Bucks

Making Sense of the Fishy Bogdanovic-Bucks Drama

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By now, most of us have learned what went down late Monday night.

The first bomb was dropped by The Athletic’s Shams Charania, who reported the Bucks had acquired veteran guard Jrue Holiday in exchange for Eric Bledsoe, George Hill and a plethora of draft capital.

The draft compensation became three first-round picks (2020 via IND, 2025, 2027) and two pick swaps (2024, 2026). Jon Horst and Bucks brass have made it clear– they’re going all in.

With most of Bucks Twitter incredibly satisfied and off to bed (myself included), ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski wouldn’t let us do that just yet.

In the span of less than two hours, the Bucks had reportedly dealt a third of their roster for two coveted upgrades. Just the thought of a Holiday-Bogdanovic-Khris Middleton-Giannis Antetokounmpo-Brook Lopez starting unit is tantalizing for Bucks fans, but terrifying for everyone else.

For the first time in awhile, Bucks fans had more than one thing to be elated about. Not even 48 hours later, however, the latter trade was reportedly in jeopardy.

Huh?

That was (and still is) the temperature of Bucks Nation following this report from The Athletic’s Sam Amick.

Conspiracies began to flood in on what had transpired. Many of them ludicrous and illogical, but speculation is pretty much all we’ve seen so far.

What We Know

Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic is a restricted free agent, meaning he remains with Sacramento unless one of the following occurs:

  • Another team signs him to an offer sheet, which the Kings elect not to match.
  • The Kings don’t offer or relinquish a qualifying offer, allowing him to hit unrestricted free agency.
  • The Kings agree to a sign-and-trade with another team.

The last option is what was reported by Wojnarowski, the NBA’s most prolific and usually unquestioned insider who has well over four million followers. The reported package of Donte DiVincenzo, Ersan Ilyasova and DJ Wilson combines for $14.5M next season, indicating a new contract for Bogdanovic would be around that range per season for three-to-four years.

The zesty NBA news Wojnarowski and others release spontaneously is what intrigues a lot of fans. Player mobility over the last few years through trades and free agency has risen exponentially, and thus drives the conversation even harder.

While all of this news is fun for fans, full-time sports reporting in general is a grueling process. There’s probably late nights, early mornings and completely draining days for those at the top as they process all of the information they receive every day.

This hasn’t been your typical year on nearly every front. In the NBA world, the calendar year has been temporarily shifted. Usually, the offseason brings the draft in mid-June, with free agency commencing about two weeks after that. Teams cannot execute trades from the February trade deadline until the moratorium period of free agency ends on July 4th (teams can agree to trades beginning on draft night, but they’re not officialized until then). That’s roughly four months of no trading.

This year, we had the usual February trade deadline, but not the usual offseason. Teams had to wait until Monday this week for the trade window to finally open again, marking about nine months since a trade last took place.

With contenders looking to upgrade and inferior squads looking to rebuild — or try contending themselves — you can assume all 30 teams have been engaging in trade discussions, whether they reached any agreements or not.

This brings us back to what league executives all have on their plates this week. An open trade window, the draft and the start of free agency were crammed into a mere five days. We haven’t even hit free agency yet.

Wait, hold on. That’s right. Bogdan Bogdanovic is a soon-to-be free agent. That window isn’t open yet!

Oops.

I’m not an insider, so I don’t have or can’t confirm anything that is about to be said. Regardless, there’s a lot of information to unpack that points me in one direction.

It’s a cover-up.

Tampering?

More recently, the league has been cracking down on “tampering”, or otherwise known as “prohibiting players, coaches and front-office executives from enticing an athlete under contract with another team to come play for their franchise.”

Now, we all know that players disregard this behind closed doors. After the Warriors’ Finals defeat in 2016, Draymond Green reportedly called Kevin Durant and successfully pitched him to join them the following season. This, though learned after the fact, would be considered tampering.

The Bucks themselves were fined $50,000 for tampering last year when General Manager Jon Horst openly stated they intend to offer Giannis the supermax extension as soon as they are eligible to do so. A rather cheap check for an NBA team, but it let the league know they’re ready to enforce their tampering rules– even if it’s with your own player.

Back to the ongoing situation. While Wojnarowski is the NBA’s top reporter, he does have competition. Charania beat Woj to the Holiday trade. 90 minutes later, Woj reported a Bogdanovic agreement that Shams never would.

More importantly, no one else did either. Usually that’s fine if it’s first leaked by Woj or Shams, but it was never confirmed, instead rebuffed, more notably by Sacramento Bee beat writer, Jason Anderson.

There’s levels to this. A lot of information is still and may remain forever unknown, but one thing is certain– people leak stuff for a reason.

Why Information Is Leaked

An exclusive article by Alex Kennedy during his time at HoopsHype provides unique insight from over a dozen NBA agents on why they leak information to the media.

“You must control the narrative” is part of the title. If teams had it their way, they’d probably prefer to keep everything concealed until they announce it themselves.

Some of the agents interviewed in Kennedy’s article indicated they leak information to “help their guy”, “put pressure on the team to make a move” or even “create false leverage with a team that they’re negotiating with”.

Could this be the Bucks’ way of controlling the narrative? Did they leak this information to put pressure on other teams?

While we can’t rule it out completely, the Kings aren’t really in a position to create false leverage, as they’re not viewed as a championship contender let alone a playoff contender. It makes much more sense for someone within the Bucks’ organization to leak something, letting their rivals know they’re wheeling and dealing and should be viewed as a legitimate threat. The idea is undoubtedly to scare teams like the Nets, Sixers and Celtics — among others — into making moves of their own, potentially at a higher cost for someone like James Harden.

That’s where this backfires. Since you can’t officially execute a sign-and-trade yet, rival teams are incensed when learning this information. They can’t ignore the NBA’s most prominent reporter.

Yep. Teams are mad the Bucks are upgrading, and they’re doing whatever they can to prevent it from happening. We’ve seen this for months now with every team and your grandma “interested in pursuing Giannis in 2021.”

This brings us back to the media. Did both the leaking party and Woj forget that this trade couldn’t happen until Friday evening at the earliest?

Media Has Made Mistakes Before, Too

Ahead of the 2018 NBA Draft, some reporters were asked not to leak who teams were selecting in the upcoming draft. That was averted by a massive loophole that we continued to see occur in last night’s draft, though there no longer appear to be any restrictions. Could a Bogdanovic-Bucks fallout be partially blamed on the media too?

The biggest issue with the 2018 Draft was that due to the disregarded agreement, an potential trade between the Bucks and Atlanta Hawks did not occur after Hawks General Manager Travis Schlenk learned through social media who the Bucks were selecting at No. 17. Schlenk revealed the following in a radio interview:

“Last night, for instance, we had the 19th pick, and we’re coming down and we’re actually talking to Milwaukee on the 17th pick, talking about trading up to get a guy we like,” Schlenk said. “There’s were a couple of guys we felt really good about on the 19th pick, obviously Kevin [Huerter] was one of them, and it leaked who Milwaukee was going to take.” — Schlenk

That pick winded up being Donte DiVincenzo, who finds himself in the middle of this mayhem. He is seemingly not thrilled to have been included in the reported trade.

Donte received a rather surprising amount of hate in the replies to this, which is disappointing to see. Him liking these tweets manifests his disappointment in potentially leaving a team he enjoyed being with. He also took a large leap in his sophomore season, so any hate is completely unwarranted.

More Clarity Should Arrive Soon

Is there a good reason why Bogdanovic wouldn’t want to play with the Bucks? If it’s genuinely for a few more dollars, then fine, but even that seems extraterrestrial. Immediately elevating yourself from a sub-500 team to an East contender (or any contender for that matter) while on a semi-lucrative deal makes too much sense.

Longtime NBA and current ESPN reporter Brian Windhorst remains convinced as of late last night that Bogdanovic “wants to play for the Bucks” and has “been in contact with Giannis Antetokounmpo”.

This bodes well for a deal to be worked out eventually, but it might not happen right away or this entire process could disinterest the Kings entirely. A key component to watch is the impending decision regarding Ersan Ilyasova’s $7M nonguaranteed contract for 2020-21. ESPN’s Bobby Marks reports the guarantee deadline for that is tomorrow (11/20). If he’s guaranteed, he remains a potential trade piece that can still be included in a deal for Bogdanovic or someone else. If they don’t guarantee it, he will then be waived.

UPDATE: Thursday afternoon, the Bucks reportedly waived Ersan.

Whatever happens, no one is explicitly to blame for this pre-free-agency mayhem, but no one is off the hook either.

Follow us on Twitter @BucksLead for the latest Bucks news and insight.

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About Eric Peterson

The Lead's Chief of Content

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