The Milwaukee Bucks made a trade on Wednesday night to gain some salary cap space entering free agency.
The Bucks traded Tony Snell and the No. 30 overall pick in Thursday’s draft to the Detroit Pistons for Jon Leuer, as first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The move is all about the money for Milwaukee.
Snell is making nearly $11.4 million next season, while Leuer is making $9.5 million. Not only does the trade present a savings of nearly $2 million, but the Bucks save an additional $2 million or so due to the cap hold for the No. 30 pick, freeing up a total of around $4 million.
Leuer’s deal expires after the season while Snell has a $12.1 player option for 2020-2021, so the Pistons are effectively paying that money to gain the first-round pick and some wing help in the form of Snell, as Zach Lowe pointed out.
The Bucks were ranked fifth in the league with a $131 million payroll last season and had $87 million in commitments for next season, according to Hoops Hype. A number of their key players from last season’s team that produced the best regular season record in the league are set to become free agents, such as Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon, Nikola Mirotic and Brook Lopez. They are said to be negotiating a big deal to try and bring back Middleton. They won’t be able to bring back everyone, but this additional space will help their efforts to re-sign players or bring in another free agent or two to replace them.
Milwaukee’s rise to prominence in the Eastern Conference has largely been due to the emergence of Giannis Antetokounmpo as a star.
Antetokounmpo has gone from being a second-team All-Rookie member to becoming a finalist for NBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year this season. The Bucks have him under contract for two more seasons but would like to extend him for even longer. How they fare next season reportedly will have a big impact on that situation.
According to a report from ESPN’s Malika Andrews, reaching the NBA Finals next season could sway Giannis to sign a long-term contract extension with the Bucks.
Antetokounmpo made first-team All-NBA this season, which was his second season in a row being named to an All-NBA team. The honor qualified him for the supermax contract extension next summer, one that would give him the largest contract in NBA history.
If Antetokoumpo wants to, he would be able to sign a five-year, $247.3 million deal next summer, one that would keep him under contract with the Bucks for the next seven seasons.
The Bucks had the best record in the regular season and came up short in the conference finals. They’re close to reaching the NBA Finals, and you can bet Antetokounmpo will be chasing that pursuit hard this offseason.
Drake has forced his way into the Eastern Conference Finals conversation with the way he has flamboyantly supported the Toronto Raptors during the series, and it is not a surprise that most people from the Milwaukee Bucks side do not seem to appreciate the antics.
As he has done in the past, Drake left his seat numerous times during Game 4 in Toronto and patrolled the sidelines like he was a member of the team. He even gave Raptors coach Nick Nurse a little shoulder massage at one point, and Bucks president Peter Feigin was asked about that during an appearance on CBS sports radio’s “Taz and the Moose Show” on Thursday. He tried his best not to blow the story up any more.
“I’m not not a Drake fan,” Feigin said. “I’ll be as politically correct as you possibly can. I’ll echo what Bud says. I think everybody has a role. In the NBA, you’re a fan, you’re a coach, or you’re a player, and you got to know what the role is.
“But listen, I think for all of us, we would much rather have not talked about Drake and just won a couple games in Toronto. Our focus is a big, big game for the organization (Thursday night). We just win and let it speak for itself is kind of what we’d like to do.”
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer was a bit more open in criticizing Drake for the way he acts during games, and Drake later fired back by essentially telling Milwaukee to just worry about winning. Regardless of what the musician thinks, there’s a difference between enthusiastically rooting for your team and getting as involved as he does. You have to wonder if some coaches or players in Toronto are bothered by it as well.
A Milwaukee radio station is putting a temporary ban on Drake’s music as a show of solidarity with the Bucks.
The Bucks are facing the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals, with Game 1 being hosted by the Bucks on Wednesday night. “Riggs & Alley,” two hosts on 103.7 KISS-FM in Milwaukee, shared a video on Tuesday where they announced the temporary ban on Drake music for the series.
MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT: Until the @Bucks beat the @Raptors – we are hereby taking a break from ALL #DRAKE music. We love us some Drake, but right now – we love the #Bucks more! #BreakFromDrake #FearTheDeer pic.twitter.com/kRAZQnGOWo
— 103.7 KISS-FM (@1037KISSFM) May 14, 2019
The station hosts are calling it a “Break from Drake.”
Why the action? Drake, a famous musician, is from Toronto and has a deep association with the Raptors franchise. He is officially a team ambassador, and the team’s practice facility is named after his OVO brand. Drake is a big trash-talker and has been getting involved in some games.
Milwaukee is breaking out all the stops for the big series, which marks their first conference finals trip since 2001.
JR Smith has not appeared in a game for the Cleveland Cavaliers in over three months, but there is apparently still at least one playoff contender hoping for a chance to add him down the stretch.
Joe Vardon of The Athletic reports that the Milwaukee Bucks have interest in Smith, though there is not much optimism that the veteran will reach a buyout agreement with the Cavs before the March 1 deadline to be eligible to play in the postseason. Smith is currently guaranteed $3.9 million for next season, and that number will increase to $15.7 million if he remains on the roster after July 1. Cleveland could waive him and pay him the $3.9 million before that, so they do not stand to save that much even with a buyout agreement.
If the Cavs keep Smith on their roster after July 1, they can try to trade him either over the summer or prior to next February’s trade deadline. They could also “waive and stretch” his contract by the August deadline if they’re unable to trade him.
Vardon speculates that Smith might be willing to give back $1 million in a buyout agreement with Cleveland, so you can understand why they might prefer to take their chances of trying to trade him. That said, he’ll be 34 next season and will have taken a lot of time off. Trading him will not be easy, and there seems to be no chance of a reconciliation after the way Smith called out the team earlier this year.
The Bucks are currently 43-14 and in first in the Eastern Conference. It makes sense for them to want to surround Giannis Antetokounmpo as many catch-and-shoot specialists as possible.
The NBA trade deadline has passed, which means we more or less know what teams will look like in the NBA playoffs. There will be a few new faces who join playoff teams, but the bulk of these rosters are in place. With most of the season behind us, we also know who will likely be making the playoffs and seeded highly for a Finals run.
Keeping in mind the trade deadline activity, here are the top ten contenders to take home the title in June.
10. Utah Jazz
The Jazz were ultimately quiet at the trade deadline despite being linked to Memphis guard Mike Conley. In the end, they will go with what they had, which isn’t bad. Donovan Mitchell is a star, and Rudy Gobert is playing with a point to prove after being a quite egregious All-Star snub. They’re not really deep enough to challenge the best of the West, and they don’t really have enough in the way of top-level talent, but they’re good enough to cause a few headaches.
The 2019 NBA trade deadline was an exceptionally active one with multiple big names changing teams, even if the biggest name on the market ended up staying put. That doesn’t change the fact that the action, especially in the Eastern Conference, was fast and furious, and that isn’t even factoring in the Kristaps Porzingis deal.
Here are ten big takeaways from all the moves that took place prior to Thursday’s deadline.
1. The Anthony Davis saga will drag on into the summer, and the Lakers look worse for it
It didn’t seem like the New Orleans Pelicans ever had any real intention of negotiating with the Los Angeles Lakers in good faith on an Anthony Davis trade. The Pelicans have every incentive to wait until summer to deal Davis, when they should have a wider range of interested teams. The Lakers will be disappointed, as they don’t look great publicly, seem to have muddled the minds of their young players, and may now find themselves in a situation where they can be outbid. LeBron James probably won’t be happy, either.