Welcome back to yet another installment of the Brew Hoop Round Table, where we ask that everybody use coasters and please don’t feed the aging pugs from the table, thanks. Once again, the Milwaukee Bucks made some noise at the trade deadline by acquiring Serge Ibaka and some draft picks in exchange for Donte DiVincenzo, Semi Ojeleye, and Rodney Hood. How do we feel about that? What other news from around the league caught our eye? Pull up a chair and join us...at the Brew Hoop Round Table!
Let’s start by remembering those no longer with us...because they’re playing somewhere else. What will you miss the most about Donte, Semi, or Rodney?
Mitchell: Donte was always Doing Things. Sometimes those Things were good...sometimes those Things were not...but they were always Things.
Van: Really nothing. I wasn’t a big DiVincenzo fan: until last season, I felt that many were overrating him for advanced statistics that overstated his impact (on both ends) and weren’t matched by the eye test or his lack of scoring ability. The other two provided so little.
Julie: I’ll miss the days when Thanasis wasn’t the worst option to throw out there. All the teasing aside, I had bigger expectations for Semi than most people, possibly even his own mother? I detailed going into how he is so similar to PJ Tucker, but way cheaper. Now, he’s no more. I'll also miss Donte now that Pat is out.
Kyle: That I was the only one that had faith in Donte from start to finish.
Alex: Semi, for all the faults in his game throughout his short tenure, gave us one great gift: wearing no. 37 on his jersey. He’s one of just seven players to have donned the number in NBA history (shout out Kostas Antetokounmpo, too). It’s a number tailor-made to make a player look wide—something a guy nicknamed “Muscles Jesus” clearly needs no help with, but I love that he committed to it anyway.
Morgan: I miss that one game where Rodney Hood played alright.
Riley: They were here and they didn’t wreck the locker room. We’ve had worse player tenures in franchise history. For Donte, he almost immediately looked like a player who had some semblance of a viable skillset even with his weaknesses. That’s more than we could say for plenty of other former first-round Bucks.
Out with the old, in with the new. What are you most excited about with Serge Ibaka?
Van: I like his fit as a fourth big man on the roster because he can play the 4 or 5 alongside Giannis or Portis, and the 4 alongside Lopez when he returns (which seems likely before the playoffs). While some might think he’s washed because of last year’s back surgery, he’s only 32 and simply isn’t the same impact defender he was back in 2019. He doesn’t need to be, though! He’s no slouch on that end and can still shoot from deep.
Mitchell: How switch-y is Ibaka these days? Bobby Portis has made strides as a defender, going from “terrible” to merely “bad” against most teams. Does Serge Ibaka offer an upgrade while still stretching the floor? I’m eager to find out.
Julie: I think Serge Ibaka is exactly who I was thinking of to try to get. Essentially, the legacy of Donte DiVincenzo as a Buck is going to be “how helpful was Serge Ibaka in this postseason?” since DiVincenzo didn’t get to play most of last season’s playoffs. I think I’m glad that we have the players, with a healthy Lopez, to consistently play two big’s against teams if needed, without feeling too big.
Kyle: Serge has always given Giannis some fits and though he is not at his peak, he still has something left to potentially keep Giannis from needing to have minutes at the 5 which is important during the regular season. He is shooting the ball at an acceptable rate from three (36%) so to trade three guys that would not get much time in the postseason for one that can is good in my opinion.
Alex: Beyond any on-court metrics, Serge seems to be a beloved teammate just about anywhere he goes. With such a tight-knit core already in place, Serge should be a good addition to further strengthen team culture. Plus, his notable scarf collection is could be useful during any late-season snowstorms.
Morgan: I am excited that we picked up a player who is 6’10’’.
Riley: If he isn’t a husk, he looks like he’s made out of rock and knows it. While the foot speed and elevation dropped, being big, strong, and crafty can still count for a lot in a limited role.
How does this trade affect the Bucks, come playoff time?
Mitchell: It’s pretty simple, as I laid out in my analysis on Thursday: Donte wasn’t going to play very many playoff minutes, because there were other players on the roster who could do the job while also offering something else. Ibaka will play playoff minutes because after Giannis, Bobby Portis, and hopefully Brook Lopez, there aren’t reinforcements in the front court. The Bucks balanced their postseason rotation with this move, and in a way that preserves flexibility when it might matter most.
Van: If this is indeed the year the Bucks finally face the Sixers in the playoffs and one of Giannis/Portis/Lopez gets in foul trouble (or worse, gets hurt), I’m comfortable with Ibaka spending 10 minutes or so dealing with Joel Embiid. Even if Brook Lopez is playing, the Congo native is a pretty great insurance policy for those three big men. Regardless of their availability, I could see Ibaka being impactful in short spurts when the Bucks really need to D up. I don’t necessarily see him playing in other matchups, since Bud learned to roll with a 7 (sometimes 6!) man rotation by the latter rounds last postseason. As Mitchell wrote (and I definitely agree with), DiVincenzo was neither a likely nor desirable option for playoff minutes. Ibaka is a lot more palatable, instead of another off-ball guard who has overlapping skillsets with rotation mainstays Connaughton and Allen, plus deeper bench option Matthews. All those guys are listed at 6’4” or 6’5” and do at least one thing well, whereas DiVincenzo was a master of none in the same role at basically the same size.
Kyle: It allows for some flexibility for non-Brook minutes and is a bigger body against an Embiid or Allen. Otherwise I don’t know how much it changes for the Bucks as it’s still very dependent on Brook’s health and effectiveness. It does take out an opportunity for Bud to go deep bench which has been an issue he has early in the playoffs (but hasn’t always stuck with)
Alex: Semi, Rodney and Donte were clearly not going to make meaningful contributions in the postseason; Serge at least has a chance to. He has plenty of practical experience in high-leverage situations, and if he can put that experience to use by spelling Bobby, Giannis and (hopefully) Brook for 10-15 minutes a night while threatening to stretch the floor, that’s already an improvement.
Morgan: In addition to the aforementioned thoughts, it creates roster openings that the buyout market can fill with players who could do more than warm the bench come playoffs.
Riley: Bud will have one less tool in his toolshed to grab at in the form of Donte, which may ultimately be a good thing. If our two guard rotation doesn’t come through, I’d rather we find that out ASAP between simply Grayson and Pat rather than spending valuable in-game minutes seeing if Donte can be the solution.
Was there something else you wanted to see from Milwaukee?
Mitchell: I was intrigued by the Grant Williams noise, even if it meant dealing with Dennis Schröder in return. One thing the Bucks are lacking is a big wing that could be assigned to someone like Kevin Durant; since Ojeleye (the previous PJ Tucker replacement) is now a Clipper, the only other guy on the roster who looks the part is Jordan Nwora and...no. Perhaps those picks from the Ibaka deal could have been combined with Nwora to get a deal done elsewhere.
Van: I’d have loved Grant Williams for DiVincenzo straight-up (though Boston rightfully didn’t), and I wasn’t as turned off by Schröder as Mitchell. Like I laid out in my deadline primer two weeks ago, I saw four needs Milwaukee should address. Ibaka meets two of them (big man depth and additional three-point shooting), but they still could use some depth on the wing and point guard. I was hoping one or two of those second-rounders the Bucks netted today could be routed to Sacramento in the trade for Moe Harkless, who meets the need for a long, defense-oriented, and physical wing to help deal with KD.
Julie: Realistically, I don’t know what Jordan Nwora and the picks that came with Ibaka really could get them. That’s about all they have left, unless they start trading some of the pieces that are needed for a return to the Finals. Maybe we could have found something useful for Brook, if we believe in Moose, Ibaka and Bobby Portis up front and that his injury will really derail him. But that’s really stretching it. So no, they did fine.
Kyle: It’s starting to look pretty clear that another guard/ball handler is needed. You would hope George Hill is healthy but that cannot be something you want to rely on and this means when Jrue is out, you are asking one of Giannis or Khris to take that duty which isn’t the best case scenario
Alex: Given the Bucks’ cap situation, it was always going to be tricky to swing a meaningful trade. It would have been nice to add a 3-and-D wing or a backup point guard, but all in all, adding Ibaka and a couple picks that can be packaged together in a deal at a later date while also avoiding Donte’s upcoming restricted free agency is fine enough.
Morgan: The main addition that I expected was Brook; to the extent that this addition may not pan out, adding another big like Ibaka satisfies me.
Riley: Not particularly. I’d wanted to move off of Donte for almost anything other than another shooting guard which we accomplished. Clearing Semi/Rodney for seconds is a cherry on top.
With at least two open roster spots (three if Greg Monroe is not retained), what should the Bucks look to add? What names do you have in mind?
Mitchell: In my view, the Bucks could use a defensive-minded wing and another point guard. I’m not sure which I prioritize more right now, but with George Hill still out with a lingering neck issue, another ball-handler might be the kind of playoff insurance that this team needs. Goran Dragic is rumored to be interested in Milwaukee, so...I’ll take him, I don’t have to like him. DeAndre Bembry is also an interesting option.
Van: Mitchell and I are on the same wavelength here in regards to a taller defensive wing and a ballhandler. A Marvin Williams-type would be just fine since a P.J. Tucker-type is harder to come by, and I have a hard time foreseeing any big defensive forwards hitting the buyout market. The smaller Bembry might work, but a couple of unproven guys were waived in yesterday’s action who are worth a look on a two-way or ten-day: Robert Woodard II and KZ Okpala. Woodard (formerly of the Kings) is 6’7” with a 7’1” wingspan and 235 pounds, plus had a good defensive reputation in college. Okpala (formerly of the Heat by way of OKC) is of similar dimensions and showed us his chops on the defensive end earlier this year, though he’s been out with a wrist injury since December. A general need I pointed out in my deadline piece was bench scoring, and this is even more critical with Pat Connaughton’s pending absence which could be upwards of a month. Even if Portis shifts back to a reserve role, the way the Bucks’ offense went cold for long stretches last postseason and how bad they’ve been from deep in the last three playoff runs concerns me. For those reasons, Milwaukee could always use more three-point shooting and/or a guy who can get his own bucket. Dragic would have to work into our (and George Hill’s) good graces after his dirty antics against the Bucks while on the reviled Heat, but he’d be a nice fit as the third guy off the bench, ahead of Ibaka. If they can’t get Dragic—or someone like him who can both shoot and create—the options look slim in terms of ballhandlers unless there are some buyout surprises. Old friend Eric Bledsoe apparently won’t be bought out, but other Old Friend D.J. Augustin hit waivers yesterday. You can do a lot worse than him as a third PG, plus he’s shooting well.
Julie: I think Goran Dragic coming in as a third point guard or something would be fascinating. Keeping Moose is no longer necessary, but it is a feel good story to do so. I don’t really know who else is getting bought out for sure, maybe Orlando or Houston will dump someone? I think whomever it is, a pickup like a Trevor Ariza 3-5 years ago would be good for them, along with Dragic.
Kyle: A competent guard/ball handler. I will deal with Dragic. If we are getting the band back together, then I guess, fine, let’s have Bledsoe. Bembry wouldn’t be a bad option but I also don’t know who all will likely get bought out, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Mamu gets his contract converted.
Alex: Bembry is intriguing, given his connection to Coach Bud from their days in Atlanta, but there’s another former Hawk that could make sense if he hits the buyout market: Kent Bazemore. He’s languishing on the Lakers bench, but is posting a career-low turnover percentage in the minutes he is getting while still serving as a serviceable defender and three-point shooter. Gary Harris might also be worth checking in on, if the Bucks think his rediscovered shooting stroke can last the rest of the season.
Morgan: I am also firmly in the camp of assembling the Avengers, and while I am partial to the Old Friends mentioned above, it is my duty to mention Ersan Ilyasova.
Riley: My list of top buyout targets started and ended with Thaddeus Young. What’s “Nasty” Nate Wolters up to these days?
What stands out to you about the other moves made (or not made) across the NBA?
Julie: I might be the only one who thinks that Philadelphia and Brooklyn BOTH got worse. I don’t believe in Ben Simmons or James Harden, but I do think James Harden is better than Seth Curry and Andre Drummond. But, I don’t think it’s by much, and now the Sixers also don’t have insurance for Embiid in case of an inevitable injury. As for Brooklyn, they now don’t have a reliable second option for Kevin Durant in home games, and since nobody needs to guard Simmons, we can always double team KD. And Drummond is very redundant here, with LA, Blake Griffin and Nic Claxton already. Essentially they got a defense only player and a second Patty Mills for Harden. And Philly got a declining, offense-only ball hog for two good role players (for them). Win-win for the Bucks in my opinion.
Kyle: I agree with Julie. Both teams needed to change something but they didn’t do enough to beat Milwaukee but this also shows how nobody values Simmons considering all it took to get rid of him. Harden also isn’t respected as a team willingly took Ben Simmons to not deal with him.
Van: I feel similarly to Jule and Kyle. I’m not sure that Harden is a top-ten player anymore, and while I don’t think Philly necessarily got worse, I don’t think this raised their ceiling enough to make it out of the East. Brooklyn’s current ten-game slide doesn’t project to get better while KD is hurt and Irving can’t play road games. Even with Simmons playing at Barclays, they are in real danger of being a play-in team. Otherwise, I’m incredulous that the Bulls and Lakers both stood pat. I figured LA would at least try to right the ship, but it’s taken on too much water. The Bulls will have injury question marks the rest of the year, and I can see them being regretful they didn’t at least add some depth when they had a chance.
Morgan: I appreciate that our respected colleagues, the Timberwolves, did not jump the gun.
Mitchell: The Lakers didn’t do anything. That’s hilarious.
Riley: I really like the Cavaliers being able to grab Caris LeVert. He fits in age-wise, has a manageable contract, and as much as I love Tall Ball, they needed some more reliable guard help. Curious to see just how far that group goes not just this year, but the next three or four.
As of right now, who’s your pick to make it to the NBA Finals?
Van: I really like the Bucks’ chances given how good they’re looking lately. The Suns are running roughshod over the entire NBA right now, though, and it’s hard for me to pick against them because I think the Warriors hit their peak too early. It’s unimaginative, but I think we’re heading for a repeat of last year.
Mitchell: Bucks in six, always. And from the West, I still like the Phoenix Suns the most.
Really not feeling the Orlando-OKC Finals after the deadline, they didn’t make any moves to really stay in the race. I was really disappointed in the Bucks, but then realized they are only three games behind my prediction to this point, and with all that happened to them, I think it’s the Bucks. As for the West, I hope it’s Memphis because that would upset the NBA money guys so much if Memphis made the Finals. But, I’ll go with one last hurrah from the Warriors.
Alex: There’s so much volatility among the Eastern Conference playoff field, especially at the top, but it feels insincere to say anyone but the Bucks. They’re still the champs until someone proves otherwise. In the West, the Memphis Grizzlies are emanating 2011 Thunder energy, but I agree with Julie: it seems like the Warriors will make it back to the Finals.
Morgan: I would like to Utah finally get over the hump, and for the Bucks to knock them off of said hump in the Finals (in six).
Riley: This is Brew Hoop; it’d be a crime to say it’ll be anyone other than the Bucks (and Suns).
That’s what we think. What about you? Tell us your answers in the comments below, or add questions that you have for the community to answer!