It remains to be seen whether the Milwaukee Bucks enhanced their chances of being an NBA title contender after a pair of trades Monday.
What is certain, though, is Bucks didn’t address perhaps their most problematic area: perimeter shooting.
While guards Jrue Holiday and Bogdan Bogdanovic who were obtained from New Orleans and Sacramento, respectively, are positive acquisitions, they are hardly the kind of knock-down shooters the Bucks so desperately need to surround Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Bogdanovic has a reputation of being a streaky outside shooter. He shot 37 percent on 3-pointers last season and 36 percent the season before as part-time starter for the Kings.
As for Holiday, he is a sub-par 3-threat. His career 3-point percentage is a mere 35 percent. That’s precisely what he shot last season after connecting on just 33 and 32 percent in the preceding seasons.
Holiday and Bogdanovic are now part of a Bucks’ starting lineup that has only one reliable perimeter shooter, that being Khris Middleton who connected on a career-high 41 percent last season. That was a significant improvement over the two previous seasons when he shot 37 and 35 percent from beyond the arc.
As for the Bucks’ other two starters, Brook Lopez and Antetokounmpo, they are both coming off abysmal 3-point seasons. Lopez, who made a solid 36 percent of his 3s in his first season with the Bucks two years ago, noticeably struggled last season and wound up shooting 31 percent. That was still better than Antekounmpo who, in his seventh pro season, shot a meager 30 percent.
The NBA has evolved into a 3-point shooting league. In their season-ending semifinal playoff series against Miami, the Heat effectively dissected the Bucks’ defense with a barrage of 3-pointers and finished the five-game series shooting 37 percent. Conversely, the Bucks, despite getting an abundance of open looks outside as the Heat swarmed Antetokounmpo, shot a feeble 32 percent.
The Bucks figure to make a few more personnel moves before the start of training camp in December. Adding a perimeter shooter should be their priority.
For the last two weeks, I was told by sources that there was mutual interest between the Bucks and Bogdanovic.
The Bucks were in the market for a shooting guard, and Bogdanovic wanted out of Sacramento, where chaos reigns.
Two people told me Milwaukee and Philadelphia were high on Bogdanovic’s wish list, not only because they were playoff caliber teams but places where he could reunite with a friend.
In Milwaukee’s case, it was George Hill. Bogdanovic and Hill became close friends when Hill spent about half of the 2017-2018 seasons with the Kings. They have remained close ever since.
So, when Bogdanovic learned he had been dealt to Milwaukee, he was obviously elated. But his elation soon was quickly tempered when he learned his pal had been dealt in a separate trade to New Orleans.
One other tidbit on the Bogdanovic trade: Antekounmpo gave his blessings to the deal.
Feeling the heat
An NBA executive on Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer after Milwaukee’s recent trades: “His warm seat just got a lot warmer.’’
A pointless trade
A longtime NBA scout, who has seen Holiday play on countless occasions, has concerns about the Bucks’ revamped backcourt.
“I’m a Jrue Holiday guy, he’s a good player,’’ the scout said. “But he’s never been a super creative guy, a true point guard. I think he’s better suited as a two (shooting guard). I think he plays much better off the ball.’’
The Big Three
An NBA official, when asked whom he considered the Bucks’ “untouchables’’ going into the trading deadline, responded, “They have three of them. Middleton is an untouchable, Giannis is an untouchable. …’’
The scout then pause, chuckled and said, “And Thanasis.’’
Thanasis being Giannis’ brother.
One last look
According to a Bucks official, if the team had kept its first-round pick (No. 24 overall) instead of sending it to New Orleans in the Holiday trade, they would have given serious consideration to combo guard Cassius Stanley of Duke and point guard Theo Maledon of France. The Bucks attended workouts for both of them.
After the Bucks secured Holiday and Bogdanovic, league officials fully expect Boston, Philadelphia and Brooklyn – all Eastern Conference title contenders — to make similar or even bigger moves.
Superstar James Harden is being linked to Brooklyn and Philadelphia, while Boston, with three first-round picks, wants to either move up in the draft for a prime-time prospect or use them in a package to get a. starting center and backup point guard.
- A scouting director on arguably the two best prospects in the draft: center James Wiseman of Memphis and Anthony Edwards of Georgia: “Wiseman reminds me a little bit of David Robinson; Edwards reminds me of Mitch Richmond.’’
- The Hawks, who have a plethora of top-shelf young talent, want to augment their roster with a proven veteran. Boston’s Gordon Hayward has been rumored as possibility, although some league officials contend Indiana and Charlotte are more likely options for the Celtics small forward.
- Boston’s primary need is a legitimate center, which has prompted some NBA officials into believing the Celtics might pursue San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge or Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams.
- Toronto is hoping to retain free agent guard Fred VanVleet, but several other teams wouldn’t mind having his services, including New York and Detroit.
- There seems to be a consensus Edwards, Wiseman and LaMelo Ball will be the first three draft selections, although not necessarily in that order. After that, the games begin.
- As of late Tuesday night, Minnesota, which has the top pick, was still mulling the idea of moving back from its No. 1 spot.
- Veteran guard Wesley Matthews, who opted out of his contract with the Bucks, has a number of suitors, including the champion Lakers.
- An Eastern Conference executive said he’s heard George Hill, whom the Bucks dealt to New Orleans on Monday, is drawing interest from a spate of title contenders, including both L.A. teams, Boston, Golden State and Miami.
- Golden State, Miami, Dallas and Toronto have been prominently mentioned as potential landing spots for Giannis Antetokounmpo, if he decides to move on from Milwaukee. I heard another one on Tuesday: Boston.