Milwaukee Bucks Rumors: What does an offer for Anthony Davis look like?

PORTLAND, OR - JANUARY 18: (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OR - JANUARY 18: (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Bucks have made Anthony Davis‘ preferred long-term shortlist, but what would a trade offer to the New Orleans Pelicans look like?

The Milwaukee Bucks’ progress as an organization this season was already apparent from their league-best record, and an All-Star game that will feature two Bucks and the Milwaukee coaching staff, but evidence of an even larger shift emerged with a report on Monday afternoon.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Bucks have joined the Lakers, Clippers and Knicks on superstar Anthony Davis’ list of franchise’s where he’d be willing to sign long-term following his inevitable trade away from the New Orleans Pelicans.

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The Bucks stand out as obviously different to those other three teams, who come from the NBA’s two most significant media markets. Having said that, what Milwaukee does have is Giannis Antetokounmpo, a bona fide phenomenon who’s essentially a lock to win upwards of 50 games per year for close to a decade.

That seems to have been enough to get Davis’ attention, just as a coach of Mike Budenholzer’s caliber, state of the art facilities, and an opportunity to instantly catapult into a team in contention would hold obvious appeal for a star who has spent his career to date underachieving with the Pelicans.

Of course, there’s an elephant in the room in any discussion of a potential Bucks’ acquisition of Davis. As I wrote about last week, Milwaukee simply doesn’t have the assets required to compete with the kind of offers the Pelicans are likely to field.

Not only do Milwaukee’s draft picks not project as being particularly valuable, the Bucks are significantly restricted in how they can offer first round picks due to the wait for owed picks to convey to Phoenix and Cleveland.

On the roster, the Bucks have plenty of really talented and desirable players, yet the pending free agent status of all of Milwaukee’s starters outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t make for the most appealing route for a franchise that isn’t traditionally a free agent destination, and is now set to be staring down a lengthy and difficult rebuild.

Beyond that, the Bucks do possess a mix of intriguing young role players, although the value of that group is still difficult to gauge at their current junctures in their careers. Rather than centerpiece young prospects, Milwaukee’s youngsters would be ideal as sweeteners in a bigger deal. The problem for the Bucks is they’re missing the core of a serious deal to begin with.

In spite of all of that, and in light of Davis including Milwaukee on his shortlist, it would be negligent of Bucks general manager Jon Horst if he didn’t at least put together the strongest possible package he can. What would that deal look like, though?

The first consideration would need to be New Orleans’ goals in a trade. Wojnarowski highlighted some of the elements that will likely be key to persuading the Pelicans.

The Bucks’ lack of a player with All-NBA potential (that they’re willing to trade), is realistically a hurdle that can’t be cleared, but it means any Milwaukee deal would have to begin with their next best pieces.

In other words, recently minted All-Star Khris Middleton would be a must in any serious offer, and any deal that didn’t also include Eric Bledsoe or Malcolm Brogdon wouldn’t look all that substantial either. Considering the cap relief element of the Pelicans’ wish list, Bledsoe’s larger salary being included would open up a wider range of options for Milwaukee. As a former All-Star on a very friendly contract, Brook Lopez could also make for an appealing addition if the Bucks were to include him.

Moving on to the Bucks’ younger talent, Thon Maker‘s desire to move to a new team would make him the first name to be inserted into any package for Davis. Sterling Brown and D.J. Wilson could also be included, but the more unproven Donte DiVincenzo likely offers the potential of a higher ceiling (and also a lower floor) at present.

When it comes to cap relief, there are a few options for players the Bucks could take on to help clear New Orleans’ books in the medium to long term. Solomon Hill stands as a realistic option, with the 27-year-old wing owed just over $13.2 million for the 2019-20 season. If the Pelicans really wanted to clear space to allow room for free agent signings, or more realistically absorbing bad deals in exchange for picks, Milwaukee could also take Jrue Holiday and his four-year deal along with Davis.

A deal involving Davis and Holiday would obviously be even more challenging for the Bucks to pull off, and even less palatable for the Pelicans as a franchise that can ill-afford further disengagement from its fanbase. Still, such an avenue could give the Pelicans a completely fresh slate to work with in the summer and a clear avenue to accruing future assets.

On top of that, the Pelicans could also look to re-route Milwaukee’s better players via a third or fourth team, or very speedy follow on deals, as a means of picking up additional picks immediately. From a salary perspective, if nothing else, trading Davis and Holiday for a player package of Middleton, Bledsoe, Brogdon, Hill, Maker and DiVincenzo works.

Contenders could certainly be willing to trade for any of those first four players immediately, while a worst case scenario would leave the Pelicans with nothing more than Maker and DiVincenzo’s rookie scale deals carrying over into next season.

The much more realistic scenario would be an offer centered around Davis and Hill coming to Milwaukee in exchange for Middleton, Bledsoe, Lopez, Maker, DiVincenzo and draft picks.

It’s that last detail that further complicates any Milwaukee effort to acquire Davis. The Bucks will likely send their 2020 first round pick to Phoenix and their 2022 first round pick to Cleveland, barring any unforeseen circumstances, with the Stepien Rule forbidding them from trading their selections in 2019 and 2021. This means the next available first rounder the Bucks can offer at present is in 2024, and even that would be conditional based on the previous two picks conveying as planned.

The NBA only permits teams to trade draft picks within the next seven-year spell. In other words, a Bucks’ pick package would have to be comprised solely of a conditional 2024 first rounder, that’s impossible to assess in terms of value right now, and a host of second rounders, which offer marginal value at the best of times.

Getting back to the present, all of this could have made for a plausible, if complicated route to a deal for Davis, but without the caliber of young players at the Lakers’ disposal, Milwaukee isn’t even going to be able to offer the best package of the teams on Davis’ list.

Even beyond that, there still remains no guarantee that the Pelicans will trade him to a preferred destination, particularly considering the bounty the Celtics could offer for Davis in the summer. If Davis does hold interest in the Bucks, a scenario such as that one may ultimately prove to be the most realistic path to him teaming up with Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee in the years to come.

If the Bucks are a long-term preferred destination, and can maintain that spot by contending over the next 16 months, Antetokounmpo leading a Bucks pitch in a July 1, 2020 meeting could open up a new world of possibilities for Milwaukee.

In the now, a package of Middleton, Bledsoe, Lopez, Maker, DiVincenzo, a 2024 first round pick and a couple of second rounders for Davis, Hill and Ian Clark‘s minimum deal is the best the Bucks can realistically propose.

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For a Pelicans team likely eager to tank over the remainder of the season, and set for a long rebuild in the years ahead, it would be a major shock if that was even remotely close to the kind of deal that got them to pull the trigger.