With All-Star Weekend now finished, the next major date on the NBA calendar is the trade deadline on February 20. Though rumors have quieted down recently, there will likely be several complementary deals made before the deadline by teams looking to add a final piece to a playoff run.
One team that will not be adding any pieces for a playoff push is the Milwaukee Bucks, currently entrenched in the league cellar with a 9-43 record. However, with several expendable veteran players on the roster, the Bucks may prove to be a major player this week as they look to continue their rebuilding process.
Of course, any article that tries to preview transactions is purely speculative. With that disclaimer absolving me of any wildly inaccurate predictions, let’s have some fun and examine Milwaukee’s potential trades.
The Bucks could probably trade half of their roster if they wanted to. There are only a handful of current players that legitimately factor into the team’s long-term plans. It’s safe to say that Giannis Antetokounmpo, John Henson, and Brandon Knight will not be traded.
For a while, Larry Sanders was rumored to be on the move. His stats are down across the board this season and his four-year, $44 million contract, currently looking like a bad deal, will kick in next year. But he just underwent surgery to repair a fractured right orbital bone and is expected to miss six weeks. No team is going to take that chance right now, and it makes no sense for the Bucks to trade him when his value is so low.
Khris Middleton, Nate Wolters and Miroslav Raduljica are all young players with low impact salaries. Each has carved out a role player niche on the team and shown potential to become a regular contributor off the bench in the next few seasons. The Bucks likely won’t trade any of them, but if they needed to match salaries to complete a deal, one of those players could leave Milwaukee.
Gary Neal is the most likely candidate to find himself wearing a new jersey later this week. He has not fit in with the team at all, from a publicized locker room spat with Sanders to falling completely out of the Coach Larry Drew’s rotation. His two-year, $6.5 million contract is reasonable and expires at the end of next season, but he hasn’t done much of anything to earn that money. Still, the Bucks might be willing to pay some of the remaining financial commitment just to get Neal off the roster.
Caron Butler and Luke Ridnour are also likely trade candidates. Each is a smart player whose contract expires at the end of the year. Teams needing a veteran presence to fill in for injured players would look to acquire either of these two players. Ridnour, who hardly played at the beginning of the season before he was suddenly given a starting role, may have earned the extra playing time as an audition for other teams.
Ersan Ilyasova is an intriguing trade possibility. The tweener frontcourt player has a unique skill set and has drawn attention in the past from other teams. Unfortunately for Milwaukee, Ilyasova has suffered an immense drop-off in production this season, particularly in terms of his shooting percentage. There have been rumors that he wants out of Milwaukee so the Bucks may look to fulfill his request, but because of his decline he currently has rather low trade value.
If the Bucks do make a deadline deal, any acquisitions must be in the long-term interests of the franchise. Milwaukee does not have a superstar or highly desired player to convince other teams to give up on young guys with potential. Then again, the Bucks did essentially trade Tobias Harris for J.J. Redick last year, so maybe the team could be the beneficiary of a moronic deal this time around.
Any trades made by Milwaukee will most likely involve draft picks and expiring contracts. Taking on a veteran with an expiring contract could help improve the team’s already healthy salary cap future.
In the highly anticipated 2014 NBA Draft, every team is looking to acquire extra picks. The Bucks have multiple future second round picks, so they could perhaps package one together with a player to get a late first round pick. It’s unlikely that many first round picks will be traded this week, considering many of this year’s contenders have already traded away future first rounders and NBA rules prohibit teams from trading first round picks in consecutive years. However, Milwaukee could opt to add to its growing arsenal of second round picks to find another complementary role player.