Sixers Delay Contention (again), as Milwaukee Gets Long

PHILADELPHIA receives: LA Lakers’ 2015 First Round Pick–top-5 protected
MILWAUKEE receives: Michael Carter-Williams, Tyler Ennis, Miles Plumlee
PHOENIX receives: Brandon Knight

This is the trade of the day for me. By far. With the announcements of this trade happening simultaneously as (and contradicting) the Suns trading Isaiah Thomas to the Celtics, I had no idea what was going on for about four minutes–which seemed like four hours in this era of instant Twitter gratification. Now that I can finally grasp what happened and take a deep breath, I can attempt to assess the returns. As you probably know, I took my internship with the 76ers shortly after MCW was drafted and Jrue Holiday was traded for Nerlens Noel (and Saric, and a 2017 first round pick). I ranked Carter-Williams #7 heading into the 2013 draft and Noel #1. The moves Sam Hinkie made played a big role in choosing Philly over my offers in Atlanta and Cleveland. I watched every Sixers game that year, preseason and regular season. And I LOVED what I saw from MCW, predicting him to be the hands-down Rookie of the Year before he torched the Heat in his NBA debut. But it has now been nearly two years since that draft. Carter-Williams has been a good NBA player–a steal at #11 in a weak draft–but is by no means untouchable. At this point in the rebuild, Philly needs superstars. Otherwise they run the risk of returning to the year-after-year mediocrity that plagued this team before the Holiday trade. I have known trading MCW was likely for a while, so I have had a chance to think about what kind of return would be necessary for my favorite team to lose one of my favorite NBA players. The value I was hoping for the deal was NOWHERE NEAR the value the Sixers got. Unbelievable they got the Lakers’ pick back for him. It is unlikely this pick conveys in 2015, but it is only top-3 protected in 2016, and I can’t see the Lakers making a big enough leap this summer to make this a bad deal. Plus, if the ping-pong balls bounce the right way, the Sixers can have a chance at two top-6 or 7 players in this years draft. Even if they don’t, remember that Emmanuel Mudiay is four 1/2 years younger than Michael Carter-Williams: A-

Brandon Knight has really revived himself this season. After appearing to be a middling, maybe starting-caliber point guard in Detroit, he showed promise in his first year with the NBA-worst Bucks. This season, he has taken another step. He has lead a surprisingly effective Milwaukee team squarely into the playoffs, without the help of Jabari Parker’s offense, and he’s looked good while doing it. While he’s primarily playing the role of play-maker, Knight is still shooting 40.9% from 3-land on 4.9 tries per game. Coupled with a career-high 5.4 assists, Knight is likely to see a major offer in restricted free agency this summer (my guess: neighborhood of $15m/year). Instead, Milwaukee can have Carter-Williams for less than $3.2m/year through 2017. And I love the idea of taking another high-upside, extremely long player to add to their young core. While he is a terrible shooter, this has shown to be the easiest skill to improve upon with good coaching. And for the best example in NBA history, look no further than Carter-Williams’ new head coach, Jason Kidd, fifth all-time in three-pointers made after beginning his career with the same knock his new starting PG has. Add that to his defensive prowess (a side of the ball which Kidd, second all time in steals, was also pretty adept). The Bucks can now roll out a 6’6″ point guard (with 6’7″ wingspan) to add to their 6’11” Antetokounmpo (7’5″ wingspan), 6’7″ Middleton (6’11” wingspan), 6’8″ Parker (6’11.5″ wingspan) in their wing rotation, and 6’10.5″ John Henson (7’5″ wingspan). And none of those guys are older than 24. Carter-Williams will be asked to do a lot less in this offense, and once they add a quality big man, the Bucks will have a pretty damn good roster set up for the future. And it’s a good thing they also have crazy cap space to convince a seven-footer or two that Milwaukee isn’t the worst place in the world, because they certainly won’t be near the top of the draft any time soon. Milwaukee is improving, and quickly: B+

I don’t get it. I have been a fan of the Suns’ moves this past few years to stockpile talent. I believe that talent wins out in the end. I was not opposed to three of their best four players being point guards, especially with a GM that’s not opposed to deal when necessary. The Lakers’ first round pick the Suns got back in the Steve Nash trade has had appeal for years. With LA nosediving and the Suns in playoff contention in the loaded Western Conference, this pick was supposed to be the elusive high draft pick that a playoff team needs to push itself over the top. And they shipped it for three months of Brandon Knight + the right to match an overpay this summer? It doesn’t match the other deals Ryan McDonough made this deadline. Flipping Dragic and Thomas for picks, then trading the best pick you have for a point guard worse than all three on the roster last week makes little sense to me. It helps that Knight is five years younger than Dragic, but this team really could have used that Lakers pick to put them over the edge, and I believe there will be a better player available when the Sixers are on the clock than Brandon Knight is: C-

**All stats/salary/research from Basketball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted**

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