Late Wednesday morning Jon Horst told reporters that he planned to find the best fit for the Milwaukee Bucks with the 30th pick in Thursday night’s NBA Draft. That fit turned out to be trading the pick and forward Tony Snell to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for forward Jon Leuer.
Moving the pick doesn’t come as a surprise, nor does the fact Snell was included in the trade. There have been reports all week that the Bucks wanted to get the $24 million left on Snell’s contract off the books and give themselves flexibility in free agency. By taking Leuer and his $9.5 million contract this year, they save about $4 million in salary cap space.
Milwaukee could create up to $14M in room and bring back Brook Lopez using cap space. The $22M+ in cap holds of Malcolm Brogdon and Khris Middleton give Milwaukee an advantage when it comes to creating room. It also gives them a buffer when it comes to the tax.
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) June 20, 2019
It’s possible, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Matt Velazquez pointed out, that the move could be just the start of something bigger.
Remember when the Bucks traded Thon Maker to Detroit for Stanley Johnson one day then turned that into a 3-team deal that brought back Nikola Mirotic the next? I feel like the Snell-Leuer swap could be something like that. Feels like a move that's the start of something bigger.
— Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) June 20, 2019
The attempt at freeing up room seems geared to giving Milwaukee the best chance of retaining center Brook Lopez, along with wing Khris Middleton and guard Malcolm Brogdon. Lopez and Middleton are unrestricted free agents, while Brogdon is a restricted free agent.
If Leuer does end up actually coming to the Bucks, he’ll be returning to the state he played his college basketball in. The 6-foot-10 forward was an important piece for Wisconsin prior to Milwaukee selecting him in the second round of the 2011 draft. He’s moved around in his career, with stops in Cleveland, Phoenix, Memphis and Detroit.
The Minnesota native signed a four-year deal with the Pistons that was worth $42 million. After averaging a career-best 10.5 points per game in 2016-17, Leuer has barely seen the court the last two seasons. An ankle injury limited him to just eight games in 2017-18 and he appeared in 41 games this past season, averaging just 9.8 minutes per game.
The trade itself can’t be finalized until after the draft due to a rule that forbids teams from trading their first-round picks in back-to-back years. Milwaukee sent its 2020 first rounder to Phoenix in the trade for guard Eric Bledsoe last year.