The Milwaukee Bucks received Michael Carter-Williams, Miles Plumlee, and Tyler Ennis. The Phoenix Suns received Brandon Knight and Kendall Marshall. The Philadelphia 76ers received a protected 2015 first-round pick from the Suns via the Los Angeles Lakers. The pick is protected 1-5 in 2015, 1-3 in 2016 and 2017 and unprotected in 2018.
As is tradition (does one trade deadline make a tradition?), these three-team trades have one team that is just uninteresting to talk about. Enter the Philadelphia 76ers. They got a great first-round pick that might fall in the lottery this year, but more likely will be a late lottery, possibly mid-round pick next year depending on what Los Angeles can do in the off-season. Let’s move on.
The Milwaukee Bucks
With a 7.5 game lead on the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race, the Bucks could’ve done almost anything and not risked their playoff chances. This applies here. Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis are decent pieces, with Plumlee being the more valuable piece as a decent defensive player off the bench.
Zaza Pachulia and John Henson are holding down all the minutes at center, the depth that Plumlee adds will be useful heading into the playoff race and the playoffs proper. Ennis will probably be a common DNP-CD very often
Talking about those two hides the ball of course, the big move here is former Rookie of the Year winner, Michael Carter-Williams. The first thing I notice is how long and tall this team now is. The likely starters have wingspans of 6’7″/6’8″/6’7″/7’3″/7’5″ to go along with heights of 6’6″/6’7″/6’7″/6’11″/6’11” and a could have been Rookie of the Year candidate in Jabari Parker – 6’8″ tall and 7’0″ wingspan – coming back next season.
This team will be long and head coach Jason Kidd has shown he can get them to play defense, which MCW excels at. He is averaging 1.5 steals per game and also contributes in rebounds at a 6.2 per game clip. Carter-Williams is a triple-double threat every night with his passing, rebounding, and scoring ability.
When MCW is on the court, the 76ers have a defensive rating of 98.5 and when he hits the bench it jumps to 105.7. Yes, the 76ers are bad, but this is all relative, and as always, it must be noted that this coincides with Nerlens Noel coming off the court a lot of the time as well. Regardless, the possible issues with this trade are not in the length, height, or defense of MCW.
The issue comes with spacing and shooting. Knight was shooting 40.9% from deep this season, allowing space for the rest of the Bucks to work. A poor shooting point guard is a strange asset in the modern NBA as teams rely heavily on spacing and part of that generally comes from the point guard keeping the lane open when possible. Right now, the starting five shot charts look like this.
The success of Middleton, the spacing of Dudley, and the hopeful continued development of the Greek Freak will provide enough spacing for MCW to get into the lane and for Henson to keep a shot chart that has the lights off past the short mid-range. But, it isn’t guaranteed and the spacing could become an issue. He won’t be taking many minutes from Giannis, but the presence of Ersan Ilyasova does helps space the floor a bit in short stints as a stretch four.
I’m honestly stumped on if this spacing will work, but Kidd has shown his coaching prowess and I’m intrigued to see how he will try to make it work. Let alone if he can help develop MCW’s shot. Kidd couldn’t shoot when he came into the league either after all.
Players play better with better players around them. This could be enough to elevate Carter-Williams’ game a bit to an acceptable shooting level. They likely have a secure playoff spot and this secures a cheaper (not actually younger if you didn’t know that)1 future for the starting point guard.
The Phoenix Suns
Goran Dragic left because he refused to re-sign. Isaiah Thomas likely left because the Suns may have burned that bridge by openly saying they’d rather trade him than Dragic. Eric Bledsoe stuck around, but the Suns needed another starting quality guard to keep fighting for the eight seed in the Western Conference (unlikely).
In Brandon Knight, if he keeps his numbers up, the Suns have a lights-out shooter from deep to pair with Bledsoe in their familiar double point guard system. Bledsoe and Knight are both more combo guard than true point guard, but so was Dragic (though he was more true point guard than either of Bledsoe and Knight).
It’s clear to see how nice that looks behind the arc. The Suns are not worse this season. But, all of these moves hurt them going forward. Dragic is not easily replaced and Thomas, while he might be more easily replaced, had an appealing contract. Knight is going to get paid this offseason, I’m not sure that the Suns are the team that will do the paying. Getting picks in the Dragic trade helps ease the pain, but Knight feels like fending off a slow death and keeping your window open for the rest of the season.
I don’t begrudge this front office having to make the decision on Dragic and Thomas. I think Knight is a quality answer for the here and now. I don’t think it is enough to get them in the playoffs and I don’t think they are going to re-sign Knight. The future is uncertain in Phoenix.
Brandon Knight is 23.080 years old and MCW is 23.133 years old. Excuse the over-exact numbers ↩