According to Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times, the Milwaukee Bucks, who currently hold the 17th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, are "definitely exploring ways to move up." The bait is rumored to consist of third-year veteran forward John Henson, the future first-round pick owed by the Los Angeles Clippers (from the Jared Dudley trade), and possibly point guard Michael Carter-Williams.
Woelfel has consistently passed along rumors that the Bucks might not be totally sold on Carter-Williams as a fixture in their future plans, making it possible he could be flipped in a deal just a few months after Milwaukee acquired him in a three-team deal. While a willingness to trade away MCW might endear some to Milwaukee's front office, it also sets up a confusing chain of logic. Some reports indicated the Bucks could have kept the Los Angeles Lakers' first-round pick in their deal with the Phoenix Suns (logically it follows given Philly's only involvement was MCW), but instead elected to send it to Philadelphia in exchange for the then-reigning Rookie of the Year. So Milwaukee clearly had hope MCW could improve his play and ultimately become a more valuable player than whoever that first-round pick eventually became. Every team involved was likely doing its own internal calculus on that Lakers pick anyway, evaluating when and where in the draft it was likely to be conveyed (top-5 protection kept the pick in LA this year, and it's top-3 protected in the next two).
If the decision fell in MCW's favor, only to now be reversed after 25 games of evaluation in a Bucks uniform, it paints Milwaukee as a bit jumpy. Should such a limited sample size outweigh an earlier determination, especially one made with (presumably) the team's long-term outlook in mind? If you assume every trade of a player or pick reduces his/its value, the "Flip This House" approach seems like an inefficient one. Perhaps instead we keep the spin going and just call them pragmatists. If the organization really isn't all-in on Carter-Williams -- and reasonably speaking they shouldn't be -- then keeping an open mind makes sense. No reason to fall victim to some sort of sunk-cost fallacy, wasting another six months or more on "evaluation" if some judgement has already been passed down.
Some advanced metrics actually painted a pretty picture of MCW's short Milwaukee tenure so far; the Bucks outscored their opponents by over 6 points per 100 possessions when Carter-Williams was on the floor. But shooting and turnover concerns persist, and it's worth noting that the Bucks have a number of replacement options, even if none inspire a ton of confidence.
For Henson, the conundrum is reversed: he has a career PER of 18.0 and always puts up consistent per-minute numbers in point and rebounds, but the Bucks have been demonstrably worse with him on the floor in each of his first three seasons. Henson played nearly all of his minutes at center last season, boosting his scoring efficiency and block rate. But his rebounding percentage fell to career-low levels while his turnover rate spiked despite a decrease in usage.
That both players are regularly described in such uncertain terms make the rumored trade exploration fairly easy to believe, but not exactly a slam dunk to actually amount to anything. General Manager John Hammond himself noted on Monday how difficult trading up in a draft can be as teams lock in on players they're convinced can be game-changers in their organizations. It centers on a number of factors: how high are the Bucks trying to go in this draft? Would they use the 17th pick in a deal, or would they prefer to add another pick and make two first-round selections? Is there a particular player they want enough to pull the trigger on bigger deal if the opportunity presents itself?
Thankfully, the Bucks don't have to make a splashy move in this draft, though after a 26-win improvement last year the time might be right for a bold move in the draft or free agency. If grabbing a solid player at #17 is all they can do, that might be enough. Internal improvement is still likely to be the biggest driver of success next year. But the Bucks do have an intriguing collection of assets to swing a deal and potentially add another impact piece, and the timing may never be better.