Milwaukee Bucks: Grading the three team trade

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The Bucks have agreed to a three-team deal with the Washington Wizards and the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Let’s see how this affects the short-term and long-term and give them an overall grade.

Just before dinner time Friday night, news came across that the Milwaukee Bucks had made a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers for veteran point guard George Hill. There was some confusion for a few hours on which players were going where including initial rumors of former Wisconsin Badger Sam Dekker returning to his home state, but here is the final confirmed trade:

There’s a lot to talk about here so let’s break this down in detail.

The Good

First of all, the Bucks absolutely improved the current team. Matthew Dellavedova was riding the end of the bench and not providing much to this Bucks team besides an occasional spark with his scrappy play. George Hill is an immediate upgrade and will step right in as the backup point guard. Hill is a capable shooter and defender with plenty of playoff experience. This will also allow Malcolm Brogdon to stay more at shooting guard where he has really excelled this year and provide better overall depth at guard for Milwaukee.

Losing John Henson will not really affect the team that much this year. He was already out with an injury at least until after the All-Star break and the Bucks have plenty of depth at center with Brook Lopez, Thon Maker, Christian Wood, and now Jason Smith. There is also a good chance we see Giannis Antetokounmpo more at center in the playoffs in small ball lineups anyway.

Secondly, this really opens up flexibility for the Bucks next off-season. I previously wrote how Milwaukee was going to be in a real bind next year to retain all their starters for 2019. Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Lopez, and Brogdon are all free agents next year and will be looking for pay increases. Prior to this trade, the Bucks would be looking at going significantly into the luxury tax to retain all these guys, which is not something the small market Bucks would likely be willing to do.

Now after ridding themselves of Delly and Henson’s terrible contracts, and getting  Hill’s basically expiring contract, the Bucks should have no problem in retaining at least three of the four starters and remain under the tax or retain all four and go slightly over.

This trade also opens the possibility for a big time free agent signing next year. The free agent class is pretty incredible next offseason. There could be the likes of Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and Kyrie Irving available just to name a few.

By my calculations, if the Bucks renounced Bledsoe, Pat Connaughton, and Christian Wood and plug-in  Middleton’s cap hold, they would have about $24 million in cap space. This is still short of the $32 million it would take for a true “max” free agent however the Bucks are now at least in the range for one of these top guys. If Milwaukee got some indication from one of these superstars, they are one move away from opening up max space. One option would be stretching Tony Snell‘s contract, which would be terrible long-term but also something any team would do if they had a chance to pair a third star with Antetokounmpo and Middleton.

That truly great part about this trade is now the Bucks have really good options going into the 2019 off-season. They can basically bring the same team back or they can look to make a few additional moves and open up max cap space if they start to get a hint that a big time free agent is interested. This isn’t something we couldn’t say 24 hours ago.

The Bad

The Bucks traded yet another first round pick away for two guys that were going to come off the books in 2020 anyway. Milwaukee could have just taken their medicine next year and then let Delly and Henson’s massive salaries fall off the books naturally instead of giving up a first round pick.

The Bucks also still owe Phoenix a first round pick in 2020 from the Eric Bledsoe trade. So now, because of the Stepien Rule, the Bucks will not be able to trade another first round pick until 2022 or 2023 which greatly reduces their trade capabilities for another star. Draft picks will also be critical for the Bucks in 2020 and 2021 as that’s when Antetokounmpo’s contract will most likely be at the super-max level and cheap, good players will be critical for the Bucks to remain at a high level.

Overall Grade: A-

Although the Bucks gave away more future draft capital, this is the right approach to take for this team. The team already is a threat for the finals and with this trade, they not only made the team better but opened up the possibility of keeping the team intact for next year as well.

Next. Bucks: 3 players available for trade in December. dark

Also, they opened up a realistic opportunity for the Bucks to get even better by adding a third star to pair with Antetokounmpo and Middleton via free agency next summer. There is also still the looming Antetokounmpo extension decision in 2020 so it’s good to “push the chips in” now to at least keep the team at the level it is now so that Giannis will sign up long-term with the Bucks, even if that means sacrificing some future assets.