The Phoenix Suns have traded disgruntled guard Eric Bledsoe to the Milwaukee Bucks for center Greg Monroe, a 2018 protected first-round draft pick and a 2018 protected second-round pick.
The teams reached an agreement in principle late Monday night and finalized the terms Tuesday morning, league sources told ESPN. The Bucks resisted including guard Malcolm Brogdon, the NBA’s reigning Rookie of the Year, in the deal, league sources said.
“He’ll be another great player for us, a guy who can create for others and create for himself on offense,” Middleton said. “I’m excited to play with him. We can do a lot of things. We’ll have more ball-handlers on the court at the same time. He’s going to be a great for us.”
In particular, Bledsoe’s arrival will ease the playmaking and ballhandling burden on Antetokounmpo. One Eastern head coach told ESPN that he believes Bledsoe immediately becomes the Bucks’ best pick-and-roll player, but the coach wondered how Bledsoe will assimilate away from the ball when Antetokounmpo is making plays.
Bledsoe will get the opportunity to defend the opponent’s point guard, and he’ll have to prove that he can return to being the higher-level defender he was before having knee procedures in Phoenix. Nevertheless, Bledsoe is long and athletic and could be part of a game-closing unit that would include Antetokounmpo, Brogdon, Middleton and Tony Snell.
“Eric is a dynamic player who brings scoring and toughness to the court while enhancing our young and talented core,” Bucks general manager Jon Horst said in a statement announcing the deal.
Added Bucks coach Jason Kidd: “We’re excited. Eric’s excited,”
Milwaukee has lost three straight — and four of five games — to drop to 4-5 on the season. Bledsoe did not join the Bucks for Tuesday night’s game Cleveland. The plan is for Bledsoe to meet the Bucks in San Antonio on Wednesday, two days before their road game against the Spurs.
The Bledsoe trade has salary-cap implications for the Bucks, who’ll almost assuredly will become a luxury tax-paying team should they re-sign or match an offer sheet on restricted free agent Jabari Parker next summer.
With the move, Milwaukee creates a $3.38 million trade exception that will be available to use for one year. The Bucks also have a $5 million trade exception that will expire in February. They are now $4.4 million below the luxury tax.
The Suns (4-7) potentially could have three first-round picks in 2018: their own, Miami’s (top-seven protected) and Milwaukee’s (lottery protected). Phoenix could have seven first-round picks from 2018 to 2021.
Milwaukee will send its 2018 first-round pick to Phoenix if it lands between Nos. 11 and 16. If the pick carries beyond 2018, the Suns get a loosening of protections in 2019 (Nos. 4 to 16), 2020 (Nos. 8 to 30) and 2021, when the pick would come unprotected. The Suns will get the Bucks’ 2018 second-round pick if it lands between Nos. 48 and 60. Otherwise, the Bucks keep the pick.
Bledsoe has been away from the Suns since general manager Ryan McDonough sent him home on Oct. 23. One day earlier, Bledsoe tweeted, “I don’t wanna be here.”
McDonough announced at the time that Bledsoe “won’t be with us going forward,” and said he didn’t believe Bledsoe’s explanation that he was tweeting about wanting to leave a hair salon.
McDonough reiterated on Oct. 31 that the Suns had no timetable for a potential trade involving Bledsoe.
Bledsoe previously had met with Suns owner Robert Sarver and McDonough during the preseason and requested a trade, sources told ESPN. Bledsoe was told by management, according to sources, that the team had underperformed ever since he was given starting point guard responsibilities.
Bledsoe, 27, averaged career highs in points (21.1), assists (6.3) and rebounds (4.8) last season, but the Suns (24-58) finished with the worst record in the Western Conference. It was the second consecutive season that Phoenix’s winning percentage was less than .300.
“He adds a veteran point guard, a guy who plays with pace and can get into the paint, can make the right play,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “He’s been on the cusp of being an All-Star the last three years. He brings a different dimension to their team. He can shoot the basketball, get in the paint, run pick-and-roll and he’s a good defender also.
Monroe, 27, has played only five games this season and hasn’t played since Oct. 26 because of a left calf strain. The Suns prefer to explore the trade market on the expiring contract of Monroe before proceeding on contract buyout talks, league sources told ESPN.
“Moose did everything we asked him to help us win, from being a starter to being asked to go to the bench and help us have a stronger bench,” Kidd said. “I wish him the best because he did everything we asked.”
Monroe averaged 15.6 points and 9.5 rebounds per game for Detroit and Milwaukee from 2011-12 through 2015-16. His production dipped last season, when he played 81 games without making a start.