Milwaukee Bucks: Grades and reactions for the Nikola Mirotic trade

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 09:(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 09:(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /
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DENVER, CO – FEBRUARY 22: (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO – FEBRUARY 22: (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images) /

What the Bucks traded away

In terms of the personnel elements of this deal, the Bucks essentially traded Maker and Smith for Nikola Mirotic. Depending on how you pick apart the process of this trade, you could substitute Maker for Stanley Johnson in that statement either.

Regardless, if you’re looking for a detailed exploration of either Maker or Johnson’s game, and what it means for the Bucks to make this decision, you can take a look at the piece I wrote in the same style on Wednesday when it appeared as if those two players were simply swapping places.

As for Jason Smith, with no disrespect intended to someone who is by all accounts a great person and valuable locker room presence, the Bucks essentially added filler to the deal. Smith arrived in Milwaukee as salary filler in December, he leaves as salary filler in February, and he played a total of 40 minutes of garbage time basketball in between.

To boil it down, the most significant assets parted with in Thursday’s trade were the four second round picks reportedly re-routed to New Orleans. I use the term re-routed because, for the most part that is what’s going to happen.

The Bucks will send two Wizards second rounders that were acquired this year in taking on Jason Smith and Jodie Meeks‘ deals to offer cap relief to Washington.

The Bucks will also send a top-55 protected pick from Denver, which was acquired in exchange for Roy Hibbert in another deal built primarily around cap machinations playing out, and was never expected to convey prior to the Nuggets’ breakout success this season.

The only one of Milwaukee’s own second rounders set for New Orleans is their selection in the 2020 draft.

In abstract terms, four second rounders sounds like a relatively hefty price, and certainly on the receiving end of the deal it will make for an excellent haul for the Pelicans. But the context of how those picks were acquired cannot be overlooked in determining the price Milwaukee paid out.

The two Wizards’ picks, in particular, were acquired as a byproduct of shrewd transactions and a willingness to stock-pile picks through minor facilitation. Meeks never played a game for the Bucks before being waived, while Smith was a peripheral figure. Still, the understanding of what those picks can amount to cumulatively requires a degree of foresight, and it’s only with that did Horst gradually acquire the assets required to make such a crucial deal.

The cost for Milwaukee is not as steep as it may appear. And let’s face it, if there’s a time to use such assets, it’s in bolstering a team with the NBA’s best record and a legitimate chance of contention. A Finals appearance could hold weight in convincing Giannis Antetokounmpo to remain long-term, or in negotiating with free agents this summer. The prospect of what future second round picks could be would undoubtedly fail to sway anyone’s thinking.

At this point, it is worth pointing out that John Wall‘s ruptured achilles and the Wizards’ decision to trade Otto Porter Jr. has significantly increased the likely value of those second round picks in recent days. Still, the Bucks’ time could well be now, and with the uncertainty that free agency provides with four of their starters, this is a risk that had to be taken.