In one year, the Milwaukee Bucks have gone from the NBA's biggest surprise to one of its biggest disappointments. As the team flounders at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a 20-31 record, marquee free agent signing Greg Monroe might already be on the trading block, according to the Racine Journal Times' Gery Woelfel.
Monroe agreed to a three-year, $50-million deal with Milwaukee last offseason. The 25-year-old has played fine: he's averaging a career-high 16.6 points on 52.1 percent shooting, along with nearly 10 rebounds per game. His defense has been as poor as anticipated, but the Bucks had to know he wouldn't help them much on that end when they signed him. To put him on the trading block doesn't reflect well on a team that thought he was the missing piece just months ago.
Woelfel also reports that the Bucks are willing to trade Michael Carter-Williams, who himself was a 2015 trade deadline acquisition in a deal that sent former Bucks starter Brandon Knight to Phoenix. Carter-Williams simply hasn't taken the step forward that Jason Kidd must have thought he could, perhaps seeing himself in the young guard.
Why the Bucks would make a trade
The Bucks are seven games out of the final playoff spot in the East and it would take a miracle for them to pass five different teams to snag the No. 8 seed. Their defense, second-best in the NBA last season, is now fourth worst, both a product of putting Monroe in the middle and trading away the solid Zaza Pachulia for nothing.
They can't reverse the move that gave away Pachulia to the Mavericks, but they can attempt to dump Monroe prior to Feb. 18. Monroe's still young and hasn't lost any value he had as a scoring big man this summer. If the Bucks feel like he's not a viable part of their future anymore, keeping him only to look better about their initial signing of him is the sunk cost fallacy at work.
There's also the fact that Monroe signed a three-year deal with a player option. If the Bucks don't improve enough to become a playoff team next year, Monroe could be on his way out in 2017, anyway.
Why the Bucks would stand pat
Monroe has been exactly the player Milwaukee should have known they were signing. This isn't a case of Monroe underperforming last year's expectations. In many instances, he's setting career highs and faring better than he did last year!
The Bucks signed Monroe for a reason. If they've decided that plan doesn't make sense anymore and returning to a defense-first mantra while adding some shooting around the edges makes more sense, then by all means, ship Monroe out of here. But their plan can't have gone completely bad in just six short months. Milwaukee's cap will rise, just like the rest of the league, giving them room to try and get their plan right, perhaps by adding a backup big man who plays better defense than Miles Plumlee.
This isn't a great situation for Milwaukee no matter how you slice it, but with Jabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, the young nucleus is still here. Maybe it's too early to jump ship and say Monroe definitely can't be a part of that core moving forward.
Likelihood a trade happens
There aren't any rumors about teams expressing interest in trading for Monroe or Carter-Williams, and putting those two on the trade block might not change that. I'm going to say there's a 4/10 chance that one of the Bucks' ill-fitting pieces gets moved along, with Carter-Williams being just a bit more likely of the two. All in all, Milwaukee's big step back isn't devastating to their long-term plans, even if it's a tough watch right now.