What Should the Bucks Do at the Trade Deadline?
With the NBA trade deadline approaching next week, many teams are looking to bolster their roster for the stretch run. Several teams, including the Milwaukee Bucks, will explore different opportunities to solidify their teams.
Anthony Davis making his recent trade request officially has the rumor mill swirling. But there are several other players who have been rumored to be on the trading block, which Milwaukee may have interest in as well.
The Bucks have continued their dominance in the second half of the season, still holding the NBA’s best record. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the undoubted leader of the squad, but the supporting cast around him this year has been better than ever.
The starting lineup has been terrific, with guys like Malcolm Brogdon and Khris Middleton playing at all-star caliber levels. Eric Bledsoe has come into his own as a true point guard, and Brook Lopez has been a great fit, spacing the floor and draining threes under the new nickname Splash Mountain.
However, even with a quality starting lineup, every team knows that in the playoffs depth plays a key role. Look no further than the Warriors’ recent run.
Sure, Curry, Thompson, Green, and Durant have done the heavy lifting. But the likes of Quinn Cook, Patrick McCaw, Ian Clark, and David West, just to name a few have played an important part in the Warriors’ Finals runs, making key plays whether in the playoffs or down the stretch of the season.
The Warriors are the gold star of the league, and the Bucks must try to model their roster after those championship teams. There will be games down the stretch where Giannis gets in foul trouble, Middleton struggles shooting, or Bledsoe becomes a non-factor; but a championship roster can overcome this.
The Bucks current roster is very well assembled. The backcourt has some good depth with guys like George Hill, Sterling Brown, Tony Snell, and Pat Connaughton behind Bledsoe and Brogdon. D.J. Wilson and Ersan Ilyasova are also key bench contributors in the frontcourt.
It is a deeper roster than the Bucks have had at any point in Giannis’ tenure, and frankly the deepest since 2001, which in fact is the last time the Bucks won a playoff series.
Assuming good health, even if the Bucks do not make a move at the deadline, there is still a good chance this roster plays its way to home court advantage in the Eastern Conference and potentially an NBA Finals birth.
However, health can never be assumed, and it is likely at least one of if not all the other East contenders make moves at the deadline. If the Bucks don’t make a move, they may be caught watching the paint dry.
When looking at moves the Bucks could make, a significant blockbuster doesn’t seem all that likely. Players like Bradley Beal and Marc Gasol have had their names tossed around the rumor mill, but Anthony Davis is the biggest name the Bucks have been linked to.
Recently, Bucks insider Gery Woelfel said as much, and included the Bucks are willing to part with anyone on their roster other than the Greek Freak.
The thought of AD and Giannis playing alongside each other would be daunting to the rest of the NBA.
While this thought is nice, it is fair to wonder if the Bucks could even make a deal happen. As Chris Crouse of Hoops Rumors recently pointed out, the Bucks do not have a first round pick to trade until 2023.
In addition, each of Brogdon, Bledsoe, and Middleton are impending free agents, and the Bucks just don’t have a bounty of young players to offer after that (besides maybe Thon Maker, who recently requested a trade himself).
AD would essentially be a year and a half rental unless the Bucks could convince him and Giannis to stay in Milwaukee long-term. However, it seems more and more likely Davis will be ending up in Los Angeles at some point.
Essentially the Bucks would have two cracks at bringing a championship to the Brew city. No one knows what Giannis will do when his contract is up, and it’s possible the Bucks only have a small championship window regardless.
But perhaps keeping this core that has grown together in tact can keep Milwaukee as a perennial contender and keep their all-star in town.
A more likely scenario for the Bucks at the deadline is adding some additional depth and needed shooting. A few guys the Bucks could end up looking at dealing for would be Rodney Hood, Wayne Ellington, and Kent Bazemore.
None of these names will wow anyone, but each are good shooters and playoff experienced players that can add to the already deep Bucks roster.
The Bucks already made a trade with Cleveland this year for Hill, and it probably wouldn’t take much to get Hood from the tanking Cavs either. Hood would bring another shooter to help space the floor, as well as a guy who can create his own shot off the dribble.
Ellington would effectively do the same. Although he does not get a lot of minutes, Ellington averages 14 points and almost four 3-pointers per 36 minutes. The Heat have wing depth, and as our own Dalton Pence points out, it probably wouldn’t take much to get Ellington either.
Perhaps the best fit of the three would be Kent Bazemore. Not only would he add quality wing depth, but he would reunite with his former coach Mike Budenholzer, who helped Bazemore emerge into a starting quality small forward in his years in Atlanta.
Steve Mitchell of USA Today Sports
Bazemore may not shoot quite as well as Hood or Ellington, but his dynamic play-making ability and knowledge of the system would be a perfect fit to step in midseason and contribute immediately.
None of these guys would cost the Bucks much. It is possible they could try and work in Maker in one of these deals to honor his trade request, but like the Pelicans with AD, they may take their time to make a move.
Despite little playing time on a deep roster, the Bucks still believe in Maker’s potential and it will be hard to part with the former first round pick unless it’s a perfect fit. It feels more likely that they wait until the offseason to deal him.
There could still be a time this season where the Bucks must call on him to make plays down the stretch. And who knows, maybe we will even see “Playoff Thon” once again.
As a fan, the trade deadline is always a great time of the year, and one of the highlights of the NBA season. But for NBA front offices, the deadline is as crucial a time as ever.
This especially rings true for Jon Horst and the Bucks, who are in their best contending position quite possibly in the last thirty plus years of the franchise. They know the championship window is probably short, and every move the Bucks make over the next year or two will be crucial.