Let’s not pretend: The Bucks are not, despite a sneaky victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tues., legitimate contenders. Whether it be Jason Kidd and his inability to be a paragon of fluid offense, or whether the Bucks are lacking a player with a reliable mid-range jumper to provide Giannis Antetokounmpo with more space, something needs to be changed. With Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe all averaging over 17 points per game, one would be incredulous to think a team boasting these three would ever hit a six-minute scoring drought. Though the Deer pulled out the win against the Cavs, who hardly played LeBron James in their 24-2 run, this current rendition of Bucks’ basketball reeks of incompetence in late-game situations. It extends beyond conditioning; it’s about scheme, or lack thereof.

There’s a visible distinction between spacing because it’s initiated by the star player (i.e. Giannis), and because there’s a fluid scheme gunning the offense. For Milwaukee, the team’s offense exists in the former. John Henson might be fourth in block percentage and use his length better than most, but he can’t stretch the floor and simply doesn’t have the aggression to put the ball back in the hole.

If a team finds itself in a half-court set, like the Bucks mostly have this season (and they rank 24th in Pace), whoever is manning the center position for that team must play with top-tier physicality, be able to create their own shot, whether spotting up or being ambidextrous in the interior paint. Henson might as well offer nothing on the offensive side of the ball. You see where I’m going with this…. If the front office wants to justify the early-season acquisition of Bledsoe, the legacy of Antetokounmpo, and a believable team for the new arena…it will further pursue options at the center position — and a new head coach, but that’s for another day. With the mid-season mark quickly approaching and no surefire security in the Eastern Conference, let’s see who Milwaukee should keep its eyes on. No more cloaking shortcomings.


DeMarcus Cousins

Ah, yes. The Nuisance of Every Locker Room. The 7-Year-Old 27-Year-Old. Regardless of what nickname or reputation precedes the best all-around center in the Association, one thing is to be understood by Bucks’ fans: Cousins would be the best fit Antetokounmpo could possibly have. Boogie can stretch and run the floor, even facilitate at a respectable clip. Not many guys average 25, 12 and 5 — the last of which would mark a career-high. Yes, he’s leading the NBA in turnovers (153), but one has to take into account how integral he is to a Pelican’s squad that has the pass-happy Rajon Rondo at the helm. With Boogie in the last year of his contract, and with the mediocrity plaguing his current team, it makes sense for the Bucks to engage in trade talks. If Jabari Parker comes back a month or so before the trading deadline, maybe the Bucks tease his potential for the Pels. Granted, this is a long-shot, but maybe Parker, who is playing in the final year of his rookie contract, tells New Orleans he’d re-up with them at season’s end. Stranger things have happened in this game. (Side note: If it means anything, Bledsoe played with Boogie at the University of Kentucky back in 2009.)

Milwaukee gets: DeMarcus Cousins


New Orleans gets: Malcolm Brogdon, Matthew Dellavedova, Jabari Parker

 

Marc Gasol

With the unexpected demise of the Memphis Grizzles paired with the notion that Gasol’s falling out with former coach David Fitzdale led to the latter’s firing, Memphis may be willing to banish some contracts, some long-time talent. Though it may be hard, the Grizz could find a way to deal someone like the versatile, 7-foot Spaniard, who has a 2019-20 player option, as opposed to someone such as Mike Conley, who is in the second year of a 5-year, $153 million contract. Of course, it helps that 1) the big man is open to a trade, and 2) fire sales happen when a team that has made seven straight playoff appearances lands 14th in the Conference standings. The Bucks could use Gasol’s ability to run the floor, and, though he won’t be winning another Defensive Player of the Year award, he’s posting the best DRtng amongst all Memphis starters. He can still facilitate from the top of the key, and over the last few years he has shown himself as a believable jump-shooter. The bad thing for Milwaukee, however, is that someone who was looked at as a huge asset less than a year ago, must be dealt.

Milwaukee gets: Marc Gasol

Memphis gets: Malcolm Brogdon, Matthew Dellavedova, John Henson

 

DeAndre Jordan

Ever since the Los Angeles Clippers sent Chris Paul to Houston, it seems as if there were going to be subsequent moves to justify a full-on rebuild. Since then, Blake Griffin has stayed around on a 5-year deal, and DeAndre Jordan, despite having his name always in trade rumors, still laces up for that “other team” in L.A. It’s common knowledge in hoop circles that Jordan is a premier NBA center, having been named to an All-NBA team in each of the last three seasons. When it comes to the interior paint, nobody is more dominant, and, well, efficient. A capable floor runner, too, Jordan boasts the highest field-goal percentage of all-time (67.6) and has ranked in either first or second the Association in rebounds since 2013-14. Yes, the Bucks would have to deal with the 29-year-old’s nonexistent perimeter game, but would it really be a hard compromise for a straight-up grinder, one who’s not afraid to fly over you, if needed? Remember: the Bucks offered Middleton and Brogdon for Kyrie Irving earlier this year — and Jordan is in the same rarefied, superstar air that Irving is. The Bucks, of course, will have to empty their pockets to secure this deal, but contention doesn’t come cheap.

Milwaukee gets: DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Johnson

Los Angeles gets: John Henson, Thon Maker, Khris Middleton

 

Over the last year, or so, many dwindling, small-market teams (i.e. Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings) have shown desperation at their respective time of dealing certified studs (Paul George, Cousins…the first time), which is why some of the potential returns for Cousins and Gasol may look questionable at first sight. I know the Bucks aren’t playing with monopoly money, but the aforementioned scenarios all check out, from a salary-cap perspective. Luckily, the Bucks still have a fruitful future, resting on the gargantuan shoulders of Antetokounmpo and Co., which could yield them another superstar in the coming months. General manger John Horst has to act as if Antetokounmpo wants out of Milwaukee, and he should take the necessary actions to content his team’s generational talent.

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