The recent success of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks have rejuvenated the franchise back to life. After a couple of years being stuck in the middle of the pack, Milwaukee has now asserted itself as a top dog in the league.
However, even if Giannis was a major proponent to this and he was acquired via the draft, not all success relies heavily on draft night. Success can be created from trading different pieces, too.
Here, we rank the five best trades in Milwaukee Bucks history according to the success and impact of each one.
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabber to the Lakers
The trade: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Walt Wesley for Junior Bridgeman, Dave Meyers, Elmore Smith, and Brian Winters
We know the trade doesn’t look even remotely good on paper as the Bucks let go of one of the greatest players of all time. However, it’s the context behind it that makes this one of the best trades in the history of the franchise.
This is because there’s only so much that the front office can do when a star goes out of their way to express their desire to play somewhere else. In this trade, the Bucks salvaged everything that they could in order to keep the team from fading into oblivion. When Abdul-Jabbar said that he and Milwaukee weren’t “culturally compatible,” it was clearly time to move on. The Bucks had to either find a trade and at least get something back in return, or lose him for literally nothing during free agency later that year. Nevertheless, Kareem was packaged to Los Angeles.
In return, they received Winters and Bridgeman, and they were not only integral in the team’s success through the 1970’s and ’80s, but also became franchise legends.
4. Sam Cassell to the Bucks
The trade: Sam Cassell, Chris Gatling, and Paul Grant to the Bucks; Terrell Brandon, Brian Evans, and a first-round pick (Wally Szcerbiak) to the Timberwolves; Elliot Perry, Chris Carr, Bill Curley, and Stephon Marbury to the Nets
Initially, you’re always bound to receive criticism when you trade an up-and-coming player.
This sort of gamble is a 50-50 as it’s hard to predict the future of a player without a magical crystal ball. In 1998, the Bucks traded their up-and-coming starting point guard Terrell Brandon even if he had a strong season beforehand with notable chemistry among his teammates. Nevertheless, it was a gamble that paid off.
Cassell at the point guard position was an immediate boost for the team as evidenced by their trip to the conference finals in 2001 and he also became an icon for the city of Milwaukee.
3. Khris Middleton to the Bucks
The trade: Khris Middleton, Brandon Jennings, and Vlacheslav Kravtsov for Brandon Jennings
This is no blockbuster trade by any means; however, this trade set up the the Bucks for the success that it has been experiencing up until this day.
Just a few years ago, the Bucks had a duo of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. As good as they were, it was clear that they weren’t getting deep into the playoffs with just those two alone. The front office knew that if they wanted to become something bigger, it was time to make some changes.
Thus, Milwaukee was able to land Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton. While Knight didn’t work out, the acquisition of Middleton proved to be quite the catch for Milwaukee as he eventually became the perfect running mate for Antetokounmpo.
2. The Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen Deal
The trade: Ray Allen and a first-round pick (Rasho Nesterovic) for Stephon Marbury
There’s a reason why the draft is one of the most exciting days for the NBA. Not only do we see kids turn pro, but we see some pretty quick trades that can virtually alter the fate of the team moving forward.
In 1996, the Bucks pulled arguably one of the biggest steals in franchise history. Originally, Milwaukee had the fifth pick overall while the Timberwolves were sixth. A deal was made wherein Milwaukee would pick Stephon Marbury on behalf of Minnesota, while Minnesota would select Ray Allen for the Bucks along with a first-round pick.
Eventually, Allen would go on to become one of the greatest all-time Bucks as he played a huge role in the team’s success for years. It’s only a shame that they later on traded him to the Seattle SuperSonics.
1. Oscar Robertson
The trade: Flynn Robinson and Charlie Paulk for Oscar Robertson
When you land an all-time great via trade, then chances are that you’re proclaimed as the winner. This was exactly the case when Milwaukee bagged Mr. Triple-Double.
Even if Flynn Robinson was a decent player who had been selected to the All-Star team the year before he got traded, Oscar Roberstson was on a tier of his own that the Bucks just couldn’t pass on. Despite aging a bit, he was still one of the league’s best point guards. Add him to the mix with Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Dandridge and Jon McGlocklin, and the team was immediately a championship-caliber team that lived up to its potential.
This was the kind of trade that virtually changes the franchise history for the better due to the magnitude of the impact that the player brings. Well done.