Milwaukee Bucks: What The Knight/Carter-Williams Trade Represents


Deep into the future the trade involving Brandon Knight and Michael Carter-Williams may represent much more for the Milwaukee Bucks than the players involved.

I’m glad the Milwaukee Bucks traded Brandon Knight for Michael Carter-Williams. Even if MCW is out of the the league by the end of his rookie contract. Even if Brandon Knight averages 30-10-10 for the next five years. Even if MCW never cuts his hair again.

No I didn’t bump my head today or eat whatever magic beans are making OJ Mayo’s hair grow like that. Hear me out on this…

More from Bucks News

Bucks fans have been losing patience with Carter-Williams of late. While last year’s squad deservedly made the playoffs and showed flashes of their potential as their core matures, it may have had a negative effect on the fan base, at least in the short term.

Wisconsin fans like winning teams.

Attendance at Bucks games spiked by over 2,000 a game on average in 2001 and 2002 the last time they made a deep playoff run. When the Brewers made their run in 2011 their attendance spiked by about the same. Last year there was an energy at the Bradley Center that hadn’t been felt in quite a while, and it picked up and got carried across the country.

People got carried away and started buying jerseys and calling TNT to complain that they couldn’t watch their favorite new midwestern basketball team. They expected the Bucks to take the East by storm this year and for two 20-year-olds to lead a team on a deep playoff run. While I would love for that to happen as well, we might need to manage expectations a bit.

The trade for MCW was a trade that made the Bucks worse. There’s no doubt about it. No sugar coating it. The Bucks would likely have a better record for this season and be playoff locks with Knight at the helm. And that is why I’m so excited. When was the last time the Bucks front office took a real risk?

Drafting Joe Alexander doesn’t count. Nik Stauskas can join him in the eighth picks that no one will be able to remember in 10 years.

You know who takes risks? Contending teams. Teams that value a conference finals series over an eighth seed and just having a few home playoff games. No, they don’t always work out.

Memphis gambled on Hasheem Thabeet with the second pick in 2009, before five future All-Stars were selected. Imagine if they had drafted James Harden.

Memphis also traded away Pau Gasol to a Lakers team that was then led by Gasol and Kobe to two championships. But in return they got Marc Gasol, a younger prospect that has turned into one of the best centers in the league, cap space to sign Zach Randolph, and enough other pieces to grow into a steady contender for years.

It was definitely a trade that made them worse in the short term, but that isn’t of as much concern when you’re chasing championships.

My point is that you have to be willing to take these gambles to make the leap to contention. That was something that Herb Kohl was never comfortable doing. As great as it was that he kept the Bucks in Milwaukee, in his 30 years as owner he never made a future minded move.

Jan 27, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard

J.J. Redick

(4) during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Clippers won 114-86. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

He never made a move that made them worse in the short-term, but might make them great down the road. He oversaw front offices who traded away one of the greatest shooting guards of all-time for 27 games of Gary Payton in 2002, and Tobias Harris for even less of J.J. Redick in 2013.

His tenure was a constant frustration of short-sightedness and trades that would get us a lock for the eighth seed. The middle of the pack is the worst place to be in the NBA though. There was a reason that the Bucks floundered for the majority of the last 25 years (aside from the Big Three era, which was far too short-lived).

It takes a few things to make a great NBA franchise: strong draft choices, a winning culture that develops those pieces, and a front office and coaching staff that can make the most of what they have in the present to be good in the future.

Unlike some cities that have sunshine year round and can attract free agents just on their view of the beach, Milwaukee hasn’t usually been such an easy sell. It took a huge year with a great coaching staff to bring in our biggest free agent signing in decades.

They shuffled through as many as three coaches in three years trying to find one just good enough to make the playoffs. This is what Bucks fans have grown accustomed to. The expectations have been low for a long time. A playoff team was a victory, and any additional wins was accompanied with cries of joy and people throwing money at box office workers to see a winning team.

Those days are done now though. Those expectations are no longer acceptable. And with that will surely come some disappointment as the front office is no longer looking for a return this season, but a few seasons down the road.

We’ve gone from trades that are justified “regardless of how the team looks a few years from now to be better right now” to trades that are justified “regardless of how the team looks this year to be better a few years from now.”

More from Behind the Buck Pass

That’s a big change for Bucks fans to adjust to.

Whether this move makes us great down the road is something that will take some patience. It might not even happen. But the fact that we have owners and a front office that are willing to make these moves, and think five years down the road instead of trading away young prospects for marginal stars on expiring deals should be a welcome change.

Maybe Michael Carter-Williams will be our Hasheem Thabeet. Maybe he’ll be a starter on a contending team in a few years. Maybe he’ll be an asset that get’s traded for something else that will make us better down the road.

Only time will tell.