The Milwaukee Bucks have had a quiet offseason. They had a solid, albeit unspectacular, 2017 NBA Draft. The only move they’ve made since free agency began is re-signing Tony Snell to a four year, $46 million contract. Their biggest accomplishment is keeping their star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo on the roster and not trading him to a Western Conference team like a couple of their division rivals did (it’s the small victories, right?).
While the Bucks can expect to increase their win total from the previous season merely based off the fact that three of the top 15 players in the Eastern Conference during the 2016-17 season (Jimmy Butler, Paul George, and Paul Millsap) will play for teams in the Western Conference for the foreseeable future, they shouldn’t take that as an opportunity to become complacent. Even though they can expect plenty of internal improvements after a successful regular season and brief playoff run, they shouldn’t become stagnant in their search for players that can come in and make a significant impact.
With the off-season winding down, and most of the marquee free agents signed, the only way to acquire the impact player the Bucks need to take a major next step is via a trade. So, let’s look at three realistic trades the Bucks should consider.
Milwaukee makes the deal with Phoenix
This is a trade I’ve coveted for a while.
The Milwaukee Bucks need an elite point guard. It’s the last major step they need to take to become a true force in the Eastern Conference for the next five to seven years. Eric Bledsoe appears to be the odd man out of Phoenix’s rebuilding phase. At 27 years old, he doesn’t fit the timeframe of when the rest of the Suns’ most coveted players (Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, and Devin Booker) will reach their primes (they’re all either 19 or 20 years old).
And while Bledsoe has never appeared in an All-Star game, he would provide the Bucks with the star level production in scoring (21.1 points per game, 10th among starting point guards), secondary playmaking (6.3 assists per game, 13th among starting point guards), and defense (ninth best defensive box plus/minus among starting point guards) that they desire in their backcourt. Warren gives the Bucks a legitimate, scoring-orientated sixth man, a role he’s better suited for.
Jabari Parker (22 years old) would be a better fit for the team and the thought of a dynamic offense-defense combo in the Suns’ forecourt along with Josh Jackson in the front-court should have the Suns’ front office calling the Bucks right now to propose this trade. Henson provides Suns’ with a legitimate big man that’s on a declining contract, which is an improvement over Tyson Chandler at this point in their careers. The Suns would also be better off giving Jabari (even with the injury concerns) a large extension instead of Warren due to his higher ceiling, youth, and track record of production.
A starting lineup of Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, Snell, Antetokounmpo, and Thon Maker with Matthew Dellavedova, Malcolm Brogdon, Warren, D.J. Wilson, and Greg Monroe off the bench gives the Bucks the perfect mix of scoring ability, three-point shooting, defensive prowess, and playmaking to be a threat to any team in the NBA.
Milwaukee and Portland do each other a favor
Portland Trailblazers receive: Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Spencer Hawes, Bucks’ 2018 first round pick (lottery protected)
This is a situation where both teams lose a lot of what makes them good, but gain what they need to become great.
Damian Lillard would fulfill the Bucks’ quest to acquire an elite level point guard. But, the Bucks don’t have the lead guard talent necessary to complete a transaction for him. McCollum will have to be the consolation prize. And in this situation the consolation prize just happens to be another All-Star caliber guard.
McCollum averaged 23 points per game on a 48/42/91 shooting slash in during the 2016-17 regular season. In his fourth year in the league, McCollum proved that he is a rising star guard and can be the secondary ball-handler/second scoring option that the Bucks’ need. While the concerns about his defensive production are legitimate, the Bucks have an excess amount of quality defenders at the guard/forward positions (Brogdon, Dellavedova, Snell, Antetokounmpo, and Aminu, who the Bucks would also acquire in this trade) to mask this deficiency in his game.
For the Trailblazers, this trade presents them with the opportunity for change that they desperately need. They lack quality wing talent and must prioritize sending away their larger contracts from their insane payroll. But, most importantly, this is about finding the right backcourt partner for Lillard.
As fun as it may be to watch, you can’t have two, ball-dominant, score-first starting guards and expect to garner a lot of success, especially when both players are below average defenders. Stephen Curry (who is an average defender) has Klay Thompson to take over the major defensive assignment in the backcourt. Isaiah Thomas had Avery Bradley, and still has Marcus Smart. James Harden had Patrick Beverley, and now has Chris Paul. Tony Parker and Patty Mills have Danny Green. Even Kyrie Irving has J.R. Smith, who can hold his own on the defensive end (a slight stretch? Maybe.)
That’s the kind of role Middleton can play for the Trailblazers; he can be the primary backcourt defender to make up for Lillard’s lack of defensive production and showcase his own steady scoring abilities (a career high 18.2 point per game during the 2015-16 campaign, his last healthy season) without having to dominate the ball. There wouldn’t be a shortage of opportunities for Jabari Parker due to the abysmal front court the Blazers boast. Spencer Hawes is merely an expiring contract and the first-round draft pick is an asset the Blazers can pair with another player with a large contract (Evan Turner?) in another trade to cut costs.
Although he may not want to leave his dynamic backcourt partner and may prefer living in Portland over Milwaukee, a benefit of this trade for McCollum is that he would have a greater chance of participating in his first All-Star game by playing in the weaker Eastern Conference.
Milwaukee capitalizes off Cleveland’s dysfunction (with a little help from the New York Knicks)
Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Carmelo Anthony, Matthew Dellavedova, Bucks’ 2018 first round pick (lottery protected), Bucks’ 2019 first round pick (top five protected), Knicks’ 2020 first round draft pick (top three protected)
This is the blockbuster trade that needs to happen.
It’s time to get the elephant out of the room. Yes, Carmelo Anthony hasn’t waived his no trade clause. Yes, he’s reportedly made it clear that he will only waive it for the Houston Rockets. And yes, Melo has also stated that the conversations between him and the new GM have been great, making a trade appearing less likely.
But does he really want to stay with the dysfunctional Knicks for another season? Let’s not forget that the GM and President are the same individuals that idly stood by when Phil Jackson was ruining his career and trade value. The Rockets don’t have a trade package for Melo that would make the Knicks want to finalize a deal. An almost guaranteed trip to the Finals with his buddy LeBron James and company may be his only way to get out of New York.
The New York Knicks need to realize that as spectacular and exciting it would be to have Irving and his flashy style of play grace Madison Square Garden on a regular basis, it isn’t the move in their best interest. The assets they would have to give up making the transaction would deplete their roster of young talent.
Frank Ntilikina, the eight pick in the 2017 Draft, needs the playing time to develop alongside the Knicks’ young corps, led by Kristaps Porzinigis. Bringing in Parker will only bolster their corps and Middleton is a safe addition to their starting lineup. The departures of Melo and Lee will give the Knicks a great amount of cap relief, but they’ll need to take the bad contracts attached to Teletovic and Frye (an expiring deal) from the Bucks and Cavaliers to make this deal feasible.
Speaking of the Cavs, it’s time for them to accept the harsh reality they’re going to face in less than a year; LeBron James could leave Cleveland, again. Instead of nonchalantly allowing LeBron to determine the outlook of the franchise, they need to be more active in their pursuit of protecting their future and making sure it won’t be as miserable as the 2010-2013 NBA seasons.
Delly provides stability behind the often-injured Derrick Rose. At this point in his career, Delly is an upgrade over Deron Williams as the backup point guard (and his familiarity with LeBron helps as well). The Cavs also should be hopeful that bringing in Melo, as well as an inevitable Kevin Love trade, will give them a better shot at keeping LeBron. Regardless, this move is about preserving their future and taking control of it, and not leaving it in LeBron’s hands. This package, which is an upgrade over the one they’re reportedly seeking, gives them the assets that are necessary to accomplish this while keeping their status as the favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in the 2018 Finals intact.
Is there anything to question why the Bucks would want Kyrie Irving?
He’s a four time All-Star, a former NBA Rookie of the Year, All-Star Game MVP (2014), USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year (2014), FIBA World Cup MVP (2014), a former All-NBA teamer, a NBA Champion, and is coming off a season where he averaged 25 ppg, 6apg, and 3rpg on a 47/40/90 shooting slash. Oh, and he just turned 25 years old in March. Fans are just now beginning to witness the kind of player Irving will become (who can forget the three-game stretch of 30+ plus during the 2016 NBA Finals?) when he reaches the apex of his career.
The one-two punch of Giannis and Kyrie would wreak havoc in the Eastern Conference for the foreseeable future. Lee and Shumpert will provide the Bucks with wings that can shoot and are willing defenders with the departures of Parker and Middleton. The addition of Kyrie also makes the Bucks’ one of the three likeliest teams to make the Eastern Conference Finals, along with the Cavs and Boston Celtics. Plus, the possibility of witnessing a LeBron and Melo lead Cavaliers vs. Giannis, Kyrie and the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals would make for must-watch TV.
And an extra bonus for the Bucks is that they will get rid of Delly’s and Mirza’s contracts, something they went into the offseason wanting to accomplish.