For an overview of this project, check out the introduction here.
Yesterday, we had our closest contest yet, ending with a package landing Dennis Schroder and Reggie Bullock from the Oklahoma City Thunder and the New York Knicks winning out, though a strong push was made for Zach LaVine to land with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Today’s pair of deals are straightforward, and each involve (you guessed it) Eric Bledsoe. The first one is fairly direct, whereas the second has a higher price but may have a higher benefit when you consider who the Bucks get...and who their competitors in the Eastern Conference don’t.
6) Utah Jazz: Mike Conley
Update: Thanks again to munchtime, who pointed out an error in the deal. We were short about $4.0M in outgoing salary, so we tossed in D.J. Wilson to get the deal done.
Why the Bucks do it:
Much of the focus regarding point guard upgrades has been on players like Chris Paul or Jrue Holiday, but Mike Conley might be an equally attractive replacement for Eric Bledsoe. He spent 12 years in Memphis and developed into a solid all-around point guard before getting moved to the Utah Jazz. His time in Salt Lake City did not push the team into the top tier as some expected, as his down-year in the 2019-20 season was hampered by injury. He’s a savvy offensive player and a competitor on defense; despite having just turned 33, Conley is the type of guard to remain effective beyond his athletic prime. He’s the type of ball-handler, outside shooter, and offensive operator that the Bucks don’t have at the point guard position right now, and getting his steady veteran presence could pay dividends in the playoffs.
Why the Jazz do it:
The Conley trade cost Utah a fair amount of assets, and the goal was to make a run deep into the playoffs last season. It didn’t work, as the Jazz flamed out in the first round of the playoffs against the white-hot Denver Nuggets, and now it’s decision time all over again. Both Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell are eligible for contract extensions, where Mitchell will reportedly get a max deal and Gobert certainly wants one...but may not get it. Utah’s financial flexibility is about to dry up, making this offseason an opportunity to get an asset without taking their roster. Milwaukee offers that with Bledsoe on a favorable contract, Ersan’s money expiring at the end of the year, and the Indiana pick.
Milwaukee receives: Mike Conley
Utah receives: Eric Bledsoe, Ersan Ilyasova, 2020 IND 1st (via MIL), D.J. Wilson
The idea that Utah trades Conley after only a year with the franchise isn’t easy to believe, but the disappointment from their playoff performance could force them to consider a number of options that were previously unimaginable. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Replacing Conley with Bledsoe helps with the Jazz’s already-tough defense and makes them slightly younger, while giving the team a bit more flexibility if they do end up full-on retooling by trading Gobert (and the max extension headache) somewhere else.
11) Sacramento Kings: Buddy Hield, Cory Joseph
Why the Bucks do it:
Hield is one of the best shooters in the league and would immediately bolster Milwaukee’s offense as an outside scorer that requires respect rather than just attention. He’s averaged 20 points per game across the last two seasons and while he’s not a notable playmaker, an offense where Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton handle the ball for significant portions of the game would allow him to be the best version of himself, and give him the featured backcourt role he wants. Nabbing Hield would also have the added benefit of preventing anybody else in the conference adding him, as there seemed to be some interest from the Philadelphia 76ers (even if it was more on Buddy’s end than anything). Additionally, Cory Joseph is a steady backup point guard who can flex over to the 2 and is a reliable contributor, even if he’s not an offensive focal point.
Why the Kings do it:
Buddy has, in his own fashion, made his displeasure with Sacramento known. For whatever reason, he doesn’t see eye to eye with head coach Luke Walton, and his belief in his own abilities is so strong that he chafes at having to share the spotlight with DeAaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic. With new leadership in the front office and a playoff drought extended another year, Sacramento might both rid themselves of the Hield headache while raising the floor of their roster. The synergy between Bledsoe and Fox isn’t apparent, but in a new environment Bledsoe might be willing to support the younger guard. More importantly, Lopez brings his All-Defensive Team acumen and discipline to a franchise that sorely needs it, while Ersan can be a veteran voice in the locker room for the Kings’ young players. The Kings may not be in a rush to trade Hield, but this would be worth considering.
Milwaukee receives: Buddy Hield, Cory Joseph
Sacramento receives: Brook Lopez, Eric Bledsoe, Ersan Ilyasova
Acquiring Buddy Hield this offseason would be similar to the Bucks’ acquisition of Eric Bledsoe when he was disillusioned in Phoenix. However, Hield’s value has not tanked as far as Bledsoe’s had, whereas another Buck’s value may never be higher. Brook Lopez has performed as well as anybody could have expected in the last two seasons, filling his role admirably and unlocking Milwaukee’s regular season excellence. However, if the road to success in the playoffs involves moving away from the zone drop, that involves moving away from what Lopez does best, and if Brook is asked to do other things, his impact may not be as substantial as we’ve grown accustomed to. Some might say that this is tinkering for the sake of tinkering, and that may be true (and antithetical to how Mike Budenholzer runs things). However, if the Bucks want to improve their offense and switch gears on defense, this may be a good way to accomplish both goals with one move.
Vote for your preferred trade package!
6-11 Trade Matchup
This poll is closed
Jazz: Mike Conley / Eric Bledsoe, Ersan Ilyasova, 2020 IND 1st, D.J. Wilson
Kings: Buddy Hield, Cory Joseph / Brook Lopez, Eric Bledsoe, Ersan Ilyasova