Friday, February 13, 2015

Building The 15 - A Plea to Stand Pat at the 2015 NBA Trade Deadline

This is the 6th year (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014) that I've provided NBA Trade Deadline advice to Milwaukee Bucks (co) general manager John Hammond.  I used "(co)" because the last couple moves to The 15 had Bucks head coach Jason Kidd's hands all over them, which makes me think Kidd is transitioning into a role of head coach and general manager.  I've clearly been critical of Kidd in the past because he has only been an NBA coach for one season and already has ambitions of having his hand in front office moves too, which is what got him traded to the Bucks in the first place.  If I owned the Bucks, I would have Kidd focus on coaching and let Hammond handle Building The 15.

The Bucks won 8 of 9 games going into the NBA All-Star break but have really only beaten up on the scrubs with a 23-6 record v. sub-.500 teams and 8-19 v. above-.500 teams.  Either way, the Bucks still have two members of The 15 participating this weekend in some of the 2015 NBA All-Star Weekend festivities.  The Greek Freak is playing in the NBA Rising Stars Game and is in the slam dunk contest while Brandon Knight is participating in the skills competition.  I will do my duty and post fake trades for Hammond but this is the first season in a while that I hope the Bucks sit tight at the trade deadline unless they are able to pull of a one-sided deal with a desperate team in "win-now" mode that does NOT compromise the top of The 15 because I like the top end of The 15.  It should take a huge return to pry away Brandon Knight or John Henson but The Greek Freak and Jabari Parker are truly the only two untouchables on The 15.  Had things not gone so far south with center Larry Sanders, this advice column might have been similar to 2012 when I focused on every way possible for Hammond to trade Stephen Jackson but the Bucks and Sanders are currently working on a buyout so there is no way another NBA team would trade for Sanders at this point.

As I've said many times in the past, I would hate to see the Bucks part with any future first round picks given that is really their best way of adding talent.  I am even reticent to include a second round draft pick too because although the Bucks still have extra second round picks, they don't have that many extra picks given that they traded two to the Brooklyn Nets to acquire head coach Jason Kidd.

NBA trades are mostly about shuffling around expensive contracts in hopes that a change of scenery turns one team's trash into another team's treasure, which is why I wrote my first (annual hopefully) NBA General Manager Buyer's Remorse Day post.  With the 2015 NBA Trade Deadline (Thursday, February 19th at 2:00 PM CST) rapidly approaching, here are my favorite somewhat plausible trades (least favorite to most favorite) that I put together for Hammond's review with an assist from ESPN's NBA Trade Machine that he could float to other general manager this weekend at NBA All-Star Weekend in New York:

#5) Bucks trade John Henson (PF/C) to the Utah Jazz for Enes Kanter (C):
There have been rumblings for months that Kanter wants out of Utah and given that he is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, I am sure that Jazz management has evaluated a number of ways to get something in return for Kanter.  It is too bad for the Jazz that the situation has deteriorate so much because Kanter is an offense first big man that shows flashes of being a dominate NBA center.  I know Kanter struggles defensively but the Bucks need offense much more than defense at this point. Sure there is an outside chance that the Jazz could hold onto Kanter instead of trading him in the hopes of mending fences but given that their relationship is most likely beyond repair, it would be nice for the Jazz to get another legitimate defensive presence to pair with Rudy Goebert in Henson.  Add in that Henson is under team control on the cheap for a season longer than Kanter and this trade actually looks to favor the Jazz so I think they would actually have to throw in a future second rounder to get this deal done.

#4) Bucks trade Johnny O'Bryant III (PF) to the Orlando Magic for Andrew Nicholson (PF):
The Magic apparently do NOT see Nicholson as a part of their long-term plans, which makes his $2.3 million salary for the 2015-16 season awfully expensive if they do NOT view him as a potential building block.  This trade allows the Magic to save a little money given that the rookie O'Bryant signed a three-year, $2.4 million contract but only the first two years are guaranteed so the Magic could keep O'Bryant for the 2016-17 season for roughly $1 million or could cut him without any salary cap ramifications.  Given that O'Bryant is only a rookie it seems too early to give up on him but this trade has more to do with the fact that I am bummed that the Bucks drafted O'Bryant instead of Big Dogg's son with the 36th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.  There is a good chance that Nicholson wallows on the bench if Hammond actually acquires him but I am still not ready to give up on him so I am fine with the Bucks taking on slightly more salary in this trade (hey, its not my money anyhow since I am no longer acting like I am Bucks owner) on the off chance that Nicholson can figure out his game in Milwaukee.

#3) Bucks trade Zaza Pachulia (C) to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Anthony Bennett (PF):
This trade is mostly to needle my Minnesota friends, especially my buddy Nick given that he is one of the biggest NBA fans I know.  My buddy Sug and I were on record as saying Wiggins for K-Love alone felt like the Timberwolves were getting the better end of the deal.  The fact that the Timberwolves got (fat) Anthony Bennett too honestly seemed like gilding the lily.  At this point it seems like only the Cleveland Cavaliers thought that Bennett was worth the first pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.  What makes that pick even more painful is that the Cavs could have just taken combo guard Victor Oladipo (my unabashed draft crush of the 2013 NBA Draft), which would have been a huge upgrade over Dion Waiters.  Before the 2013 NBA Draft it seemed like the debate was whether Oladipo or Nerlens Noel should go 1st overall but Noel had a knee injury that hurt his draft stock.  Even if the Cavs passed on Oladipo, they should have taken Noel because it would have saved them from giving the perpetually injured Anderson Varejao a three-year, $30 million extension.  Sadly it looks like Bennett will be a bust, which is why I am trying to give the Timberwolves an out to add a somewhat cost-effective NBA center while the Bucks get a perpetually overweight power forward to go to the fattest NBA city.  On second thought, may be this is a better deal for the Timberwovles so let's just move on.

#2) Bucks trade O.J. Mayo (SG) and Jerryd Bayless (PG) to the Phoenix Suns for Goran Dragic (SG), Zoran Dragic (SG), and Archie Goodwin (SG):
Much like Kanter, the relationship between the better Dragic brother and Suns management is so strained that it is beyond repair.  I guess the Suns got here when they signed combo guard Eric Beldsoe to a five-year, $70 million contract and Isaiah Thomas to a four-year, $27 million contract (deescalates in annual value each season).  I am not sure what money that leaves for Dragic but it certainly means if he is on the Suns past the trade deadline that he is going to decline his $7.5 million player option for next season so the Suns will get nothing in return for a borderline Top 10 point guard.  Given the salary structure of the NBA, I bet Dragic signs an even bigger deal that Bledsoe did and apparently is only interested in playing in a big market so it feels like the Bucks might actually be giving up too much to rent Dragic for a playoff run but the cherry on top is Goodwin.  Unfortunately for Jordan Crawford, I've moved onto Goodwin as my sneaking good shooting guard that I think could have a relevant NBA playoff moment off the bench.  I see Goodwin as Gary Neal without the locker room baggage.  That or Goodwin is the Desmond Mason of the Ray Allen heist.  Trust me, I know Mayo is no Allen but I mention it only because at the time of the Allen/Payton deal some justified it by saying that Mason could be the best long-term asset in the deal, which was clearly NOT the case.

#1) Bucks trade O.J. Mayo (SG) and Jerryd Bayless (PG) to the New Orleans Pelicans for Eric Gordon (SG):
It is Masters-esque so cue Jim Nance's voice. "Hello friends and welcome to Cheesehead Sport Nut's annual tradition of somehow fake trading for the perpetually injured shooting guard Eric Goron.  I want to welcome in my boyfriend partner Sir Nick Faldo to break down how crazy this is."  What can I say, I am a sucker for Gordon.  If the Bucks just held onto Ray Allen, I would NOT be forced to try to conjure up deals for (potential) franchise shooting guards.  Honestly with how well Brandon Knight has been playing this year, I somehow think that can rub off on Gordon to somehow make him not only healthy but potentially salvageable.  Plus, I secretly want to give The Brow an unencumbered salary cap this summer for the Pelicans to go after another useful player, which is totally doable if they can move Gordon's crazy contract ($15 million this season and $15.5 million player option for next season).

If Hammond actually makes a move, which I am on records as hoping he doesn't do, check back for full coverage in this space.  In the meantime, enjoy watching The Greek Freak and Brandon Knight participate in the NBA All-Star Weekend festivities.  Hopefully one of them will actually play in the NBA All-Star Game in the next couple seasons.

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