The modern NBA: come for the basketball, stay for the intrigue! As the Milwaukee Bucks have started off the season strong, their front office appears to be continually investigating avenues of improvement. Per The Athletic’s Shams Charania, general manager Jon Horst and his team have been in contact with the Phoenix Suns regarding their disgruntled veteran wing, Jae Crowder.
New Inside Pass from @ShamsCharania:— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) October 24, 2022
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Suns talking Jae Crowder trade with East title contenderhttps://t.co/WPhB2DHYtn pic.twitter.com/VTmv5KaXC0
The full excerpt sounds like a non-story, save for the fact that this is the first legitimate report of interest from Milwaukee. Fans have been targeting Crowder in their trade proposals for months (or at least it feels that way), and as of now it seems that the franchise has gone down the same path. From Charania:
In addition to the Hawks, the Suns have recently been engaged in talks with the Bucks on a potential Jae Crowder trade, sources said. Milwaukee has registered interest in the veteran forward who has remained away from the Suns’ organization as both sides work toward a trade.
Crowder, 32, was a second round pick back in the 2012 draft, has bounced around the league for years by virtue of his rugged 3&D game paired with his 6’6” and 235 lbs. frame. During the offseason, Phoenix seemed to commit to young wing Cam Johnson as their preferred starter going forward, which didn’t sit too well with Crowder.
ONE MUST SEEK WORK WHERE HE IS WANTED.. WHERE HE IS NEEDED.! I AM THANKFUL FOR WHAT THESE PAST 2 YRS HAVE TAUGHT ME.! NOW I MUST TAKE ON ANOTHER CHALLENGE WITH CONTINUED HARDWORK & DEDICATION.! FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO CLOSED THE DOOR ON ME…. THANK YOU! 99 BACK SOON.!— JAE CROWDER (@CJC9BOSS) September 25, 2022
Crowder started 109 games over the last two seasons with Phoenix, and before that he was a key piece of the Miami Heat rotation that ousted the Bucks in the Orlando bubble. He’s a career 34.6% three-point shooter (and a streaky one at that) but has earned the reputation of being a positive difference-maker on defense.
With his salary slot ($10.2 million, expiring after this season), the Bucks have a very narrow window to be able to swap players for Crowder. The only package that would both fit and make sense would be combining Grayson Allen ($8.5 million this year and another $8.5 million next year) and George Hill ($4.0 million, expiring)...which seems risky because of how thin the Bucks are on the wing already. Swapping Allen for Crowder in the rotation might be a defensive upgrade (with a massive trade off for shooting, which Allen excels at), but also losing George Hill when the Bucks are in a position that they have to start three guards feels like a move the Bucks shouldn’t – and wouldn’t – make right now.
What seems more likely is that the Bucks are a fallback option for Phoenix, in the case that the Suns cannot complete a transaction that’s more appealing to them. The Bucks don’t even have picks to dangle (not that Crowder would require them!), so I figure that Milwaukee will stay in a holding pattern on Crowder until later in the year, when other threads across the league have been fully tugged. Waiting also allows the Bucks to use other players that may become eligible for trade later...such as Jordan Nwora, who signed his contract on September 26 and therefore is not allowed to be included in a trade until December 26.
Even that path seems...ill-advised. The Bucks are well-situated on the wing once Khris Middleton, Pat Connaughton, and Joe Ingles all return from their various injury recoveries. For a player who feels slighted by reduced playing time or relegation to the bench, is Milwaukee the best landing spot for Crowder? Will he be content playing 15 minutes off the bench in the regular season? Why should the Bucks take away one of their best pure shooters for a burly wing who might not see the court in the postseason, when it matters most? Are you playing Crowder over Connaughton, or Middleton, or Portis, or Giannis? I wouldn’t.
Bucks fans that have been clamoring for the team to trade Grayson Allen are largely holding onto his poor performance against Boston in the playoffs (while also conveniently ignoring his stellar performance the series before against Chicago), as well as remembering the fits that Crowder caused for the Bucks as an opponent. Since there is no other viable trade package that Milwaukee can offer, going all-in for Crowder seems like a mistake, especially if it happens before the new year. Getting “a guy somewhat similar to PJ Tucker” is not the same as getting PJ Tucker; that’s not a formula, that’s chasing the dragon. The Bucks should hold off on making any changes until they can see their full team, which means that they ought to make no moves until the trade deadline unless circumstances wildly change.