The Milwaukee Bucks have traded point guards Brandon Knight and Kendall Marshall to Phoenix in a three-team trade for second-year guard Michael Carter-Williams, rookie guard Tyler Ennis and third-year center Miles Plumee, according to media reports.
The 76ers received a protected 2015 first-round pick from the Suns to round out the trade. Phoenix will reportedly waive Marshall, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Knight, who flirted with an All-Star nomination this season, leads the Bucks in scoring (17.8 points per game), assists (5.4 per game) and PER (18.5). He is having the most efficient shooting season of his four-year career, hitting 40.9 percent of his three-point attempts and posting a 55.6 true shooting percentage.
In return for Knight, who is set to be a restricted free agent this summer, the Bucks receive three players still on rookie deals. Carter-Williams, who won Rookie of the Year last season, is averaging 15.0 points, 7.4 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game this season, though his raw numbers are greatly inflated by playing on an obstinately nameless Philadelphia 76ers team. He’s shooting just 38.0 percent from the field and 25.6 percent on three-point attempts this season. Although Carter-Williams may be the least efficient high-volume scorer in the NBA, the 6-6 point guard brings considerable court vision and defensive length to a team that highly values both.
In Carter-Williams and Ennis, Bucks coach Jason Kidd adds two willing passers at point guard. Kidd has reportedly been interested in Carter-Williams for some time.
Ennis, the 18th pick in last summer’s draft, was buried on the depth chart in Phoenix and appeared in just eight games. He found some success in nine D-League games earlier this season, averaging 18.4 points and 5.3 assists per game and shooting 47.9 percent from the field.
Plumlee played a significant role in Phoenix’s sudden rise last year, starting 79 games and averaging 8.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest, but has gradually taken a backseat to Alex Len this season. His minutes are down to 18.6 per game, and his points (4.3) and rebounding averages (5.1) have nearly reduced in half. Plumlee, the 26th pick in the 2012 Draft, should bring depth to a Milwaukee frontcourt that will likely be without Larry Sanders, with whom the Bucks are reportedly nearing a buyout.
Oddly, the Bucks — perhaps the NBA’s most surprising success story this season — played better as a team when Knight was on the bench this season, according Basketball Reference’s on-off data. With Knight off the court, Milwaukee scored at a rate of 107.7 points per 100 possessions, up from 103.2 with him on the court. The team’s defense also improved with Knight off the court, allowing 103.5 points per 100 possessions with Knight on the court and 99.3 with him off of it.
Some of that disparity can be attributed to Milwaukee’s deep bench, which regularly outplays opponents’ second units, as compared to the starters, who are less talented than those from the league’s top-tier teams. However, Knight’s net on-off rating of -8.7 was the worst among Milwaukee’s current starters — and only lower than those of Jabari Parker, Johnny O’Bryant, Larry Sanders and Nate Wolters.
The Bucks reportedly turned down an offer from the Suns that would have sent disgruntled guard Goran Dragic, 28, for Knight. Dragic, who will hit free agency this summer, was eventually traded to the Miami Heat.
Counting Sanders and excluding Jorge Gutierrez, whose second 10-day contract expired over the All-Star break, Milwaukee’s roster now sits at 16. The Bucks will need to clear a roster spot before returning to action Friday against the Denver Nuggets.