2 Former Trail Blazers thriving, 3 struggling elsewhere to start 2023-24

Damian Lillard, Milwaukee Bucks (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Damian Lillard, Milwaukee Bucks (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /
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Former Blazer Damian Lillard is struggling with the Milwaukee Bucks this season.
Damian Lillard, Milwaukee Bucks (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Struggling former Blazer No. 3: Damian Lillard, Milwaukee Bucks

The NBA offseason’s biggest trade has yet to pay off for Damian Lillard and the Milwaukee Bucks. At least not yet.

Apart from a few games here and there, like Dame’s dramatic 39-point debut or Milwaukee’s most recent game when he dropped 37, it’s been a struggle for Lillard to integrate himself into the Bucks’ offense alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The ex-Blazer is averaging only 24.3 points on 38.6 percent shooting from the field and 28.6 percent from deep. Those numbers are all uncharacteristically poor for a player who was expected to arrive in Milwaukee and immediately upgrade the Bucks’ offense.

It’s been even more of a struggle defensively, which shouldn’t come as a major shock to Portland fans. Dame has long been one of the worst defenders in the NBA – it’s just been covered up by his explosive offense and lack of spotlight on a middling team.

Even with Giannis and last year’s Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Brook Lopez, Milwaukee is 24th in defensive rating and 26th in opponent fast-break points. Their 115.1 offensive rating isn’t good enough to offset their defensive rating, and the duo of Lillard and Antetokounmpo hasn’t brought a positive net rating to the Bucks so far this year.

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Is there time for Dame to adjust to a new scheme and new players? Sure. He’s never played with anyone of Antetokounmpo’s caliber, so finding a balance between hunting his own shot and deferring to a former MVP is new. But Lillard’s time in Milwaukee has been disappointing so far, both individually and as a team.