Orlando Magic guard J.J. Redick traded to the Milwaukee Bucks

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There were plenty of rumblings about Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith going to Milwaukee in a blockbuster three-team deal with Orlando, but that trade died when Atlanta reportedly pulled out of the deal.

That trade falling apart didn’t deter the Bucks from acquiring a piece to help them in their playoff push, however. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Bucks have acquired Orlando Magic guard J.J. Redick in a six-player deal right at the deadline.

The Milwaukee Bucks receive Redick, Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith while the Orlando Magic recieve Beno Udrih, Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb.

Let’s start with the big piece, which is Redick. The 28-year-old shooting guard is a career 39.8 percent 3-point shooter and has posted career highs in assists per game (4.4) and points per game (15.1) this season. Redick’s career year coincides with a contract season, as he’ll become an unrestricted free agent after this summer. Redick was one of the most highly sought after pieces at the deadline, and should immediately help the Bucks offense with his shooting and playmaking. Milwaukee is 26-27 on the year, hampered mostly by their 24th ranked offensive efficiency.

Efficiency is really the name of the game for Redick. His 59.2 percent true shooting percentage is right there among the shooting guard elite with guys like Ray Allen and James Harden. Redick has a reputation as just a shooter, but he’s made great strides as a defender and as a great distributor.

Redick has done the majority of his damage for Orlando this year coming off screens and either popping a jumper or slipping a nice pocket pass to a rolling big men. Orlando essentially designed an entire offense around Redick’s skills, but it will be interesting to see how Redick will work alongside two ball dominant guards like Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. With Redick and Mike Dunleavy both coming off the bench, Milwaukee’s second unit should see a pretty drastic spike in scoring.

To get Redick, the Bucks parted with a couple of interesting prospects in underutilized small forward Tobias Harris and rookie shooting guard Doron Lamb. Backup point guard Beno Udrih — who was included to match salaries with Redick — is on an expiring deal and almost certainly won’t factor in Orlando’s plans past the next few months.

Along with Redick, the Bucks received Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith from Orlando. Ayon is a highly intelligent but very limited young big man, and Ish Smith is a similarly limited point guard with great athleticism, elite floor vision, but no jumper to speak of whatsoever. Smith is a career 36 percent field goal shooter, and a 57 percent free throw shooter.

The main focus in this trade, obviously, is Milwaukee’s addition of Redick. Early chatter says that Milwaukee has interest in re-signing Redick this offseason, which would make sense if Monta Ellis truly did opt out of his contract, as Gery Woefel of Racine Journal Times has speculated. The Bucks have a roster filled with shot blocking bigs who don’t space the floor, which makes a pure shooter like Redick a much better future fit than Ellis, who needs driving lanes to be at his best.

For Orlando, Harris and Lamb are two cheap young players still on rookie deals, which is a huge deal to a rebuilding team. While the original talks centered around Milwaukee possibly sending back Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for Redick, Orlando did well to land Harris instead.

Although he’s only played roughly 800 minutes in two seasons, Harris has been a solid producer in his time on the floor, averaging 15.4 points and 7 rebounds per36 minutes with a PER of 13.8. At just 20 years old, Harris is still a long way from being a known entity — which could be a great thing for Orlando. Along with Maurice Harkless, who is just 19, the Magic have a small forward combination they can mold and be patient with.

While you can certainly view Orlando losing Redick and not getting a draft pick in return as a bit of a failure, Orlando at least got two young prospects for a player they were likely uninterested in signing had they not moved him today. That’s better than nothing — especially since they had to take on no future salary to do so.

Milwaukee gets better now with the addition of Redick, but this trade can’t really be graded until this offseason. If the Bucks convince Redick to take a reasonable deal and stay in Milwaukee this offseason, they did very well for themselves. But if Redick and Dunleavy, who both expiring, take bigger deals elsewhere, and if Ellis ends up opting out, the Bucks will have zero returning shooting guards or small forwards on the roster. With Brandon Jennings likely taking up a lot of cap room as a restricted free agent, constructing a suitable wing rotation could be a huge issue going forward.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: I could never see myself playing for Los Angeles

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All-Star Weekend was (at least) an implicit recruiting tool for the Lakers and Clippers. The host teams could show off Los Angeles – the beautiful weather in middle of winter, the nightlife, the glitz and glamour.

LeBron James‘ praise drew the most attention:

I think L.A. is a perfect place to host All-Star Weekend. It’s one of the few cities that we have in our league that can accommodate all of this. And when I mean all of this, you have over 200-plus countries that’s covering the game. You’ve got so many people from all over the world coming to watch our game and just be a part of All-Star Weekend. And we know the traffic. We understand that. But traffic is traffic and — but L.A. can accommodate that. It’s built for stars. It’s built for entertainment. It’s built for cameras and bright lights, and it’s a great place for it.

Of course, we already knew LeBron was partial to Los Angeles. He has a house there.

But not every All-Star raved about the city.

Bucks forward Antetokounmpo, via Matt Velazquez Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“I could never see myself being out there,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s great for two, three days but it’s a little bit — things are going a little bit crazy.

“Of course, because of the All-Star Game, there was a lot of people there. … In Milwaukee — I love Milwaukee — it’s low-key. I can walk down the road, down the streets without anybody bugging me — nobody interrupts my conversation or anything. I love how quiet and calm Milwaukee is.”

The Bucks ought to appreciate this outlook. Antetokounmpo once said he wanted to stay with them forever, and – as rumors swirled about his future in Milwaukee, he tweeted, “I got loyalty inside my DNA.” But he has since explained how important it is for a team to do right by its star player, supporting him with a winning supporting cast.

Maybe Antetokounmpo will eventually leave the Bucks, but it seems unlikely that’d be just to reach a bigger market. Milwaukee can’t change its location. The Bucks can somewhat control whether they put a winner around Antetokounmpo.

Still, other teams will try to poach Antetokounmpo – like Joel Embiid‘s 76ers. Antetokounmpo, via Velazquez:

“He told me I should trust the process and come play for Philly,” Antetokounmpo said with a chuckle, drawing a laugh. “That was my reaction — I just laughed.”

PBT Podcast: What to watch during stretch run of season

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Are the Cleveland Cavaliers for real? And by “real” do you mean best in the East or threat to Warriors?

Who is going to make the playoffs in the West? Is Utah going in? Portland? The Los Angeles Clippers?

Is James Harden going win MVP? Is it Ben Simmons or Donovan Mitchell for Rookie of the Year?

Those are just some of the storylines as the NBA races down the stretch run of the season (most teams have around 25 games left). Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break down all the things to watch from the end of the season, including if Detroit can climb up into the postseason, and how the top of the East is going to shake out.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Suns, Hawks say they won’t change strategy to tank

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Phoenix shut down healthy players in a transparent bid to tank last season. But Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said not to expect a repeat.

Scott Bordow of azcentral:

Wednesday, McDonough told azcentral sports that the Suns won’t approach the final 23 games of this season the same way. In other words, Phoenix isn’t tanking in order to improve its chances of landing the No. 1 pick in the May 15 draft lottery.

“We’re planning on doing what we have been doing, that’s playing our young players. For us, that’s not a change,” McDonough said. “… We want to continue to have them improve and get minutes and try to win as many games as we can.”

The Mike Budenholzer-coached Hawks also won’t sit their top players.

Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Some other teams near the bottom of the standings have publicly proclaimed they will favor youth over experience for the final four-plus weeks of the season, but Budenholzer said he will stay the course.

“I think we’ve been a mix of young and veteran guys all year,” he said Wednesday. “I think the way we progressed through the season — of course when you start the season you think it could be a little different — (but) right now but I think the way we’ve played, and the way we continue to play, won’t be that much different.”

To some degree, McDonough and Budenholzer are just trying to avoid a Mark Cuban-esque fine. The NBA discourages most talk of tanking.

But Phoenix and Atlanta don’t need to change their rotations to tank. They’re already good at losing! Both teams are a league-worst 18-41.

Some teams will get more serious about tanking down the stretch. The Suns and Hawks are already there. That doesn’t make them more virtuous than the Mavericks.

Still, this is a tight race for the top of the lottery. Four other teams have just 18 wins. Another has only 19, and one more has only 20. If the Suns and Hawks need to get worse to improve draft position, I wouldn’t put it past either team.

By the way, that headline can be read a couple different ways. That’s intentional.

Report: Kyrie Irving requested trade after ‘sloppy’ discussion by Cavaliers’ front office

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The Cavaliers reportedly explored trading Kyrie Irving in June. He requested a trade in July.

Since dealt to the Celtics, Irving has said he’ll never pinpoint his precise reason for leaving Cleveland. But he also said the Cavs “didn’t want me there.”

Did the Cavaliers push him out?

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

On the day of the NBA draft back in June, just days after Cleveland parted ways with former GM David Griffin, a robust Cavs contingent made up of front-office personnel, coaches and team support staff members held an impromptu, “what if?” discussion about Kyrie Irving’s future, multiple team sources confirmed to ESPN.

The discussion, characterized as “small talk” by one source familiar with its content, was less a formal straw poll of what the Cavs should do with their All-Star point guard should trade opportunities present themselves, and more a thought exercise anticipating what the market could bear for a player of Irving’s caliber.

The talk got back to Irving, multiple team sources told ESPN, and that served as the tipping point that led to Irving formally requesting a trade a little more than two weeks later.

“It was sloppy,” one league source familiar with the draft-day discussion told ESPN, adding that any talk about trading a player of Irving’s ilk — however informal it might be — should be handled strictly between the GM and owner, because of the sensitive nature of its content.

While Altman was involved in the meeting, he and Mike Gansey — at that point officially the head of the Cavs’ G League team — were only keeping the ship afloat on an interim basis and had yet to be formally elevated to their current roles as GM and assistant GM, respectively.

This is one spin on the story. Yet another: Irving initially requested a trade before the draft and considered requesting one in 2016.

Both sides are trying to blame the other for the disintegration of their relationship.

It can be difficult to read how serious the draft-day discussion was. Maybe Irving interpreted ut correctly. Maybe he didn’t. Maybe he just used it to justify a trade request he wanted to make anyway.

What’s more clear: Communication hasn’t been as strong between the front office and players under general manager Koby Altman as it was under Griffin. McMenamin:

While the Cavs were struggling in late December through early January, LeBron James questioned Altman’s absentee status on a long Cleveland road trip, team sources told ESPN.

Altman helped repair that relationship leading up to the trade deadline, looping LeBron in on discussions that culminated with three trades. LeBron appears more invested in the Cavaliers, just in time to keep him next summer.

But some mistakes can’t be fixed before it’s too late. Maybe those Irving trade talks in June were one of them.