The Milwaukee Bucks finally have a first-round pick in the 2022 NBA draft, a rarity since general manager John Horst took over in the front office. However, all signs seem to indicate that the team will trade him in order to acquire a veteran player.
It’s been four years since Milwaukee retained the player they drafted in the first round. Overall, Horst has been the general manager for five years and has since drafted only two first-round players – DJ Wilson in 2017 and Donte DiVincenzo in 2018. This series is likely to continue for at least another year.
Milwaukee owes Houston a 2023 first-round player who tied first to the New Orleans Pelicans via a Jrue Holiday trade (their first results in 2025 and 2027, and a pick swap in 2024 and 2026), but due to Stepien’s rule that the team cannot trade consecutive first round players ahead of time, they only control their own selection every two years until 2028. It makes this year weird.
The Milwaukee Bucks are 24th overall in the 2022 NBA draft, but everything points to them trading him for a veteran player.
However, there is a way around the rule where Milwaukee can pre-arrange a trade with another team, choose the player they want, no. 24 and then exchange it immediately. That seems to be what Horst and company are leaning towards as they try to use their limited assets to get the Bucks back to the NBA Finals after losing in the second round this year.
During his preliminary interview last week, Horst answered questions on a number of topics, including the project. He’s already talking about choice as if it’s an advantage for a veteran rather than a rookie. “I think you want to maximize the value of an asset…,” said Horst, “I think you can maximize the value of that asset relative to your team’s needs in many ways. It can be a direct trade for something that can help you, joining something that can help you, or choosing a player who is ready and can grow with you. This does not mean that we will not choose a player who cannot really contribute right now, but who has really great prospects and great potential for growth. This is what we will always pay attention to. But I think these other options have been more attractive to us in the past, and I think we’ve benefited a lot from that, and I think we’ll continue to focus on them.”
It seems to me that Horst works with phones and will go out of his way to find an exchange for the veteran that includes their no. 24 peaks. At the same time, if they come across the right player, they will very much consider keeping the selection and adding a young player who can immediately contribute on a very cheap contract. Transparent as dirt.
Horst clearly didn’t want to reveal his hand during this interview, and it looks like he’s doing his due diligence on every scenario. He has been true to that mantra throughout his tenure as Milwaukee always seems to be listening when a player becomes available.
The Bucks have a measly $1.5 million trade exemption, so any incoming salary they receive must match outgoing contracts. This can be the hardest part of acquiring a new player since Milwaukee is a very successful team. Book Lopez ($13.9M) and Grayson Allen ($8.5M) are the only two players currently earning less than $32M but over $4M (assuming Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton turn down from their player options).
Horst should be able to work around this puzzle, but that would severely limit the number of players he can bring in on any given deal.
With the NBA Draft just a few days away, keep an eye on the rumors as Milwaukee is sure to make money on phones.