Late Wednesday night, the Milwaukee Bucks kicked off what figures to be a chaotic offseason by trading Tony Snell, his contract and the 30th overall selection in this year’s NBA Draft to the Detroit Pistons in return for former Badgers star Jon Leuer and his shorter and slightly cheaper contract.
This was purely a salary move for Milwaukee. Snell was owed roughly $11.4 million this season and seemed likely to exercise his $12.2 million player option next summer. Leuer, meanwhile, will receive $9.5 million this year before hitting free agency in 12 months.
Snell is the more accomplished player of the two, but as he was bumped to the fringes of the rotation this season, moving off his contract to pry open more cap space over the next two seasons was worth the price of the 30th pick, especially as the Bucks attempt to retain their key free agents in a potentially wide open Eastern Conference.
But while the long-term impact of this trade likely involves intricate salary cap machinations, the true hoops narrative is about Leuer’s Wisconsin homecoming!
Leuer may be a Minnesota native, but he cut his teeth at basketball’s highest levels here in America’s Dairyland. The 6-foot-10 sharpshooter was part of four NCAA tournament teams with the Badgers, including two runs to the Sweet 16. Leuer averaged 17.4 ppg in five NCAA tournament games as a junior and senior, highlighted by a gutsy performance in a first-round win over Wofford in 2010. Leuer finished off the Terriers with a jumper, two free throws and a key stop on the defensive end in the final 17 seconds of the contest.
Leuer entered Badger lore in his final season, when he was named to first-team All-Big Ten team and finished as an AP All-America honorable mention. He averaged 18.3 ppg and 7.2 rpg, and tallied double-figure scoring totals in Wisconsin’s first 33 games, the second-longest streak among Wisconsin players this decade. (Frank Kaminsky hit double figures in 38 straight games in 2014-15.) Here are Leuer’s senior year highlights:
Milwaukee ultimately selected Leuer in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft, where he put together a decent rookie campaign (4.7 ppg on 51 percent shooting in 46 games). A glance over the Bucks’ roster that season is truly a trip through ghosts of girlfriends past: Monta Ellis, Andrew Bogut, Stephen Jackson, Larry Sanders (who still counts as $1.8M against the Bucks’ cap for each of the next three seasons), Drew Gooden (#midrange), Mike Dunleavy (who is no fan of Giannis, I imagine), Brandon Jennings and Tobias Harris (later traded for 28 games and a first round sweep of JJ Redick. Not great asset management, Bob.). The organizational switch from that motley crew to this current contending core in just eight years is a little jarring.
Anyways, here are some highlights from Leuer’s rookie year (not to be watched at full volume at work):
After that season, despite showing some promise as rotation piece, Leuer was shipped to Houston in what turned out to be a not-so-good trade. Shocking, I know! The Rockets received Leuer, Shaun Livingston – you might remember him as the guy who has appeared in five straight NBA Finals – Jon Brockman and the no. 12 overall pick in 2012 (Jeremy Lamb, who eventually a key piece of the James Harden trade) for Samuel Dalembert (played in just 47 games for the Bucks), the no. 14 pick (John Henson) and a future second rounder later traded to Philadelphia.
Leuer never actually played a game for the Rockets and has since bounced around the league, spending time as a reserve stretch-four with Cleveland, Memphis, Phoenix and Detroit. After a respectable season for the Suns in 2015-16 (8.5 ppg on 38 percent three-point shooting), he cashed in on a four-year, $42 million deal with the Pistons during the wild free agent spending frenzy of 2016.
The former Badger responded with a career year in 2016-17 (10.2 ppg), but has battled ankle and knee injuries over the past two seasons. He averaged just 3.8 ppg in 41 contests last year and was briefly murdered by Antetokounmpo in January:
At age 30, Leuer figures to be little more than a deep bench piece for Milwaukee in 2019-20, but for Badgers fans, he should still provide a few fun moments when he checks in for spot frontcourt minutes. And most importantly, if Leuer’s contract allows the Bucks to keep the Khris Middleton/Malcolm Brogdon/Brook Lopez band together, he should be loved forever by the Brew City faithful.
When Brian's not writing about sports, he is probably prattling on about Marquette hoops, digging through statistics, or re-binging his favorite television series. Any conversation that begins with a quote from "The Office" or "West Wing" is a surefire way to grab his attention.