Adam Silver’s one time reticence over league expansion seems to be dissipating, based on his comments to Blazers guard and aspiring media member C.J. McCollum. You can watch the full statement below, but suffice it to say, Silver’s comments made it sound more like a matter of when than if regarding league expansion at this point.
With expansion comes the inevitable expansion draft, a practice that SB Nation is participating in today with a mock expansion draft from among all the NBA teams in the league. That process involves each team protecting 8 players from their current roster that the newbies can’t pluck for their own, and we underwent that exercise with the current Bucks roster.
I tried to balance pure talent, youth, contractual assets and who may be most valuable as trade chips when deciding who to lock down for Milwaukee. I thought it was a relatively easy exercise with this Bucks team, which probably speaks to the disparity in talent between the top dogs and value of the young guns versus some of the deader weight anchoring the backend of the roster. Without further ado, here are our selections for the 8 Bucks that should be untouchable throughout this practice.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
There are few teams who wouldn’t trade their star players for Giannis straight up. His combination of youth, agility, unique athleticism, growing game, unselfish play and most importantly, team-friendly contract, mean he’s entirely untouchable here though.
2. Jabari Parker
Parker’s trade value and overall value to this Bucks roster given his injury history remain an open question, but losing him for nothing would be relatively disastrous to Milwaukee given how the front office talks about his stature in this franchise’s future. How he recovers from the injury in the seasons ahead will decide his fate, but there’s no reason to let another team have a chance at talent with this kind of upside.
3. Khris Middleton
One of the more attractive plug-and-play wings in the league, plenty of teams would relish the chance to have a guard who can shoot, defend and create for himself and others if necessary. A young expansion team would appreciate a veteran presence, however there are plenty of championship-level teams that could use a switchy defender like Middleton too. Who knows, maybe they’d even find a way for him to up that 3-point attempt number too! As Eric’s laid out before, Middleton is probably the Bucks’ best trade chip at this point.
4. Thon Maker
Thon flashed enough potential during last season’s playoffs that there’s no reason to let another team have a shot at him. He’s on a relatively cheap contract for the next three years, he possesses unique skills for his size and position, and Milwaukee is assuredly factoring him into almost all their future plans at this point. His budding practice spars with Giannis sound like all you need to know about his standing on this team.
5. Malcolm Brogdon
Reigning rookie of the year. Cheap as dirt second round player. Far more impactful than a Bucks second round pick has any right being. There’s no reason the Bucks would lose Brogdon at this point, particularly given his switchiness within their defensive scheme. His contract negotiations will be intriguing come two years from now, but he’s another player that plenty of teams would covet should the Bucks look to make a major splash.
6. D.J. Wilson
Wilson flashed a few feats of athleticism particularly tantalizing for someone his size. He looks pretty fluid with the ball, and seems comfortable (maybe too comfortable) pulling up for his own shots. Once he’s within the rhythm of Milwaukee’s offense, his playing time will largely rely on how quickly he can meld into Milwaukee’s helter-skelter scheme and if he can utilize a rapid trigger from the perimeter. No reason to let another team pluck a mid-first rounder for free.
7. Tony Snell
Among all the recent contracts Milwaukee’s awarded folks, I have the most faith in Tony Snell actually living up to his. Snell’s still young enough there could be a smidge more development left in his game. He’s the same age as Allen Crabbe after all, which no matter what you think of Crabbe, was recently mentioned as someone the Nets coveted as a proto-reclamation project in an article by Zach Lowe on ESPN. He’s also making considerably less than Crabbe, and I’m still someone bullish on defensive potential he can unlock. If his 3-point percentage holds up next year, I don’t think there’s any reason Milwaukee would want any of their other players over Snell, which is why we’re keeping him in the ring of protection.
8. Sterling Brown
The eighth spot was probably the toughest for me to determine. Deciding whether assuring one of the veteran presences would remain on this team or if we should protect one of the younger guys was a difficult choice. Ultimately it came down to whether I wanted to assure the Bucks have Sterling Brown or retain Greg Monroe. There’s a worthy argument to be made for Monroe, particularly given he’s still youthful and productive enough that one of the expansion teams may actually grab him, whereas Brown remains a relative unknown and it would be easy for them to pass him over. That’s very fair, and losing Monroe would certainly be a blow to Milwaukee’s offense. Like his brutish, bellicose game with ballet feet in the post or not, he was a reliable offensive staple and will continue to be so this season with the absence of Jabari Parker during the first half of the season. Whether he’s a more valuable trade chip than Brown is probably a bit more debatable, which I’ll admit is somewhat laughable given their disparity in production, but at this point finding a suitor willing to take Monroe seems nigh impossible. Brown at least represents some sort of upside and future with a cheap contract to boot. The potential for a second rounder to hit is as tantalizing as it is rare. Two second rounders panning out in consecutive years, particularly given some of the Bucks history in that round, would be remarkable, but I just like Brown’s physical makeup and fit in today’s NBA game far more than Monroe’s. Even if it seems a bit foolhardy to lose someone of Monroe’s caliber now, I’d rather gamble at this point with Milwaukee’s future than stick with the retreads.
Now, a few lingering thoughts on the folks I chose not to protect which included: Greg Monroe, Matthew Dellavedova, Spencer Hawes, John Henson, Mirza Teletovic, Gary Payton II and Rashad Vaughn.
- Of the last two guards Payton II is expendable since he still hasn’t shown any shooting ability and Vaughn, despite his meteoric, unimpeachable, absolutely sure to translate to the regular season rise during the Summer League, I’m still not totally sure he’s an NBA player.
- Henson seems like he’ll linger in Davey Jones’s locker for this Bucks team while never quite eking his way out of town. If someone finally wanted to take him and his bulbous contract off the front office and fans’ minds, I’m not sure we would waste too many tears. I’d gladly eat at Chipotle in his honor though. Spencer Hawes is just begging to be tossed overboard too, so no need to waste any protections on him.
- Matthew Dellavedova does provide a tenacity that’s endeared him quite well to coach Kidd, however the impact of that tenacity seems more koala-like than Tasmanian devil. If someone wanted to tackle the next three years of his deal and let the Bucks bring in some young dude willing to jack up threes reliablly and relinquish the ball, I’ll live with that.
- I already touched on Greg Monroe in the Sterling Brown protection, but Mirza Teletovic was a close finisher behind Moose. I know Mirza is much maligned for some of his bricking ways last season and the horse blinders he strapped on when inexplicably playing hero ball with haphazard drives to the rim. Still, his impact on the court and ability to stretch the floor for others is undeniable. The most mindless of all the Bucks gunners, that’s a genuine skill that other teams respect every time he enters the frontcourt. The minute teams start to play off and he jacks away with minimal success, his usefulness wanes considerably. I’m expecting a bit of a bounce back year from Teletovic though, which made it hard to leave him off. His teensy oversized contract and that extra year were ultimately why he didn’t make the cut.
So that’s it folks, the 8 Bucks who you’ll never have to worry about seeing on the fake teams in our fake expansion draft are decided. Let us know your quibbles with the protections in the comments below and who you would ultimately protect with the 8 slots available.