There’s no question that the Milwaukee Bucks loom as one of the biggest threats in the Eastern Conference to the Celtics for the foreseeable future. However, some ill-advised contracts given out over the past few offseasons had put somewhat of a ceiling on their ability to add more key pieces around MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo for the next couple of summers. With Khris Middleton looming as a max contract candidate this summer and other key role players (Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez) hitting the open market as well, it was going to be financially challenging for the Bucks front office to even retain their current core and keep pace with the Sixers, Celtics and Raptors from a talent standpoint.
Milwaukee took a major positive step in achieving that goal on Friday though when they found a taker for a pair of overpriced veterans as part of a three-team swap. The Bucks sent seldom-used Matthew Dellavedova and an injured John Henson to the Cavs, along with a protected first-round pick and a second-round selection in exchange for point guard George Hill. In a separate part of the deal, the Cavs and Wizards also swapped forwards (Sam Dekker for Jason Smith) and second-round picks.
The ramifications of this deal reach far beyond an upgrade on the floor this year for Milwaukee, but we’ll start there from a Celtics standpoint. Boston fans are very familiar with the work of Hill after seeing him for seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. He was an inconsistent piece at best for the Cavs in a starting role last year, but he’s a very big upgrade over Dellavedova even at age 32.
It also appears Hill has something left in the tank after being handed more of a featured role this year in Cleveland’s offense following the departure of LeBron James. Hill is averaging 14.7 ppg and is shooting a career-high 51 percent from the field and 46 percent from 3-point range. That type of accuracy makes him an ideal running mate to spread the floor around Antetokounmpo and Middleton and is a more reliable defensive player than Bledsoe. Mike Budenholtzer coached Hill as a Spurs assistant back before the guard was traded for Kawhi Leonard, so there’s a sense of familiarity there that should provide value for the Bucks. They add a good piece without taking away anything from their current rotation since Dellavedova wasn’t playing much and Henson is out until March after undergoing wrist surgery.
Is Hill the piece that will put the Bucks over the top in the East? Absolutely not, but it puts them firmly above the Sixers in the East power rankings right now and not too far behind Toronto/Boston. Hill is a more reliable shooter than Bledsoe and that will make the Bucks offense that much tougher to defend in the postseason when Antetokounmpo is working his drive and kick game.
While the in-season impact of the deal is notable, the bigger concern about this deal for C’s fans should come due to the long-term implications.