The 2015 NBA trade deadline is approaching fast! By late afternoon tomorrow, we'll be sifting through deals and making sense of everything--or nothing, if this deadline is totally lame.
The Bucks haven't figured in a ton of rumors this season as numerous injuries have deprived them of a lot of depth on the roster, limiting the flexibility to swap position-for-position. What's more, the team has exceeded expectations so dramatically, with much of the credit going to veteran leadership and a tight-knit locker room, the perceived "need" to wheel-and-deal in search of talent upgrades and future assets has diminished.
But that doesn't mean John Hammond and the Bucks' front office are closing their eyes and plugging their ears. Hammond has insisted that Milwaukee is still playing the long game and won't do anything to jeopardize the future, which is surely welcome news to most fans. That doesn't preclude any sort of move, though, and the Bucks do have a couple of trade chips to work with, though nothing expendable that's likely to bring a significant return.
To that end, I took a look back at the series we ran this summer that sought to rank all of Milwaukee's "assets" according to, essentially, trade value. Let's see how things have developed over half a season and what affect the past few months have had on roster valuation. For a reminder, here was our final list from September:
18. O.J. Mayo
17. Chris Wright
16. Zaza Pachulia
15. Jerryd Bayless
14. Johnny O`Bryant III
13. Ersan Ilyasova
12. Nate Wolters
11. Jared Dudley
10. Clippers' 2017 first-round pick
9. Kendall Marshall
8. Damien Inglis
7. Khris Middleton
6. John Henson
5. Larry Sanders
4. Brandon Knight
3. 2015 Unprotected First-Round Pick
2. Jabari Parker
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
The Bottom Rungs: 18 - 12
We ranked Nate Wolters ahead of almost all of Milwaukee's vets, but they all outlasted him on the roster. Wolters was never really a part of the rotation under Jason Kidd, and the fact that he cleared waivers after being released suggests he never had much trade value in the first place. Pachulia, Mayo, and Bayless have all played well for the most part, but salary concerns and a lack of depth behind each would seem to make a trade of any of them unlikely. Bayless might have been a decent asset, but Kendall Marshall's injury largely precludes any deal shipping him out unless a replacement is nabbed at the same time.
I think it's safe to assume the Bucks aren't getting a ton of calls about Johnny O'Bryant.
Ilyasova is the wild card here. Injuries have limited him to just 30 games this year, but when he's been able to play he's been...ok. His three-point shooting isn't great, but he's still known to be a threat from outside, which might be all that really matters. With the last year of his contract only $400k guaranteed, next season is effectively the last year of his deal, so he's not a mega cap-killer. But any deal for Ilyasova is going to need on a team that has a lot of faith in its ability to utilize him effectively, and nobody expects a bidding war at this point. The Bucks might be content to move him for next to nothing just to free up the cap space, or hold tight and see how things go the rest of the year.
The Middle of the Pack: 11 - 6
Trending up: Jared Dudley, John Henson, Khris Middleton (WAY up)
Trending down (due mostly to bad luck): Kendall Marshall, Damien Inglis
Treading water: Clippers' 2017 first-round pick
Lot of movers in this group, particularly among that first trio. Jared Dudley has emerged as a valuable role player and perhaps an even more valuable locker room guy. I said before the season that I though Dudley was a lock to be traded, but then he became Giannis' mentor, and the Bucks might honestly not be able to put a price on that.
John Henson and Khris Middleton have established themselves as bona fide players to watch. Henson got the Zach Lowe treatment a month ago, as sure a sign a player is making a mark on the league as there is. Meanwhile, Middleton has improved nearly every part of his game and can be argued as the Bucks' MVP so far this season. Frank made the case in our Midseason Awards post:
He's the common thread in all of the Bucks' most successful lineups, he's sixth in the entire league in real plus-minus, and his size and versatility at the shooting guard spot gives the Bucks the ability to switch everything on defense while posting up smaller guards on the other end.
It's a fantastic success story for Middleton and the Bucks--a former throw-in for whom the Bucks now happily reject trade overtures.
The (Once) Untouchables: 5 - 1
It's hard to call the Larry Sanders situation anything less than a disaster at this point. It's looking increasingly likely that Sanders has played his last game with the Bucks, and it's not even clear if he'll return to the NBA anytime soon. At this point the hope is just that Milwaukee can minimize the financial hit they take if he does leave the team.
Jabari Parker gave Bucks fans no reason to fret his future prior to his injury, and while serious knee injuries always come with long-term risk, they're not the career death sentence they once were (NOBODY MENTION ROSE). For now we'll just hope the injury is a delay on his train to stardom, rather than a derailment.
Milwaukee's first-round pick has lost a ton of value thanks to their shocking turnaround, but the Bucks are used to drafting in the middle of the first round anyway. It's conceivable now that they could move the pick, but probably only for a young player or other future considerations.
Then there are Brandon and Giannis. Knight had a legitimate case for an All-Star berth this season while Giannis is just...something else. Consistency will be key for both guys through the rest of the season, particularly for Giannis, who strung together some of the best games of his career in the last few weeks before the All-Star break. And if Knight keeps up his numbers and leads the Bucks to a decent showing in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, he could be seeing a mighty big pile of cash this summer.