Things have finally started to heat up as the NBA trade deadline approaches, with some big-name players featured in rumors and reports yesterday. A quick rundown of some of the biggest stories:
- The Knicks, seeing their chances of landing Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry fade away, have apparently registered some interest in Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague. But a persistent problem continues to plague New York: they simply don't have anything to trade.
- The Nets have reportedly discussed a deal with the Sacramento Kings for guard Marcus Thornton.
- Speaking of the Kings, rumor has it they offered a substantial package to the Celtics for point guard Rajon Rondo, but were discouraged by Rondo's perceived lack of interest in re-signing. They reportedly still shopping guard Isaiah Thomas.
- The Rockets are apparently renewing their efforts to trade Omer Asik.
Will Gary Neal stay or go?
Frank mentioned this yesterday afternoon in our trade prediction column; apparently the Charlotte Bobcats had some "traction" in talks surrounding Gary Neal and Caron Butler. Reports didn't detail what would be coming back to Milwaukee in the deal, but the salary totals make Ben Gordon's $13 expiring contract look like the obvious return, possibly in addition to draft picks. However, those talks apparently broke down for unknown reasons.
Charlotte's interest in Neal makes perfect sense. The Cats are 28th in the NBA in threes made, and Neal remains a solid shooter from deep, even at high volume. He'd be a nice offensive boost off the bench as Charlotte looks to solidify its playoff standing. With that in mind, it appears they haven't given up on their pursuit:
Hearing Charlotte continues to pursue Bucks guard Gary Neal, who has been openly shopped by Milwaukee since January— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 19, 2014
A quiet trade deadline for Milwaukee?
Despite being mentioned as one of the more active teams on the market and the presence of a number of veteran players of varying capabilities, Chad Ford said in his latest Tank Rank post at ESPN.com that it could be an uneventful week for the Bucks:
It sounds like it's going to be a pretty quiet trade deadline for the Bucks. The most likely players to go are Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour, but neither will have an impact on the team's night-to-night performance and the Bucks would not likely get a great asset for either. Caron Butler has generated significant interest from other teams, but the Bucks are reluctant to let go of the local product. If they make a bigger move, Ersan Ilyasova will likely be the guy to move, though I'm told that right now there isn't anything major cooking for him.
Butler's big night against Orlando (21 points, 7 rebounds, 7-13 3PT) came at the right time if the Bucks are indeed looking to trade him. But Ford isn't the only person to indicate that Butler's locker room presence holds substantial value to Milwaukee. He could go, but the Bucks probably aren't desperate to unload him and his $8 million expiring contract.
Henson being "dangled" in big-money deal?
A report by Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times corroborates many of the rumors we've heard elsewhere. Woelfel indicates the Bucks are opening to trading anyone except Brandon Knight, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Khris Middleton. Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour have drawn attention. The Bucks are dangling John Henson. Ersan Ilyasova, who is seeking a deal that will send him to a contender, might be dealt if the Bucks can get good value for him.
Yes, according to Woelfel, the Bucks are "dangling" John Henson, apparently as part of a package with a higher-salary player (O.J. Mayo is suggested in the story). In fairness, the aforementioned trio of "untouchables" doesn't include Henson, but that seems a far cry from actively gauging his value on the market.
It's anyone's guess what they might be looking for in order to part with their talented young forward. Should a package including Henson bring back a star-level player (or something close), the rebuild-wary Bucks might eagerly pull the trigger. But using Henson as a sweetener to shed any salary off the roster right now would be incredibly foolish. The Bucks' cap situation isn't pristine, but it's also far from prohibitive. Milwaukee's priority right now has to be acquiring assets, not eliminating bad money.
If you've got the time...
...check out this post on Grantland.com. In it, Brett Koremenos covers many of the key moments of Bucks General Manager John Hammond's tenure, things most of us are all too familiar with. It's a great recap and consolidation of the good, the bad, and the ugly. The best line, in my opinion, is this:
The biggest critique of Hammond’s tenure is that he makes knee-jerk responses to team needs in the place of a holistic, long-term vision.
I'd be hard pressed to sum up the problems with Milwaukee's management style over the last few years better than that sentence manages to do it. I will say, for what it's worth, that Koremenos' critique might still manage to underrate the role of Herb Kohl's win-now mandate. It really can't be overstated just how difficult it is to run an NBA franchise, especially one facing the obstacles the Milwaukee Bucks face every day, with a ticking clock hovering over your head every minute of every day. If there's a degree of mutual exclusivity between short and long-term planning in the NBA, and most would agree there is, I doubt anybody grapples with it as regularly as the Bucks' GM. That's not an easy environment for success. Still, Koremenos is right to point out that those knee-jerk responses orchestrated by Hammond often lack the prudence a man in his position ought to employ.