Bucks Looking to Trade Championship-Winning Starter, But Should They?

A year after cutting ties with their 2023 All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, the Milwaukee Bucks appear to be ready to move on from another starter from their 2021 championship core. Unfortunately, it appears to be the wrong one.

According to longtime NBA insider Gery Woelfel, Milwaukee is struggling to offload 3-and-D center Brook Lopez for its desired asking price: a first-round draft selection.

Given that Lopez, a 7-foot-1 big man out of Stanford, is 36 years old and on an expiring $23 million deal, rival teams apparently think his combination of being a possible injury liability and a smidge expensive relative to his output makes him a risky proposition.

Brook Lopez Bobby Portis Damian Lillard Bucks
Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics is defended by Brook Lopez #11 of the Milwaukee Bucks during a game at Fiserv Forum on April 09, 2024 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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Outside of an unfortunately injury-riddled run in 2021-22 (in which he played just 13 regular season games), Lopez has actually been fairly healthy since signing with Milwaukee ahead of the 2018-19 season. Aside from that 2021-22 run, Lopez has only missed a maximum of five games a season during the rest of his tenure.

Across 79 contests in 2023-24, Lopez averaged 12.5 points on .485/.366/.821 shooting splits, 5.2 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, 1.6 assists, and 0.5 steals a night. An offense-first All-Star while with the Brooklyn Nets early on in his career, Lopez has entirely remade his game in Milwaukee. On offense, he’s expanded his shooting range to become a long range marksman. To wit, his 36.6 percent 3-point shooting rate last season arrived on a robust 5.1 triple tries. He’s been named to a pair of All-Defensive Teams with the Bucks, as well.

Last year, under the tutelage of a pair of head coaches in Adrian Griffin and Doc Rivers, the Bucks finished with a 49-33 record and the Eastern Conference’s No. 3 seed. Amid injuries to All-NBA power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and newly-acquired All-Star point guard Damian Lillard, the team fell in a first round upset to the Indiana Pacers. Since winning it all against the Phoenix Suns in 2021, Milwaukee has yet to even return to the Eastern Conference Finals.

It’s clear a major roster shakeup is needed, and with the Bucks having surrendered a lot of draft equity to flip Holiday for Lillard last offseason, the team appears desperate to re-load its asset base. But Lopez is still incredibly useful, and a unique player given his two-way viability.

The issue is former three-time All-Star small forward Khris Middleton. Across the past two seasons, the 6-foot-7 Texas A&M product has appeared in just 88 of a possible 164 regular season contests, and has lost a step on both sides of the hardwood. The 32-year-old is still a useful player, but given his injury history and regression on both ends, he’s not worth the lucrative three-year, $93 million deal he inked with the team last summer. He should be the player the team tries to move — not Lopez.