The Milwaukee Bucks perspective on the 2023 NBA Trade Deadline
Evaluating how trades across the league affect the Bucks as we wade through the NBA's silly season.
Last updated Thursday morning at 8:40 Central — with the blockbuster Durant deal.
The NBA usually goes crazy twice a year: in early July when the league year flips and free agents can sign with new teams, and ahead of each season’s NBA trade deadline when contenders try to gain that missing piece to win a title and the bad teams punt on their seasons and hope they’ll have better luck next year.
We’re in the middle of the slop that comes with the latter phase right now, and even if the Milwaukee Bucks aren’t the team that acquires a star (spoiler: they won’t be) every move that is made affects the Bucks somehow. This column will be updated through the deadline to explain exactly how, while actual Bucks trades will be covered in greater detail on our Gyro Step/Win in 6 podcast feed. Be sure you’re subscribed wherever you listen to podcasts if you aren’t already — find the links at GSPN.info.
The idea here is simple: EVERY trade, no matter how benign, will have a Bucks spin here as they break. Deals will be ranked 1-3 on how much they impact Milwaukee. 1 is basically no tangible impact, 2 is noticeable but likely not changing the Bucks’ title odds, and 3 is a huge deal that will either make it easier or harder for the Bucks to win their third title in franchise history.
Trades will be ordered newest to oldest, and I hope everybody reads all the way through each time to get my thoughts on the absolute nuke that was Noah Vonleh to the Spurs. Okay, here we go:
Brooklyn Nets send Kevin Durant and TJ Warren to Phoenix in exchange for Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder, four first round picks and a pick swap in 2028
Holy moly! I was adamant the Nets would hold Durant until the summer — so much for that. The Suns’ new owner syndrome is working well for them so far as apparently Mat Ishbia wouldn’t stop bugging Brooklyn until they traded KD to Phoenix, and I guess that’s all it took!
Well, that and four unprotected first round picks, a pick swap in 2028 (interesting that the Nets didn’t get all the swaps they could), Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, and Jae Crowder. You never win a KD trade or come out of it feels great about the return, but this is about as good as you can typically do for an apex superstar agitating to leave. Brooklyn is stuffed with role players and the Bucks will surely try to pry away Crowder or Royce O’Neale or maybe even a different defensive-minded wing — the Nets have a ton of them now. Dorian Finney-Smith is possible but less likely I’d imagine.
I would doubt Bridges is on the move again — the Nets owe a lot of their own picks to the Rockets and don’t have incentive to bottom out — and the price would be high if he is. But, as I learned when I woke up and saw a KD trade this morning: never say never. Guessing that magnitude of young player would require parting ways with MarJon Beauchamp (and more stuff) though.
As for the Suns, they clearly become an NBA Finals contender yet again after a downswing following their West-winning 2020-21 season. Durant, Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Deandre Ayton is an incredibly talented core, and Phoenix may still be sniffing around an upgrade for CP3. To what extent they could upgrade him (or anywhere else) given the assets they’ve already sent out is a question mark, but clearly the Suns are aggressively all-in.
Aside from trying to salvage a missing rotational piece from the Brooklyn scrap heap, the Bucks impact here is obvious: a contender moves from the East to the West (which is good!) but looms as a much larger threat (less good!). There is less likelihood for Milwaukee (or Boston for that matter) to face Durant now, but if the Suns do come out of their conference whoever wins the East will meet a tougher team than the Nets post-Kyrie trade. A Finals trip is never guaranteed though, as Durant knows from not making it back since leaving the Warriors.
San Antonio Spurs send Jakob Poeltl to the Toronto Raptors for Khem Birch, a protected 2024 first round pick and two second rounders
This deal does make the Raptors better, but for as much talk as there’s been about how they could use a center it sure does seem like they need more shooting and creation for their iso-heavy wings more. The ripples of this move will be felt throughout the Eastern Conference play-in picture but probably not noticed beyond that. Kind of an expensive price for Poeltl, who is good but hitting free agency after the season. Good work by the Spurs who could still factor into deals with their cap space and other vets (Josh Richardson, Doug McDermott).
Portland Trail Blazers send Josh Hart to the New York Knicks for Cam Reddish, Ryan Arcidiacono, Svi Mykhailiuk, and a 2023 lottery-protected first round pick that will convert to four second rounders if not conveyed
Josh Hart is a good and useful player, but this isn’t a sizeable enough upgrade for the Knicks to change the Bucks’ outlook in the East much. With the Nets losing their contender status in less than a week, though, there is some upward mobility possible for New York here. With all of the talent heading West, it seems highly unlikely the Blazers factor into the championship picture for any Eastern Conference team. Nice deal for both sides, not one that anybody is losing sleep over.
Minnesota Timberwolves send D’Angelo Russell to Lakers; Utah Jazz send Mike Conley and Nikeil Alexander-Walker and 3 second round picks to Minnesota; Lakers send Russell Westbrook and a top-4 protected 2027 first rounder to Utah
For lots of general thoughts on this deal be sure to check out the trade deadline eve slop podcast we recorded — basically the Lakers made out like bandits, the Jazz got a disappointing return for three good players, and the Wolves just seem aimless.
I decided to rate this one a 2 for two reasons, despite it not impacting the East directly at all: the asking price for good role players continues to lower to more realistic which is good for the Bucks and all buyers, really; and the simple fact that all of these moving parts headed out West is good for Milwaukee in the aggregate.
The question to consider is if Vanderbilt and Beasley moving means more teams will crowd the Jae Crowder market, which could be a negative for Milwaukee, but at least a team like the Celtics or Sixers didn’t load up on quite useful players ahead of the playoffs.
Brooklyn Nets trade Kessler Edwards and cash to the Sacramento Kings in another thrilling salary dump
There are some folks who will read the Nets dumping a bit of salary as a tip on what they will ultimately do with Kevin Durant this deadline: it is not. Edwards is a fringe rotation player and Brooklyn saves $8 million in tax/cap money by dealing him, so that’s that. The Kings get a flier on a young player (they have been looking for a center, getting paid to take one is good business) and nothing changes for Milwaukee outside of potentially having another buyout market battle with Brooklyn, if the Bucks open up their own spot later on.
Miami Heat trade Dewayne Dedmon and a second round pick to the San Antonio Spurs to open up a roster spot
This is the same thing the Celtics did with the Spurs via the Noah Vonleh trade — trading a bad player to get waived and not count on their cap/tax bill while opening up a roster spot at the cost of a second round pick (vs cash in the Vonleh deal, since his deal was smaller). I believe this trade gets the Heat below the luxury tax line, so they may just sign minimum guys and 10 days to fill this spot and stay just below the tax as they have done in recent seasons. Probably depends on if a big move materializes for them. Bucks not going to notice if a two-way player becomes a rostered player in Miami.
Brooklyn Nets trade Kyrie Irving (and Markieff Morris) to the Dallas Mavericks for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, a 2029 first round pick, and 2027 & 2029 second round picks
Part of me wonders if the Nets were secretly thrilled that Kyrie decided to toss a grenade into trade season by demanding a trade so they could justify sending him packing to Kevin Durant and be rid of his antics. Anyway!
Brooklyn did well to find two excellent fits in Dinwiddie and DFS while getting meaningful draft capital, but ultimately whether this deal makes the Nets more or less of an obstacle for Milwaukee hinges on Sean Marks finding another plus offensive talent ahead of Thursday’s deadline. As the roster currently stands, KD is being asked to do far too much offensively.
That said, any deal that could destabilize Durant’s team — not to mention Luka Doncic’s team — is going to rate as seismic from a Bucks perspective. Whether you bought their run as real or not, the Nets were playing well prior to KD’s injury and seemed like they could be a difficult out given how much destruction Durant can wreak in a playoff setting. Milwaukee knows that firsthand.
I would expect this move to blow up in Dallas’ face (especially with noted toxic presence Jason Kidd presiding over this defensively-challenged group in noted toxic org Dallas) which could in turn lead to Luka eventually leaving, and with his level of talent that is a huge deal for everybody.
Washington Wizards trade Rui Hachimura to the Los Angeles Lakers for Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks
Honestly the biggest impact this trade had on the Bucks was proving, despite the skewed perception on trade value (which happened as a result of the ridiculous haul the Timberwolves gave up for Rudy Gobert), that it’s still possible to acquire real rotation players with salary and second round picks. That matters for Milwaukee given their love of bundling seconds for useful if not life-changing players. Rui being on the Lakers, currently 13th in the West, is irrelevant, as are the Washington Wizards in all circumstances.
Boston Celtics trade Noah Vonleh and cash to the San Antonio Spurs for a protected (i.e. fake) second-round pick
The Celtics did this to save some luxury tax money at the expense of Vonleh, a backup center who didn’t really have a role on the team after Robert Williams got healthy as Luke Kornet and Blake Griffin slotted in ahead on the depth chart. It’s hard for a team directly standing in Milwaukee’s way to the Finals to make a less impactful deal than this one.