The Milwaukee Bucks knew it was going to be a top priority to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo around past this upcoming season. On Monday night, after rumors had been flying around and other trades had been made, the Bucks snuck up on the entire League. Milwaukee first struck a deal for G Jrue Holiday, sending Eric Bledsoe, George Hill and three picks to the New Orleans Pelicans. That was just the beginning. The Bucks then agreed to a sign-and-trade for RFA G Bogdan Bogdanovic with the Sacramento Kings, sending the remainder of the bench to the Kings — Donte DiVincenzo, Ersan Ilyasova and DJ Wilson.
Overnight, the Bucks turned from 2021 NBA title contenders to perhaps the favorites to dethrone LeBron James and the Lakers in the summer. Let’s take a quick look at the depth chart after all the trades. Remember, Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews both chose to decline their player options for 2020-21.
PG: Jrue Holiday, Frank Mason III
SG: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kyle Korver, Sterling Brown
SF: Khris Middleton, Pat Connaughton, Sterling Brown
PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Thanasis Antetokounmpo
C: Brook Lopez
So chances are the Bucks will add a few rookies via the draft and then sign a few veterans to one-year deals. They have five roster spots to fill. We’ve seen teams fit in veterans who are just chasing a title before, so expect something similar to what the Lakers were able to do with LeBron in town. Since the depth doesn’t matter as much for fantasy, let’s take a look at the starting five, specifically Holiday and Bogdanovic, and what it means for season-long.
Jrue Holiday and Bogdan Bogdanovic
This was a coup for the Bucks and Giannis, really. The whole issue with Milwaukee last season was the lack of elite shooting the Bucks surrounded Giannis with on the perimeter. Eric Bledsoe only shot 34 percent from long range, Brook Lopez only shot 31 percent from distance, Wes Matthews only shot 36 percent. George Hill was one of the better 3-point shooters in the NBA at 46 percent, but he didn’t play enough let alone take enough attempts to make an impact in the postseason.
Bogdanovic is a career 37 percent shooter from beyond the arc over three seasons. His 3-point attempt rate was 57.6 percent last season, which ranked just outside the top 50 in the NBA. This was a higher clip than anyone on the Bucks last season not named Matthews or Kyle Korver. The issue with all the 3-point shooters for Milwaukee was, outside of Middleton, none of them do anything else particularly well.
Bogdanovic is a better volume shooter and that was last season while playing mostly off the bench for the Kings. He averaged 29 minutes per game, which should go up closer to around 33-34 minutes per game with Milwaukee — just based on how the roster is shaking out. He’s still only 28 years old, so I think he’ll survive. Bogdanovic will also be an upgrade defensively over guys like Matthews, Korver, DiVincenzo and Hill. It may not be by much, but it’s notable.
Holiday is considered one of the premier two-way guards in the NBA. His defense will replace Bledsoe’s pretty seamlessly this upcoming season. It also seemed like Bledsoe lost a step or two because of injuries. Holiday hasn’t averaged fewer than 1.4 steals per game since his rookie season back in 2009. So there’s one category Holiday is always useless in.
What’s encouraging about Holiday’s move from NOLA to Milwaukee is that he was thriving with a crowded roster on the Pels. Holiday averaged 19.1 points, 6.7 assists and 4.8 rebounds over 61 starts last season. That was playing most of the year with Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and then a quarter of the season with Zion Williamson. We know Giannis will dominate the ball most of the time, but Holiday’s assists numbers could actually up to around 8-9 per game. Holiday has Giannis down low, and then Bogdanovic and Middleton on the wings to dish to. It’s going to be a nightmare for defenses.
I think that Holiday’s scoring numbers will go down slightly, but his assist totals will go up enough to make up for it. This should also be a much more efficient offense with the Bucks than with the Pelicans. In season-long, both Bogdanovic and Holiday should get a slight boost from wherever they were pictured to go previously. I could see Holiday as being a strong top 50 play with upside to finish in the top 30 or so. Bogdanovic is more of a 3-point specialist, but will definitely have opportunities for more ceiling games throughout the season.
Khris Middleton and Giannis
For me, Giannis’ outlook goes unchanged. The only thing I would worry about with Antetokounmpo is the fact that there may be less times where he needs to dominate the ball and take over. He has way more help in the form of elite scorers than he did with Bledsoe and Middleton. Now, he has Holiday, Bogdanovic and Middleton to lean on.
While we may not see those takeover type of games, we may just see more consistent offense for Giannis. Defenses aren’t going to be able to double him as frequently, so if the opposing team has no answer for him down low, they’re screwed. If you double Antetokounmpo, he kicks it out to three different shooters who can beat you — either from beyond the arc or off the dribble.
The thing I love about this trade for Middleton is that he always seemed to step up when Giannis was out. When Giannis was on the court, Middleton would cede to him for the most part. We saw how Middleton can disappear in the playoffs. I’m not saying that he’s not clutch or that he doesn’t care, he’s a competitor. But I do think that bringing in more support will be good for Middleton. It may hurt his fantasy basketball value, however. A lot of the scoring that would go directly to Middleton, will not be spread out between Middleton, Holiday and Bogdanovic.
It really depends on what type of rotations coach Mike Budenholzer puts out there. My guess would be — depending on what the bench looks like — he’ll opt to have Giannis stay out there with the second unit most of the time. If Giannis gets into early foul trouble, we could see the bench + some combination of Holiday, Middleton and Bogdanovic. Leaving Holiday in there for additional minutes at the end of the first quarter and third quarter makes sense, mostly because of his defense.
I know this isn’t a bunch of numbers and advanced stats pointing to why Middleton will regress a bit, but fantasy basketball can be more than just numbers and analytics. Despite a career-high 20.9 points per game last season, I do think we see some regression from Middleton, but not by much. If anything he becomes more efficient with better looks from outside and less forced 3-pointers, which sort of became a theme in the playoffs. Middleton is a GREAT 3-point shooter and that shouldn’t change. The quality of looks will go up, so we could see the All-Star forward flirt with his career high of 43 percent from downtown in 2020-21.
Giannis should go within the first three picks in pretty much every draft in my eyes. This team got infinitely better on paper and unless injuries plague the Bucks, they should be the best team in the East again. The offense is going to be too nutty. Giannis will have the opportunity for more stat lines closer to triple-doubles. He may not post those crazy 40-20 lines as often, but 30-10-6 on a consistent basis is what I’d expect. Couple that with 55-60 percent from the floor. Hell, maybe he even works on his outside shot and improves upon that. If he does, he’ll be more unstoppable than he already is.
Middleton, Holiday and Bogdanovic I don’t mind in the middle of your draft, somewhere in the 5-6 round range. Holiday would have the most value if you want to reach for him in the 4-5 round. Bogdanovic and Middleton would be more geared toward 3-point specialists, so if you’re in a ROTO league or H2H with 3PM and 3P%, both wings will be in great spots.