The NBA calendar is a funny thing; often enough, the biggest events of the basketball year are only tangentially related to basketball. The NBA Draft. Free agency. The buyout market. Awards season. And our current phase, the NBA trade deadline, which is set for February 10, these are all opportunities for a team to take a chance, make a change, and shift their fortunes ever so slightly, whether it’s to bolster a playoff run or self-sabotage enough to improve lottery odds for draft picks.
The Milwaukee Bucks, still the reigning NBA champions, are struggling relative to expectations. The best way to cure those struggles, theoretically, is to make a change, and what better way to do so than by making a trade?
Counterpoint: the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
The Bucks are not as good this season as they were last season. And it’s pretty easy to see why.— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) February 4, 2022
They miss Brook Lopez.
“It’s been extremely tough.” - Middleton
A deep dive into all the reasons they miss their starting center, at @TheAthletic: https://t.co/HadBBmU38m
The Athletic’s Eric Nehm perfectly illustrates both “where” and “how much” the Bucks miss Brook Lopez, and from all corners of Bucks fandom come the trade proposals to try and mitigate the risk come playoff time.
The Bucks need a big man, sources* say. We should have kept DeMarcus Cousins! Or perhaps Robin Lopez is the answer! Or maybe Mike Muscala! Mo Bamba? Dwight Howard? As our own Van Fayaz pointed out last week, the names that come up in unsolicited offers on Twitter are underwhelming because the Bucks can only cobble together so much in a trade package. There are no untethered first round picks to trade, only a handful of future seconds, and the players who might garner the most interest in a deal are Donte DiVincenzo and Jordan Nwora, both of whom will be restricted free agents in the summer.
There’s just not a lot of wiggle room for the Bucks in the trade market, and if we’re being honest...do any of those names offer the same sense of confidence that Brook Lopez would?
The caveats are obvious: Brook Lopez has played in only one more regular season game this season than I have (the very first one), and at 33 years old with a not-insignificant back surgery just behind him (pardon the pun), the window for him to return to the court and be the same old Brook in time for the postseason is closing rapidly. Per Nehm, “the organization expects Lopez to be able to play in regular-season games this season.” Will it be enough?
Counterpoint to the counterpoint: would you rather take your chances sticking with Brook, or does Mo Bamba mastering the zone drop in 2 months sound like a safer bet?
At this point, the plan has been obvious from the start: the Bucks will either have Brook Lopez – the real Brook Lopez – back in time for the playoffs, or they won’t. There are still other moves the Bucks could make (Milwaukee is carrying one open roster spot, and is a prime destination for players ring-chasing on the buyout market) that might help in the postseason. It just seems less and less likely that the empty seat can be used on a center who will actually matter in May.
Lopez is traveling with the team as they head westward this weekend, and will check in with the Los Angeles doctor who performed his surgery. If his recovery goes well and he’s able to ramp up his basketball activities by the end of February, perhaps Lopez can return to the court in March and use the remainder of the regular season to find his groove and prepare for the postseason. The Bucks are no strangers to tinkering during the regular season, sometimes it even works out!
In any case, we must face the facts: if the Bucks won’t have Lopez available, then we’re looking at a very real chance of Milwaukee dropping out of the NBA Finals race before the final round. Mortgaging what few assets the Bucks do have on a non-playoff rotation big man won’t change that.
Do the Bucks *have* to make a move before the deadline?
This poll is closed
Yes, Milwaukee needs a center.
Yes, but not for a big.
No, the Bucks should stay the course.