Milwaukee Bucks: Eastern Conference Players They Should Trade For
The Milwaukee Bucks face a looming trade deadline looking to balance the present and future. What players in the Eastern Conference can improve the team this season and beyond?
While players get to enjoy time off to rest and recuperate over the All-Star Break, teams such as the Milwaukee Bucks are doing some of their most intensive work.
Thursday marks the NBA trade deadline, the last meaningful opportunity for teams to upgrade their rosters for the season’s stretch run.
There are small moves available after the Trade Deadline, such as 10-day contracts or players that are bought out by their teams. But those areas are already scraped clean, or unpredictable and impossible to rely upon.
If the Bucks want to add a piece for their playoff push, it almost certainly needs to happen this week.
This week is also an opportunity to look past this season, to target players undervalued by their teams that can develop into long-term assets for Milwaukee.
General manager John Hammond and the Bucks’ front office will balance both the short and long term franchise goals in making moves.
There are players available around the league — there always are. Milwaukee will have to decide how to balance both their goals for this season — playoffs — and their long-term goals of building a contender. Which players could be available for them to add around the Eastern Conference?
Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
As Embiid has rehabbed a partially torn meniscus, the 76ers have kept both Noel and Okafor around to fill in the rotation.
But long-term the team needs to move both, and the Bucks should have interest in only one of those options.
Jahlil Okafor is Greg Monroe-lite, a gifted post scorer who struggles on defense. Milwaukee has been quietly shopping Monroe since last offseason, and won’t go down that road again.
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Nerlens Noel, however, is an intriguing prospect who would fit right into what Milwaukee is building. He is athletic and long, able to defend in space and protect the rim.
With enough offensive weapons around him, the Bucks won’t need him to score — and his defense would be a boon to their system.
If the Bucks think Thon Maker is guaranteed to be their future starter, they most likely don’t trade for a player such as Noel. Maker’s offensive ceiling is much higher than Noel’s, and defensively he has the tools to be most of what Noel is.
The Australian rookie is no lock, however, and is Noel is available at the right price he is a surefire defensive anchor for this roster.
Philadelphia isn’t going to give Noel away, but he could be available for a player and a first-round pick. The Bucks value their draft picks, but if they are prepared to re-sign Noel it wouldn’t be a back-breaker.
If they know for sure Greg Monroe is declining his player option then they will have both a hole at center and the money to pay Noel.
Dario Saric, Philadelphia 76ers
Saric has been one of the league’s best rookies this season, again an indictment on the 2016 draft (Saric was the 10th overall pick in the 2014 Draft).
He has flashed an ability to score from various spots on the floor, and has had nights where he attacked the glass and gathered in every available rebound.
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But his consistency has not been there either, and it has become clear his most natural position is at the 4. This becomes a logistical issue for a Philadelphia team with Ben Simmons preparing to return and guard 4s. Saric fights hard on defense, but has struggled to guard 3s.
Philadelphia will most likely keep Saric and deploy him on bench units, in addition to trying him out at the 3. But if their pick in the 2017 draft falls behind the elite guards, the best player on the board may be Jayson Tatum or Jonathan Isaac.
Both would seem to be better prospects than Saric, and again fill in much of his spot in the rotation.
Enter Milwaukee, a team that could make a quick deal and add the Croatian forward. The Bucks have a successful recent history with international forwards, and Saric could fill in for Jabari Parker while he rehabs from his recent ACL tear.
Once Parker returns the Bucks will have options in a young, stocked rotation of lengthy wings.
Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics love Avery Bradley, and his combination of defense and three-point shooting has been a key cog for a team starting 5’9″ Isaiah Thomas at point guard. In smaller lineups, Bradley has shifted to guarding wings.
The other side of the coin is that Boston has risen to within striking distance of the Cavaliers this season largely without Bradley’s help, as he has been out of the lineup for 20 of the team’s last 21 games with an Achilles injury.
Bradley is going to be a free agent in the summer of 2018, and go from a value contract to extremely well paid.
Boston will also be facing the prospect of paying Thomas, who will possibly demand a max contract, as well as whatever payroll they add over the next year in chasing down Cleveland in the East.
If the Celtics decide they want to move Bradley while he still has value, Milwaukee would benefit from his presence.
Whether they have an asset valuable enough to Boston remains to be seen (the Bucks aren’t giving up one of their core guys, nor Maker at this point), but they would benefit from Bradley’s presence.
Josh McRoberts, Miami Heat
The unique passing and shooting of “McBob” has been constricted over the past few seasons in Miami, and McRoberts has struggled to stay on the court due to injuries and ineffectiveness.
But somewhere beneath the numerous hairstyles and DNPs is a player who could help a team in limited minutes.
The reason Miami would offload McRoberts is that he is owed $6 million next season, and they are committed to maximizing their cap space to go after the market’s biggest free agents.
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Signed three years ago in a vain attempt to convince LeBron James to stay, the Heat want to clear his salary for next year and may pay for the pleasure.
Roy Hibbert and McRoberts could be swapped one-for-one, with Miami tossing in a 2nd round pick for the trouble. That gives Milwaukee an extra asset to utilize (remember, rookie Malcolm Brogdon was selected in the 2nd round) and allows Miami to clear space.
It’s a win-win for both sides even if Milwaukee never adds him into their rotation. In that case the Bucks would simply waive McRoberts and stretch his remaining salary over three seasons.
If McRoberts is able to play, however, then the Bucks get that much more of a bonus from the deal. He could take a few of the minutes left behind by Jabari Parker and stretch the floor, using his pocket passing to spark the second unit when Antetokounmpo sits.
It’s not the sort of move that moves a team up a level, but it’s a clever move on the margins that smart teams take advantage of.
The Youngsters, Toronto Raptors
One aspect of the Milwaukee Bucks that has been a key strength over the past few seasons has been their player development.
From Khris Middleton to Giannis Antetokounmpo to the sketchy outline of an All-Star they are filling in with Thon Maker, head coach Jason Kidd and his staff are taking the potential of young prospects and turning it into skill.
No team outside of perhaps Philadelphia has as much untapped potential on its roster as the Toronto Raptors, who have shot for long-term upside with its recent draft selections.
As their core players have risen to contention in the East, the back of the bench has been stocked with young players yet to realize their ceilings.
With the trade for Serge Ibaka, the team is now stocked with big men and doesn’t foresee a major drop-off in recent seasons. That means a relative lack of playing time for players such as Lucas Nogueira, Bruno Caboclo, Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam.
While Toronto will want to keep some of those players to fill in as depth down the line — especially is Patrick Patterson leaves in free agency this summer — keeping all of them will be impossible.
If Milwaukee can take advantage of their glut of young talent and snag a player or two, they can use their top-notch developmental system to maximize their potential.
Adding in the addition of a G-League team next season, the Bucks should only improve on their farm system and have the best chance to glean a future rotation player from the group.
Whether Milwaukee makes a move for this season or the future, the market is filled with opportunities to add talent. With the clock ticking, the Bucks join 29 other teams in trying to improve their fortunes over the final few days.