It’s been no secret that when the Bucks traded away Jrue Holiday for Damian Lillard on Oct. 12, the defense would get worse, with Holiday being one of the best point-of-attack defenders in the league. However, I don’t think Bucks fans expected a bottom-six defensive team, with a defensive rating of 116.6 and a rocky 7-4 start. They have had some good wins, including a fourth-quarter classic against the Miami Heat on Oct. 30 and a clutch win over the New York Knicks on Nov. 3. However, they have had some ugly losses because of their defensive issues, including a 130-111 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Nov. 1 and a 112-97 loss to the Orlando Magic a few days ago on Nov. 11.
The Bucks defense needs to improve and the players currently on the roster are not capable of making the improvements internally. Brook Lopez has looked better in spurts, but he is still on the downward end of his career, Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton have reached their defensive ceilings, and MarJon Beauchamp and Andre Jackson Jr. are young players still developing. In a year where the Bucks are looking to win a title, they need proven players who can perform in crunch time. There just so happens to be a player like that 90 miles south of Fiserv Forum.
The Chicago Bulls have been a mess since Jan 14, 2022, the last game point guard Lonzo Ball played for the Bulls up to this point. Since then it’s been a disappointment with almost every player on the roster. The Bulls lost in five games to the Bucks that season before bowing out in the Play-In game to the Miami Heat last season. The offense regressing despite three offensive-minded stars in DeMar DeRozan, Zach Lavine, and Nikola Vucevic, and just a lack of cohesion and identity. Over the off-season, Chicago added Jevon Carter and Torrey Craig in hopes of fixing the three-point shooting issues that have plagued them with this Big 3. Safe to say that has not happened this year with a 4-7 record and reports that the Bulls are looking to trade Zach LaVine sooner rather than later.
Developing: NBA teams are probing the availability of Bulls two-time All-Star Zach LaVine and there is increased openness from both sides about exploring a trade, sources say.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 14, 2023
Details at @TheAthletic: https://t.co/2UvELP2lMG
With a rebuild likely coming soon, the Bucks could take advantage of one of the other key pieces on Chicago’s roster: Alex Caruso. Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports threw the idea of the Bucks acquiring the Bulls guard during an episode of the “This League” podcast.
“Alex Caruso over there in Chicago would be a great addition to the Bucks and I know a lot of people feel that way”— NBACentral (@TheDunkCentral) November 14, 2023
- @ChrisBHaynes on Alex Caruso and Milwaukee
(Via This League Podcast / @Dame_Carrying ) pic.twitter.com/9wDiCFj8un
Just to be clear, it was just idle speculation from Haynes and he made clear that he hasn’t spoken to anyone in the Bucks front office. However, I wanted to pick that idea up and run with it. The Bucks acquiring Caruso would be the perfect player to slot into this starting lineup next to Lillard in the backcourt. While not as good a shooter as Beasley, he would provide much better defense than Beasley out on the perimeter.
One Trade Udea
To get this trade to work for salary and value, a third team would have to be included in this deal and it would mean the departure of Bobby Portis as well.
With none of their first-round picks to offer, the Thunder swoop in to get Bobby Portis and both of the Bucks’ remaining second-round picks, completely emptying their second-round coffers. The Bulls get a young player in Beauchamp, a first-round pick, as well as a veteran in Connaughton who they can trade in the off-season for more picks. Meanwhile, the Thunder get a valuable scorer off the bench in Portis and more draft picks to stockpile later. The Bucks in this deal also get veteran wing Kenrich Williams to replace Portis at a much cheaper and longer-term contract.
This is an unlikely trade to go through, considering the Bucks are only giving up Connaughton, Portis, and two seconds. However, I think it has potential, especially if Chicago decides to enter a rebuild, rather than retool. The Bulls need picks and young players to get the future rolling and start looking to the draft to fix the mess they find themselves in. As for the Bucks, both Caruso and Williams are defensive-oriented players and provide an edge on that end that the Bucks sorely need for their championship aspirations.