Trade speculation, injuries, tanking, and the Bucks' most consistent offensive weapon

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Plus, who on Milwaukee's roster was ranked among the best young players in the NBA?

LOTS TO GET TO NO TIME TO WASTE.

NBA A to Z: What happened to tanking for 2014 draft? - USA Today Sports
Maybe it's old news at this point, but for those of you who hadn't heard, the Bucks are no longer thought to be a suitor for Houston Rockets center Omer Asik:

Yet while the New Orleans Pelicans (i.e. forward Ryan Anderson) and Milwaukee Bucks (i.e. forward Ersan Ilyasova) have also been tied to the Asik situation, two people with knowledge of both team's dealings said they are no longer in the mix. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the talks. Things could change, of course, but it appears both teams have bowed out for now.

That report from Sam Amick came back on December 13th, and would seem to put to rest a strange rumor that never seemed more than speculative in the first place. Ersan Ilyasova likely represented the Bucks' most valuable trade chip in a deal with Houston (aside from a first-round pick), but the emergence of Terrence Jones has provided the Rockets with a cheap and versatile floor-stretching presence in the frontcourt, allowing them to seek other assets in any deal for their disgruntled center. Houston's steep asking price (they're supposedly asking for multiple first-round picks in exchange) and the Bucks' rapidly diminishing playoff odds would seem to have taken care of this one before it ever really got started.

Potential suitors for Pau Gasol - NBA Rumors Blog - ESPN
Of course, when one trade rumor disappears, two more tend to take its place. With the Los Angeles Lakers possibly exploring trade options for Pau Gasol in light of his poor play, the guesswork has begun as to where he might land. Gasol's high salary (about $19.3M) is almost prohibitive, and his advanced age and declining play make him much less valuable than in years past. Still, a player with his resume is always going to have suitors; ESPN speculates Milwaukee could be one of them:

According to Chad Ford's latest Tank Rank story on Monday, the Bucks finally appear to be open to the idea of tanking this season to improve significantly in the long-term. So why would they have any interest in Gasol? Because they have several players on multi-year deals who could be attractive for the Lakers.

I'm not sure how this works; it seems to say the Bucks might want Gasol because they have a lot of players the Lakers might want. The latter is presumably true, with Ersan Ilyasova likely representing the key piece in a hypothetical package. But the Bucks (should) have little reason to target Gasol at this point given how disastrous their season has been (they reportedly turned down a deal for Rudy Gay), unless the Lakers substantially sweeten the pot. LA has no strong desire to take on long-term salary, but upgrading the team right now might be higher on their priority list. The Bucks could look to unload the contract of Zaza Pachulia (who became trade-eligible on Sunday), while Gary Neal and Carlos Delfino also seem expendable. If the Bucks could then flip Gasol for other assets at the trade deadline, it would be a slick little move, but right now it all seems highly unlikely.

The Bucks' hobbled march to a bright future - TrueHoop Blog - ESPN
Kevin "The Deer Whisperer" Arnovitz offers another excellent piece on the state of the Bucks and how injuries have steered them down a potentially brighter path. He spends literally half of his time listing off all the injuries Milwaukee has suffered, and he's not being particularly wordy. Read through the whole thing, if only for the last paragraph.

John Henson and the Milwaukee Bucks commitment to the post-up - Bucksketball
There's been little to get excited about when it comes to Milwaukee's offense, but John Henson has been a consistent bright spot--provided he doesn't stray far from the basket. Jeremy points out that Henson already has 61 post-up plays this season after finishing 72 all of last year. His efficiency is slightly higher as well--0.7 points per possession this year versus 0.68 last year. Those are still pretty poor numbers, but post play is about more than just efficient scoring; if Henson can establish himself as a consistent interior scorer, it should open up the Bucks' perimeter players for more open shots.

NBA: Tank Rank -- Waiting for the big reveal - ESPN
Milwaukee keeps hold of the top spot in Chad Ford's Insider-Only rankings. This line may be music to some fans' ears:

It's looking clearer that management may finally have owner Herb Kohl on board with the idea that one bad year could lead to many, many good ones.

NBA - Anthony Davis, Paul George, James Harden among top players under age 25 - ESPN
Two Bucks make ESPN's list of the top 25 NBA players under age 25: Giannis Antetokounmpo at #18 on the strength of his enormous upside, and John Henson at 25 thanks to improved numbers and an increased role. (Insider Only)

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