The Milwaukee Bucks were busy wheeling and dealing late Monday night as the NBA lifted its trade moratorium. First, they acquired two-way star Jrue Holiday from the New Orleans Pelicans. The Bucks, however, were not done just yet. In another shocker, Milwaukee acquired restricted free agent guard Bogdan Bogdanovic from the Sacramento Kings via sign-and-trade.
Milwaukee clearly needed a change this off-season after another disappointing playoff run. And with the looming free agency of Giannis Antetokounmpo, they certainly needed to pull out all the stops to convince the Greek Freak to stay.
As for the Pelicans, they gave up one of their top players in order to fully embrace the youth movement. In exchange, they received a pair of veteran guards gives them a chance to compete now and a haul of draft capital that sets them up even better for the future. As for Sacramento, well, at least they didn’t let Bogdanovic walk away for nothing.
With that, let’s evaluate how these teams did on the day 1 of trade season.
Bucks grade: C+
Jrue Holiday’s acquisition certainly makes the Bucks a more fearsome defensive team than they already were. The 30-year old has long been considered one of the premier perimeter defenders in the league. Add him to a team with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, along with an All-Defensive team member in Brook Lopez and a solid two-way wing in Khris Middleton, Milwaukee instantly gets an upgrade on that end of the ball.
In addition, Holiday isn’t a slouch on offense and is a legitimate two-way star in the NBA. Holiday is the kind of guard you can plug in any kind of lineup and still provide productivity no matter what. He can handle the ball, create for himself and his teammates, and can also play off the ball if he’s with a ball dominant player. So why the sub-par grade?
Well, that’s because the Bucks pretty much gave up their future for a guard who will turn 31 next June and has a player option to leave at the end of the season. In exchange for Holiday, the Bucks sent Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, and three first round picks to New Orleans, as well as giving the Pelicans the rights to two pick swaps in the future. Though Holiday is an incredible two-way stud, that kind of package is usually reserved for bona fide superstars like the Lakers did with Anthony Davis.
But as mentioned, Milwaukee needed to do something drastic and desperate to show their franchise superstar that they were willing to go all the way, if it meant that they would be able to keep him past next summer. Unfortunately for them, this is the price they needed to pay to do that.
Pelicans grade: A
The Pelicans received a massive fortune for sending away one of their best players. It’s pretty much the same kind of draft capital they got for trading Anthony Davis to the Lakers. While they don’t receive any promising young stars in this exchange, they did get some solid veterans that could help them in their bid to make the playoffs as soon as next season.
Eric Bledsoe could be a good combo guard to pair with Lonzo Ball in the backcourt. Meanwhile, George Hill provides them a steady floor general and shooter from the outside, as well as a tremendous veteran presence for a young team that needs one. Obviously, the sweetest assets of the package are the three first round picks, which has the off chance of becoming lottery picks in case Antetokounmpo leaves. Moreover, the pick swaps give them added control in case they want to exercise that option.
Bucks grade: B+
By acquiring Bogdan Bogdanovic, the Bucks found their man to start alongside Jrue Holiday in their backcourt. With this exchange, they sent a package of Donte DiVincenzo, Ersan Ilyasova, and DJ Wilson to Sacramento.
Bogdanovic is certainly an upgrade over the 23-year old DiVincenzo at the shooting guard position. Though he’s entering just his fourth NBA season, the 27-year old is just about to enter his prime as well. In the 2019-20 season, while splitting time as a starter and reserve, the Serbian averaged 15.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. He is a career 37.4 percent shooter from beyond the arc, which makes him an elite guard to space the floor for Giannis Antetokounmpo.
However, by adding Bogdanovic, they lose pretty much lost the rest of whatever depth they had left in the aftermath of the Holiday trade they made just hours before. Perhaps this five-man core of Antetokounmpo, Holiday, Middleton, Lopez, and Bogdanovic should be enough to attract ring-chasing vets to round out their roster.
Kings grade: C-
Not really sure what the Kings accomplished with this deal. Is Donte DiVincenzo the big prize? He’s a solid asset and he did make strides as a sophomore next season. But he’s certainly a downgrade from Bogdanovic. While he could eventually blossom into a player like Bogey in the future, he’s not the kind of player who will a Kings team that’s looking to end the longest active playoff drought in the NBA today.
So we ask, why didn’t they keep Bogdanovic instead? They can match any offer sheet for him in free agency. Why didn’t they try to move a disgruntled Buddy Hield instead and retain a player who previously expressed desire to stay in Sacramento? Now, they’re still stuck to solve that Hield problem.
Well, least they didn’t lose him for nothing, right? Nonetheless, regardless of what they ultimately did with Bogdanovic this off-season, it doesn’t really alter their fortunes that much. They’re still going to be in the lottery for what should be the 15th straight time next year.
Overall grade for the Bucks: B
With these two moves, Milwaukee certainly gets better on paper with a championship-caliber core surrounding their franchise superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks may have gutted their entire roster and future to add Holiday and Bogdanovic, but that would probably make them the most fearsome five-man lineup in the league next season.
However, at what cost did this take? And will it be worth it? It’s a solid B for now as it stands. It could still slightly change heading into the season depending on the additional moves they make to fill out their depth. Besides those five, they don’t really have anyone reliable coming off their bench.
Nonetheless, the end game will feature two extreme outcomes for these Bucks. Either they reach the NBA apex because of these leap of faith deals they made, or they come crashing down when they fail to win a championship and Giannis Antetokounmpo bolts to another team next season.