Milwaukee Bucks: Grades And Reactions For Miles Plumlee Trade

Apr 8, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Miles Plumlee (18) speaks to a referee during the second half of a game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 8, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Miles Plumlee (18) speaks to a referee during the second half of a game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks sent Miles Plumlee to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes. How does the deal grade for the Bucks, though?

With a center logjam in both minutes and salary that seemed as if it would be very difficult to remedy, many Milwaukee Bucks observers (this writer included) had virtually given up all hope on the chances of a trade that would brighten the long-term picture.

Sure, playing as well as he has been lately you might just have been able to find a taker for a few months of Greg Monroe. Although he’s never come close to fully realizing his potential, John Henson still has the skills and physical profile that some team in search of a rim-protector could have been convinced to take a flyer on too.

Miles Plumlee, on the other hand, seemed like the impossible trade. Having just signed a particularly rich contract that the Bucks had dished out to him — in spite of his being a restricted free agent with no offer sheets — it seemed safe to say that Plumlee’s future would be in Milwaukee for better or worse.

Rich Cho and his Charlotte Hornets’ brain trust had other ideas, though.

In news that certainly would have caught many around the league and fans of both teams off guard, reports from ESPN and The Vertical revealed on Thursday afternoon that Plumlee was destined to become a Hornet, with centers Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert coming back in the opposite direction.

For just as surprising as the existence of any sort of deal between the two teams was, the return involved for both may have been even more puzzling. Having added two new centers in what many are viewing as a breaking up of an existing center logjam, there’s plenty to unpack for both sides.

Let’s take a closer look at the parties involved, before dishing out a final grade.

Oct 26, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Miles Plumlee (18) (center), Charlotte Hornets center Roy Hibbert (55) (left) and guard Nicolas Batum (5) (right) reach for the loose ball during the first quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 26, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Miles Plumlee (18) (center), Charlotte Hornets center Roy Hibbert (55) (left) and guard Nicolas Batum (5) (right) reach for the loose ball during the first quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

What The Bucks Traded Away

Miles Plumlee

Just a few short months after being one of the team’s biggest summer commitments, the Bucks’ front office decided that Miles Plumlee’s future belonged elsewhere.

That’s a sharp and jarring turn of events for Plumlee, but one that makes perfect sense for Milwaukee.

Plumlee broke out in a way that pumped up his future value with the Bucks after the All-Star break last season. Inserted into the starting lineup at a time that coincided with a big leap forward from Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, and a departure from starting lineups that centered around Michael Carter-Williams and Greg Monroe, Miles Plumlee looked the part in a higher paced, high-flying offensive switch.

With Monroe then looking like he may never figure things out in Milwaukee and John Henson as big a question mark as ever, the Bucks approached Plumlee’s free agency with what could only be described as a fear of losing a player who may have been key to making their young stars better.

The biggest mistake made in re-signing Plumlee came not in the fact that he signed for four years and $50 million, but for the fact that there wasn’t any demand for him in an otherwise crazy market to dictate that price.

As the new season came around and the Bucks took to the floor again, the realization that you’d imagine hit the front office almost immediately was that the play of Giannis and Jabari was more about Giannis and Jabari and less about Miles Plumlee.

For as obvious as that now seems, it would be revisionist to say that the Bucks never had need to believe in Plumlee’s potential future and fit with the team. What the former Duke Blue Devil gave the team in a short burst last year remains much of what they’ll continue to look for in their big men.

In 32 games, which only included 12 starts, this season, Plumlee didn’t look quite as effective as he had last year. In 9.7 minutes per game, his current season per game averages sit at a measly 2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds per game.

Although the Bucks are taking back two players who can boast greater production than he has shown this year, make no mistake about it, this deal is not centered around on-court production. Milwaukee’s front office realized it made a mistake, and it managed to find a trade partner who was willing to let them move on without unnecessarily painful consequences.

Nov 11, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets center Roy Hibbert (55) stands on the court in the game against the Toronto Raptors at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 11, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets center Roy Hibbert (55) stands on the court in the game against the Toronto Raptors at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

What The Bucks Traded For (Part One)

Roy Hibbert

Once an anchor of a legitimate Eastern Conference contender in Indiana, Roy Hibbert has fallen off a long way since his days of being a two-time All-Star.

In a market that boasted rich and shiny new contracts for many of the league’s players, Hibbert was forced to take a gamble last summer in signing a cut-price one-year deal with the Hornets. The deal represented the former Georgetown Hoya betting on himself to command more this summer, and so far it hasn’t exactly gone to plan.

For the first time in his NBA career, Hibbert has been forced into coming off the bench. Averaging his lowest minutes total since his rookie season, Hibbert posted 5.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and a block in his 16 minutes per game in Charlotte.

Never blessed with the greatest mobility, time has not been kind to the 30-year-old. Still, in limited minutes he’ll offer rim-protection, his trademark verticality, great defensive awareness and always valuable experience to a young and struggling team.

Jan 25, 2017; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward center Spencer Hawes (00) reacts after scoring during the first half of the game against the Golden State Warriors at the Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 25, 2017; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward center Spencer Hawes (00) reacts after scoring during the first half of the game against the Golden State Warriors at the Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

What The Bucks Traded For (Part Two)

Spencer Hawes

A player who was thought of as a stretch-shooting big many years ago, Hawes has actually suffered from the NBA’s switch to floor-spacing centers as he’s lost his niche to big men who are actually capable of shooting.

That may sound harsh, but as a big man who likes to spend a lot of his time away from the rim and is currently shooting only 29 percent from deep, it’s sadly true. In spite of a drop-off from his peak in terms of shooting, Hawes actually saw more minutes than Hibbert in Charlotte prior to the trade.

In just under 18 minutes per game, Hawes’ numbers for the season so far show him grabbing 7.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per night.

Although he’s not a certainty for free agency like Hibbert this summer, Hawes would seem likely to opt out of a player option of just over $6 million for next year and test his worth on the open market.

Jan 20, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe (15) grabs the ball against the Orlando Magic during the first half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 20, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe (15) grabs the ball against the Orlando Magic during the first half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Trade Motivation

I’m not going to speak to the Charlotte side of this coin, as I’m not quite sure I’d be capable of processing their reasoning for this deal. For the Bucks, though, it’s very simple. This is about financial flexibility, owning past mistakes and learning from them in record time.

As has already been alluded to, the biggest mistake in re-signing Plumlee came not in the Bucks’ decision to bring him back or view him as a piece that could have long-term utility, but in paying a price that there was no apparent reason to reach for.

Perhaps at that time, with Greg Monroe’s disastrous first season fresh in the memory, the long-term center rotation looked likely to be Plumlee, John Henson and Thon Maker. Now that Monroe’s play has turned for the better, Plumlee’s deal started to resemble little more than an obstacle to them attempting to re-sign a player who could play a bigger part in the team’s future.

The front office received plenty of criticism from fans and analysts around the league alike for the contract they signed Plumlee to this summer, and deservedly so. This trade shouldn’t completely absolve a bad decision, but it comes very close to it.

The fact that Milwaukee’s decision-makers were prepared to own their mistakes and right the wrong so quickly is a testament to a degree of forward thinking and accountability that hasn’t always been a feature of their workings. In crude terms, moving on from Plumlee so quickly may have given them an opportunity to do so before other teams really started to think about how ineffectual he’d been in Milwaukee.

Mistakes happen in the NBA, but being able to correct them at no real cost only a few months later is very rare. For all the criticism that was warranted in the summer, John Hammond, Justin Zanik and the rest of Milwaukee’s front office deserve credit for working their way out from between a rock and a hard place.

If Greg Monroe re-signs in the summer, or another new center arrives via free agency, this will be the deal that made that possible.

Jul 2, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond speaks to the press during a news conference featuring new head coach Jason Kidd at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Jul 2, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond speaks to the press during a news conference featuring new head coach Jason Kidd at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Overall Trade Grade

It’s strange to come to a point where you have to grade a deal that may consist of no discernible positives or negatives really heading in either direction in terms of basketball production, but this is that trade.

Unless there are more deals to come involving Hibbert or Hawes, it’s hard to say this moves the needle for the Bucks in terms of getting their playoff chase back on track this season. At the same time, they haven’t lost any piece that was even remotely valuable to the good play we’ve seen from this year either.

Plumlee was rooted to the bench for the majority of the Bucks’ best play, while Steve Novak (who was waived to open up a roster spot) spent most nights as an incredibly passionate cheerleader who rarely found himself with the need to suit up. Sure, the Bucks could use another guard, but even if Hibbert and Hawes rack up DNPs, they’re not costing you anything.

Moving back to the numbers, this is where it becomes clear just how positively this deal may affect those who really do matter in Milwaukee’s future.

Not only do the Bucks have to think about Greg Monroe’s future this summer, but also useful rotation players such as Tony Snell and Michael Beasley. Jabari Parker will also be eligible for an extension in the coming offseason. Stretch it beyond that, and the Bucks have every reason to be financially prudent so that they can afford to retain Khris Middleton when he hits free agency in 2019.

This deal may not seem central to that, but if the Bucks can move forward over the next few seasons with a center rotation of John Henson, a rookie-scale Thon Maker and a re-signed Greg Monroe collectively covering their center needs, the savings in moving from Plumlee’s contract to a rookie deal could make all the difference.

This was a contract that most Bucks fans deemed to be untradable without being packaged with a first round pick, and the fact that they managed to move it without even parting with a second round pick is truly commendable.

Overall Grade: A

Stick with us at Behind the Buck Pass for more reaction to the trade in the coming days!

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