• Cody Kluge

Bucks Bring in Short-Term Help With an Eye Toward the Future

Courtesy of Maddie Meyer from Getty Images

Although the beginning of December isn’t exactly the NBA’s prime trading season, the Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Washington Wizards struck a three team, five-player deal last Friday.

Per Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst of ESPN, the Bucks traded away longtime forward John Henson and guard Matthew Dellavedova, as well as first and second round picks in the 2021 NBA Draft to the Cavs. In return, Cleveland sent veteran guard George Hill back to Milwaukee, while the Bucks also acquired Jason Smith and a second-round pick from the Wizards.

At the surface, this trade might not seem like too big of a deal. It's just a small acquisition in an assemblage of trades that will likely happen in the NBA this season, right?

In reality, this deal was an important one for Milwaukee, for both the short and long-term.

Looking at the rest of this season, Smith is unlikely to log a lot of minutes for the Bucks. However, he does provide the team with some additional front court depth, and a veteran presence who is a great locker room guy, made evident by the dismay felt by Wizards players following his departure.

Milwaukee’s equally crowded backcourt could also limit minutes for George Hill. However, he is another good fit for the Bucks, as coach Mike Budenholzer’s three-point centric offense plays right into Hill’s style. In addition to knowing this system well from his time working under Budenholzer with the Spurs, Hill is another reliable veteran presence for the Bucks that brings playoff experience to the squad.

Ultimately however, Bucks General Manager Jon Horst made this trade looking at the long-term future of the organization. At the end of this season, Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, and Khris Middleton will all become free agents. (Middleton technically has a player option for next season, but it is fully expected he will opt out and test the open market.)

With Giannis Antetokounmpo signed only through the 2020-2021 season, the Bucks realize their championship contending window could be short. Losing key pieces such as Bledsoe, Middleton, or Brogdon would obviously cause Milwaukee to take a step back. A scarier thought for Bucks fans is that losing these guys and falling out of contention could also drive Giannis out of town in 2021.

Cap-space this summer is a necessity for the Bucks, and this trade greatly helped the team’s financial situation. The Bucks will save $18-19 million next season with Dellavedova and Henson now off the books.

This represents significant cap-space that can help the Bucks re-sign some of their key players, or potentially try and lure another star to come play with Giannis in 2019. While both Henson and Dellavedova had some great moments in Bucks uniforms, neither of them were worth holding onto with a critical offseason looming.

Henson will be out the next couple months with a wrist injury, while Dellavedova had fallen out of Budenholzer’s rotation, playing very sparingly. Once healthy, Henson will have a chance to earn some spotlight on fully rebuilding Cleveland team. Dellavedova returns to the city where he was a Finals hero just a few seasons ago.

Overall, the deal seems beneficial for all players. Dellavedova goes home, and Henson gets a chance to prove himself. Hill and Smith, meanwhile, get a great opportunity to join a contender after playing for struggling Eastern Conference teams to start the season.

Ultimately though, the Bucks success in this trade does not hinge on their new additions. The increased cap-space has created a lot more opportunity and flexibility for the offseason, something Horst needed to make happen at some point this year. In a potentially short contending window with an NBA superstar, this trade was a big step to keeping that window open, for at least a little bit longer.

Stats and info via ESPN and BBall-Ref

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