Bucks' Annual Draft Trade Offers More Flexibility, Stress Relief

Our time together was brief, Jon Leuer, but oh so wonderful.

So much for a quiet draft week. It feels like just yesterday the Bucks were giving every indication that they wouldn't be making any moves this season for a change. Then BAM! Out goes the 12th pick and a handful of backups, in comes the 14th pick and a brand new starting center.

In the comments section of our initial trade post, CanadaBucks described this deal as "having five nickels in your pocket and changing them for a quarter". If you ask me, it's like finding five dimes and changing them for a dollar. Shaun Livingston and Jon Leuer looked like nice rotational pieces, but those two are the only consequential parts Milwaukee shipped out. The best player in this deal is going to be a Buck, and it's really not close. Trading down two spots is almost meaningless, especially if John Hollinger is right about Phoenix targeting a prospect Milwaukee isn't interested in (note: link is Insider-only).

The Bucks' biggest need was in the middle, and it seemed like the draft was going to be John Hammond's best option for addressing it. Instead, Hammond creatively filled the roster's biggest hole with a better player than he could have drafted and gave up shockingly little in doing so.

More than just the immediately obvious roster improvement, the deal affords Milwaukee much more draft flexibility and relieves some free-agency stress. More on that, plus reaction from the media after the jump.

There's a reason so many teams, scouts, and analysts eventually circle around to the "best player available" approach to drafting. Every team wants to maximize the value of its draft pick, but most do so in the context of their roster. Sometimes it works, but every little qualification on a prospect profile is, in essence, a compromise.

By shoring up their biggest need prior to the draft, the Bucks gained greater flexibility to prioritize such a value-maximizing approach. It's very likely they'll still look for a player in the context of the roster (scoring wing? a replacement for Ersan?), but the opportunity is there to really roll the dice on a high-upside player who might not address an immediate concern. And again, this can't be stressed enough: they only moved down two spots in a draft that runs awfully flat through the middle of the first round.

Grabbing a very capable starting center also reduces the need to splurge in free-agency on that position. The greatest fear many of us had entering this summer was seeing bags of money thrown at mediocre big men, locking the Bucks into an unenviable contract situation because of little more than panic. Dalembert on a one-year deal doesn't offer a lot in the way of long-term security, but it gives the Bucks another year to plan for the future.

Here's what a few other sites have to say:

Ball Don't Lie - Kelly Dwyer comments on the deal largely because he feels obligated to do so, and wonders why Houston would be willing to trade a serviceable center to make a minimal move toward a larger goal.

SI: The Point Forward - Nobody sees the big picture as well as Zach Lowe, and he doesn't see much downside given the Bucks' needs and playoff priorities.

Wednesday's deal creates a potentially damaging hole in Houston's roster - and fills one in the same spot for Milwaukee, which boosted its chances of making the playoffs without damaging its present or future cap flexibility. Dalembert isn't a star and won't ever log 38 minutes per game, but over 25 or 30 minutes every night, he can protect the rim, clean the glass and use his long arms to make things more difficult for opposing offenses. The Bucks had precisely zero players who could do that after the Andrew Bogut/Monta Ellis trade at last season's deadline, and their defense collapsed as a result. Dalembert is not a night-to-night stopper or an All-Defensive player, but he is an upgrade in Milwaukee.

The Basketball Jones - Mark Deeks (of the always essential Sham Sports) wonders why the Rockets didn't get more for a legitimate big man such as Dalembert, while concluding that the Bucks took a big step towards their goal of returning to the playoffs.

For the loss of very little, they gain the exact thing they didn't have - semi-consistent, productive, good quality center play, rebounding help, and a starting caliber center. If they can retain Turk Nowitzki, then, despite the incredibly [odd] methodology they have used to get there, they have built a pretty solid playoff-caliber team on the right side of 30.

ProBasketballTalk - Kurt Helin evidently values the "trade fodder" Milwaukee sent to the Rockets more than others. Or he simply doesn't value Dalembert as much. I will say his point about the pick-and-roll might be misinformed: according to MySynergySports.com, Dalembert was one of the best P&R bigs in the NBA last year.

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