By Reid Trier
Just hours before the NBA trade deadline, former Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Knight tweeted: “Had a great Allstar Break. Now it’s time to get back to work. #OwnTheFuture.”
When the deadline hit at 2 p.m. CST, Knight sat in the locker room stunned by news that he had been traded to Phoenix as part of a three-team deal. The Bucks received point guard Michael-Carter Williams from the Philadelphia 76ers, along with point guard Tyler Ennis and center Miles Plumlee from the Phoenix Suns. The 76ers acquired draft picks because, of course.
While my immediate reaction to the trade was one of excitement (although I did enjoy watching Brandon Knight), a surprising number of Bucks fans expressed disagreement on comment threads and social media. After all, why would the Bucks trade their top scorer and best player? The guy nearly made the all-star team for Pete’s sake!
However, from the organization’s “Own The Future” vantage point, the trade allowed them to unload a player who was not in future plans for a potential all-star and two capable reserves.
Knight was set to be a restricted free agent in the offseason, and it became clear that Milwaukee didn’t want to fork over big money in the face of competitors. Despite Knight’s natural scoring ability, his court vision and instincts were not characteristic of a top point guard. The Bucks were set to move on.
What Jason Kidd and his staff wanted all along was a pass-first point guard with a secure contract who could grow under the tutelage of an all-time great. Michael-Carter Williams almost makes too much sense.
His game resembles Kidd early in his playing days: a poor shooter with natural passing skills and defensive prowess. A player who just needed the right situation to figure things out.
Now that the Bucks have saved Carter-Williams from the 76ers, the young point guard will take steps toward realizing his potential. Once he drops the losing mentality carried over from Philly, Bucks fans will have a blast watching the 23-year-old grow.
What frustrates fans is that the trade could jeopardize a so far successful season. Team chemistry with a new point guard will not come overnight. However, Bucks fans should be thankful for the organization finally committing to the future. The bar has been raised so high, so fast, that some fans have lost sight of this.
Taking a step back this trade is positive for several reasons. First, it gives the team more depth. After negotiating a buyout with Larry Sanders, Milwaukee was set to play with 10 bodies for the remainder of the season. A few injuries would have turned the Bucks into an ultra-thin team in the thick of a playoff race. So while this is a trade for the future, it could help the team absorb injuries this season.
Secondly, the trade gives Milwaukee more flexibility in the offseason. There are still very few players on the team who are not trade chips, and a 3-for-1 trade provides even more expendable pieces. The Bucks could be in position for a major deal this summer depending on how quickly they plan to act.
Finally, the team is not losing as much scoring as one would think. With Jabari Parker’s return next season, Milwaukee will have a go-to scorer to replace Knight. Add Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s emerging scoring ability, and Milwaukee could be looking at three 15+ PPG scorers next season.
With this said, Milwaukee has a big adjustment period ahead this season. They could stay over .500 or struggle as Carter-Williams and the troops rediscover their mojo. In any case, the kids will work hard and the fans will have fun watching it all unfold.