Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Advice for Building the 2012-13 Milwaukee Bucks for John Hammond

If you look back at my final player rankings for the 2011-12 Milwaukee Bucks, there was a fair amount of depth but there are no real superstars.  Unfortunately the NBA is driven by stars and it doesn't look like any big time free agents will ever sign in Milwaukee so my 10 suggestions for Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond are all reasonable moves to give the 2012-13 Milwaukee Bucks a chance to make the playoffs.  Much like I did last year but in a more streamlined fashion this year; here is what Hammond should do this off-season:

#10) Exercise the $762,195 team option for Jon Leuer and the $3.5 million team option for Shaun Livingston for next season: Both of those guys are a bargain at those prices, which makes this the no-brainer decision of the off-season.

#9) Despite desperately needing a true center, say goodbye to Kwame Brown and his $7 million expiring contract: Brown was essentially a salary inclusion in the Ellis/Udoh for Bogut Trade since Brown never actually played for the Bucks.  I am almost positive that it is against NBA rules to sign a player for $1, but even that feels like it would be overpaying for Brown.

#8) Dangle Jon Brockman and his $1 million expiring contract for the 2012-13 season for a second-round pick: This isn't just because Hammond has had more hits in the second round (The Prince and Jon Leuer) than the first round (Brandon Jennings).  I actually think second round picks are an undervalued commodity in the NBA because those players are paid very little money by NBA standards for the first few years and teams usually have the right to match any offer those players receive for their second contract.  Plus the Bucks are much better off with an extra pick in the second round in the 2012 NBA Draft than Brockman riding the pine for the 2012-13 season.

#7) Read my previews of the players the Bucks should target in the first and second round of the 2012 NBA Draft on the last two Wednesdays before the 2012 NBA Draft: No I don't have a big ego but I do love all professional drafts so Hammond and Company should benefit from that love.

#6) Create some competition between Ekpe Udoh and Larry Sanders for the back-up tweener power forward/center spot behind Drew Gooden: Sadly Hammond fails to learn from his mistakes so he keeps amassing borderline centers that project more as power forwards instead of investing in an actual center (wait for #2 though because I have a solution for the center position).  Until the Bucks wise up, they will be in no man's land literally and figuratively at the center position.

#5) Feel out Monta Ellis's agent to see what Ellis is currently thinking about doing with his $11 million player option for the 2013-14 NBA season: If the Bucks play well next season, there is a decent chance that Ellis picks up his player option.  If the Bucks struggle, Ellis will most likely decline his option so that he can test the free agent market.  Don't get me wrong, Ellis is a flawed NBA player since his offensive prowess outshines his defensive output but is the perfect irrational confidence guy on a talented team (i.e. a great third banana) but is currently the first or second banana on the roster.  Plus Ellis is the best shooting guard the Bucks have had since Ray Allen, which is a direct knock on Michael Redd.

#4) Gauge the trade market for Mike Dunleavey Jr: As I said at the start of the season, I am not a fan of Dunleavey for very petty reasons but he earned my respect last season.  Add in that Dunleavey is only (I say only by NBA standards since I am positive I will never earn $3.75 million in my entire life) scheduled to earn $3.75 million and he is the perfect 6th or 7th guy off the bench for a contender.  Any of the current contenders would be much better off with Dunleavey than any non-lottery draft pick (that means any pick after the 14th pick in the first round) they could add in the 2012 NBA Draft so Hammond should actively try to trade Dunleavey while his value is high.

#3) Low-ball Carlos Delfino to see if the Bucks can keep him on the roster at a relatively modest price: When you take into account injuries and raw physical talent, Dunleavey is more valuable than Delfino right now so that means the Bucks should try to sign Delfino for less than $3.75 million a year or they will be overpaying for Delfino.  Fortunately for Delfino but unfortunately for Bucks fans Hammond has had a thing for Delfino since the Detroit Pistons drafted Delfino with the 25th pick in the 2003 NBA Draft.  Yes that is the same draft that the Pistons took Darko Milicic with the 2nd pick instead of Carmelo Anthony (3rd overall), Chris Bosh (4th overall), Dwyane Wade (5th overall), or David West (18th overall).  I guess the only good news is that luckily Hammond hasn't tried to add Milicic to the roster.

#2) Sign two, you read that correctly, two offer sheets for restricted free agent centers: First offer Roy Hibbert an extravagant front-end loaded long-term contract.  When the Indiana Pacers match that contract, offer Omer Asik 50% of what you offered Hibbert.  Obviously Hibbert would be a much bigger coup thus carries a much higher price tag than Asik but both players could start at center right now for the 2012-13 Milwaukee Bucks so adding either would be a great deal.  Most likely Hibbert and Asik will re-sign with their current team but since both are division "rivals" (Pacers and Bulls respectively) the Bucks would be dumb not to drive their price up at the very least and hit a home run on the off chance that they could lure either center to Milwaukee.

#1) Presuming that neither Hibbert or Asik actually sign with the Bucks, offer what feels like slightly below the already inflated market value for Ersan Ilyasova: That seems like horrible advice but since Ilyasova is the quintessential good stats on a bad team guy last year, he is one of the most overrated players heading for the free agent market.  Throughout the season I sung Ilyasova's praises but the last thing the Bucks need to do is overpay for a guy that will never be a franchise guy.  Much like Ellis, Ilyasova would be a great a third or fourth banana just not a first or second banana so he doesn't deserve to be paid like a first or second banana.  That is a long way of saying that Ilyasova deserves to be paid about or not much more than the mid-level exception.  Trust me, Ilyasova will make much more, I'm just telling you what he should be paid on the open market.

The ten point plan seems very doable in theory.  Let's hope Hammond and Company considers following at least some of my advice.

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