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Roundtable: MCW Out, Snell In

The Brew Hoop staff gives their impressions on Tony Snell’s arrival and Michael Carter-Williams’ departure.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks-Media Day Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Carter-Williams’ Bucks career is over. For better or worse, Tony Snell’s is about the begin.

To unpack Saturday’s big trade news, the Brew Hoop staff tackled the key talking points of the Bucks’ and Bulls’ swap the only way we know how: rountable time, baby!

What was your initial reaction when the trade news broke?

Frank: Sacramento’s reported disinterest in an MCW/Ben McLemore swap spoke volumes about how little value MCW currently has, and in many ways this deal puts an exclamation point on how badly (and quickly) the Bucks “lost” the Brandon Knight/protected Lakers pick trade 20 months ago (give me the Laker pick over Knight, btw). I imagine that will be a major source of hand-wringing this week, but it’s also a separate issue from what the Bucks’ best move was going forward. Let’s just leave it at this:

On that topic: Snell has definitely had his share of moments against the Bucks, and the two things he does reasonably well — shoot threes and defend on the wing — are the exact things the Bucks need now that Khris Middleton is gone. So it’s easy to find some positive spin from a Bucks angle, especially given MCW’s uneasy fit with the rest of the Bucks’ core. Not that Snell is a slam dunk to work in Milwaukee; I’ve always marveled at Bulls fans’ apparent virulent hatred of Snell’s game, which in many ways made it only fitting that he’d be dealt for the guy who has often inspired similar (albeit often undeserved) feels from Bucks fans. Let’s hope a change of scenery works well for both guys.

Mitchell: To Frank’s point...

I was kind of sad. No, really! I was disappointed to see that MCW would no longer have the opportunity to recreate himself into a player that can actually fit in, rather than constantly forcing his square-peg game into the round hole that is the modern NBA. He really seemed to at least understand what was necessary for him to be successful, and I thought that he could reach his final destiny as a dynamite bench PG behind Giannis. Who doesn’t love a good redemption story? Alas, that story won’t be told in Milwaukee...

Eric B: I think I felt pretty alright about it. A warm body capable of a thing or two on the court was at least something done to address the huge hole that Khris’ injury left. Even if Snell doesn’t carry the mythical optimism that plucking Ben McLemore (who also may not be any good) off a confusing Kings roster might, I was still pleased they brought in someone to help, even if that person may only be capable of a few threes and maybe some defense.

On the other hand, I was surprised and not surprised at how quickly MCW’s value fell off. I felt as if the Bucks should have gotten more than Snell, but the Bucks can’t trade for players that aren’t offered and agreed upon, so this probably speaks to how little value remained after inconsistent play and two legitimate injuries.


Brett: It certainly helps to validate what rumors to this point have suggested — the Bucks really care about not being terrible again this season. Snell, in theory (and maybe only in theory), should figure to be better fit as a three-and-D wing on a team that both a) desperately needs one and b) just lost their only one. Moving MCW isn’t exactly an addition by subtraction, but with Giannis, Delly, and Brogdon figuring to find minutes at the point (and complement the roster infinitely better than MCW), it’s not hard to imagine that this trade should benefit the team’s success in the short term. Even in the long term, it’s not hard to posit that getting Giannis and Jabari around the types of players they should ideally be playing with in the future is certifiably a good thing.

...Unless you hold the belief that MCW is good and/or still has a real future in this league. In that case, then this is probably somewhat of an overpay to you, and that the Bucks could have stuck it out for another year and maybe see if he can redeem both himself and his value. I do not hold that belief.

Plus, this is always a good cause:

Should the Bucks extend Snell after the trade is completed? If so, how much/how long?

Mitchell: The answer to this greatly depends on whether or not the Bucks had him on their list of players to pursue in free agency later on. Given Snell’s neat fit into the “3 & D Wing” paradigm, I see no reason why a reasonable extension can’t be explored. Snell’s value is relatively low, meaning he has less leverage in negotiations, and given his lack of NBA production he may not be inclined to bet on himself when there’s guaranteed money on the table. I would be OK with an extension for Snell not exceeding 3 years, for somewhere in the $6-7 million per year range, perhaps with a non-guaranteed final year.

Eric B: I don’t think he’ll be expensive at all ($5-8m a year), so I won’t be surprised if they do. Then again, I’m not sure if it’s crafty, silly, or a little bit of both to lock him in at a cheap deal before we find out what he’s capable of becoming. I want to take this time to remind everyone that I’d be an awful GM, even if my button-up shirt game was on point.

Frank: As obvious (and scary) as this may sound, the most important question is whether Tony Snell is actually, you know, a legit NBA player or not. It’s also important to note that the Bucks really don’t have to do anything — Snell will only be a restricted free agent next summer, so if he puts it all together he can’t just bolt for greener pastures.

Also keep in mind that there’s no such thing as a good deal for a bad player, and it seems like the Bulls had enough concerns about the latter (plus depth on the wing) to avoid even considering a Snell extension. Obviously the Bucks think Snell has a chance to both play and be a useful piece, and his value right now is at an all-time low. So if Snell jumps at the chance to get a cheaper multi-year deal locked up now, then it could end up being a great move for Milwaukee — provided he shoots well and defends capably enough to be a 15-20 minute rotation guy moving forward. Given their current roster, the Bucks also don’t project to have meaningful cap space even if Greg Monroe opst out and Snell is renounced, so the opportunity cost of doing an extension is fairly low. Then again, he could fall on his face and be out of the NBA in year or two, in which case gambling on an extension would look very, very silly.

Brett: I’ve actually came around that a quick extension might not be the worst thing for the team. The Bucks locked up a lot of long term cap space this summer, and it’s going to be hard to pursue quality three-and-D wings without the cash to do so. If Snell commands what I think he should, a three-year extension could be a low risk, relatively high reward contract for a specific player type the Bucks figure to have a shortage at in the coming years. Go for it.

True or False: the Bucks lost the trade because MCW is more productive than Snell.

Mitchell: In a vacuum, true. Michael Carter-Williams is better at more basketball things than Tony Snell, and their salaries are virtually the same. I’ve been vocal this offseason about how to define “value” and to what degree it matters when building a team, and I also happen to believe that MCW’s league-wide value would have increased after an opportunity to embrace a bench role, meaning the Bucks could have gotten more in a trade, if they decided to trade him at all!

Frank: The Bucks have given away value in trade after trade over the past couple years, so it’s not unfair to be skeptical at this point. But it’s also unlikely that keeping MCW would have served to dramatically resuscitate his value — they’ve been shopping him for a year at this point -- and getting burned on the first MCW trade shouldn’t change the Bucks’ willingness to do a deal now. It’s also possible a revitalized MCW could have won the Bucks a couple extra games this year, but given his questionable fit with Giannis and Jabari...well, who cares?

Eric B: This picture just about sums my feelings up.

Brett: Again, I’ve mostly given up on MCW being meaningfully useful on a good NBA team. Even in a world where he is, it seems like it would take an awfully specific team composition to do so (basically the opposite of the Bucks’/Bulls’ current scenarios). Also, I hate the word “productive” in a context like this because we should know better than to equate the concept of basketball “productivity” with actual”goodness.”

Frank: If this were Twitter, I’d fave that last sentence from Brett. But this is a blog, so I’ll just say that Brett is smart and I agree with him.

True or False: the Bucks won the trade because Snell is a better fit than MCW.

Mitchell: This is also true. MCW does things that the Bucks don’t desperately need more of (cutting, slashing, dominating the middle of the floor), while Tony Snell does things that the Bucks do need (shooting, perimeter defense). On the flip side, MCW does things that the Bulls absolutely don’t need, while Snell would have at least supported a Bulls roster that is relatively light on shooting. I cannot think of a team that MCW is a worse fit for than Chicago; through no fault of his own (at least to me), he is so redundant behind Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade, it’s not even funny.

Eric B: I think this can be true, but I think that it’s easy to talk ourselves into that when so much (probably unwanted) displeasure for the outgoing player exists. This is probably true for both fanbases involved. It looks like Snell has less competition than MCW has for minutes, but there’s a reason Chicago was willing to let him sink out of their rotation and be dealt. So we’ll see.

Frank: The “fit over pure talent” thesis would seem to dominate from a Bucks’ perspective, and hopefully it works out that way. A guy who can space the floor on the wing helps Giannis and Jabari a lot more than an athletic-but-erratic point guard who can’t shoot, and in that sense Snell doesn’t have to be the “better in a vacuum” guy anyway. Long live Point Giannis and anything that might make him better, right?

What kind of impact do you expect from Snell this season?

Mitchell: My expectations are pretty low, honestly. I see Tony Snell as the next step in Rashad Vaughn’s NBA evolution: low usage, high 3PAr, sound perimeter defense. I don’t need for Snell to become a candidate for an All-Defense team or compete in the All Star Weekend shooting contest, but I do need for him to space the floor, stay out of the way, and avoid any costly mistakes. If he can do that, then he’ll have had a successful season.

Eric B: Not much of one. I’d guess he’ll be around for 15-20 minutes a game and would be expected to hit the open shot when it gets kicked out to him, which feels pretty probable and likable to me.

Frank: I’d agree with both Mitchell and Eric. There shouldn’t be any illusions about Snell becoming anything more than a low-usage floor spacer on offense, and defensively it doesn’t seem a stretch to expect him to be solid. If both of those things happen we’ll likely consider this move a good one, especially given the Bucks’ lack of wing depth without Middleton. Of course, Snell has to get healthy first, so hopefully his ankle injury doesn’t linger much longer. Oh by the way, I should probably mention the podcast Eric and I did on Sunday, too:

Download MP3 Audio

What’s the next trade you think Milwaukee will be involved in?

Eric B: Probably nothing until the trade deadline. If I were to guess at likely trade candidates, the leaders in the clubhouse would be John Henson or Greg Monroe.

Mitchell: I think they’re done until the trade deadline.

Brett: I still think Monroe might get moved soon. I’m hoping Monroe gets moved soon. Operation Move-On is halfway done, now finish the job!

Frank: Their desperation to move Monroe is likely a bit lower now that they’ve added some depth on the wing, but Snell’s arrival also doesn’t do anything to ease the center logjam. So a Monroe move may still be likely before the all-star break, but it also figures to require either another team to lose a big man to injury or the Bucks to lower their asking price even further.