Last month, we debated whether or not the Milwaukee Bucks should pursue the disgruntled Cavs scoring savant, Kyrie Irving. Last week, the Boston Celtics swooped in and agreed to a deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers, sending Kyrie to the East Coast in return for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and a valuable Brooklyn Nets first round pick (and Ante Zizic!). The Bucks were involved in the discussion on some level, though reports vary on whether or not Milwaukee ever made a formal offer to compete with Boston.
Because the NBA is the best, this story has taken more turns than a polite preschooler: because of concerns surrounding Isaiah Thomas’ hip injury, the Cavs have asked for additional assets to push the trade through. The Celts have not budged, and while their fans are trying to make sense of the whole situation, the two teams are involved in a standoff that could remake the power structure of the Eastern Conference.
Enter the Milwaukee Bucks, per ESPN.com’s Zach Lowe:
The Milwaukee Bucks lurk on the fringes of the Irving bidding with an offer centered around Malcolm Brogdon, the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, and Khris Middleton, sources say. The Bucks have not yet put a first-round pick on the table, sources say, but the bet here is that they would to get the deal done -- or if Irving showed any interest in staying in Milwaukee long-term.
Brew Hoop’s parent site has a brief synopsis of the hypothetical swap (Kyrie for Malcolm Brogdon and Khris Middleton, along with a possible draft pick), and they take a pretty pessimistic view on how well that trade would work, for both teams. For the Cavs:
Between Thomas, Crowder, Zizic, and the Nets’ pick, each layer to Boston’s offer fulfills a need for Cleveland. Milwaukee’s barely touches that offer with a meter stick, even if IT4 can’t play.
Both Brogdon and Middleton are quality two-way players who can handle the ball, shoot threes, and defend the perimeter. But neither are the explosive scorer Thomas or Irving is and the Bucks couldn’t get their hands on a pick as good as Brooklyn’s if they tried.
For the Bucks:
Irving is one of the best scoring point guards in the NBA, and putting him next to Giannis Antetokounmpo would create one of the more formidable two-man tandems in the league.
But the Bucks would be trading two of their best perimeter defenders for a one-way player who becomes a free agent and can leave in 2019. Milwaukee was not among Irving’s preferred lists of destinations (neither was Boston), and Irving would be leaving one ball-dominant wing to play with another.
It’s not like the downsides of the proposal are incorrect, but they might be either overblown or emphasized unfairly against the positives presented by the deal. Khris Middleton is one of the few players in the league who seems custom-built to play with LeBron James (partially since he fits so well next to Giannis Antetokounmpo), and Malcolm Brogdon is as promising of a 3&D point guard prospect as there is in the Association. Neither one boasts Kyrie’s one-on-one scoring acumen, but that’s a trade-off worth making if it means LeBron might be more likely to stay, Brooklyn pick be damned.
Of course, those sound like good reasons to keep both Middleton and Brogdon home with Giannis and Friends, doesn’t it? However, the benefits presented by adding Kyrie Irving to the mix are considerable, and given the Bucks’ significant lack of NBA recruiting clout, he could be instrumental to vaulting the Bucks towards the next level. Jason Kidd may not be the ideal choice to convince the next NBA star in need of a home to consider Milwaukee, and while we all love Giannis he simply doesn’t have an existing relationship with the NBA’s American-born contingent of stars. Kyrie does.
For myself, I will echo the sentiment I have presented before: adding elite talent is too rare of an opportunity for the Bucks to let it pass by. There are concerns about Kyrie’s defense, and his ball-dominance, and his chemistry with teammates, and his (night)lifestyle choices, as well as others. While valid, those concerns can be worked out, if given the chance.
Drafting Giannis was a home run, and surrounding him with Khris Middleton (who is a proven NBA quantity) and Malcolm Brogdon (who is close, but is not) were great hits as well. Losing them would be a bitter pill to swallow, but trading for Kyrie Irving would be another home run swing for a franchise that gets too few trips to the plate to even make the attempt.
UPDATE: Maybe not, per the Journal Sentinel’s Matt Velazquez?
...according to a league source who spoke with the Journal Sentinel on Wednesday, there is "nothing" to these rumors. In fact, the source says there have not even been conversations between the Bucks and Cavaliers.
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Did I say that trading for Kyrie was a good idea? I meant that staying FAR FAR away from Kyrie was a good idea! Yep! Sure did! Definitely didn’t advocate for it! No sir!
Cleveland, Boston have reached an agreement, league source tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 31, 2017
Boston is sending Cleveland a 2020 second-round pick to complete the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade, league source tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 31, 2017
Boston will send its 2020 second-round pick via Miami to Cavaliers to complete the trade, league sources said. Boston would budge no more.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 31, 2017
(In all seriousness, while I stand behind the rationale for adding Kyrie Irving, I am in no way upset that we get to keep Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon around in Milwaukee.)