The loss of Brook Lopez has hurt the Bucks more than many would have thought. It makes sense, though. Lopez is a defensive leader and the one true center on the Bucks. Portis is listed as a center on the roster, but he played power forward for his entire career before coming to Milwaukee. Here are three centers that could provide depth for the Bucks going forward.
Willy Hernangómez may be the most logical trade candidate for the Bucks. He’s barely playing on the Pelicans because of the amount of center depth they have. Hernangómez is the fourth center behind Jonas Valančiūnas, rookie Herb Jones, and Jaxson Hayes. The Pels do not look great this year, starting off the season 1-9, so they could be looking to move some pieces to get younger and/or collect some more draft picks.
Hernangómez is only 27 and is signed for cheap for the next three seasons (including this season). He just signed a 2 year + 1 team option, $7.3 mil contract worth $2.4 mil annually. This means he is not available to be traded until December 15th, 2021. He could be a long-term option at the backup center position that the Bucks have lacked the past couple of years.
Bobby Portis is better suited to be a backup power forward and a situational center. Having Hernangómez will put Portis in a more comfortable position and allow Giannis to focus on playing power forward.
Willy Hernangómez is not the defensive anchor that Brook Lopez is, but he is an average defender that has shown some flashes of being slightly above average. His best defensive season came in the 2017-2018 season, where he posted a 106 Def Rtg. Coming to a team that has good defensive bigs (Giannis, Portis, and Lopez when he’s healthy) should improve Hernangomez’s defensive ability. The Bucks should get the 2017-2018 defensive version of Hernangomez.
Last season, Hernangómez averaged 7.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 0.5 blocks in 18 minutes played over the course of 47 games. He shouldn’t cost much as he’s only played in 3 games for a total of 14 minutes.
Pelicans: Willy Hernangómez
Bucks: 2022 2nd round pick (via the Pacers), Semi Ojeleye + trade exception from the Torey Craig trade
*trade cannot happen until December 15th*
This trade gets the Pelicans off of the Hernangómez contract, gives them a future pick, and gives them a good defensive wing which the Pelicans need. They are currently ranked 29th in the league in Def Rtg.
Trading for Jaxson Hayes is the most desirable trade but also the most difficult in this article. Hayes is the former 8th overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft. He’s still young with some potential. The Pelicans may want to move on from Hayes because each year, Hayes’s minutes have shrunk. His career-high in minutes per game is 16.9, which was his rookie year. This year, he’s only playing 12.1 minutes per game, as he’s been passed by 2nd round rookie Herb Jones and trade acquisition Jonas Valančiūnas.
Hayes offers the Bucks more potential but more risk than the other possible trade targets in this article. He’s also available right away, as there are no trade restrictions. Hayes could be a potential long-term answer for the Bucks at the center position, post Brook Lopez. The Bucks have already shown they aren’t scared to sign recent trade acquisitions to extensions (i.e., Grayson Allen).
Last season, Hayes averaged 7.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 0.6 blocks, and posted a 112 Def Rtg in 16.1 minutes played. He offers more offense than defense at this stage in his career, as he’s shot over 62% from the field in his first two seasons. He has struggled from the field this season as he’s only shooting 45.9%. That struggle could be what the Bucks need to get him for cheap.
A struggling former first-round pick that has been passed on the depth chart could become successful with a change of scenery. Hayes already has the offensive potential in his arsenal, and playing and learning next to Giannis and Lopez (when he returns) should only improve his defensive ability. He is already playing the best defense of his career this season, posting a 109 Def Rtg.
Pelicans: Jaxson Hayes
Bucks: 2022 2nd round pick (own, 2023 2nd round pick (own), Semi Ojeleye, + trade exception from the DJ Wilson trade.
Pelicans: Jaxson Hayes + 2022 2nd round pick (via Jazz)
Bucks: 2024 1st round pick (pick swap with Pelicans), Semi Ojeleye, + trade exception from the DJ Wilson trade.
This trade saves the Pelicans over $6 mil in cap for next season and gives them some future picks. Like in the Willy Hernangómez trade, the Pelicans gain a good defensive wing, which they very much need.
Muscala has fallen down the Thunder’s depth chart after the addition of Jeremiah Robinson-Earl via the NBA draft. He is only playing 15.1 minutes per game and only played over 20 minutes once. Muscala is averaging 9.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks this season and is posting a 104 Def Rtg (his best since the 2015-2016 season). Muscala is also shooting 40.7% from 3PT range on 3.9 attempts per game.
Moose would offer solid defensive play and can stretch the floor for the Bucks. He is probably the best “available” option at center that can play solid defense and stretch the floor at an elite clip. Muscala is also a 36.9% career 3PT shooter, so his 3PT percentage this year isn’t just inflation from a few lucky shots.
Muscala signed a 1 yr + 1yr team option with the Thunder this past offseason. His contract is worth $7 mil and is a flat $3.5 mil per year. Just like the Willy Hernangómez trade, Muscala cannot be traded until December 15th.
Thunder: Mike Muscala
Bucks: 2022 2nd round pick (own), 2024 2nd round pick (own), Semi Ojeleye, + trade exception from Torrey Craig trade
*trade cannot happen until December 15th*
The Thunder love their draft picks, and they receive two second-round picks (one from this year and one future pick). OKC will also receive a defensive wing to add some more depth behind Lu Dort.
Many potential centers that could become available via trade won’t be available until December 15th, 2021. Hernangomez and Muscala both won’t be available until then due to trade restrictions. The Bucks should look at potential free agents as short-term options until they can trade for these players for good center depth. Click here to look at possible free-agent centers.