With the trade deadline (Feb. 18, 3 p.m. ET) just over three weeks away, it’s officially time to fire up the Trade Machine and start crunching the numbers on what, exactly, it might take to get the Warriors to part with Steph Curry — or, you know, see if anyone will take O.J. Mayo for a second-rounder. Both might be equally plausible at this point.
While it seems increasingly likely that the struggling Bucks avoid making a splash at the deadline, that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun speculating. Below are 12 deals that, technically, Milwaukee could make. Some are considerably more rational than others, and I want to be clear in saying that I’m not arguing for or against any of these scenarios — the goal here is simply to lay out potential trades for a team that has assets, but may not be willing to part with some of those assets.
Let’s get right into it with the first huge blockbuster:
Jerryd Bayless to Denver for Darrell Arthur
Heyoooooo. I feel like we’ve been saying all season that Milwaukee is just a Darrell Arthur away from contending. In all seriousness, Arthur has been a suspiciously good jump shooter this season (over a small-ish sample), and he’d give the Bucks a true stretch-four off the bench who can actually space the floor beyond 15 feet, while providing defense that’s no worse than what Milwaukee has been getting out of Johnny O’Bryant and Jabari Parker.
The Bucks would be taking a chance on a guy who shot 24% from three last season, but the risk is low with Bayless set to expire, even if he’s been the team’s best bench player this season. Arthur holds a $2.9 million player option for next season, which the Bucks probably wouldn’t feel strongly about, either way.
Jabari Parker to Boston for Marcus Smart + pick
Boston goes 10 or 11 deep pretty good to very good players, but it has to clear the logjam, especially in the backcourt, at some point. The Celtics would likely prefer to keep Smart over Avery Bradley, if it’s one or the other, but Smart and his rookie deal are a more attractive return for a player with Parker’s considerable upside.
Despite his slow start, it’s going to take a substantial offer to pry Parker away from Milwaukee, so if Boston has serious interest it will probably need to dip into its treasure trove of draft picks to sweeten the pot. The Celtics will own at least five second-round picks and at least three first-round picks (protection-dependent) in 2016 alone, with Brooklyn and Memphis both set to hand over future first-rounders over the next few years.
Smart isn’t a perfect fit for a Bucks team starved for perimeter shooting – he’s shooting 19.6% from three since returning from an ankle injury last month – but he’s one of the league’s 10 best perimeter defenders and would bring immediate help to the NBA’s second-worst defense. However, the lack of shooting is major red flag, even if Smart shot the three at a much more efficient 34% clip as a rookie.
If Boston is unwilling to part with Smart, Bradley wouldn’t be the worst consolation. He’s also one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, just turned 25 in November, and is under contract for two more seasons at very palatable $8.5 million per year. Boston has primarily played him off the ball, but Bradley is capable of playing both backcourt spots and would be an immediate upgrade, from a shooting (36.7% 3PT) and spacing perspective, over Michael Carter-Williams. Bradley-Middleton-Antetokounmpo would give Milwaukee an overwhelming starting defensive trio, while Boston would take a step toward clearing up that crowded backcourt.
Again, for Milwaukee to so much as consider either of these deals, attaching a pick is likely a necessity.
Jabari Parker to Atlanta for Dennis Schroder + pick
(Editor’s Note: This is crazy. Nick, you’re crazy. Isn’t he crazy?)
Schroder has made it clear he views himself as a starter, whether that’s in Atlanta or elsewhere. The Hawks aren’t under tremendous pressure to move Schroder with another year left on his rookie deal, but his value probably won’t get any higher as the clock on a new contract continues to tick down.
Atlanta caught lightning in a bottle last season, but the luster from that 60-win campaign has faded, and the Hawks are suddenly back in the increasingly crowded good-but-not-beating-Cleveland tier of the East. Parker isn’t a player who will move the needle this season, but considering the Hawks won’t be bottoming out anytime soon, it’s unlikely that they’ll pick high enough in the next few drafts to land a player with Parker’s upside to add to they’re veteran core.
For the Bucks, this would be similar to the deal they executed last trade deadline, acquiring another point guard with a season-and-a-half remaining on his rookie deal. Schroder is a better asset than Michael Carter-Williams, though, and this time around Milwaukee would hope to land their version of Reggie Jackson, who’s emerged as a borderline-All-Star for Detroit after backing up Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City.
Any potential Schroder deal, whether it involves the Bucks or not, will ultimately hinge on Atlanta’s future plans at point guard. Jeff Teague, an All-Star in 2014-15, is also a free agent after next season, and it’s entirely possible the Hawks could go with the younger Schroder as their point guard of the future. Per-36 minutes, their numbers have been nearly identical this season. Schroder has slightly better assist and rebound numbers, while Teague has been the better shooter, hitting 38.3% of his threes compared to Schroder’s 32.4% mark (on nearly two more attempts per-36).
If Atlanta is ready to make a decision sooner rather than later, maybe Teague is the one who becomes available, in which case I think Milwaukee might still have interest. The Bucks nearly acquired Teague a few years ago, and he’s still only 27 years old and entering the prime of his career.
If the Bucks are unwilling to part with Parker (very likely), perhaps they offer Bayless as a short-term Teague/Schroder replacement and dangle a first-rounder to sweeten the offer. Suffice it to say the Bucks probably wish they could get back the lottery-protected 2017 pick that was sent to Toronto for Greivis Vasquez.
O.J. Mayo + Michael Carter-Williams to New Orleans for Jrue Holiday
I don’t think the Pelicans are going out of their way to make Holiday available, but I think they listen to offers for a guy currently backing up Norris Cole. Holiday is playing only 25.5 minutes per game, but his per-36 numbers are on par, if not slightly better, than the numbers from his lone All-Star season with Philadelphia in 2012-13. Holiday would bring much-needed shooting to the point guard position, and his deal is up after next season, so Milwaukee avoids a long-term commitment to a player who’s missed 96 games over the last two-and-a-half seasons.
Commitment or not, though, injuries, of the dreaded stress-related variety, have come to define the first half of Holiday’s career. He’s a risk. Even so, Milwaukee, which wants to be a playoff team, is desperate for an upgrade at the position, and Holiday’s profile – a big, pass-first point guard who spaces the floor and defends – fits what the Bucks are looking for.
Milwaukee might need to attach a pick, or at least a better future asset than the Mayo/MCW combo, to get the Pelicans’ attention here, and it’s unclear whether they’d be willing to give up a first-rounder, even with protections, for a player who could walk after next season.
Miles Plumlee + O.J. Mayo to Houston for Ty Lawson
There have been rumblings (even that’s probably too strong) about Milwaukee being a fit for Lawson, but I don’t think they’re realistically in a position to bring in a troubled point guard who’s woefully underperformed on a woefully underperforming team.
THAT SAID, Lawson is available, and if the Bucks decide to go for broke on making the playoffs this season, Lawson is the kind of high-risk/high-reward acquisition they could look to make. But Lawson’s reward is only so high at this point. He’s averaging career-lows across the board while shooting under 40% from the field, and he hasn’t looked anything like the hyper-quick playmaker who nearly averaged 10 assists per game last season. It’s unrealistic to think Lawson can suddenly revert back to that form in Milwaukee, but even if he’s 70% of what he was last season, he’d be a positive addition. Mayo’s expiring deal and a little-used reserve center is a small price to pay, especially with Lawson’s contract unguaranteed in 2016-17.
Again, this is a move that wouldn’t make much sense for the Bucks, but as is the case with a lot of these hypothetical deals, stranger things have happened.
Jerryd Bayless + Miles Plumlee to Toronto for Patrick Patterson + Anthony Bennett
Realistically, this is probably about as splashy as the deadline could get for Milwaukee. The Bucks send Bayless’ expiring to a playoff team, dump Plumlee in the process, and return a power forward who’s made 165 threes since the start of last season. Patterson would be a nice complement to Parker and a major upgrade over Johnny O’Bryant off the bench, though he is owed a little over $6 million next season in the final year of his deal.
Money-wise, the deal could be completed without Bennett, but why not throw him in, just for kicks? That tiny sliver of hope that he suddenly lives up to his potential will always be there, and he’ll be a free agent this summer so there’s almost no risk.
Greg Monroe to Los Angeles for Julius Randle + Roy Hibbert’s contract
Monroe is perhaps the Bucks’ most obvious trade candidate, but it’s ridiculously difficult to come up with deals that make sense. Given his skill set and Milwaukee’s defensive freefall since he arrived, Monroe isn’t exactly a hot commodity, despite putting up the best numbers of his career. In moving Monroe to Los Angeles, the Bucks send him to a team that courted him over the summer, and one that could use a more established veteran to accelerate its post-Kobe reload.
To make the deal work, money-wise, the Bucks would need to take back Roy Hibbert’s expiring contract (or Kobe could waive his no-trade clause), which would be a depressing but ultimately cost-effective return.
In Randle, Milwaukee would receive another high-upside piece who’s been in and out of Byron Scott’s doghouse this season. Randle doesn’t fill a need for the Bucks, but he’s a relentless rebounder on both ends who can handle the ball in transition. His jumper has been very much up-and-down this season, but Randle has the makings of a future bully in the paint with range that could eventually extend out beyond the arc.
Los Angeles may not be willing to part with Randle, who just turned 21 in November, for a player who can opt out after next season, but the Lakers are a team that would seemingly be among the favorites to keep Monroe long-term, should he exercise that opt out.
Jabari Parker + O.J. Mayo to Brooklyn for Thad Young + Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
(Editor’s Note: This is even crazier than the first two Parker deals. Why does Nick hate Jabari Parker? This is a classic 2010 Bucks move. Thad Young!?)
DISCLAIMER: I am not advocating for the Bucks to make this deal.
When Milwaukee signed Monroe this offseason it was with the belief that this team would be ready to compete for a top-5 playoff seed right away. In exchanging Parker for Young, the Bucks would be taking another step toward winning right now, but it would take a massive change of heart for the organization to deal Parker for a player seven years older.
Meanwhile, the Nets are spiraling toward a 20-win season while attempting a rebuild without their next 25 first-round picks. Brooklyn is still a destination in free agency, but by the time the organization is out of the mess it created by swapping picks for past-their-prime vets, Young will be 31 and due for another extension. Parker would represent a much-needed infusion of youth that the Nets simply won’t be able to get through the draft anytime soon.
It would be a drastic and risky shake-up for the Bucks to deal for a guy who’s not getting any better, but Young is the type of player on the type of deal for which there will always be a market, should he need to be moved. The bigger and much more obvious risk, however, would be giving up on Parker so early in his development.
Again, that’s not something I think the Bucks will be willing to do, but part of the reason I’ve even bothered throwing out these semi-ridiculous Parker hypotheticals is because if the Bucks ever do decide to trade him, they’ll want to do it sooner rather than later. As long as he’s young, Parker is going to generate interest no matter what, but that “former top-3 pick” value can depreciate quickly.
I told myself I wasn’t going to stoop to this level, but here we are: Keep in mind that a certain former Timberwolves No. 2 overall pick, who experienced similar struggles as a rookie, was traded early in his second NBA season straight up for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. So, no, Thad Young and a young defensive wing is not a great return, but it could be worse.
Khris Middleton + Jabari Parker to Sacramento for DeMarcus Cousins
If the Kings for some reason decide to part ways with Cousins (his value is probably higher right this second than it’s ever been), they might prefer something like the war chest of future picks Boston could offer, but Middleton is only 24 years old and would finally give Sacramento the shot-maker on the wing that it’s tried (and failed) so desperately to find in Nik Stauskas, Jimmer Fredette, and Ben McLemore. Outside of the Cousins selection this isn’t an organization with an illustrious draft history, so maybe they Kings would prefer an established player like Middleton over a future pick.
Parker is the secondary piece here, which speaks to how valuable Middleton has become. Maybe the Kings ask for a future pick or two, rather than Parker, and I think Milwaukee (let’s pretend they want Cousins) is probably fine with that. The Bucks would be acquiring Cousins with the expectation that any future picks would fall well beyond the lottery.
Is Cousins the type of player who can succeed in small-market Milwaukee? Who knows. Cousins has remained loyal to what’s been a grossly dysfunctional franchise for the last decade without ever stating his desire, at least publicly, to jump to a larger market. He’s been a statistical monster in Sacramento — Cousins has eight 30-10 games in January and has scored 104 points in his last two games — but the Kings haven’t come close to sniffing the playoffs since he’s been there, and Cousins’ temperament remains a real concern.
It would be a massive risk for a Milwaukee franchise that would presumably have only a slim chance to re-sign Cousins when his deal is up in 2018, but when focused he’s a top-10 player who would team with Antetokounmpo to form the most intriguing forward combination in the Eastern Conference.
Khris Middleton to Cleveland for Kevin Love
Fifteen months ago Cavs’ GM David Griffin takes this call, laughs unabated for 45 seconds, and tells John Hammond to never call him again, which I think speaks more about Middletons’ improvement than it does Love’s relative decline. Love’s value has certainly taken a dip over the past year-and-a-half, but he’s still viewed by some teams as a legitimate No. 1 or No. 2 option, if utilized correctly. Pair that with the fact that he’s locked up on a long-term deal under the soon-to-be-old CBA and it’s easy to see why he remains a valuable chip, even if he’s underperformed as LeBron’s new Chris Bosh.
Does Cleveland have the stones to make this deal? I’m not sure they do — GM David Griffin would essentially be putting his job on the line and going against everything he’s said publicly about Love, all while abandoning the LeBron-Irving-Love trio before it ever plays an entire playoff series together. But it’s no secret the Cavs are looking to improve on the wing, and Middleton is exactly the type of versatile, two-way player and elite spot-up shooter that would keep the Cavs from playing Richard Jefferson.
So maybe the better question is: Does Milwaukee do this deal?
Middleton, whose contract RealGM recently deemed the “most tradable” in the league, is in the midst of the best stretch of his career, averaging 21.8 points, 5.0 assists and 4.1 rebounds since January 1. Even with Giannis Antetokounmpo playing well, Middleton has been the Bucks’ best player this season, though it hasn’t necessarily translated to wins. Middleton is a valuable piece in Milwaukee’s accelerated rebuild, but he’s not the centerpiece. He’s only 24, but at this point he is what he is — a very good two-way guard, but not a guy who can be the first or probably even second option on a true title contender. Middleton, himself, has said he’s more comfortable as a complementary piece, and that’s exactly what he’d be for a Cavs team that already has its championship infrastructure in place.
Despite being the league’s youngest team, the Bucks have failed to meet expectations, and the Giannis-Parker-Middleton-Monroe core hasn’t exactly inspired vision of a title any time soon. Love wouldn’t be of much help to league’s second-worst defense, but adding one of the NBA’s best shooting big men would space the floor for a team that attempts eight fewer threes per game than the league average. Love would also bring help on glass, an area in which Milwaukee has struggled badly this season.
Perhaps more importantly, Love’s presence would enable Jabari Parker to slide down to what some believe is his more natural small forward position. A Monroe-Love-Parker trio would be a defensive atrocity, but Monroe can opt out after next season and it’s still very much unclear whether the Bucks consider him the future at the position. On paper, John Henson, who the Bucks conveniently signed to an extension this summer, would look like the much better fit next to Love and Parker.
Jabari Parker to Phoenix; Markieff Morris + Jerryd Bayless to Utah; Alec Burks to Milwaukee
Phoenix exchanges one tweener forward for a much less erratic tweener forward, Utah adds a proven scorer and a dependable guard, and the Milwaukee gets its sixth man of the future.
Like Holiday, Burks has been injury-prone, but when healhty he’s a starting-caliber two-guard with prototypical size who can also handle the ball. To part with Burks and his ultra team-friendly four-year, $41 million contract, Utah would have to be desperate enough to take on Morris, or enticed by a future draft pick. The latter seems more likely, but anything is possible with a team desperate to emerge from a four-year playoff drought. Keep in mind, too, that the Jazz will get Dante Exum back next year, and while he’ll require some time to return to full speed, they’ll need to clear room for him in the backcourt at some point.
Phoenix is the real winner in this deal, acquiring an asset of Parker’s quality while unloading a player who’s tanked his own trade value on and off the court. I think the Suns do this deal without much hesistaiton, provided they’re not asked to part with their own 2016 pick, unprotected. Phoenix is more likely to trade away a future pick or the 2016 first-rounder it will receive from Cleveland, and that might be necessary considering Utah may need an incentive to deal with Morris’ baggage.
Jerryd Bayless + Markieff Morris to Chicago; Tony Snell to Milwaukee; Taj Gibson + Bulls pick to Phoenix
This version of a Morris deal seems a little more realistic on the whole. The Bucks exchange a veteran guard on an expiring deal for a 3-and-D wing with a year left on his rookie contract. Morris gets himself out of Phoenix and onto a contender, while the Bulls dump an expriing deal in Gibson and gain an effective but mercurial scorer on one of the league’s most team-friendly contracts. With all that’s gone on with Morris, Chicago attaching a draft pick might not even be necessary.
The problem with this deal is I don’t know that it necessarily helps the Bulls. They already have a similar player in Nikola Mirotic, and giving up one of their best defenders in Snell opens a void on the wing that Doug McDermott simply can’t fill at this point in his career, though the Bulls should get Mike Dunleavy back within the next few weeks.
Alternatively, the Bucks could simply try to get Snell straight up for Bayless.