Monday, January 11, 2010

What to do with Michael Redd?

Michael Redd went from a second round draft pick out of Ohio State to a borderline NBA superstar. Unfortunately Redd's last two season have been riddled with knee injuries. In consecutive seasons Redd has torn both his ACL and MCL in the same knee. Let me repeat that, Redd tore the same ACL and MCL two seasons in a row.

What complicates Redd's most recent injury is that he is entering the final year of the richest contract in Milwaukee Bucks franchise history. After the 2004-05 NBA season, Larry Harris (the worst executive in Bucks history which is saying something because Ernie Grunfeld did some damage on his way out of Milwaukee en route to Washington) talked Redd into spurning a similar offer from the Cleveland Cavaliers to sign a "max" six-year, $91 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks.

The aforementioned "max" contract makes Redd the 10th highest paid player in the NBA this season (click here). That means Michael Redd is making more money than: Pau Gasol, Kevin Garnett, Amare Stoudemire, Vince Carter, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul just to name a few. The final year of the contract is a player option worth $18.3 million, which Redd will now undoubtedly exercise since he could not command anywhere close to that as an injured free agent.

Earlier this year I posed a question to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's senior sports editor Bill Windler about trading Michael Redd and an expiring contract for Tracy McGrady (click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to read the exchange). The trade would allow both franchises a "fresh start" with a player coming off a significant knee injury. When I say "fresh start" I really mean it would have been a thinly veiled way for Milwaukee to dump salary. McGrady is in the last year of his contract which would free up tons of cap space for the cash strapped Milwaukee Bucks next year while Houston would be on the hook for another $18.3 million for Redd in the 2010-11 season. Windler agreed that it would be a nice salary dump for Milwaukee, unfortunately that deal is no longer possible with Redd's most recent injury.

After appearing in only 6 games as a rookie (2000-01 NBA Season), Redd made an impact in Milwaukee for the next decade. Redd, like most borderline NBA superstars, was woefully underpaid by NBA standards early in his career and now is woefully overpaid since he is a scorer and not much more (think Alan Houston, Steve Francis, Jermaine O'Neal etc). Redd has never averaged over 5 rebounds or 4 assists for a season which makes his astronomical contact even harder to reconcile.

If Redd picks up his option, he will comprise roughly 1/3rd of the Milwaukee Bucks' 2010-11 payroll. Right now the Bucks have $50,205,954 committed for the 2010-11 season with Redd scheduled to make $18,300,000. Best case scenario, Redd returns for the second half of next season at no where near 100%. The Bucks have no choice but to pay Redd $18.3 million next season to a player over the age of 30 coming off multiple knee surgeries.

Despite losing Redd, the Milwaukee Bucks have options at shooting guard. All indications are that Charlie Bell will take over in the short term. Although Bell has been underwhelming since Milwaukee matched Miami's offer sheet for the restricted free agent a few years ago, his play has improved this season. Bell is signed through the 2011-12 season so if he can continue to produce, his contract goes from being characterized as a very expensive bench player's contract to very reasonable starter's contract.

John Hammond acquired Carlos Delfino this offseason in part because of his versatility. Delfino has been playing mostly at small forward but can play shooting guard. Like Bell, Delfino is signed through 2011-12 at a relatively cheap cap number. Look for Skies to toy with inserting Delfino in the starting lineup if Bell struggles.

Although Luke Ridnour is a point guard, he has been playing well this season despite playing through nagging injuries all season. Milwaukee likes to pair Ridnour with rookie sensation Brandon Jennings so there is a chance Skiles will insert both of them into the starting lineup. Ridnour is earning $6.5 million in the last year of his contract, which will most likely be his last season with Milwaukee. In fact, if Rindour continues to play well he is probably the most likely player to get traded at the trading deadline (assuming Milwaukee is out of playoff contention).

Finally rookie Jodie Meeks (who has been looked over most season) is another option for Scott Skiles. In terms of symbolism, it would be a seamless transition to insert Meeks into the lineup for Redd. Meeks was a 2nd round pick out of a Kentucky where he set a school record for points scored in a game last season. Meeks has shown his ability to score in bunches this season. If Meeks can pick up his play on the defensive end he has chance to earn significant minutes in Redd's absence.

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