Milwaukee Bucks: Why the collapsed Bogdanovic trade was unjustifiable

Following a recent report, it appears that the Milwaukee Bucks were robbed of acquiring Sacramento’s Bogdan Bogdanovic in a sign-and-trade deal.

During dark hours on Monday, November 16th, the day when the NBA trade moratorium was uplifted, the Milwaukee Bucks reportedly agreed in principle to acquire coveted guard Bogdan Bogdanovic from the Sacramento Kings in a sign-and-trade deal.

Moments after landing New Orleans Pelicans’ two-way star Jrue Holiday, the Bucks were in prime position to trade for another upgrade in the backcourt while deeply increasing their stance as title contenders.

As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported, the deal in place would have sent Donte DiVincenzo, D.J. Wilson, and Ersan Ilyasova to the Kings for Bogdan Bogdanovic and Justin James. However, that agreement was quickly nixed due to a combination of leaked information, tampering accusations, and rivaled complaints acting on the basis of pure jealousy.

Following a story from BleacherReport’s Jake Fischer that offered insight on the botched sign-and-trade deal between the Milwaukee Bucks and Sacramento Kings, it could be assumed that the events that occurred throughout the week could be indications toward injustice.

Bogdanovic was entering the offseason as a restricted free agent, which meant that the Bucks couldn’t negotiate with Bogdanovic’s representatives until the free agent market opened at 6:00 p.m. ET on Friday, November 20th. Milwaukee and Sacramento had every right to discuss trades centered around Bogdanovic beforehand as long as he, himself, or his agent, weren’t involved in the discussions. Otherwise, it would violate the league’s tampering policies.

Nevertheless, as soon as the reported trade agreement in principle went public, a chain reaction from around the league that included complaints from rival teams led to the Bucks being accused of tampering, which was only speculation at the time, and that ultimately caused the league to launch an investigation into the alleged deal.

“At least one rival team filed a formal complaint to the league office Wednesday, sources said. And by that afternoon, the league informed both Milwaukee and Sacramento that it would open an investigation into an alleged sign-and-trade already being agreed to four days before free agency had begun. The league also sent a memo to all 30 teams that afternoon reminding franchises of the NBA’s anti-tampering policies, encouraging teams not to “jump the gun” in contacting players under contract with other teams and warning punishments of up to $10 million and draft-pick forfeiture” (Fischer, BleacherReport).

Days after the announcement of the investigation, the Bucks waived Ersan Ilyasova, and that basically conceded all hope of Bogdanovic coming to Milwaukee since Ilyasova’s $7.0 million expiring contract was needed in the deal for salary matching purposes. Although, it really didn’t make sense for Milwaukee to just give up their pursuit of the 28-year-old sharpshooter unless the NBA supposedly threatened consequences or told them that the deal was not going to go through.

It created confusion and anger across the Milwaukee Bucks’ fanbase, eager for answers from the league office. Despite the likelihood that the Bucks and Kings did nothing wrong, it seemed as if they were penalized based off sole speculation.

The Milwaukee Bucks may be the victims in this case

There was no firm evidence linking the Milwaukee Bucks to tampering with Bogdan Bogdanovic by contacting him or his representatives before free agency opened. In fact, Bogdan even stated that they never came in contact with the Bucks.

“Bogdanovic’s camp insisted they never discussed the particulars of an agreement with Bucks officials and that they were only made aware of the negotiations. Bogdanovic even phoned the Antetokounmpos and reiterated he had never agreed to any contract with Milwaukee” (Fischer, BleacherReport).

If this was the case, then the Bucks did not violate the league’s tampering regulations. And yet, the NBA still decided to investigate (still haven’t seemed to find anything illegal either) and block the proposed transaction.

In addition, Bogdanovic wanted to play in Milwaukee. He’s friends with the Antetokounmpo brothers, and both sides reportedly expressed their desire to team up while staying in contact throughout the offseason.

According to Fischer, Bogdan was Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s most desired target to bring to Milwaukee, and saw him as a high motor competitor and reliable option in the playoffs. The Bucks, while wanting to satisfy Giannis in hopes of signing him to a supermax contract extension this offseason, obviously tried to land Bogi. Clearly, there was mutual interest.

It doesn’t seem fair that the league didn’t allow Bogdan to eventually join the Milwaukee Bucks since the Bucks, Kings, or Bogdan and his representatives weren’t proved to be at fault for breaking any rules. Only speculation and jealousy from rival teams that led to submitted complaints to the league office seemed to be the main reasoning of the collapsed deal from what we can tell.

What’s even more concerning and unfair is that this was the only tampering situation that was investigated this offseason. There were other reports such as the Dallas Mavericks discussing a sign-and-trade with the OKC Thunder for Danilo Gallinari and the Indiana Pacers negotiating with the Boston Celtics on a sign-and-trade for Gordon Hayward that were also leaked publicly before the free agency window, but those instances were never looked at with regard to potential tampering. The only difference between Milwaukee’s talks with Sacramento were that they actually came to an unofficial agreement.

The league must clarify and provide reasonable explanations upon these tampering policies, so that a small market team like the Milwaukee Bucks doesn’t have to miss out on an important acquisition. There’s no justified explanation to take away Bogdan Bogdanovic from the Bucks in this situation, especially after the whole sequence with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers recruiting Anthony Davis while under contract with the Pelicans and not receiving any type of consequence.

There’s too much tampering confusion and controversy leading to unfairness around the league, and it seems like it’s impossible to evenly balance the enforcements of the tampering regulations.

The Milwaukee Bucks are just the latest victims, and it cost them landing an effective shooter and playmaker that would have boosted their title aspirations as well as their chances of maintaining superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo long-term.

The Kings would also be victims in this vetoed sign-and-trade since they lost out on acquiring Milwaukee’s Donte DiVincenzo, a promising 23-year-old asset, and ended up losing Bogdanovic for free without any compensation. Bogdan is now a member of the Atlanta Hawks after Sacramento failed to match the four-year, $72.0 million offer sheet for the restricted free agent.

Needless to say, all parties involved did not benefit from the arranged sign-and-trade deal being disallowed. If anything, the other contending teams in the East benefited the most.

All in all, the Milwaukee Bucks have moved on to reshape their supporting cast heading into next season behind the free agency additions of D.J. Augustin, Bobby Portis, Bryn Forbes, and Torrey Craig. None are as attractive as the signature of Bogdan Bogdanovic, but the mission for the Bucks remains the same.

Despite the league unjustifiably collapsing the Bogdanovic trade, the Milwaukee Bucks must put the situation behind them and continue their pursuit of a glorified NBA championship with Giannis Antetokounmpo’s decision looming right around the corner.