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NBA Trade Deadline 2023: What to expect from the Bucks

Milwaukee continues to be active in talks, but is a deal coming?

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Phoenix Suns v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Yes indeed folks, in just under one week on February 9th at 2pm CST, the 2023 NBA trade deadline occurs. Once again, we here at Brew Hoop have you covered, alongside great work from our friend Eric Nehm and numerous national pieces. Thus far, the only deal of note (the Lakersacquisition of Rui Hachimura) reportedly almost involved the Milwaukee Bucks and sent a certain long-rumored Sun to America’s Dairyland, but that’s the biggest rumble we’ve heard in some time.

For the third year running, I’m taking a similar approach in diagnosing Milwaukee’s trade possibilities. I managed to forecast a player GM Jon Horst ended up trading for each time, also getting the outgoing packaging correct, more or less. In all modestly, it’s really not that hard to figure out! You, dear reader, probably have also had some of the very thoughts that I’ll lay out below.

Once again, the likelihood remains that Horst does swing a deal. Since assuming his post in June 2017, he’s been active at every deadline but one (in 2020, right before the world changed), so it would come as a mild shocker if he doesn’t pull the trigger for the fourth time in five seasons. Will it be for a Nikola Mirotic/P.J. Tucker-type name? Or a less sexy Serge Ibaka or Tyler Zeller? Let’s get into it.

What do the Bucks have to trade?

As usual, I’ll begin with a reminder of what’s currently in the Bucks’ draft coffers. Since the Jrue Holiday trade of November 2020, most of Milwaukee’s future first-round picks are owed to other teams and thus cannot be dealt. However, for the first time since then, the Bucks are able to trade a future first.

Here’s the spot for my perfunctory explanation of what’s colloquially known as the Stepien rule that prevents teams from trading their first-rounder in consecutive seasons and that no team may trade any pick more than seven years in advance. That means the furthest out that Milwaukee could trade a pick is 2029 when Giannis will be 35 years old and not on his current contract.

These are the picks Milwaukee does not control, and as such cannot trade:

  • 2023 first-round pick (owed to the Rockets from the February 2021 P.J. Tucker trade)
  • 2024 first-round pick (the Pelicans have a right to swap positions with the Bucks)
  • 2025 first-round pick (owed to the Pelicans or Knicks, depending on where it falls)
  • 2026 first-round pick (the Pelicans also have swap rights)
  • 2027 first-round pick (owed to the Pelicans—these last four due to the Holiday trade)
  • 2025 second-round pick (owed to the Cavs for removing protections on their 2022 first-round pick, which was sent out in the Holiday trade)
  • 2026 second-round pick (owed to the Magic for getting into 2020’s second round and taking Jordan Nwora)

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about what the Bucks do have, including players and a newly available-for-business future first. These assets are all ranked in order of what I believe their value to trade partners would be. I am not considering their big three (duh), Defensive Player of the Year candidate Brook Lopez, a few key rotation players under contracts signed last offseason (Portis, Connaughton, and Ingles), and Thanasis Antetokounmpo (for obvious reasons) as trade candidates. I’m also overlooking the Bucks’ two-way contracts, as these have zero salary-matching value.

  1. 2029 first-round pick
  2. MarJon Beauchamp with up to three years and $10.1m remaining on his rookie-scale contract after this season (includes two team options)
  3. Grayson Allen with one year and $9.35m remaining on his contract after this season
  4. 2028 first-round pick swap (because Milwaukee owes its 2027 first to New Orleans, this cannot be traded outright per the Stepien rule)
  5. George Hill and his $4m expiring contract
  6. Jevon Carter with one year and $2.1m guaranteed on his contract after this season (can opt out this summer)*
  7. 2023 second-round pick (less favorable of Cleveland’s or Golden State’s; acquired in last deadline’s Ibaka-Donte DiVincenzo trade)
  8. Jordan Nwora with one year and $3.2m remaining on his contract after this season
  9. Wesley Matthews and his $1.84m expiring contract*^
  10. Serge Ibaka and his $1.84m expiring contract*^
  11. 2024 second-round pick (Portland’s, again from the Ibaka-DiVincenzo trade)
  12. 2023 second-round pick (their own)
  13. 2025 second-round pick (Indiana’s, from the July 2019 Malcolm Brogdon trade)
  14. 2024 second-round pick (their own)
  15. 2027 second-round pick (their own)
  16. 2028 second-round pick (their own)
  17. 2029 second-round pick (their own)

*can veto any trade per CBA rules

^these salaries are actually higher, but their cap hits are the veteran’s minimum of $1.84m

That’s a lot of seconds—eight to be exact. Horst famously traded four of those alongside matching salaries for Nikola Mirotic in 2019, so don’t discount what a gaggle of seconds can net. These assets aren’t really making anyone jealous, but compared to what the Bucks had at their disposal last year, they have a fair bit more to work with.

What do the Bucks struggle with?

In previous years, I approached this in different ways: first, it was what was preventing them from getting a title, then it was what could prevent them from repeating. Since that didn’t happen last year, but the “equity” from winning a championship about 18 months ago is real, I’ll bisect those two. In order of importance, here are their issues:

  1. Scoring! Milwaukee is currently 21st in offensive rating, up from 24th since Middleton’s return. Their big three generate tons of offense and as we saw last spring and in the first half of this season, they struggle to put the ball through the rim without all three healthy.
  2. Controlling the ball and playmaking! Anyone with two eyes who has watched a handful of Bucks games this year knows this has been an issue. This also has to do with not having a full complement of ball handlers (primarily Middleton and Ingles) healthy, putting those responsibilities in the hands of less capable initiators like Allen or Carter.
  3. Three-point shooting in the playoffs! I say this every year. In theory, everyone in the Bucks’ rotation outside Giannis is a good outside shooter, but we know better than to rely on this when the games mean the most. Maybe this could finally be the year the Bucks shake this demon, or maybe Middleton’s presence helps create space for their C&S snipers. Or not.
  4. Effective physical defense on the wing! Some fans have been calling for this even before Middleton’s return. Ingles also has some defensive chops and certainly has the size, but another body who can capably check the likes of Tatum and Durant is on a lot of wish lists.
  5. Deep bench frontcourt minutes! This isn’t a huge deal, but with Ibaka having played his last game with Milwaukee, there’s no one behind Lopez, Giannis, and Portis who can play the 5 in the postseason (sorry Mamu). The only opponent where I could see this being a problem would be Philly if one of the main bigs who spar with Joel Embiid got into foul trouble.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of what sometimes ails the Bucks, but if they can address two of the first four points above, they are pretty unbeatable. Even with these bugaboos plaguing them variously throughout the year, lest we forget that the team is 34-17, good for second in the East; just 2.5 games back of Boston and one back of Denver for the league’s second-best record.

What type(s) of players could address those issues?

Unlike last year, I can think of a whole slew of player archetypes who could help on these fronts. In no order, here are some general molds of NBA basketball players that the Bucks might like on their team:

  1. A reliable ball-handling guard who isn’t a sieve on defense
  2. A ball-handler at any position with a reliable three-point shot
  3. An initiator at any position who can create shots for others
  4. A sturdy, long, defensive-minded wing who’s preferably over 6’6”
  5. A score-first perimeter player who can play on- or off-ball
  6. A defensive big man over 6’10” to replace Ibaka

The Bucks do already have players who fit these descriptions even beyond their stars (Ingles fits nos. 2 and 3, for example), but their projected playoff rotation also includes more limited shooters like Connaughton, Allen, and Portis (each of whom lacks in areas like creation or defense). Players who fit this bill may also be available on the buyout market after the deadline too. Last season, the DiVincenzo-Ibaka trade opened up two roster spots because Rodney Hood and Semi Ojeleye (remember them?) were also included in the deal. Horst filled those spots rather well with Jevon Carter and DeAndre’ Bembry, who each met a need on the roster (more PG depth, defense on the wing). If the Bucks have an open roster spot or two post-deadline, I would wager they could find a big man on a minimum, perhaps after that player was bought out from his current team.

Should a trade actually happen? If so, for whom?

Last year, it was pretty clear that the Bucks needed to add in the frontcourt at the deadline because Lopez was just over a month away from returning after back surgery, and updates were scarce. It’s a bit more nebulous where exactly they could use depth as the roster stands today. Now that Middleton is healthy, Milwaukee’s presumptive starting lineup and nine-man playoff rotation would look like this once Portis returns:

Nine players are already a lot for any postseason game—in recent seasons, Bud has shrunk his rotation to as small as six in certain matchups—but most fans and followers would agree that this is Milwaukee’s best nine-man group at present. With the stars’ minutes increasing closer to 40 come May, that uptick in playing time is coming at the expense of the remaining six players, again depending on the matchup.

Even without Middleton against Boston last spring, Bud stuck pretty strictly to eight throughout the series, and by the latter contests, that eighth man was mostly playing between 10–15 minutes. So any player the Bucks add to their rotation would take reps away from this group above, and how comfortable are we doing that? All of these players beyond the stars are good fits with the Bucks and enjoying good seasons. Some (Allen, Carter, and Portis) are bad fits against certain opponents (Boston) but fare better against others.

For this rationale, I’m of the mind that any addition would either be a matchup-dependent piece (i.e. wouldn’t necessarily play against all opponents) or—if they’re good enough—would knock one of Allen, Carter, Ingles, or Portis out of the rotation for a few games or even an entire series. An example of the latter circumstance would be a player of Kyle Kuzma’s caliber; someone who combines various helpful skills (defense, playmaking, scoring) into one body that can play something like 28 minutes, rather than one or two others who are lacking in one of those areas.

Last year, I also argued that the Bucks didn’t need a major addition to their rotation—since we didn’t know Middleton would be injured in a few months—and instead needed some work around the edges. Looking at the roster right now, though, I’d say they need to target something a little more substantial than the big-man depth they badly needed this time last year.

The Jae Crowder Dilemma

Here’s a special section to discuss everyone’s favorite trade target: former Buck tormenter Jae Crowder. At this time, Crowder is apparently in Atlanta, working out so he’s ready to contribute to whatever team may acquire him. He hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since May 15, 2022, so he’s going on nine months without any significant run. After Phoenix told him that he’d be losing his spot in the starting lineup to Cam Johnson and extension talks (he’s on a $10.2m expiring deal) went nowhere, he left the team and demanded a trade.

His current employer has steadily driven a hard—and some may say unrealistic—bargain for him. At various times, reports have indicated that the Suns are seeking two of the following three assets: a first-round pick, a solid rotation forward (essentially replacing Crowder), and a young prospect. Like many, I think even one of those is too exorbitant a price for a 32-year-old forward who is limited offensively and hasn’t played in so long.

It seems that Horst agrees. The latest intel suggests that Milwaukee’s offer “is what it is,” so in other words, Horst isn’t increasing it. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reports the Bucks are offering a package of Ibaka, Jordan Nwora, George Hill, and second-round picks while also seeking a third team to furnish the Suns with a forward. That offer seems more than fair, so you’ll see it again below.

The other noteworthy development in the Crowder saga from Charania is that Phoneix granted Milwaukee permission to meet with Crowder one-on-one earlier this week. This seems a bit peculiar to me; even with a player holding out, teams rarely let rivals speak to their current players and it’s also a bit odd to see the meeting even be reported. My read on this is that the Bucks are committed to not increasing their offer, and the Suns are trying to juice Crowder’s market by letting one suitor have access to him. Milwaukee could also be trying to gauge Crowder’s interest in an extension this offseason, whether he would sign with them if he isn’t traded and instead bought out, or his willingness to play a certain role on their current squad.

That last bit is the key issue here. As I laid out above, any addition to this roster on the wing or at the forward spots would battle for minutes with the likes of Allen, Connaughton, and Ingles. In all likelihood, Crowder is still a better defender than all three of those Bucks, which would certainly come in handy against Boston or Brooklyn’s big wings. However, he’s not actually the 3&D wing he looked like in the bubble two-and-a-half years ago: he’s just a 34.6% career shooter from deep. He falls in the “matchup-dependent” realm of the roster alongside most every role player the Bucks have. Even versus the Celtics, his defense would only go so far. Given how much trouble Milwaukee had scoring the ball last spring, they could probably use Ingles’ offense more during the minutes that Middleton and Giannis rest rather than Crowder, who would primarily be on the floor to deal with one of Tatum or Brown.

All told, I doubt Crowder plays more than 25 minutes per night on this team, and probably even fewer in a hypothetical Celtics series than one might expect. Put simply, he is not good enough to be a no-brainer rotation player in every matchup. Is he ok with that after demanding a trade, in part for losing his starting spot? This is probably why the Bucks met with him, and it’s also why he’s not a piece worth giving up significant assets for.

The vast majority of Bucks fans surveyed recently wouldn’t trade Allen for Crowder straight-up, as had been rumored early in the season. This is the right call, as Allen has palpably improved on defense this year while somewhat adding to his offensive game by driving more often to the rim and playmaking for others. While the jury is still out on how that will play against the Celtics, if indeed those two teams collide this postseason, Allen proved he can be a valuable piece against the Bulls last April and could certainly be a plus in any Bucks series this spring. He’s a better player than Crowder today, and he’s their best trade asset that isn’t a draft choice. If he’s getting moved, the Bucks need to do better than only Jae Crowder.


Ok, now that we’ve tackled that elephant in the room, we can look at a wider range of trade candidates. I’ll briefly mention cap stuff here: the Bucks are over the luxury tax line by a lot, and given that last deadline and this summer they increased their projected tax bill, we’ll assume they’re willing to again. Cost-cutting is not a motivation behind any of the moves I’m considering.

Here’s a chart of trade targets that fit the player archetypes I listed a few sections up. Those are: (1) a ball-handling guard who can defend adequately, (2) a ball-handling shooter at any position, (3) a shot creator/initiator at any position, (4) a long, sturdy defensive wing, (5) an on- or off-ball perimeter scorer, and (6) a defensive big. Bonus points if the Bucks get younger overall in acquiring any such player.

Because of the number of roster moves that would be needed on the acquiring team’s end, I didn't consider any 4-for-1 trades (sorry if you wanted Eric Gordon or De’Andre Hunter). All of these trades would likely necessitate outgoing second-round picks at a minimum. I am not suggesting that any of these partners would take the Bucks’ outgoing package—those could be split up between them and a third team. I’m merely stating what I believe Milwaukee would have to give up to get a given player.

2023 Deadline Targets

Player Age Team Needs Addressed 2022–23 Guaranteed Salary Seasons Remaining After 2022–23 Possible Outgoing Salary Matching Component Notes
Player Age Team Needs Addressed 2022–23 Guaranteed Salary Seasons Remaining After 2022–23 Possible Outgoing Salary Matching Component Notes
Josh Hart 27 Blazers 1, 3, and 4 $12,960,000 1 Allen + any two of Hill, Ibaka, or Nwora 2023–24 player option
Justise Winslow 26 Blazers 3 & 4 $4,097,561 0 Hill; any combination of Hill, Ibaka, and Nwora
Alex Caruso 28 Bulls 1 & 4 $9,030,000 2 Allen; Hill + Ibaka + Nwora 2024–25 partially guaranteed for $3m
Coby White 22 Bulls 2, 3, and 5 $7,413,955 0 Allen; Hill + Nwora; Hill + Ibaka + Nwora RFA in Summer 2023
Derrick Jones Jr. 25 Bulls 4 $3,200,000 1 Hill; Nwora; Hill + Ibaka; Ibaka + Nwora 2023–24 player option
Javonte Green 29 Bulls 4 $1,815,677 0 Nwora or Ibaka
Robert Covington 32 Clippers 4 $12,307,692 1 Allen + any of Hill, Ibaka, or Nwora
Justin Holiday 33 Hawks 4 & 5 $6,292,440 0 Hill + Ibaka and/or Nwora
Aaron Holiday 26 Hawks 2 $1,968,175 0 Any of Hill, Ibaka, or Nwora
Dewayne Dedmon 33 Heat 6 $4,700,000 1 Hill; Ibaka + Nwora 2023–24 non-guaranteed
Cody Martin 27 Hornets 5 $7,000,000 3 Hill + Ibaka or Nwora; Hill + Ibaka + Nwora 2025–26 non-guaranteed
P.J. Washington 24 Hornets 4 & 5 $5,808,435 0 Allen; any combination of Hill, Ibaka, and Nwora RFA in Summer 2023
Jalen McDaniels 25 Hornets 4 & 5 $1,930,681 0 Any of Hill, Ibaka, or Nwora
Dennis Smith Jr. 25 Hornets 1 & 3 $1,836,090 0 Ibaka and/or Nwora
Jordan Clarkson 30 Jazz 2, 3, and 5 $13,340,000 1 Allen + any two of Hill, Ibaka, or Nwora 2023–24 player option
Malik Beasley 26 Jazz 5 $15,558,035 1 Allen + any two of Hill, Ibaka, or Nwora 2023–24 team option
Nickeil Alexander-Walker 24 Jazz 4 & 5 $5,009,633 1 Hill; Ibaka + Hill or Nwora, Hill + Ibaka + Nwora RFA in Summer 2023
KZ Okpala 23 Kings 5 $1,902,133 1 Any of Hill, Ibaka, or Nwora 2023–24 non-guaranteed
Cam Reddish 23 Knicks 5 $5,954,454 0 Ibaka + Hill or Nwora RFA in Summer 2023
Obi Toppin 24 Knicks 5 $5,348,280 1 Ibaka + Hill or Nwora RFA in Summer 2024
Immanuel Quickley 23 Knicks 1 & 3 $2,316,240 1 Any of Hill, Ibaka, or Nwora RFA in Summer 2024
Juan Toscano-Anderson 29 Lakers 4 $1,836,090 0 Ibaka
Gary Harris 28 Magic 4 & 5 $13,000,000 1 Allen + any of Hill, Ibaka, or Nwora 2023–24 non-guaranteed
Terrence Ross 31 Magic 5 $11,500,000 0 Allen + any of Hill, Ibaka, or Nwora
Cole Anthony 22 Magic 2, 3, and 5 $3,613,680 1 Hill; Nwora; Ibaka + Hill or Nwora RFA in Summer 2024
Reggie Bullock 31 Mavericks 4 & 5 $10,012,800 1 Allen; Hill + Ibaka + Nwora 2023–24 partially guaranteed for $5.5m
T.J. McConnell 30 Pacers 1 & 3 $8,100,000 2 Hill + Ibaka + Nwora 2024–25 partially guaranteed for $5m
Oshae Brissett 24 Pacers 4 $1,846,738 0 Any of Hill, Ibaka, or Nwora
Alec Burks 31 Pistons 2, 3, and 5 $10,012,800 1 Allen; Hill + Ibaka + Nwora 2023–24 team option
Saddiq Bey 23 Pistons 4 & 5 $2,959,080 2 Allen; any combination of Hill, Ibaka, and Nwora RFA in Summer 2024
Gary Trent Jr. 24 Raptors 4 & 5 $17,505,000 1 Allen + Hill + Ibaka; Allen + Hill + Nwora 2023–24 player option
Thaddeus Young 34 Raptors 4 $8,000,000 1 Hill + Nwora; Hill + Ibaka + Nwora 2023–24 partially guaranteed for $1m
Jae'Sean Tate 27 Rockets 1 & 3 $7,065,217 2 Allen; Hill + Ibaka and/or Nwora 2024–25 team option
Doug McDermott 31 Spurs 5 $13,750,000 1 Allen + any two of Hill, Ibaka, or Nwora
Josh Richardson 29 Spurs 4 & 5 $12,196,094 0 Allen + any combination of Hill, Ibaka, and Nwora
Jae Crowder 32 Suns 4 $10,183,800 0 Hill + Ibaka + Nwora
Kenrich Williams 28 Thunder 4 & 5 $2,000,000 4 Allen + any combination of Hill, Ibaka, and Nwora 2026–27 team option
Aaron Wiggins 24 Thunder 4 & 5 $1,563,518 2 Allen + any combination of Hill, Ibaka, and Nwora 2023–24 non-guaranteed
JaMychal Green 32 Warriors 4 $1,836,090 0 Ibaka
Delon Wright 30 Wizards 1 & 3 $7,804,878 1 Hill + Nwora; Hill + Ibaka + Nwora
Deni Avdija 22 Wizards 4 $4,916,160 1 Hill; Nwora; any two of Hill, Ibaka, or Nwora RFA in Summer 2024
Corey Kispert 23 Wizards 5 $3,552,840 2 Hill; Nwora; any two of Hill, Ibaka, or Nwora RFA in Summer 2025

You’ll notice I only included one defensive big man. Frankly, I don’t think an Ibaka replacement is worth spending real assets on when Portis should return soon enough, and a fourth big likely won’t play much in the playoffs, if at all. With an open roster spot, the Bucks could likely find such a player on the buyout market.

Anyway, here are a few that would likely require one or both of the Bucks’ first-round assets (the 2029 pick or 2028 pick swap), also known as the more sexy targets:

More Far-Fetched Targets

Player Age Team Needs Addressed 2022–23 Guaranteed Salary Seasons Remaining After 2022–23 Possible Outgoing Salary Matching Component Notes
Player Age Team Needs Addressed 2022–23 Guaranteed Salary Seasons Remaining After 2022–23 Possible Outgoing Salary Matching Component Notes
Bogdan Bogdanovic 30 Hawks 1, 2, 3, and 5 $18,000,000 1 Allen + Hill + Ibaka or Nwora 2023–24 player option
Jarred Vanderbilt 23 Jazz 4 $4,374,000 1 Allen + any of Hill, Ibaka, or Nwora, Hill; Hill + Ibaka and/or Nwora
Dorian Finney-Smith 29 Mavericks 4 $13,394,160 2 Allen + any of Hill, Ibaka, or Nwora 2025–26 player option
Bojan Bogdanovic 33 Pistons 5 $19,343,000 2 Allen + Ingles + any two of Hill, Ibaka, or Nwora
OG Anunoby 25 Raptors 4 & 5 $17,357,143 2 Allen + Beauchamp + Nwora 2024–25 player option
Devin Vassell 22 Spurs 2 & 5 $4,437,000 1 Allen + Beauchamp + Nwora RFA in Summer 2024
Kyle Kuzma 27 Wizards 3 & 4 $13,000,000 1 Allen + any of Hill, Ibaka, or Nwora 2023–24 player option

To be clear, it’s likely the Bucks would be outbid for most, if not all of these players. Anunoby, in particular, is probably the belle of the ball for this deadline season and reports are that Toronto would want multiple (perhaps as much as three) firsts for him. They can probably find a better package of draft assets than the Bucks’ 2029 first and their 2028 swap, even with Beauchamp included. It’s a bit of a pie in the sky situation, but I think any Bucks fan would be ecstatic with that trade, even if it means giving up Beauchamp.

It’s possible some of the names in the first table that are close to free agency could be bought out. If the Bucks complete any trade where they send out more players than they acquire, then they’d have the roster space to sign any player to a rest-of-season deal. Names that strike me as buyout candidates above are Terrence Ross, Josh Richardson, Dewayne Dedmon, and Crowder.

DraftKings Odds

I agree with the 75% of respondents on our Reacts poll that the Bucks should make a trade, and I’d put the odds at 1 to 2 of Horst making a deal in the coming week, otherwise known as -200, Speaking of odds, the Bucks are currently +600 to take the top spot in the East behind only the Celtics (-550) and +800 to win it all behind the Celtics (+360), Nets, and Nuggets (both +700). What trade(s) above would improve those odds above those rivals? Moves for any of the players in the lower table outside of Vanderbilt or Finney-Smith may be enough to make Milwaukee the favorite, but I’d also argue that acquiring any of these names makes them East favorites: Hart, Washington, Clarkson, Burks, or Williams. Even Crowder, Richardson, Tate, or Caruso might be enough.

Ok, you should now have plenty to chew on over the next seven days. What do you think? Are there any trades mentioned here that you’d like to see happen, or any that I missed? Let me know below and we’ll see if any of us were right this time next week.

Contract and pick info from RealGM, Basketball-Reference, Spotrac, and Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ. Stats from Basketball-Reference as of February 2. Salary-matching courtesy of Fanspo’s Trade Machine & Cap Manager.

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