Milwaukee Bucks' 2014 Trade Deadline Shopping List
Possessing the league's worst record through the halfway point, the Milwaukee Bucks certainly won't have a very fruitful shopping list at this year's trade deadline. In fact, they'll probably be sellers.
However, this doesn't mean that the 2014 NBA trade deadline isn't important in Milwaukee.
As Feb. 20 rolls around, the Bucks need to focus on their future and become active sellers.
Getting rid of big contracts and taking on little salary in the process is crucial as the team begins to rebuild itself, despite the instant gratification that owner Herb Kohl and others may want.
Obtaining a high draft pick and other young players is what the team should be focused on as the deadline approaches.
But what are some specific things the Bucks should have on their to-do list?
* Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference and accurate through Feb. 4, 2014 *
Getting Rid of Gary Neal
After signing him to a two-year, $6.5 million contract over the summer, the Gary Neal experiment hasn't quite worked out for the Bucks.
In just 26 appearances, Neal is averaging 9.9 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists while shooting just 38.1 percent from the floor and 38.4 percent from three-point territory.
Occasionally a good spark of offense off the bench, Neal's minutes and production have been far too inconsistent through the first half of 2013-14.
Additionally, he recently butted heads with center Larry Sanders, according to Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Neal was yelling loudly as he exited the locker room and Sanders would not comment on the argument as he exited. Earlier Bucks strength and conditioning coach Robert Hackett stepped between the two players to try to keep the situation from escalating.
Sanders was heard questioning Neal's attitude. As Neal exited a few minutes later he yelled back, 'I earned my money. Why don't you try it?'
Regardless of how the argument was initiated, the Bucks can't afford to have personality conflicts in the locker room. On top of that, trading Neal is far more likely than trading Sanders.
Marc Stein of ESPN first reported that Milwaukee was looking to find a suitor for Neal back in early January, and as the deadline draws closer, it's imperative that they do.
As long as they aren't picky about what they get in return, the Bucks shouldn't have trouble finding a contender to take Neal off their hands.
Resisting the Urge to Trade Larry Sanders
A night club brawl, an argument with a teammate and poor play ignited talks of potentially trading Larry Sanders if the right opportunity presented itself.
According to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, the team is willing to part ways with the elite defender:
The Bucks are still very open to moving center Larry Sanders prior to the Feb. 20 trading deadline, sources said. They would have to take back some salary, but it appears draft picks are their priority.
However, unless the return is stellar, the Bucks shouldn't trade the big man.
Despite some of the off-court issues—and lack of production early on this year—Sanders' upside is still enormous, and he could certainly still be the franchise center moving forward.
In 21 games this season, he's averaging 7.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks while connecting on 45.0 percent of his field-goal attempts.
Recently, though, he's beginning to hit more of a stride.
Over the last four games, Sanders is averaging 10.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while shooting 54.5 percent from the floor.
There's no doubt he's still raw from an offensive standpoint and that he fouls too much—3.5 fouls in 26.0 minutes per game—but giving up on him this quickly after giving him an extension would be a bad decision.
As long as he can continue to progress, there's no reason to bail on the big man quite yet.
Moving Ersan Ilyasova While His Stock Is Up
With John Henson emerging as the power forward of the future for the Bucks, it's crucial that they trade Ersan Ilyasova while his stock is rising.
The good news for them? He's been playing well lately after struggling early on.
In his previous five games, Ilyasova is averaging 16.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists on 35.6 percent shooting from the field and 45.0 percent from three-point range.
Considering the trade deadline is rapidly approaching, he's hitting his stride at the ideal time.
Sure, there's room for improvement in his field-goal percentage, but the fact that he's healthy and once again producing at a quality level should get him back on the radar of teams that may have been interested in him prior to his struggles.
And even if the return isn't great, the Bucks absolutely must find a way to move him.
At $7.9 million per year, he's far too expensive and inconsistent for a team trying to rebuild.
However, that doesn't mean a contender couldn't use his services.
Figuring out Who Is Fair Game
With the Neal and Sanders trade speculation that has already been floated around, it's clear the Bucks aren't going to sit on their hands and do nothing prior to the deadline.
But is anyone on the roster off limits?
According to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, just a few names won't be moving anywhere:
The Bucks are definitely open for business. Almost anything outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo or John Henson is going to get consideration. The Bucks have been as active as almost anyone in gauging what’s out there. They haven’t really gotten to the offering point on anything, but it does seem like they are going to do something at the deadline.
If one is to believe Kyler, the Bucks could be very busy over the next few weeks.
The idea that virtually anyone outside of Henson and Antetokounmpo is fair game is an intriguing one and would mean someone like Brandon Knight—who is averaging 18.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists since the start of December—would be available.
Getting a feel for what return certain players might bring in isn't a bad thing, but there's no need for Milwaukee to blow everything up.
Knight is just 22 years old and showing he could be a franchise point guard while Sanders, as mentioned earlier, is starting to develop a bit of a rhythm.
If shopping Sanders, they'll likely be getting low-ball offers due to his lack of production and issues off the court. Knight's recent play may sweeten the pot but likely not enough for the team to give up on his high ceiling.
Simply put, the aforementioned four players should be the only names not mentioned when management is discussing trades over the next few weeks.
Acquiring the Right Things in Return
Now that we're sure the Bucks will make some sort of deal prior to the deadline, what should they be looking to acquire in return?
Players like Neal and Ilyasova won't net them a fortune in return and, quite frankly, that's alright.
As they head toward the summer, the Bucks don't want to be bogged down by bad contracts. If possible, taking as little in return as they can would be ideal.
This idea would see them acquiring expiring contracts or draft picks in any deal that they may find themselves a part of.
While they certainly won't contend for big-name free agents like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in the offseason, creating cap space might allow them to lure in a second-tier guy and rising star like Lance Stephenson.
Ultimately, though, Milwaukee shouldn't be overly concerned with free agency at this point.
Focusing on getting young players minutes and drafting one of the many talented players likely to declare for the 2014 NBA draft is crucial.
Contrary to what many think, the Bucks have some pieces in place.
They still need to find that "star" to take them to the next level, but that's not something that can be solved at the trade deadline.