Celtics Among Teams Under Pressure After Bucks’ Big Trade Night

Giannis Antetokounmpo (left) and the Bucks should be a tougher challenge now for Daniel Theis (right) and the Celtics.

Getty Giannis Antetokounmpo (left) and the Bucks should be a tougher challenge now for Daniel Theis (right) and the Celtics.

For the Bucks, Monday was a night for power moves, transactions that could very well seal their position at the top of the Eastern Conference for years to come—if, that is, they get a certain MVP’s signature on a supermax contract. Milwaukee came away with two trade-market prizes, bringing in Jrue Holiday from the Pelicans and Bogdan Bogdanovic from the Kings, remaking their backcourt and reasserting themselves as the team to beat in the East and maybe even the team to beat in the NBA overall.

Putting those two players in a lineup with Giannis Antetokounmpo, without losing forward Khris Middleton or center Brook Lopez, could very well deal a different kind of blow to teams like the Lakers and the Miami Heat because those moves should be enough to persuade Antetokounmpo to stay in Milwaukee on a supermax contract, thwarting plans of teams that had been taking aim at Antetokounmpo on the 2021 free-agent market.

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That was very much on the Lakers’ backburner. Same with the Heat, the team that walloped the Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals and the Lakers’ foe in the NBA Finals. Antetokounmpo could soon be wrapped up with a new deal to stay in Milwaukee, removing him from future free-agent calculations.

Boston Celtics Will Face Pressure to Keep Up With Milwaukee

On the floor, the moves by Milwaukee put immediate pressure on two teams that have remained at the forefront of the league’s rumor mill: the Celtics in the East and the Lakers in the West.

Over the past month, Boston has been linked to a long list of NBA centers, ranging from the mild (former Celtics center Aron Baynes) to the sensible (Myles Turner of the Pacers) to the improbable (Jazz All-Star Rudy Gobert, Cleveland’s Andre Drummond).

The Celtics, though, have limited options this offseason until they know what forward Gordon Hayward intends to do. He has until Tuesday afternoon to opt in or out of the final year (and $34 million) of his contract. If he opts out, he is a free agent. If he opts in, he will stay and is eligible to be traded.

A scenario in which Hayward opts in and is dealt to his hometown Pacers for Turner remains the most likely scenario for the Celtics, if any major deal is to come down. Boston does own three picks in Wednesday’s NBA draft, No. 14, 26 and 30, and could be looking to cut a deal on draft day.

Bucks’ Moves Also Hit at Lakers

The Lakers, too, should feel some heat from the Bucks’ big day.

The expected matchup with Milwaukee in the NBA Finals did not come to fruition last year because of the Heat’s upset of the East favorites, the fourth straight year the Bucks have been in the postseason and walked away disappointed. Milwaukee won a league-best 56 games and was the top overall seed last season.

But two weak points for Milwaukee were Eric Bledsoe at point guard and Wesley Matthews at shooting guard. The Holiday-Bogdanovic combo is a major upgrade, two versatile players who can handle the ball, shoot and defend.

The Lakers pulled off the first major transaction of the offseason on Sunday, agreeing to a trade that would send away Danny Green to Oklahoma City, with the team’s draft pick, for Thunder supersub guard Dennis Schroder.

That addressed a need for L.A. as it seeks to defend its championship. But it does not match Milwaukee’s big moves.

Milwaukee Bucks Have Poor Playoff History

In the end, the Bucks still will have much to prove in the postseason. Coach Mike Budholzer took heavy criticism last year (and the previous year) for being inflexible with his lineups and slow to make adjustments in the playoffs. That issue will come under more scrutiny should the Bucks become the powerhouse they now appear to be.

Still, in the proposed deal for Holiday (which can become official at the end of the week), Milwaukee gave up only Bledsoe and George Hill, plus a major haul of three first-round draft picks. The Bucks lost only Donte DiVincenzo, plus back-of-the-rotation players Ersan Ilyasova and D.J. Wilson for Bogdanovic.

It was a good night for Milwaukee, especially if a new contract with Antetokounmpo follows shortly thereafter, as expected. But in other locales—Boston and L.A. specifically—the pressure is on.

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