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It's Trade Time for Dame
A look at some of the interesting trivia surrounding this fascinating trade.
I was working on another post yesterday when the huge Damian Lillard trade was announced. For those who have been living in a cave, the Portland Trail Blazers sent seven-time All-Star Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks in a three-team trade that also involved the Phoenix Suns. I’ll get back to the aforementioned post at some point, but for now I’m going to put it aside and touch on some of the interesting trivia surrounding this fascinating trade.
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Lillard averaged a career-high 32.2 PPG last season, while new teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged 31.1 PPG, also a career best. As soon as they play a regular season game together, Lillard and Antetokounmpo will become just the second teammates in NBA history to each average at least 30 PPG the previous season.
For now, the only team in NBA history with two such players is the 1962-63 Los Angeles Lakers, those players being Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. Baylor averaged 38.3 PPG in the 1961-62 season, while West averaged 30.8 PPG, both while playing for the Lakers.
One interesting twist to the 1961-62 season: Baylor played in just 48 of a possible 80 games because he was called to duty by the U.S. Army Reserves. Stationed at Fort Lewis (Wash.), Baylor could only play for the Lakers when on a weekend pass, and was unable to practice with the team before or during the season. Baylor flew commercial flights on weekends so he could join the team in whichever city they were playing.
West averaged 28.6 PPG in the 46 games he played with Baylor and 34.3 PPG in the 29 games he played while Baylor was out. I don’t think West would have averaged 30 PPG had Baylor been available all season.
Lillard will become just the fourth player in NBA history to average at least 30 PPG one season and open the following season with a new team. Here are the first three occurrences:
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Abdul-Jabbar averaged 30.0 PPG with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1974-75, then was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in the offseason. If you want to be pedantic, Abdul-Jabbar averaged “only” 29.98 PPG with the Bucks, falling one point shy of averaging exactly 30 PPG. Abdul-Jabbar averaged 27.7 PPG in his debut season as a Laker, taking home his fourth of a record six MVP Awards.
World B. Free: Free scored a career-high 30.2 PPG in 1979-80 with the San Diego Clippers, but was dealt to the Golden State Warriors in the offseason. Free averaged 24.1 PPG with Golden State in 1980-81.
Moses Malone: Malone won the MVP Award in 1981-82, averaging a career-high 31.1 PPG with the Houston Rockets. A restricted free agent after the season, Malone signed a six-year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. Houston matched the offer, but less than two weeks later traded him to Philadelphia. Malone averaged 24.5 PPG in his first season with the Sixers, winning his second consecutive MVP Award (and third overall).
This also happened once in the ABA. Julius Erving averaged 31.9 PPG playing for the Virginia Squires in 1972-73, then was traded to the New York Nets, where he averaged 27.4 PPG and won his first of three straight ABA MVP Awards in 1973-74.
As mentioned earlier, Lillard averaged a career-high 32.2 PPG last season. Based on Lillard’s age in his last game of the regular season, he’s the third-oldest qualified* player in NBA history to average at least 30 PPG in a season (age in years-days):
33-064 — Michael Jordan, 1995-96
33-063 — Stephen Curry, 2020-21
32-250 — Damian Lillard, 2022-23
31-298 — Jerry West, 1969-70
31-008 — Rick Barry, 1974-75
* LeBron James (37 years, 92 days) averaged 30.3 PPG in the 2021-22 season, but did not play enough games to qualify for the scoring title. James appeared in 56 games, but needed to reach 58 games played.
On February 26, 2023, Lillard became the eighth player in NBA history to record a 70-point game (a total of 13 instances):
Wilt Chamberlain (six times)
Lillard will become the first of those players to open the following season with a new team.
Lillard is one of nine* active players who is the all-time scoring leader for a franchise:
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies)
Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)
DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors)
LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
Brook Lopez (Brooklyn Nets)
Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
* If/when Dwight Howard signs with a team, he will become the 10th such player. Howard is the Orlando Magic’s career scoring leader.
Antetokounmpo and Stephen Curry are the only two above who still play for the listed franchise. Note that the Bucks now employ three of these players: Antetokounmpo, Lillard, and Brook Lopez.