The NBA's surprise deadline day winner
By HUNTER KOSSODO
College Contributor Network
The most out-of-the-blue deal during the NBA trade deadline belonged to the Phoenix Suns, who acquired point guard Brandon Knight from the Milwaukee Bucks in a three-team trade with the 76ers.
Phoenix dominated the media headlines as it tried to wriggle itself out between the rock and the hard place it found itself in. Star guard Goran Dragic was overwhelmingly and publicly unhappy with getting fewer minutes and less control on a team with an orchestra of point guards on the roster.
Dragic was eventually shipped to Miami and the Suns found their replacement in Knight, but what's lost in all this madness is that the Bucks could very well have been the winners of deadline day.
In return for losing Knight, a borderline All-Star with the Bucks this season, Milwaukee received Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis from Phoenix, as well as Michael Carter-Williams from Philadelphia. Any team would be happy with Plumlee as a reserve big, and Ennis is a very interesting point guard prospect at just 20 years old, but Carter-Williams is who will make Bucks general manager John Hammond look like a genius or a fool.
Carter-Williams definitely fits the Bucks' mold. He's long, rangy and can defend multiple positions. He, Giannis Antetokounmpo and John Henson could probably block off the entire three-point arc if they just extended their arms. Last season's Rookie of the Year is averaging 15 points, 7.4 assists and 6.2 rebounds, a stat-line similar to those his current head coach, Jason Kidd, put up during his illustrious career.
Speaking of Kidd, this will truly be his biggest test as a point-guard whisperer. Carter-Williams has good court vision and great rebounding skills for a signal caller, but a scorer he is not. Point guards who can't shoot are going the way of the dodo, and especially ones that can't make up for it by being dynamite under the basket. Of the 14 point guards who have taken at least 200 shots within five feet of the basket, Carter-Williams only converts a higher percentage than rookie Elfrid Payton and, surprisingly, Russell Westbrook.
Kidd knows a thing or two about getting the offensive game going mid-career, as he went from Ason Kidd (with no J) early in his career to finishing it as one of the all-time leaders in three-point makes. Kidd has the ability to maximize Carter-Williams' potential like no other head coach in the league can.
Milwaukee may have parted with a very bright talent in Knight, but they also avoided either having to pay him in restricted free agency or letting him walk for nothing. The 23-year-old Knight is going to receive some pretty considerable offers in free agency, and Milwaukee can instead use that money for a smaller deal with Carter-Williams (who is also in a contract year) as well as the Greek Freak's eventual extension.
Usually trade winners aren't determined by who gave up the most talented player. Phoenix definitely didn't win the Dragic trade. In Milwaukee's case, the depth and potential they brought on is as good as any offer they would have gotten for Knight. Plumlee is looking like a great piece now that the Bucks and Larry Sanders officially ended their strange tenure together.
At 31-24, the current sixth-seeded Bucks aren't in any immediate danger of slipping out of the playoff race. They're in a very unique position, as they're already a playoff team but also a very young team. Jared Dudley is the oldest starter at 29, and he's filling in for the injured Jabari Parker who turns 20 in March.
As high as the ceiling is for the Bucks this next season and beyond, it's a very precarious perch to be on. With the lack of proven commodities like Dudley on the team and so many future key players still figuring out the NBA, Milwaukee is completely dependent on the young Bucks making leaps in their development.
Hunter Kossodo is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is a rabid supporter of Boston sports having lived there for most of his life. Follow him on Twitter: @HKossodo