On Wednesday, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that because Pacers guard Buddy Hield was unable to work out an extension with the team, the two sides elected to work on a trade destination for the 30-year-old guard, less than two weeks before training camp starts. Hield is due $19.3m on the final year of his contract and would remain eligible for an extension if he is moved. Given his well-known prowess from downtown—he leads all players in threes made over the past five seasons—naturally has a number of teams interested.
Milwaukee is one of those teams, according to Charania again yesterday, noting that they’ve “had a level of interest in him over the last several months,” along with Dallas and Philly. Over the years, plenty of Bucks fans have posited that Hield would make for a nice fit alongside the current core. Undoubtedly, many of those same fans have hit up trade machines in recent days since the initial news that Hield was seeking a deal out of Indiana, and they likely understand that at least one key piece will need to be sent out in order for Milwaukee to acquire the prolific shooter. That might not be a problem, depending on who is sent out, and it could open up another roster spot for someone like free-agent point guard Cameron Payne. But let’s think about what this could all look like.
First, the on-court fit. Even casual fans are probably aware of just how deadly Hield is from behind the arc. A career 40.2% shooter is one thing, but maintaining that on such a high volume is another. His lowest 3P% was just 36.6% two seasons ago, and towards the end of his nearly five full years in Sacramento, he was hoisting up nine or ten triples per game. In 2020–21, a whopping 72.7% of the Bahamian’s shots were from three-point land, and as you might expect, the vast majority of them came after teammates found him for a good look: 89% of his three-point attempts were assisted last season. Not that many (just 12%) came in the corners, so it helps that his 42% success rate above the break was one of the NBA’s best figures among wings. 42% was also his conversion on six catch-and-shoot three-point opportunities per night, and he shot 43.8% on pull-ups.
All in all, he remains one of the league’s elite long-distance gunners, versatile enough from deep to make opponents pay in a variety of ways. While he doesn’t go inside much, he’s solid enough at the rim and is respectable from other places inside the three-point line. He’s upped his rebounding numbers slightly and comes up with a decent number of steals too, though he’s never been regarded as a strong defender. Listed at 6’4” 220 with a 6’9” wingspan, he has enough size to play the three in some lineups, but still probably has to be hidden on defense. He also has missed only six games during the course of his seven-year career.
In Milwaukee’s backcourt, Hield would make for a pretty good fit next to Jrue Holiday, likely as a starter. Though our friend Eric Nehm at The Athletic notes that Hield has never appeared in the postseason, I’m not that concerned about this; Bobby Portis had just one series under his belt before joining the Bucks and Pat Connaughton had even fewer playoff minutes than Portis over his first three seasons in Portland. Opponents can’t afford to leave him open very much at all, so double- and triple-teams sent toward other Bucks might become less frequent. He’s a higher-volume version of Grayson Allen, albeit a defensively weaker one, and Malik Beasley is essentially a poor man’s Hield.
With that redundancy, the obvious move would be to deal from the Bucks’ depth on the wing in a consolidation move, and Allen’s $8.9m expiring salary makes him the clear starting piece. The Pacers will surely want draft assets too, but I think it would be possible to acquire Hield without giving up a first-rounder. Though the Bucks are lacking in future second-round picks currently with only two available, they possess Portland’s in 2024, which seems likely to be in the low-thirties. That plus their own second in 2027 might be enough.
To meet the NBA’s salary matching rules, another $10.3m in salary would have to go out, so this would be either a two-for-one or three-for-one move from the Bucks’ perspective. Indy may not be interested in any of Milwaukee’s current group of mid-tier salaries, so a third team might need to get involved. Of course, those salaries are Connaughton at $9.4m and Portis at $11.7m, both with three years left on their deals. Some fans would be loathe to include Portis in a deal, but his postseason playability always is in question and for that reason, I think he’s worth including in talks for most trades.
Connaugton and Allen wouldn’t be enough to get a deal done, though, at least not now. One of the Bucks’ two minimum-salaried rookies (Chris Livingston or Andre Jackson Jr.) would have to be added to make the deal work. MarJon Beauchamp would also work alongside the two veteran guards and might prevent the Bucks from having to give up any picks, but there goes Milwaukee’s most promising young player alongside two key rotation players. Any other Bucks making the minimum won’t be trade-eligible until December at the earliest.
Eric also points out that the opportunity cost of acquiring Hield now is that if a better player is on the trade market later—perhaps even next offseason—who might be a better fit, the Bucks will have spent their assets on Hield. Trading away a distant first for Hield might be a bit aggressive, but I’m more optimistic than Eric that moving such a pick is avoidable, and a Hield trade might not end up being slightly reckless. I also have my druthers that a better player who has a contract that Milwaukee can accommodate will pop up in the next few months, but things change quickly in the NBA. It took just a few games for Eric Bledsoe to demand a trade in 2017, as Bucks fans recall.
As tough a pill as it might be to swallow, I think trading Portis is something GM Jon Horst should think hard about here in order to acquire Hield. Alongside Allen and Portland’s 2024 second (perhaps with the 2027 second added), that package might be enough to swing the Pacers and a potential third team into agreeing. They would retain their youngest players, open up a roster spot, keep Connaughton’s versatility (and his superior postseason playability to Portis) on the wing, and upgrade to a more proven starter alongside Holiday. With Beasley and A.J. Green, they still have the same amount of depth and shooting acumen at guard, even if those two might lose some minutes to Hield.
In this instance, the cost would be a fan favorite whose production is nearly always there, despite issues in previous series against Miami, Boston, and Brooklyn (let’s not forget how good he was after the Nets series in 2021) plus at least one pretty good second-rounder. Seconds are pretty easy to acquire with money, and if you’re willing to give up one even in the distant future—the Bucks traded a 2030 second to move into the thirties this past draft—you can even get early into the round.
Frontcourt depth would take a hit and Giannis would likely have to play the 5 more often, lest Robin Lopez becomes a rotation piece. As we saw two years ago when Brook Lopez missed the majority of the season and Portis entered the starting lineup, the Bucks can survive a thinner center rotation, but it’s not ideal. Unlike then, though, an injury to Brook would put a more legitimate center in the starting lineup in the form of his twin! But Robin is just as old, and less playable than his brother, so Giannis would be spelling him at the 5 and taking a bit more punishment, something he wasn’t a fan of two years prior. The Bucks would probably go small at forward during those minutes with Crowder, Connaughton, or Beauchamp alongside Middleton.
What do you think of this possibility? Not just of Hield as a Buck, but of the package I’m suggesting? Is there another one they might consider? Have at it in the comments.