Milwaukee’s big 3: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard and Khris Middleton.
Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo are individually regarded as elite scorers in the NBA and, without a doubt, top 20 players currently. However, there's one more major commonality between the two: neither has ever played with any major star talent. Damian Lillard has been in the league for 11 seasons, and the last and only time he has played with an All-Star was Lamarcus Aldridge back in 2013-15. But finally, on September 27th, that changed when, in a three-way deal between the Bucks, Blazers, and Suns, the Bucks acquired All-Star and MVP caliber player Damian Lillard. The Suns got Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, and a couple more guys. But that isn’t all too bad. The Suns already have a backcourt made of some of the best players in the NBA in Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal. Last but not least, the Blazers ended up with Deandre Ayton, a player the team traded not long after receiving (Jrue Holiday), and a seventh grader (2029 first round pick). But all of that aside, how good is this win for the Bucks, and more specifically, how good can this new duo be?
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a pairing of All-Star talent, and many have tried and failed to create an unstoppable super team: Russ and Harden; Kyrie, KD, and Harden; Kawhi and PG. They never quite live up to the grand expectations given to them, but history shows us that this new duo in Milwaukee is bound to do something great.
Box plus minus is a metric used to determine how positive or negatively impactful a player was on a game due to many factors. There have only been six duos in the history of the NBA that were as good individually as Giannis and Dame are in terms of box plus minus. Out of those six duos, four of them went on to win the NBA championship that season. Last season, Dame and Giannis averaged 32-5-7 and 31-12-6, respectively, both on over 60% true shooting percentage. That is a stat line that only Luka Doncic, James Harden, and Michael Jordan have ever achieved. However, all of this gets swept under the radar because Lillard has spent his career in the shadow of Steph Curry, arguably the greatest point guard in NBA history. These are 2 of the most prolific scorers in NBA history, and the last time we saw a pairing so dominant was never. There has never been an NBA duo that has had both players average 30 ppg and then played together the following season. Not only that, but their games perfectly complement each other like nothing seen before. A top five interior player gets combined with a top five perimeter shooter, a lethal combination. There is not a single team in the league at the moment that can defensively cover this force. This is something that has always held back most attempted super teams, and time and time again, we see that if you match the right players, it makes all the difference. Both Lebron and Wade and Kobe and Shaq, two of the most dominant duos in history, match that description.
Obviously, this is partially speculation but all the stats and accolades beg the question: does this duo have what it takes to win the title? Or are we getting ahead of ourselves like we have done countless times before?