After a first eight weeks that make them appear to be contenders for an Eastern Conference title and maybe more, the Milwaukee Bucks aren’t waiting until the trading deadline.
Hours before tipping off against the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors, the Bucks acquired guard George Hill from the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday for what had become a spare part, a a broken part and a first-round pick they envision as very late in the draw.
The Bucks sent Matthew Dellavedova and John Henson to the Cavaliers, along with a first-round and second-round pick.
Early reports had the Bucks also acquiring former Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker in the deal, but Dekker ended up in Washington, with center Jason Smith and a second-round pick coming to Milwaukee.
As things get fleshed out, the main question Bucks fans want to know is this: How does this make the Bucks better.
The key cog is obviously Hill. He comes to Milwaukee with a 46.4% mark on 3-pointers this season, although he’s attempted just 28. Rest assured he’ll be attempting more in Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer’s “Let it Fly” offense.
With the Cavs rebuilding, the 32-year-old Hill found his playing time diminishing. Rookie Collin Sexton mans the point guard position now as Cleveland prepares for the future.
Hill also brings a huge flexibility card with him. He’ll become part of a strong three-guard rotation with Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon during the season. And next summer, he’ll give the Bucks financial relief. He’s making roughly $19 million this season, but his contract calls for just $1 million guaranteed next season should the Bucks cut him — which they most certainly will do.
The Bucks, meanwhile, escape major financial obligations to both Dellavedova and Henson next season.
Smith fits the definition of journeyman. In 10 seasons, he’s averaged more than 20 minutes just twice. He does bring a skillset that matches Milwaukee, though. He’s made 4 of 10 3-pointers this season. While he made just 4 of 32 last year, he connected on 37 of 78 — a whopping 47.4% — two years ago.
With Brogdon’s development and rookie first-rounder Donte DiVincenzo also getting time, Dellavedova has been relegated to mostly mop-up minutes. His four-years, 38-million contract signed in the summer of 2016 became an albatross around the Bucks’ neck.
Henson’s contract created even bigger problems. The longest-tenured Buck, Henson signed a four-year, $48-million extension in 2016. That became too expensive for a player who never really threatened to be a full-time starter. He could block shots and occasionally rebound, but Henson was never much of an offensive player, even though he had become a bit of a 3-point threat this season. Henson also will be out for much of the next 2-3 months after wrist ligament surgery
Whatever Hill and Smith contribute on the floor this season probably will pale in comparison to the financial flexibility the Bucks gain, with Bledsoe needing to re-signed next summer and Khris Middleton in 2020.
On the floor, the Bucks won’t miss Dellavedova. They’ll miss Henson less and less if Thon Maker continues to develop.
Off the floor, the financial flexibility will become a major part of what the Bucks can do with their roster and in free agency next summer.
And the 2021 first-round pick? They’ll not notice it for another 2 1/2 years. And if they get to where they expect to in the next couple of years, the pick should be in the late 20s.
The Bucks got better for the present and better for the future.