The Milwaukee Bucks sent shockwaves through the NBA landscape at the trade deadline last year when they sent Brandon Knight to the Phoenix Suns in a three-way-trade that landed them Michael Carter-Williams from the Philadelphia 76ers. While Carter-Williams was a year removed from winning Rookie of the Year, it still wasn’t quite clear if he was actually a good player. Knight, meanwhile, had emerged as a legitimate All-Star candidate in the Eastern Conference.
So why did the Bucks make that trade, especially since Knight was developing just as they had hoped? As Jason Kidd told Charles Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the trade had as much to do with another breakout player on the Bucks as it did Knight.
“I wouldn’t say we gave up a lot,” Kidd said.”He (Knight) was having a great season, and he’s having a great season this year. But it wasn’t we gave up Brandon. We had a decision to make between our backcourt.
“It wasn’t Klay Thompson or Stephen Curry. We weren’t going to max out our backcourt. As an organization, we had a decision to make, and we made it.”
Kidd referred to deciding whether to give a big contract to Knight or Khris Middleton, the two players that came over from Detroit in the July 2013 trade for Brandon Jennings. Middleton emerged last season as a legitimate threat at shooting guard and a clutch late-game scorer.
The not-so-subtle shade Kidd throws at Knight was unnecessary, but the larger point he makes has merit. While Middleton/Knight is a very good backcourt pairing, it’s not one that deserves as much investment as it would have taken to keep it together.
Small-market teams have to make decisions like this on a regular basis, and there’s no way the Bucks could have afforded a $140 million backcourt (both Knight and Middleton received five-year, $70-million extensions this past summer), not when they had their sights set on Greg Monroe while wanting to preserve space for future extensions the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Carter-Williams, though not as good a player, is at least cheaper, and even when he becomes eligible for an extension, won’t command a price tag as high as Knight.