Bucks Rumors

Horst: Bucks Not Going To Trade Eric Bledsoe

After a report earlier this week suggested the Bucks would be willing to trade starting point guard Eric Bledsoe, Jon Horst told Howard Beck of Bleacher Report in no uncertain terms that’s not the case.

“We have no talked to any teams about trading [Bledsoe], since the day that we traded for him,” the Bucks GM said. “And I think it’s evident, pretty strongly, in the fact that we extended Eric, what he means to us.

“The fact that we currently have the best record in the NBA, had the best record last year in the NBA, he’s an All-NBA First Team defender and a guy that we feel strongly should be an All-Star for the Milwaukee Bucks this year. We have not had those conversations, and we are not going to trade Eric Bledsoe.”

It’s hard to imagine the Bucks doing anything too drastic to shake up their roster at the trade deadline next month, considering the team is on a 71-win pace. Bledsoe did struggle in the postseason last spring, so he’ll be under the microscope in this year’s playoffs. If he underperforms again, perhaps Horst’s stance changes, but the veteran point guard looks safe for now.

Examining How Bucks And Giannis Have Quieted Free Agency Speculation

  • Sam Amick of The Athletic examines how the Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo have quieted speculation regarding his 2021 unrestricted free agency, where he’s expected to garner interest from multiple teams. Milwaukee has the league’s best record at 38-6, winning its last six games. Their success has been fueled by Antetokounmpo and his MVP-caliber season (30 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 5.5 APG on 55% FG).

Horst Discusses Bucks' Approach To Deadline

With teams around the NBA looking for ways to upgrade their roster in advance of the February 6 trade deadline, Chris Mannix of SI.com wonders whether the 37-6 Bucks would be better off just standing pat. As Mannix notes, most general managers are inclined to give stock answers about being opportunistic and always looking for favorable deals, but Milwaukee might not want to even risk disrupting the team’s chemistry.

“The stock answer is true,” Bucks GM Jon Horst told Mannix. “Of course we are going to look around. Of course we are going to do our jobs. But we are going to be incredibly patient and incredibly protective of what we have. I think that’s fair and I think that’s smart. It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to do anything or that we shouldn’t do anything. But we have guys here that have shown they can impact games.”

Checking In On 2020’s Protected First-Round Picks

We’re nearly at the halfway mark of the 2019/20 NBA regular season, with several teams having already played their 41st game. As such, it’s a good time to check in on the traded 2020 first-round picks that have protections on them to get a sense of whether or not those protections will be applied this year.

Of this year’s 30 first-round selections, 10 have been traded, and all 10 have some form of protection on them. In other words, the ’19/20 standings will dictate whether or not those first-rounders actually change hands in 2020.

Here’s our latest look at which of those picks are safe bets to move, which ones will likely be retained, and which ones are still up in the air:

Likely to change hands:

  • Bucks acquiring Pacers‘ pick (top-14 protected)
  • Celtics acquiring Bucks‘ pick (top-7 protected)
  • Nets acquiring Sixers‘ pick (top-14 protected)
  • Thunder acquiring Nuggets‘ pick (top-10 protected)

It’s safe to say at this point that the Pacers (25-15), Bucks (35-6), Sixers (25-16), and Nuggets (27-12) aren’t missing the playoffs this season, which means their traded first-round picks, which range from lottery-protected to top-7 protected, will be on the move.

Currently, the Milwaukee and Denver picks project to fall near the end of the first round, while the Philadelphia and Indiana selections could end up in the late-teens or early-20s, as our Reverse Standings show.

Unlikely to change hands:

  • Grizzlies acquiring Jazz‘ pick (1-7, 15-30 protected)
  • Nets acquiring Warriors‘ pick (top-20 protected)

The Warriors (9-32) keeping their first-round pick is the safest bet on the board. Not only will that first-rounder land within the top 20, but it appears likely to be a top-five selection. Brooklyn will see the value of that asset decline significantly when it’s officially protected this year, receiving a 2025 second-round pick in place of that first-rounder.

Meanwhile, the Jazz (27-12) would have to finish out of the playoffs for the Grizzlies to get their first-rounder this year. That was always unlikely to happen, even before Utah’s recent hot streak. The protections on that pick will roll over to 2021 and will be identical next year (1-7 and 15-30).

Still up in the air:

  • Celtics acquiring Grizzlies‘ pick (top-6 protected)
  • Hawks acquiring Nets‘ pick (top-14 protected)
  • Pelicans acquiring Cavaliers‘ pick (top-10 protected)
  • Sixers acquiring Thunder‘s pick (top-20 protected)

Usually by this point in the season, we have a reasonably clear idea of which draft picks will be protected, but these four first-rounders are still very much up in the air.

The Thunder (23-17) weren’t considered a probable playoff team entering the season, but they’re comfortably holding the seventh seed in the West for now and project to have the No. 18 pick. Another winning streak or two could move that pick outside the top 20, which would be good news for the Sixers. If the pick is protected this year and Oklahoma City keeps it, Philadelphia would instead receive second-rounders in 2022 and 2023.

Like OKC, the Grizzlies (18-22) are defying modest expectations and hold one of the final playoff spots in the West. If they keep playing like this, there’s no chance their pick will end up in the top six, so it would be sent to the Celtics. But if Memphis doesn’t make the playoffs, there’s always a chance the lottery could push that selection into the top four, where the Grizzlies would keep it. In that scenario, Memphis would owe Boston its unprotected 2021 first-round pick.

The Nets (18-20) are the eighth seed in the East for the time being, and would send their lottery-protected to Atlanta as long as they hang onto a playoff spot. The Hawks would be happy for the Nets to stay where they are, resulting in the No. 16 overall pick. If Brooklyn slips out of the playoff picture and hangs onto its protected first-rounder, Atlanta would almost certainly receive a less valuable pick in 2021 when Kevin Durant returns and makes the Nets a more dangerous team.

Finally, it may seem safe to assume that the Cavaliers (12-28) will keep their top-10 protected pick, but we’re not writing that in pen yet. Even though the Cavs currently have the NBA’s fourth-worst record, only 3.5 games separate them from the 15-24 Timberwolves, who are the league’s 11th-worst team. I expect Cleveland to continue losing as the team shops its veterans, but there are enough bad teams in the NBA that hanging onto their pick can’t quite be considered a lock.

Budenholzer: Giannis Is Focused On This Season

  • The Bucks don’t seemed bothered by continued speculation about Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s future, tweets Eric Woodyard of ESPN. “I think the team’s been incredibly focused, he’s been incredibly focused just on each day, getting better, competing with his group and being respectful of what we’re doing now,” coach Mike Budenholzer said.

Curry Explains Postgame Conversation With Giannis

  • After his postgame conversation with Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo on Wednesday went viral, Warriors Stephen Curry claimed to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (video link) that he wasn’t talking to Giannis about teaming up in Golden State in the future — he was giving him his gamer tag for the online game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. “Don’t shoot the messenger,” Haynes said, perhaps recognizing that some fans will find Curry’s explanation dubious.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 1/3/20

Here are Friday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA G League:

  • The Timberwolves assigned rookie guard Jaylen Nowell to the Iowa Wolves, according to a team press release. In 15 games with Iowa, the second-round pick has averaged 21.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 3.4 APG.
  • The Bucks assigned forward Dragan Bender to the Wisconsin Herd for their game against the Windy City Bulls, the team tweetsIn seven starts with the Herd, Bender is averaging 19.7 PPG and 9.1 RPG while shooting 50.0% from the field.

Hollinger: Bender Among Candidates To Be Waived

Poll: Eastern Conference’s Top Six Teams

A year ago, four Eastern Conference teams had serious title aspirations and plenty at stake if they didn’t make deep playoff runs. The Raptors, Bucks, Sixers, and Celtics had set their sights so high that anything short of an Eastern Conference Finals berth would be considered a disappointment. And sure enough, after Philadelphia and Boston were knocked out in the Eastern Semifinals, they made major offseason changes, with Jimmy Butler, J.J. Redick, Kyrie Irving, and Al Horford all departing in free agency.

This season, the situation is a little different. Most Eastern Conference contenders have their core players locked up for the foreseeable future, so if they fall short of expectations in the postseason, that doesn’t necessarily mean roster shake-ups are coming. Still, the logjam near the top of the East’s standings will be fascinating to watch because there are now six strong contenders in the conference, with the Heat and Pacers joining the aforementioned four.

After struggling down the stretch last season when Victor Oladipo went down, Indiana has learned to win without him this season, posting a 22-13 record. It’s reasonable to assume the Pacers will be an even more dangerous team once Oladipo is back, which is expected to happen within the next month or so. As for Miami, the addition of Butler and young players like Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and Kendrick Nunn has led to an impressive bounce-back season so far for the 25-9 Heat.

The Celtics (23-8), Raptors (23-12), and Sixers (23-13) are bunched together with those two teams, and they’re all looking up at the top-seeded Bucks (31-5).

Based on how well these six teams have played so far, it’s safe to assume they’ll all enter the postseason expecting to win at least one series — and potentially more. But the math is working against them. Only four teams can make it through the first round, so at least two of these aspiring contenders will be one-and-done in the playoffs.

That brings us to today’s poll question: Which of the East’s top six teams won’t make it through the first round this spring?

Vote for two teams below in our poll, then head to the comment section below to explain your picks and to weigh in on which teams you expect to make deep postseason runs.

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Khris Middleton Speaks, Budenholzer Named East Coach Of The Month

Sharpshooting Bucks All-Star wing Khris Middleton has been a key part of Milwaukee’s blistering 31-5 season start. He spoke with The Athletic’s Sam Amick at length about his tenure in Milwaukee, his chemistry with 2019 MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the team’s outlook.

“So far, we’ve been special this season,” Middleton relayed to Amick. “But we know it’s just the regular season. That end goal of being the last team standing is our main focus.” The Bucks finished the 2018/19 season with a league-best 60-22 record, but fell to the eventual champion Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals.

“We lose Malcolm [Brogdon, to the Pacers in free agency], a big piece of what we did last year,” Middleton continued. “But the guys we had in the locker room were guys who we still felt could get the job done.” Antetokounmpo’s offensive improvement this season has helped, too. His play with the Bucks has already put him in the driver’s seat for earning repeat MVP honors.

  • Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer was named the NBA’s Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for December, according to Bucks.com. Milwaukee boasted the league’s best record at 13-2, and led the NBA in offensive rating (115.5) and defensive rating (99.3).