Milwaukee Bucks small forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard have a lot in common. Both are elite players in the NBA and making a lot of money in small market cities.
Neither Antetokounmpo nor Lillard has won a championship, but the two All-Stars have been to the conference finals in their respective conference and gotten close to reaching the NBA Finals. Antetokounmpo has more hardware than Lillard, as the Bucks star is a two-time MVP, one-time Defensive Player of the Year, and won the 2016-17 Most Improved Player of the Year Award. Lillard, meanwhile, is a five-time All-Star. The Blazers guard also won the 2012-13 Rookie of the Year Award over Anthony Davis, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 draft.
While Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard have both said they have no interest in creating a superteam with other superstars in the NBA like LeBron James and Kevin Durant have done, the two All-Stars were pretty close to joining forces this past offseason.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard are extraordinary performers
Last season, both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard had stellar individual campaigns. The Greek Freak averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 5.6 assists for the Bucks, while Dame Dolla put up 30.0 points, 4.3 boards, and 8.0 assists for the Blazers.
Antetokounmpo won the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Award last season, becoming the third player in NBA history to win both awards in the same campaign. Meanwhile, Lillard finished third in points per game and established himself as the best point guard in the league since Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry only appeared in five games due to injury.
The Bucks racked up the best record in the NBA for the second straight season in 2019-20. However, Antetokounmpo and Co. lost to the Miami Heat in the 2020 Eastern Conference Semifinals in five games. Giannis suffered a serious ankle injury and wasn’t able to play in Game 5.
The Blazers, meanwhile, won the NBA’s first-ever play-in game by defeating the Memphis Grizzlies to clinch the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Portland, though, lost to LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs in five quick games.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard are committed to their respective team
During the summer of 2019, Damian Lillard signed a four-year, $196 million extension with the Blazers. The All-NBA guard has said multiple times he wants to retire with Portland and be the guy who brings the franchise its second NBA championship.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, recently signed a five-year, $228.2 million extension with the Bucks. If the future Hall of Famer had decided not to sign the supermax extension, he would have become an unrestricted free agent during the offseason of 2021.
Both Lillard and Antetokounmpo are comfortable in the cities they live in. Unlike other megastars in the NBA, Dame and Giannis don’t have an urge to play in a big market like New York or LA. They want to build their own legacy and win a title with the team which drafted them, similar to how Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant did with the Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers, respectively.
However, with the competition around the NBA getting tougher every season, it looks like Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo have at least thought about playing with each other and forming a superteam.
Giannis and Dame almost teamed up on the Blazers
According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard talked about potentially teaming up on the Blazers this past offseason. It looks like if the Bucks didn’t make moves to improve the roster around Antetokounmpo, the swingman would have had an interest in requesting a trade to the Blazers so he could play with Lillard.
“If Giannis were to leave Milwaukee, I’m talking about this past summer, before he signed the max extension. If the team didn’t make the necessary moves to make Giannis feel comfortable, I believe there was a team that he would have considered leaving for, and that team is the Portland Trail Blazers,” Haynes reported on his podcast, h/t SB Nations’ Blazer’s Edge. “Sources have told me that Giannis and Damian Lillard, they’ve gotten really close over the last few months. And they were talking about working out together.”
Antetokounmpo signed the supermax extension with the Bucks after the team acquired Jrue Holiday from the New Orleans Pelicans and signed Bobby Portis and D.J. Augustin. While it’s great to see a small market team like Milwaukee keep a global icon, it would have been fun to watch Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard play on the same team.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.