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Point/Counterpoint: Should the Bucks Pursue Eric Bledsoe?

Adam and Mitchell debate why Eric Bledsoe should (or shouldn’t) be a Buck.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Mitchell: I want to get this started, so I’m just gonna say it. The Milwaukee Bucks should add Eric Bledsoe, and they should do so as soon as they can get the Phoenix Suns to agree to a deal.

Adam: So you want another point guard who can’t shoot reliabaly? The Bucks do love those, and they’ve worked out so well in the past! Particularly when the transactions involve the Suns.

Mitchell: Hey, I defended that deal at the time, and I’ll defend this (hypothetical) deal now. I’ve got a much better feeling about this one, honest!

Adam: I was a big proponent of that one too *bows head sadly*, but that was more about what the move represented rather than the players involved. A willingness to look to the future rather than the present. That’s what this team could and should continue to do; trading for Bledsoe signals them tossing in their chips. I get the Eastern Conference is weak, but isn’t the end goal still a championship? Bledsoe doesn’t do nearly enough to get us there.

Mitchell: In a vacuum? No, Eric Bledsoe is not enough to single-handedly launch the Bucks to the Finals. But when you add him to the cast of characters currently built up around Giannis, this team looks very different. Not only would Bledsoe challenge Khris Middleton’s claim to the “Second-Best Buck” throne, but his presence allows everybody below him in the pecking order to simply have less responsibility. Malcolm Brogdon becomes a backup point guard. Matthew Dellavedova becomes the team’s fifth guard, instead of the first guard off the bench. Like the aforementioned pair of point guards, Bledsoe is strong enough and willing to switch between PGs, SGs, and SFs on defense, and any non-Giannis play that ends in a shot other than a #DellyFloater is a shot I want the team taking.

Adam: I won’t quibble with your Delly doubting, I’m ready to see the Aussie relegated to a smaller role as much as anyone. Yes, Bledsoe isn’t enough to single-handedly take you there, but he also is only under contract for this season and next. I don’t see Milwaukee managing to crown themselves in that time, and their cap sheet is already precarious enough when you realize both Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon are expiring at precisely the same time as Bledsoe. Sticking those three back together would require ample cap acrobatics by Horst, and most likely an ownership willing to enter the tax. Maybe that’s the case, but I’m dubious. Giving up an asset for a short-term gain doesn’t seem prudent right now.

Mitchell: If you want to talk about assets, we want to be sure we’re defining “asset” the same way. Bledsoe’s a good player, but Phoenix isn’t in a position to demand much in the way of assets. The Suns have completely thrown their leverage away by taking their grievances against Bledsoe to the public:

So let’s talk specifics. The Bucks might have to give up D.J Wilson or a first round pick...but the team is expected to be good enough for that pick to fall outside the lottery. That price isn’t terribly high. Malcolm Brogdon or Thon Maker? The Bucks have already shut those rumors down. The price has been driven so low that Milwaukee would be foolish to not chase a bargain.

Admittedly, the overall salary situation is not quite a bargain. Bledsoe has two years remaining on his contract (counting this year), $14.5M this season and $15.0M next. But since Phoenix has been crystal clear about keeping him away from the team indefinitely, and their requests for prospects have been readily rebuffed by basically everyone, they’re already linking Bledsoe to other contracts they want to get off their books:

So Phoenix knows they have to move Bledsoe, and they’re willing to move a defense-first, rebound-hungry, savvy veteran big man to get out from under his contract (Chandler is due $13.0M this year and $13.6M next year). It’s an expensive proposition, but I’m here for it anyways. Fire up the Trade Machine, Jon Horst!

Adam: Are we sure Chandler isn’t washed? I know Milwaukee is the Mecca for overpaid big men who wildly underperform, but I don’t think I need another one languishing on the bench. Yes, Phoenix’s leverage is below sea level. Yes, Bledsoe is basically a severe case of gout on Ryan McDonough’s tenuous GM tenure in Phoenix. Yes, they seem to have lessened their stance by trickling out that they’re willing to dump Chandler. Veterans have their usefulness, but I don’t think Milwaukee needs to be taking considerable salaries back at the moment, particularly with Jabari’s contract situation coming up. I’m still unsure where I land with Jabari, but adding an extra $28.6M to the books next year isn’t necessarily something I’m eager to do, even with Milwaukee’s already minimal potential for moves next summer.

Mitchell: When it comes to whether or not Chandler is washed, I don’t particularly care. If he’s included in a deal, the Bucks will almost assuredly be shipping out Greg Monroe, and I’d expect they’d hang onto John Henson (partially because Phoenix expressed disinterest in taking back any contracts longer than 2 years).

Between Thon Maker, Chandler, and Henson (ugh), the Bucks would have enough to cover the center position for 48 minutes, and if they have to move someone else to get an injury replacement, so be it.

Adam: I could tolerate that deal, although I’d much prefer if Phoenix was willing to give up Bledsoe straight up in a package for one of Milwaukee’s salaries and a protected pick or D.J. Wilson. Seeing the Bucks lack of playmakers in games like the throwback tussle versus the Celtics clearly illustrated a need for more dynamism, but I don’t know if Bledsoe will give Milwaukee enough to make it worth it. Not to mention his injury history, which he’s a few years removed from, but the last thing the Bucks need is another asset spending significant time rehabbing with Suki Hobson. Ultimately this sort of devolves into a question of one’s perception of the East.

Giannis is too good a talent to not take the present seriously, but I can’t see the conference becoming markedly better anytime soon. Milwaukee should be prepped to pounce, but I don’t know if Bledsoe is the right piece. Player disgruntlement and subsequent movement has never seemed more volatile than right now, and I think Giannis is good enough that players will be making Milwaukee a far more popular potential destination.

Closing Arguments

Mitchell: Everybody and their mother has recognized that Giannis Antetokounmpo is their new basketball overlord. But the talent around Giannis isn’t good enough to get the team through tough situations, like we saw last week against Cleveland or against Boston on the MECCA floor.

It’s not that the talent on the Bucks isn’t good, it’s that it’s not good enough to hang with the biggest kids on the block. Khris Middleton is the Bucks’ clear second-best player, but when he’s in a slump there simply aren’t enough other proven NBA talents to step in. Jabari Parker is hurt, and may or may not be afforded the chance to stick around long-term. Malcolm Brogdon is a good NBA guard, but stays in his lane. Tony Snell is a wing, who also stays in his (even narrower) lane. Matthew Dellavedova is a C-player who approaches the game like a B-player; he’s not bad, but his mistakes draw ire simply because they appear to be so preventable.

Eric Bledsoe solves the Bucks’ current talent issue. He might not be the best player the Bucks could conceivably add, or the best fit for the system (although some smart people have posited that Bledsoe would fit in just fine), but he’s a good player. The Bucks need more good players around Giannis, and opportunities to add good players are few and far between. I say they ought to seize this opportunity, consequences be damned. Cross those bridges when we come to them.

Adam: Eric Bledsoe is a nice player. Eric Bledsoe is an aged player. Eric Bledsoe will ask for a large sum of money in two years I’m not sure Milwaukee will be willing to fork over considering they should likely be simultaneously negotiating with Malcolm Brogdon.

Bledsoe will make Milwaukee immediately better, thrusting them into an area where anything less than a top-four finish in the East would be a disappointment. He will undoubtedly make this team better, but I don’t think an aged point guard who can’t reliably shoot will be the answer to take Milwaukee to the promised land, nor is he a domino to snag a star to be named later.

If there’s anything we’ve learned from this past summer, it’s that players have wrangled a significant amount of control for themselves. With Giannis overtaking the league, Milwaukee can become a spot players go to win. I think better options will present themselves to Milwaukee with patience. Don’t give up an asset to ensnare Bledsoe now. Sign him in two seasons when Giannis’ dominance has only grown and a veteran might take a paycut to play alongside him. Perhaps thats’s wishful thinking, but Bledsoe isn’t an asset worth acquiring unless the asking price is Goodwill-level cheap.