By RICK SOLEM
The Milwaukee Bucks just stole the NBA trade deadline.
OK, maybe the Oklahoma City Thunder did that, but the Bucks were a close second.
It took some sacrifice. Brandon Knight is gone. In are Michael Carter-Williams, Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis (Who? Don’t worry about it yet. He’s a 6-foot-2, rookie point guard. He’ll be good. If not, who cares.).
Right now, Carter-Williams is the centerpiece. Right now. And he is.
The 23-year-old, 6-6 point guard has everything you’d want in a player, except the ability to shoot the basketball. Kind of a big deal in a sport called basketball.
But, it seems like some other, Hall of Fame, tallish point guard came into the league with all the intangibles except the ability to shoot. Jason Kidd figured it out. The Bucks coach can help MCW do the same.
Carter-Williams shoots 38 percent from the field, 26 from beyond the arc and 64 from the free-throw line. Terrible numbers.
But, if there’s one coach who can solve any problem in the NBA, it’s Kidd. OK, he didn’t do so hot on Larry Sanders, unless you count buying him out for ridiculously cheap.
But, the 6-4 Kidd, who shot 39 percent from the field and 31 percent from beyond the arc in his first two seasons at point guard figured it out. He finished his NBA career fifth all-time in 3-pointers made.
This could just be a match made in heaven with Carter-Williams, who can do everything else. Everything. Maybe even better than Knight, though I can’t attest to his work ethic, but it appears to be solid.
Carter-Williams has five career triple-doubles – three this season. He is averaging 15 points, 7.4 assists, 6.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals. Oh, and 4.2 turnovers, but those don’t count on the 76ers. It also doesn’t matter his numbers are down from his rookie year.
Stats mean so little on a team like Philadelphia. And there’s no need to compare last year’s numbers to this year. They’re a team trying to lose and he’s trying to do all he can to win with whatever mod squad they thrpw on the court. Turnovers will happen. Someone had to shoot on that team, and Carter-Williams tried to do it all – and nearly did it all. That’s what you can take from his time there. Much like Knight came from a mess in Detroit to another mess in Milwaukee and thrived this season, Carter-Williams will do the same.
He won’t have to do it all in Milwaukee. And success in basketball often comes from playing with the same players. Fitting together. Winning helps. That surely hasn’t been the case in Philly. He’ll have that with the Bucks … or they’ll trade him in two seasons when he’s a restricted free agent, much like they did Brandon Knight … much like they did Brandon Jennings before that.
It’s sad to see Knight go. When this team was so dark and horrible last year, he was the only light. And this year he was shining. OK, enough cliches.
Knight is 23. One of the fastest players in the NBA. A solid point, who can shoot and had decent vision.
But he was a restricted free agent. And, while Milwaukee could match any offer another team would make on him in the offseason, those offers could have gotten into the $20 million range. Not because Knight is worth $20 million – not many are – but because Milwaukee has cap space and teams could force their hand, much like Dallas tried to do to Houston last year with Chandler Parsons, only Houston said, ‘F it, you can have him,’ and the Mavericks are stuck with the guy who probably spearheaded the NBA Fashion Show during the All-Star break. The what? Yeah, couldn’t believe it either.
But enough with run-on sentences and mentioning NBA fashion shows.
The Bucks also got Plumlee. A junkyard dog-like center. Exactly what Milwaukee needs (any team really … except the Suns, apparently), if, for no other reason than Zaza Pachulia can head back to a reserve role and save his 12-foot jumpers every time he touches the ball with space for practice.
Plumlee, 26, rarely got enough minutes in Phoenix, which has a potential all-star center in Alex Len ready to break out. Plumlee has shown flashes – he had 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting and 16 rebounds against Demarcus Cousins and Sacramento earlier this year. The three-year vet has had 20-rebound games (against Pau Gasol), multiple-block games. His per-36 averages are 8.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. He was getting just 18.6 minutes this season.
As for Ennis, he’s an unknown at this point. He’s played 58 NBA minutes, as Phoenix had five point guards and often tried playing three at a time. But he has potential. At Syracuse Ennis averaged 12.9 points (41% FG, 35% from 3), 5.5 assists. He may just be the highlight of this deal when it’s all said and done.