• Cody Kluge

Milwaukee Bucks Trade Deadline Recap


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The 2019 NBA trade deadline has come and gone, creating a wild day in the league last Thursday. Numerous trades funneled in before the afternoon deadline, with several big names on the move. The Philadelphia 76ers played their hand first, trading for Clippers forward Tobias Harris, solidifying an already lethal starting lineup. Next up, Toronto traded for All-Star center Marc Gasol, adding more versatility to an already powerful Raptors team.

With their conference foes making significant moves, the East’s top team knew it had to make a move of its own to keep pace. The Milwaukee Bucks made their first move last Wednesday, honoring Thon Maker’s trade request and agreeing to terms to send him to the Detroit Pistons, for whom they would receive fourth-year wingman Stanley Johnson. Since this trade was never made official throughout the day and night, many speculated that Milwaukee was not done dealing; this turned out to be the case.

Thursday, the Bucks would incorporate the New Orleans Pelicans into the deal, quickly turning Johnson, forward Jason Smith, and four future second round draft picks into sharp-shooting big man Nikola Mirotic.

Of course any trade cannot truly be graded in the moment; that said, it’s hard to see the move as anything short of excellent right now. There are a few aspects of the move the Bucks made at the deadline that should certainly encourage the franchise and their fans. First, they were able to find Thon Maker a new home. It’s a win-win for both parties, as Maker gets his wanted change of scenery and the Bucks essentially get Mirotic for him, who is better positioned to help them win now.

There is no ill will between Maker and the Bucks; his Instagram post to thank Milwaukee was heartfelt and genuine. However, it was definitely tough to see him move on from the team he grew up with, especially for his teammates.

Despite being on a winning team, though, Maker wasn’t playing for a winner. If the Bucks had not honored his request at the deadline, that affection could have turned. For a player who really wasn’t adding to the team’s on-court success to be traded for a contributor? That’s an easy decision to make.

When you boil down who the Bucks gave up for Mirotic, the decision is even easier. Maker became Johnson, who never even wore green and cream, and Smith barely played since being acquired from the Wizards in December. His locker room presence was good, but he gave the Bucks nothing on the court.

Four second round picks were also included in the deal, which may seem like a lot to the naked eye. Moreover, when real contributors like Malcolm Brogdon and Sterling Brown were picked in the 2nd round, one can’t argue that the team didn’t give up assets of value. In the grand scheme of things, though, second round picks hold less value for a team that is in win-now mode; making this move without giving up a first round pick is a huge win.

The final positive aspect of the deal is how well Mirotic seemingly fits in this Mike Budenholzer offense. These Bucks are all about spacing -- even a long-time post player like Brook Lopez has found a home on the perimeter -- and Mirotic is a natural stretch-four: one of the best shooting big men in the game. When you look at how well Lopez has fared in this offense, it’s hard to not get excited about what Mirotic could do. It wasn’t so long ago that the Bucks were on the wrong end of Mirotic scoring outbursts when they faced him several times a year in Chicago.

Though he has battled some injuries, Mirotic is statistically having one of the best seasons of his career. He is averaging a career high 16.7 points a game while shooting the ball at a 45% clip, including 37% from three. He also is averaging a career high 8.3 rebounds a game and will help provide depth to the Bucks frontcourt now without Maker. Mirotic is a perfect fit for this team, and general manager Jon Horst definitely knew that when trying to acquire him.

The Bucks time to contend is now -- just ask LeBron James. But in all seriousness, the moves the Bucks are making right now are some of the most important in franchise history. They’re in their best spot to contend in decades, and what Horst does now will be looked at for years to come, as he has the potential to help finally bring a championship to the city of Milwaukee.

Keeping up with the other East powerhouses, trading away a player who didn’t want to be with the team, and bringing in a guy who fits seamlessly in the offense without giving up much of anything to get him seems like a pretty good start.

Mirotic isn’t the star forward some Bucks fans may have had aspirations of putting alongside Giannis, but he may just be the one who leads the team back to the Finals.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference

Trade Details courtesy of Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

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