It never worked out for Michael Carter-Williams and the Milwaukee Bucks.
The 6-foot-6 point guard arrived in a trade deadline deal in 2015 and was given the keys to the car. The Bucks wanted him to handle playmaking duties and harass opponents on defense while playing a big role on a young squad.
But it never came together over one-plus seasons and Carter-Williams became expendable. There were rumors in the offseason that he would be traded, so when the news came after Saturday’s game that he was going to the Chicago Bulls, it was not a huge surprise. The trade is expected to be official on Monday.
But did the Bucks get enough in return?
They acquired shooting guard-small forward Tony Snell, a fourth-year player from New Mexico. Snell had fallen on the Bulls’ depth chart and was not in line for much playing time this season.
The deal shows how dire the Bucks shooting guard situation has become with the loss of starter Khris Middleton for at least six months following hamstring surgery.
Second-year guard Rashad Vaughn is not ready to step in and Matthew Dellavedova and Malcolm Brogdon are more suited as point guards, not shooting guards.
Bucks coach Jason Kidd said recently the position will be filled “by committee.” But Snell may be given a real chance for significant minutes.
The Bulls were looking for a backup point guard behind newly acquired Rajon Rondo, so Carter-Williams fit their needs.
“He’s been great,” Kidd said when asked about Carter-Williams after the Bucks’ 107-86 preseason loss to the Bulls on Saturday.
“We’ve asked him to do a lot of different things. He has started for us. He’s one of the better defenders in this league. And we’ve asked him to come off the bench.
“He’s a team guy; he’s about winning.”
Kidd held him out of the Bucks lineup and Snell did not play for the Bulls, with trade talks going on between the teams. Word leaked out about the deal following the game.
Carter-Williams was the NBA rookie of the year with Philadelphia in 2013-14, and he had trouble adjusting immediately to the Bucks situation when he arrived in February 2015. The Bucks also acquired Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis in that three-way deal that sent Brandon Knight to the Phoenix Suns.
The Bucks had been on a roll with Knight at point guard and slumped after the trade, although they did make the playoffs as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference that year.
Last season Carter-Williams struggled with his shot and turnovers, a combination that led to him being benched in November. He regained his starting job by late December but was benched again in February, along with center Greg Monroe.
Kidd explained the move by saying he needed to jump-start a moribund reserve crew. But it also coincided with the Bucks handing the primary playmaking duties to 6-11 Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Carter-Williams consistently said he thought he was a starter but he would play just as hard in a reserve role.
He missed the final 23 games of the season to repair a torn labrum in his left hip.
The Bucks are gambling they have a solid point guard rotation with Dellavedova, rookie Malcolm Brogdon and veteran Jason Terry. Antetokounmpo will not defend point guards so those chores will fall primarily on Dellavedova and Brogdon.
On Saturday it was a struggle for Brogdon, who went 2 for 9 from the field and was a minus-21 while playing 29 minutes off the bench.
“That’s just being a rookie and a part of basketball,” Kidd said. “It’s a good thing to learn from. It’s an important time for him to work through all that.
“To be able to run a team, it’s not easy when things aren’t going your way on the defensive end. But you’ve still got to be able to run things on the offensive end. I think he learned an important lesson; we all did.”
The Bucks were outscored, 37-7, in the fourth quarter when Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker were not on the court.
Kidd did try to extend their minutes in the first half and both players responded. Parker finished with 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting and Antetokounmpo had 14 on 7-of-10 shooting, including one spectacular spin and dunk.
“We looked at a couple things,” Kidd said. “We let Jabari go the whole first quarter to see how he handled that. We looked at Giannis in the last 8 minutes of the second quarter.
“I wanted to get (Parker) another long stretch (in the third quarter) and I thought he did a really good job.”