The Milwaukee Bucks are still trying to figure things out. Trading for Damian Lillard raised their title odds and expectations, but the franchise needs some time. There have been positives and negatives early in the season. The Bucks must get Khris Middleton healthy if they want to win it all, but even that won’t be enough if Milwaukee does not sort out their defense and depth.
The Bucks were annually one of the best defensive teams in the NBA under Mike Budenholzer, but they struggled mightily to begin the year as new head coach Adrian Griffin attempted to change the scheme. Even after the switch back, Milwaukee sits 24th in defensive rating and gives up 10.1 more points per 100 possessions than the league-leading Timberwolves.
There are depth concerns too. Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo are the only two players averaging over 27 minutes per game right now. Jae Crowder is out for two months, and Middleton is not playing more than 20 minutes a night. The Bucks need to address their depth before the deadline, and these five trades do just that.
5. Bucks convince Nets to part with Royce O’Neale
The Brooklyn Nets entered the season with a bit of a wing logjam, but injuries have not made it a problem so far. They shopped Royce O’Neale in the offseason and reportedly wanted a first-round pick in return. No deal was made, but O’Neale’s expiring contract could put him back on the block before the deadline.
Do the Nets drop their asking price and take the best available deal? They do not want to lose O’Neale in free agency, which could open the door for Milwaukee to come in and get the 3-and-D wing.
The Bucks have just two second-round draft picks to trade after acquiring Damian Lillard. They need someone to become available on the cheap, and their focus should be on landing an expiring contract before the deadline.
Royce O’Neale is a plus shooter and defender with improving playmaking. He could be impactful on both ends of the floor, but Milwaukee must convince the Nets to significantly lower their asking price. That will be easier said than done.