Milwaukee Bucks: Regrading the highly discussed Eric Bledsoe trade

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - AUGUST 22: (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - AUGUST 22: (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Bucks, Eric Bledsoe
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 06: (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /

It’s not often you see a small market team be the one to jump in and acquire a player that is no longer content with his situation on a losing team. But that’s the position the Milwaukee Bucks found themselves in when they traded for point guard Eric Bledsoe early in the 2017-18 season.

In the deal, the Bucks sent big man Greg Monroe and two protected draft picks (a first-rounder and a second-rounder) to the Phoenix Suns. The original deal was given an A letter grade by Adam McGee. By this point, I’m sure everyone still remembers the infamous tweet that Bledsoe sent out amid his displeasure of being with a very bad Suns team. Despite his best efforts the prior season, the Suns were 24-58 in 2016-17 and had the league’s worst defense, allowing over 113 points per game. Bledsoe was in his 8th season in the NBA and wanted a chance to play for a winning team.

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After being drafted 18th overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder (and flipped to the Los Angeles Clippers), Bledsoe had averaged 13.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.4 steals per game across 418 games over his seven seasons.

His averages were even better with the Suns with 18.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, six assists, and 1.6 steals per contest. He was a do-it-all type of guard that could create a positive impact on any team.

The Bucks were on the precipice of breaking out into being a great team, finishing the prior season at 42-40 and made the playoffs after winning 33 games in 2015-16. Giannis Antetokounmpo was on the verge of becoming a superstar, there was still relative optimism around Jabari Parker, Khris Middleton was blossoming into an All-Star caliber player, and they had the reigning Rookie of the Year in Malcolm Brogdon. They needed another piece though and the organization decided was Bledsoe.

The deal showed promise initially, but how does it look all these years later?

The financial impact and acquisition cost of the Eric Bledsoe trade in 2017 for the Milwaukee Bucks

From a purely financial perspective, this was a pretty easy swap to make for the Bucks. Bledsoe was in the middle of a five-year, $70 million contract he signed with the Suns in 2014 and was making around $14.5 million that season. Monroe was in the final year of a three-year, $51.4 million contract that brought him to the Bucks in free agency.

The Bucks were able to save a couple of million dollars in short-term money, but Bledsoe’s deal did hamstring their long-term cap situation since he had a few more years left on his deal. At the time, Parker was eligible for an extension and was set to be a free agent that summer. It also meant that Bledsoe, Middleton, and Brogdon would all be up for extensions at around the same time, which could create some problems. (And it did!)

Bledsoe became the second-highest-paid Buck behind Antetokounmpo, but the Bucks were also anchored by the contracts of Matthew Dellevadova, Tony Snell, Mirza Teletovic, and John Henson who were all making between $9.6 million and $11.4 million. Those were some rough times in Milwaukee’s salary cap history.

As for what Milwaukee gave up, Monroe was a well-liked Buck but losing him wasn’t a big deal. 2017-18 was his penultimate season and he played a total of 94 games in his final two years, split between five different teams.

The first-round pick eventually ended up conveying in the 2020 draft. It was used to select wing Desmond Bane 30th overall, who was traded on draft night to the Memphis Grizzlies. As for the second-rounder, it ended up conveying to the Brooklyn Nets, which was sent to them in a separate deal. The pick was used on Hamidou Diallo, who was traded to the Thunder on draft night. While Diallo is a solid role player, Bane looks like he has the potential to make the Bucks regret the deal slightly but the Bucks needed Bledsoe in 2017 more than they need Bane now.