillard, a seven-time NBA All-Star, has been one of the league’s most under appreciated players over the last few years. While Portland’s success was not commonplace during Lillard’s tenure with the organization, he nevertheless captivated fans with his scoring prowess and ability to take over in the clutch.

Lillard has averaged 29.4 points per game over his last four seasons, shooting 45.2% from the field with 7.6 assists in 220 contests during that stretch. He gives Antetokounmpo arguably the best running mate he’s had in his career, and gives the Bucks a much-improved “Big 3,” especially on the offensive end.

The Phoenix Suns were the third team in the agreement, along with the Bucks and Lillard’s former Trail Blazers.

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According to Wojnarowski, the Blazers acquired Holiday, ex-Suns big man Deandre Ayton, Toumani Camara, a 2029 unprotected first-rounder from Milwaukee and the right to swap first-round picks with the Bucks in 2028 and 2029. The Suns landed ex-Portland big man Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Nassir Little and Keon Johnson.

Featured image via Jaime Valdez/USA TODAY Sports Images