Some trades are hard because of the player being lost, but every once in a while they're difficult to stomach for the person being lost.
The latter was the case on Thursday, as the Bucks followed up their monumental signing of Greg Monroe by shipping veteran glue-guy/shooter/entertainer Jared Dudley to the Washington Wizards for a future second round pick. While the Bucks were expected to make additional moves to clear up logjams at center and in the backcourt, no one really saw a Dudley trade coming, especially given that he's just a few days removed from opting into the modestly-priced final year of a contract that will pay him $4.25 million this season. One of the most likable, intelligent and entertaining players in the league, Jared will be missed regardless of what happens next.
After a difficult November in which he struggled as the team's starting shooting guard, Dudley eventually rediscovered his perimeter touch and provided crucial minutes at both forward spots, particularly after Jabari Parker was lost for the season in mid-December. With Ersan Ilyasova also struggling to stay healthy, Dudley started at power forward during the Bucks' excellent run-up to the all-star break, hitting a sizzling 44.2% of his threes and 50.6% from the field overall as the Bucks reached the all-star break at 30-23. Tasked with defending power forwards on a nightly basis, the 6'7" Dudley proved the ultimate gamer, frustrating bigger, stronger and more athletic opponents with his defensive savvy and ability to step outside offensively.
He couldn't beat you with strength or athleticism, but he always did the little things; no one denied entry passes as well as Dudley, and his gregarious personality proved as useful on the court as it was entertaining off the court. Not that his contributions were completely intangible either: only Khris Middleton and Zaza Pachulia were better by RPM standards (+2.37) and he was also fifth on the team in net rating (+3.7 pts/100). Unfortunately, back and knee injuries severely limited him over the season's final two months, as his shooting dipped to just 34% overall and 20% from three point range in 19 games after the all-star break. He bounced back in time to hit 57% of his threes against the Bulls in the playoffs, but concerns over his ability to stay healthy may have had something to do with the Bucks' willingness to move the 29-year-old Boston College product.
Still, Dudley's overall value had as much to do with his presence as his production, and his departure will naturally raise concerns that the Bucks might have lost something that goes well beyond the box score. You obviously hope that the Bucks won't be regretting his departure this season, but longtime fans will naturally feel some paranoia that Dudley's loss could be the 2015 equivalent of what Scott Williams was in 2001 or Jerry Stackhouse and Kurt Thomas were in 2010. This team is obviously very different from those, but there should be no illusion that this will help the Bucks win games next season.
Dudley's surprising departure led to immediate speculation that a follow-on move might be imminent, though I wouldn't count on anything too splashy. We can only assume this move was motivated by a desire to trim the roster down to size, and with Dudley departed the Bucks are back down to 15 guaranteed contracts. Unfortunately I would have much rather seen the Bucks eat the contracts of Jerryd Bayless or Johnny O'Bryant before trading Dudley, but neither has any trade value and Dudley could at least fetch some type of asset in return. The move also won't make anyone feel better about the Greivis Vasquez trade; while Vasquez is probably a better player, the asymmetry between what Vasquez cost and Dudley provided in return isn't a selling point of either deal.
If there is a silver lining, it's that Dudley's departure will mean even more minutes for the Bucks' young crop of combo forwards. Giannis Antetokounmpo's role is obvious at this point, but Dudley's departure would also suggest the team is confident that Jabari Parker will be ready for major minutes in his return from ACL surgery, while Damien Inglis and O'Bryant would also have less competition in their quest for playing time.
As you'd expect, Jared was all class after the deal became public:
Milwaukee!!! I know it's was only there for 1 yr but what a yr!!! From 17 wins to 41 and the playoffs!! We started the foundation #goodluck— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) July 3, 2015
Best of luck in Washington, Jared -- you will always have a home in Milwaukee!
- It's rare that I get emotionally invested in players; I can't remember the last time I went out of my way to root for a former Buck after he left for another team. But I have to say Dudley was one of my favorite Bucks of the past two decades, and I'm looking forward to cheering him on in Washington, where he should be able to provide valuable minutes as a small-ball four. I imagine I'm not alone, and I'm looking forward to the standing ovation he'll get when he makes his return to the Bradley Center next season with Washington.
- In terms of Dudley's greatest hits? Well, on the court it's tough to forget his sublime pass that helped win game four of the Bulls playoff series, and he was never better than in his perfect 10/10 shooting night against the Hawks in late December. Off the court, his Zach Lowe podcast was equal parts funny and fascinating, and his candor in taking down the likes of Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony on ESPN after the season was hilariously refreshing.
- It's still not clear what pick would be heading back to Milwaukee -- this was the latest info we've seen:
Pick changing hands in the Dudley trade will be highly protected first -- so protected it'll never be a first. So future second, in effect.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) July 2, 2015