Monday, July 29, 2013

Building The 53 - The Last 8 Roster Spots

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson made some minor roster moves today^ so there are currently 90 players on the roster.  As I said last week there are 27 locks* and 18 players that will most likely* make The 53.

J.C. Tetter (T) is recovering from a broken foot and Jerel Worthy (DE/DT) is recovering from a torn ACL.  Both players, if healthy, are locks to make The 53 but since they are recovering from serious injuries they are are headed for the PUP list.  That leaves 43 guys vying for 8 roster spots.

Although the Packers usually keep a few undrafted rookie free agents, with very little training camp in the books, it is too hard to tell what players are going to emerge.  Thus the following 21 players currently look like long-shots to make The 53:

Quarterback: None
Running Back: Angelo Pease
Fullback: Jonathan Amosa
Wide Receiver: Kevin Dorsey, Alex Gillett, Omarius Jones, Tyrone Walker, and Myles White
Tight End: Jake Stoneburner
Offensive Tackle: Kevin Hughes
Offensive Guard: Lane Taylor
Center: Garth Gerhard and Patrick Lewis
Defensive End: None
Defensive Tackle: Gilbert Pena
Middle Linebacker: Jarvis Reed
Outside Linebacker: Andy Mulumba and Donte Savage
Cornerback: James Nixon, Loyce Means, and Brandon Smith
Safety: Chris Banjo and David Fulton

Sure one of the players above could make a legitimate run at a roster spot but going into training camp there are really 22 guys fighting for 8 roster spots:

Quarterback: B.J. Coleman and Graham Harrell
Running Back: DuJuan Harris and Alex Green
Fullback: None
Wide Receiver: Jarrett Boykin,
Charles Johnson, and Sederrik Cunningham
Tight End: Matthew Mulligan and Brandon Bostick
Offensive Tackle: Derek Sherrod and Andrew Datko
Offensive Guard: None
Center: None
Defensive End/Defensive Tackle: Mike Neal, Johnny Jolly, and Jordan Miller
Middle Linebacker: Robert Francois and Sam Barrington

Outside Linebacker: Nate Palmer and Micah Johnson
Cornerback: None
Safety: Sean Richardson and Chaz Powell
Specialist: Mason Crosby and Giorgio Tavecchio

Lots of things can change throughout the preseason but my current advice would be to keep Coleman, Green, Boykin, Sherrod, Neal, Jolly, Richardson, and Tavecchio.  Check back as the preseason plays out for my continued thoughts on Building The 53.

^ = Waived Ryan McMahon (S), signed Chris Banjo (S), and signed Omarius Hines (WR).

Sunday, July 28, 2013

United States Wins 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup

Ryan Braun's ban by Major League Baseball for the rest of the season (presumably) for the use of performance enhancing drugs has been dissected from almost every angle so I decided to cover a non-Cheesehead sports team, the United States Men's Soccer Team.

The US was on a five game winning streak heading into the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup to make them a virtual lock to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.  Despite fielding a weaker squad than their World Cup qualifying squad, the US picked up right where they left off winning five more matches in a row to start the Gold Cup to reach the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final at Soldier Field against Panama.

I tried to talk Cheesehead Chick and my buddies (Uncle Patty and Sug) into attending the match but I got no takers so I picked up a singleton in the south end of the stadium on StubHub.  As you can tell from the title, the US won.  Since I attended the match alone, I sent a number of tweets that I am going to use as my de facto review of the match:

As you can tell from my recap, I would not give the US many style points for how they played today.  I might even go so far to say this was their worst performance of their 11 game winning streak but a win is a win, especially in the championship game of a even a second tier tournament like the Gold Cup.  Plus grinding out wins like the US did today is great experience for the 2014 World Cup.

If you enjoyed reading some soccer content on this predominately Cheesehead sports blog makes sure to check back later in August as I write my review of the off-season for Manchester City and preview their 2013-14 season.

Congrats to the United States men's soccer team on winning their fifth CONCACAF Gold Cup and good luck in the next round of World Cup qualifiers in September.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Building The 53 - The Most Likelies*

Yesterday I gave you my 27 locks* to make The 53, here are the 18 guys that I think will most likely* make The 53:

Quarterback: None

Running Back: James Starks
Fullback: John Kuhn
Wide Receiver: Jeremy Ross

Tight End: D.J. Williams, Andrew Quarless, and Ryan Taylor
Offensive Tackle: Don Barclay
Offensive Guard: Greg Van Roten
Center: None
Defensive End: Josh Boyd and Mike Daniels
Defensive Tackle: None
Middle Linebacker: Terrell Manning and Jamari Lattimore

Outside Linebacker: Dezmen Moses
Cornerback: Davon House, Jarrett Bush, and Micah Hyde

Safety: M.D. Jennings and Jeron McMillian
Specialist: None

That means absent injury, there are really only 8 roster spots up for grabs.  Check back Monday for my initial thoughts on the disposition of those final 8 roster spots.

Tomorrow I am going to attend the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final between the United States and Panama at Soldier Field.  If you are a soccer fan, check back tomorrow night for my thoughts on the match.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Building The 53 - The Locks*

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson already made some hard decisions getting rid of eight players on the final 53-man roster from last season.  As training camp opens for the 2013 Green Bay Packers, Thompson still has to make a number of tough decisions to finalize The 53.  The easy decisions to make are the locks* currently on the roster.

The reason all of the guys I am about to list are are locks* stems from one of three reasons.  One, they recently signed a huge contract extension (i.e. Aaron Rodgers).  Two, they were recently drafted in an early round of the NFL Draft (i.e. Datone Jones).  Three, they are solid starters (i.e. Jordy Nelson) at an important position.

You may have noticed the asterisk following locks* because if any of the following guys suffer a season ending injury during training camp (knocking on wood as I type), the Packers will place them on injured reserve so they would not make The 53 but still would be in the team's long-term plans. 

Absent a season ending injury, here are the 27 locks* to make The 53:

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers
Running Back: Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin
Fullback: None
Wide Receiver: James Jones, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb
Tight End: Jermichael Finley
Offensive Tackle: Bryan Bulaga, Marshall Newhouse, and David Bakhtiari
Offensive Guard: Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang
Center: Evan Dietrich-Smith
Defensive End: C.J. Wilson and Datone Jones
Defensive Tackle: B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett
Middle Linebacker: A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones
Outside Linebacker: Clay Matthews and Nick Perry
Cornerback: Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, and Casey Hayward
Safety: Morgan Burnett
Specialists: Tim Masthay (P) and Brett Goode (LS)

That leaves 26 roster spots up for grabs.  Check back tomorrow for my list of guys "most likely" to make The 53.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Building The 53 - Ranking Former Members of The 53

You'll notice "The 53" is in the name of the title of the post instead of Quick Thoughts, Wednesday What Happened, or Sunday Funday.  This space is about to go through a number of drastic aesthetic and content changes.  I will provide more information in the coming weeks but in a "preview of coming" attractions, The 53 will be a weekly article where I rank the active 53-man roster for the Green Bay Packers.  The rankings will change each week and I will talk in-depth about a handful of the 53 players.

Before I can rank The 53, it has to be built by Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson.  I will have a series of posts over the next month with a mix of what I think Thompson should do along with commentary on what Thompson actually did.

The first place to start is to look at the players from the final 53-man roster that were walloped by the San Francisco 49ers in the playoff last season that are no longer with the team.  These rankings take into account age, productivity, potential cost, positional strength, and runs in reverse order:

#8) Ryan Grant (RB): The Packers drafted running backs Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin in the 2013 NFL Draft, which dropped Grant's chances of resigning with the Packers from .01% to 0%.  Grant had a couple productive seasons in Green Bay thanks to the pass setting up the run but was never a game-changing back that the Packers hope they have in Lacy or Franklin.

#7) Frank Zombo (OLB): In 2010 and 2011 Zombo looked like a quality rush outside linebacker despite his inability to drop into coverage.  At one point Zombo was even the starting outside linebacker opposite Claymaker but injuries always prevented Zombo from being a consistent performer.  The Kansas City Chiefs signed Zombo this off-seasons, which makes sense because John Dorsey used to be the Director of Football Operations for the Packers and now is the general manager of the Chiefs.

#6) Jeff Saturday (C): Instead of following my advice to re-sign Scott Wells last off-season, Thompson decided to sign the older and less talented Saturday.  That decision stands as one of Thompson's few gross miscalculations since taking over as general manager of the Packers in 2005.  Thompson viewed Saturday as a nice compliment to Rodgers because of Saturday's smarts and success in an up tempo offensive scheme.  Unfortunately Saturday was routinely over matched physically and ultimately was benched in favor of current starting center Evan Dietrich-Smith.  Saturday "retired" but I am not sure an NFL team even would have signed him as a backup center this off-season given how horrible he looked last year in Green Bay.  Saturday had an expensive and forgettable season in Green Bay last year after an illustrious career as Peyton Manning's center with the Indianapolis Colts.

#5) Erik Walden (OLB): I am stuck between a rock and a hard place on this one.  My favorite Green Bay Packers writer Bob McGinn has quite an affinity for Walden while one of my favorite national football writers Bill Barnwell pointed out how the Indianapolis Colts grossly overpaid Walden this off-season when they signed him to a four-year, $16 million contractMuch like Zombo, in spurts, Walden showed some promise as an edge rusher and struggled dropping into coverage.  Even leaving Walden's off-the-field issues aside (domestic assault charges that magically disappeared) I chalk Zombo's and Walden's performance up to playing opposite Claymaker as opposed to either of them being anything more than just a guy.  Sorry Bob but I agree with Bill's take on Walden.

#4) Donald Driver (WR): Lets be honest, Driver was coasting on his reputation more than his production the last three seasons in Green Bay.  After putting up at least 1,000 yards receiving from 2002 to 2009 sans 2003, Driver had three mostly forgettable seasons from 2010 to 2012.  Sure Driver would occasionally show glimpses of his former self (remember his long TD v. the 49ers at Lambeau Field) but those plays were few and far between the last few years.  Despite Driver's decline in on the field production, don't discount his impact on shaping the young stable of stud wide receivers.  It looks like Driver is going to stay retired instead of signing with another team.  That is a smart financial move since any money Driver might make playing for the veteran minimum elsewhere this year will be dwarfed by how much money he can make for the rest of his life because he is arguably the most captivating rags-to-riches stories in franchise history.

#3) Charles Woodson (CB/S): I never thought in a million years that the Packers would not only cut Woodson but that he would then sign with hist only other NFL employer, the Oakland Raiders.  Sure Reggie McKenzie was a former member of the Packer front office and is currently the general manager of the Raiders but Woodson left the Raiders on such bad terms that I was shocked to see him go back to the Raiders when other contenders like the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers showed interest.  I admittedly have a soft spot in my heart for Woodson because I wore his jersey the last two seasons but that was mostly a tip of the cap to Woodson for how well he played for the Packers from 2006 to 2010.  I get that Woodson is no longer the guy he was in 2009 when he won NFL Defensive Player of the Year but I still think his ability to play a hybrid of cornerback and safety would have made him the perfect turnover machine for the Packers.

#2) Greg Jennings (WR): Add Jennings to the long list of former Packers to sign with the Minnesota Vikings (think Favre, Sharper, Longwell, and Ferguson just to name few).  There were rumors that last off-season the Packers offered Jennings more than the five-year, $45 million contract that he ultimately signed with the Vikings.  Luckily for the Packers not only did Jennings pass but they have three stud receivers on the roster in Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and Randall Cobb so despite losing Driver and Jennings the Packers still have one of the best trio of wide receivers in the NFL.

#1) Tom Crabtree (TE): With all due respect to Woodson and Jennings, this is really the only loss that will actually hurt the Packers on the field in 2013.  The Packers have younger, better versions of the previous seven guys discussed.  Unfortunately that is not the case with Crabtree.  Sure Crabtree is not the fastest guy but he is a quality blocker and good pass catcher.  Last season Crabtree was the second best tight end on the roster behind Jermichael Finley.  If Crabtree signed a big contract this off-season, I could support the Packers letting him go, but Crabtree signed a two-year deal worth $1.6 million with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  With Tampa Bay's offer in hand, Crabtree said he wanted to resign with the Packers but Thompson wouldn't tender a similar offer.  I know Jennings is a better player than Crabtree but I would much rather pay Crabtree less than $1 million a year than Jennings more than $9 million a year.  With Finley a free agent after this season, the Packers could lose their two best tight ends in consecutive season.

With my "In Memoriam" post in the books, I will turn my attention to the 90 players currently employed by the Packers and vying for one of the coveted 53 roster spots.  Check back tomorrow when I give my locks* to make The 53.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

2013 MLB Trade Deadline Advice for Doug Melvin

For the last four years at the NBA Trade Deadline I gave very specific advice to Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond for how to improve the roster (2010, 2011, 2012, & 2013).  This is my first year doing the same thing for Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin ahead of the MLB Trade Deadline.  Here is my five-point-plan for how Melvin should approach the 2013 MLB Trade Deadline:

#1) Move at least one of the three "closers" for prospects.  I say "closers" because John Axford was supposed to be the closer for the Brewers this season but struggled to start the season, which opened the door for Jim Henderson and K-Rod.  When you factor in age and contract, I would much rather trade K-Rod or Axford than Henderson but I totally support the Brewers moving any of the three for future assets.

#2) Hold onto starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo unless offered a Greinke-esque return.  The Brewers have Gallardo under control through 2015.  Sure Gallardo's contract jumps from $7.75 million to $11.25 million next season and has a $13 million ($0.6 million buyout) club option for 2015 but that also means the Brewers could have a borderline ace under control through 2015.  Gallardo has pitched for the Brewers so long that people forget he is still only 27-years old, which means Gallardo still has a decade left in his career.  The velocity on Gallardo's fastball has decreased over the last few seasons and to make matters worse he was arrested earlier this season for driving under the influence of alcohol but he is still a low-end ace so the Brewers should keep strongly consider keeping Gallardo.

#3) Hold onto any and all prospects.  The Brewers have as much of a chance of making the playoffs this year as I do of leveraging the advice I dispense on this blog into becoming the next general manager of one of the Cheesehead professional sports franchises.  The Brewers need to continue to build for the future instead of making short-term trades with negative long-term consequences.

#4) Do not trade catcher Jonathan Lucroy, starting pitcher Kyle Lohse, shortstop Jean Segura, right fielder Norichika Aoki, center fielder Carlos Gomez, and left fielder Ryan Braun.  The Brewers have Lucroy, Lohse, Segura, and Aoki on team friendly deals through at least 2014 so that makes them virtually untouchable in my book.  The Brewers have larger financial commitments to Gomez and Braun but with Gomez finally fulfilling the promise that made him the centerpiece of the Johan Santana trade and PED stink hanging over Braun there is no way the Brewers would get equal value for either player at this point.  Lohse and Aoki are the most likely of the six to get traded but I would resist overtures even for them unless the Brewers get a Godfather offer.

#5) Entertain offers for Aramis Ramirez and Rickie Weeks as long as you don't have to eat more than $5 million of either of their contracts.  I know this feels like selling low on Ramirez since he is having a disappointing season this year compared to last year and is currently on the DL but he is owed $16 million next season, which is about $10 million too much.  Plus moving Ramirez will allow the Brewers to see whether Juan Francisco is a long-term answer at third base.  Weeks is on the books for $10 million this seasons, $11 million for next season, and has a $11.5 million vesting option (if healthy at end of 2014 season and has 600 PAs in 2014 or 1,200 PAs in 2013-14) for 2015.  Despite hitting well going into the All-Star break, Weeks is still a Jeff Suppan-esque lightning rod for Brewers fans. Much like Ramirez, the Brewers are on the hook for way too much money for Weeks.  The payroll relief alone of trading either Ramirez or Weeks without assuming their entire contract would make the 2013 MLB Trade Deadline a success for the Brewers.

I wish I knew more minor league players outside of the Brewers' farm system so that I could give Melvin specific players to target but unfortunately I don't at this point.  I promise in next year's incarnation of this column I will give Melvin or the new general manger of the Brewers specific minor league players to target.  Whether Melvin follows my blueprint or charts his own path, if Melvin makes any moves, check back for my full breakdown.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Building The 15 - Bucks Next Five Moves

Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond has been very busy reshaping the roster over the last month.  After adding two intriguing players in the 2013 NBA Draft I was hopeful that the Bucks were going to try to bottom out next season en route to building a long-term contender.  Unfortunately Hammond must have gotten an inter-office memo from owner Herb Kohl mandating that he continue to overpay mediocre free agents.  If you caught my write-up yesterday, you already know I am not a fan of the moves Hammond made since the draft.

Fortunately the Bucks still have a few moves left to make this off-season to fill their 15-man roster but this is how their 2013-14 roster currently looks:
PG: Nate Wolters and Ish Smith
SG: O.J. Mayo
SF: Carlos Delfino and Giannis Antetokounmpo
PF: Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson, Ekpe Udoh, and Drew Gooden
C: Larry Sanders, Zaza Pachulia, and Gustavo Ayon

Here is a my five-point plan for how Hammond can salvage the off-season:

#1) Amnesty Drew Gooden.  This should have happened last off-season so there is no excuse for inaction this off-season.  Gooden has a guaranteed contract so he is going to get the money one way or the other so you might as well get it over with this year.  If it doesn't happen this year, Gooden must have compromising photos of Hammond or Kohl.  That or Kohl is going through some cash flow issues so he wants to spread out the $13.5 million he owes Gooden over the next two years.  Getting rid of Gooden would leave the Bucks with four open roster spots, which I am about to help Hammond fill.

#2) Do a sign-and-trade with the Atlanta Hawks.  Almost everyone thinks the Bucks should move point guard Brandon Jennings for point guard Jeff Teague.  I still think Jennings has value so the Bucks should trade shooting guard Monta Ellis for Teague.  I would love to see Ellis as the first guy off the bench for a contender but unfortunately he still sees himself as a potential all-star.  The Bucks are lucky that Ellis turned down what amounted to a three-year, $36 million deal to stay in Milwaukee because I wouldn't even pay Ellis what the Bucks are going to pay shooting guard O.J. Mayo (three-years, $24 million) at this point.  The Hawks have an interest in Ellis and the Bucks have an interest in Teague so this looks like a match made in heaven.

#3) Get restricted free agent Brandon Jennings to sign his $4.6 million qualifying offer.  That leaves the Bucks with good salary cap flexibility.  I am not completely sure that allows the Bucks to trade Jennings at the trade deadline.  If not, it makes the qualifying offer less appetizing, but allows the Bucks to retain his "Bird Rights" next off-season to sign him to a mega-extension or move him in a sign-and-trade deal.

#4) Don't spend a dollar over the veteran minimum on any player. Part of me is intrigued with the potential upside of restricted free agent shooting guards Gerald Henderson and Gary Neal but neither of those guys would be a starter on a legitimate championship contender so no need to waste resources on continuing to overpay for mediocrity.  Instead the Bucks should see if they can get a combo back court player like Beno Udrih, Marquis Daniels, Mo Williams, or Nate Robinson to sign for the veteran minimum.

#5) Fill out the roster with undrafted rookie free agents. 
In my
2013-14 Milwaukee Bucks Free Agent Shopping Guide I gave Hammond a bunch of names of players that I would target.  The key is that you would rather pay your 12th through 15th guys nothing since they are going to ride the pine next season anyhow.  Best case scenario you find the next Greg Stiemsma that lights up the NBDL to earn a spot in the rotation at some point down the road.

This may seem redundant but the key for the Bucks is to stop overpaying for mediocre talent so until the Bucks start taking a sensible approach to constructing their team I will continue to try to get #FearTheMediocreDeer trending on Twitter.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Building The 15 - Bucks Off-Season So Far...

Apparently Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl mandated that the Bucks "stay relevant" every year.  There are many definitions but being a borderline playoff team with a slim chance of contending for a divisional title is far from relevant in my mind.  Instead I was hoping with all the potential roster turnover this off-season that it would allow Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond to bottom out as I advised at the start of the off-season despite Kohl's mandate.

As I said in my review of the 2013 NBA Draft for the Bucks, I generally liked how Hammond handled the draft because it looked like he veered from his boss mandated approach of just trying to stay relevant.

Unfortunately the five moves Hammond made since the draft show that he is continuing to make short-sided, expensive moves that will not help the Bucks long-term.  I rate four of the five moves Hammond made so far this off-season as mediocre to highly questionable, let's look at each one though (worst to best):

#5) Signed center Zaza Pachulia to a three-year, $15 million deal.  The Bucks were already stacked in the front court with Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson, Larry Sanders, Ekpe Udoh, Drew Gooden, and Gustavo Ayon.  The aforementioned group gives the Bucks three NBA starters for only two spots (Ilyasova, Henson, and Sanders), two nice role players (Udoh and Ayon), and a guy that should be amnestied (Gooden).  The Bucks have some decisions to make on extending Sanders and Udoh but now they've committed $5 million a year to a nice backup center, which is 50% too much for a guy that will turn 30 years old next season.

#4) Signed shooting guard O.J. Mayo to a three-year, $24 million deal.  Last season Mayo put up huge numbers for the Dallas Mavericks (averaged 15.3 points, 4.4 assists, & 3.5 rebounds over 35.5 minutes per game) as he was potentially entering free agency.  Mayo exercised his early termination option to void his $4.2 player option.  This feels a little bit like what John Salmons did for the Bucks a few years back en route to signing a ridiculous five-year, $39 million extension with the Bucks.  Things could be worse.  Former starting shooting guard Monta Ellis turned down what amounted to a three-year, $36 million deal earlier this off-season so at least that deal is not on the books.  The Mayo contract is much more palatable than the Salmons or purported Ellis extension, but it is still an overpay by Hammond.

#3) Traded small forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute aka "The Prince" to the Sacramento Kings for two future second round draft picks.  Very few wing players are able to guard shooting guards just as well as they guard power forwards like The Prince can.  I get that The Prince is below average on the offensive end of the court (averaged just 6.9 points per game for his career) and missed a bunch of games the last two seasons (39 games in 2011-12 and 24 in 2012-13) but his defensive skills alone made The Prince my 6th most valuable player on the roster at the end of last season.  Add in that The Prince has a chance to develop a three-point shot over the next few seasons and he has a chance to be Tony Allen 2.0, which makes him a bargain at $9 million over the next two seasons.  I know it seems inconsistent for me to say that I am fine paying The Prince $4.5 million a year for the next two years after killing the Bucks for paying Pachulia and Mayo as discussed above but there should always be a roster spot for a defensive freak The Prince.  There is no question that The Prince has been one of my favorite Bucks of the last decade.  Leaving my love for The Prince aside, the fact that the Bucks could not wrestle a first rounder with some lottery protections instead of two second rounders makes me less a fan of this deal.

#2) Traded shooting guard J.J. Redick to the Los Angeles Clipper for two future second round draft picks.  The Bucks got a second round pick from the Phoenix Suns and Clippers in this deal.  Somehow a bunch of really quality players were traded (Eric Bledsoe, Jared Dudley, and Redick) but the Bucks only ended up with draft picks.  I guess getting something for Redick is better that nothing since he was not going to re-sign with the Bucks but the only way the Clippers could get Redick was via a sign-and-trade so I wish the Bucks would have held out for a first round pick from the Clippers instead of a second rounder.  People keep killing the Bucks for turning Tobias Harris into two months of Redick.  That was a bad deal for sure but not nearly as bad as The Ray Allen Heist.  Plus let me reiterate my thoughts on Harris.  Despite putting up big numbers after joining the Magic last season I still think there is a much better chance that Harris becomes a good stats/bad team guy than a franchise player.   In exchange for The Prince and Redick the Bucks added four future second round picks between 2014 and 2018.  Before we get too excited, the odds of the Bucks wasting those picks like they did in the second round of the 2010 NBA Draft are much higher than them nabbing another Micheal Redd in the second round.

#1) Signed shooting guard/small forward Carlos Delfino to a two-year, $6 million deal. I didn't rank this the best move just because this is what I specifically advised Hammond to do in my free agent shopping guide for him.  I ranked it the highest because the Bucks are much better off signing short-term deals for smaller amounts while hoarding cap space instead of overpaying average NBA players.

I felt the need to break down each deal but the NBA can be summed up pretty concisely because it is a star driven league.  It is nearly impossible to acquire a Top 20 player via free agency unless you are one of the top NBA franchises in a large media market (Heat, Knicks, or Lakers) so signing shorter, cheaper deals like the Delfino contract makes way more sense for small market teams like the Bucks than overpaying decent NBA players like Pachulia or Mayo.  I get that Kohl thinks the Bucks need to stay relevant but it is high time that he changes his definition of relevant.  Instead let the Bucks bottom out and build for the long-term so the Bucks can finally contend for an NBA title aka be relevant.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Building The 15 - 2013-14 Free Agent Shopping Guide for John Hammond

With the 2013 NBA Draft in the books for the Milwaukee Bucks, general manager John Hammond now has 10 players on his roster for the 2013-14 NBA season:
PG: Nate Wolters and Ish Smith
SG: None
SF: Luc Mbah a Moute and Giannis Antetokounmpo
PF: Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson, Ekpe Udoh, and Drew Gooden
: Larry Sanders and Gustavo Ayon

The Bucks were swept in the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs by the Miami Heat, the eventual NBA Champions.  Although the Bucks made the playoffs, they approached the off-season with a ton of questions looming over the roster so I gave Hammond a plan for how to approach the off-season.

As I discussed in my preview of the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft for the Bucks, Hammond didn't follow very much of my advice so far but with five (or six if Hammond finally amnesties Gooden) roster spots left to fill I can't help but reiterate my advice for Hammond.

NBA teams are allowed to discuss contracts with players from July 1st through July 10th but nothing can be signed until July 10th.  The Bucks have four players that played big minutes that are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents: shooting guard Monta Ellis, shooting guard J.J. Redick, small forward Mike Dunleavy Jr., and shooting guard/small forward Marquis Daniels.  The Bucks also have one player that played big minutes that is a restricted free agent in point guard Brandon Jennings.  Finally, the Bucks have two centers (Samuel Dalembert and Joel Przybilla) that are unrestricted free agents but neither seems to figure into their plans for next season unless they will play for the veteran minimum.

The Bucks tendered Jennings a $4.3 million qualify offer so they can match any offer that Jennings receives as a restricted free agent this off-season.  In Hammond's press conference following the draft he said that the Bucks are going to pull out all the stops to resign Jennings.  The most another team can offer Jennings is a four-year deal while the Bucks can offer Jennings a five-year deal with higher annual raises than any other team.  The third option that Jennings has is to sign his $4.3 million qualifying offer, which means he would leave a bunch of money on the table next season, but it allows him to become an unrestricted free agent next off-season.

If the Bucks sign Jennings to a contract long-term contract that averages $11 million (or less) a year that is a great deal for the Bucks that worst case scenario becomes a valuable trade chip.  If Jennings earns any more than $11 million per year he becomes a drag on the salary cap though.

Even if the Bucks and Jennings cannot agree to a long-term deal, I am fine with the Bucks signing him to his one-year, $4.3 million qualifying offer.  That gives the Bucks a myriad of options: move him at the trade deadline, re-sign him next off-season to a long-term contract, or even move him next off-season in a sign-and-trade.

The Bucks have a gaping hole at shooting guard.  There are reports that the Bucks have strong interest in J.R. Smith.  My guess is that interest is not mutual unless the Bucks make a huge offer, which would be silly given that Smith is a volatile, high-volume shooter.  I think of J.R. Smith as the love child of Stephen Jackson and Monta Ellis so obviously the Bucks should not sign Smith.

Speaking of Ellis, the Bucks should also resist the urge to pay Ellis or Redick anything more than the mid-level exception.  I would be shocked if Ellis or Redick only signed for the mid-level exception so let them leave via free agency.

Instead of flashing big money for Ellis, Redick, and Smith it makes much more sense to offer cheaper contracts to Dunleavy (two-years for $7 million) and Daniels (bi-annual veteran minimum).  Besides that, the Bucks should follow Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson's lead by hoarding cap space, signing undrafted free agents, and selectively making big money splashes in free agency.

I am totally fine with the Bucks offering max-contracts to one of the three coveted free agents this off-season: center Dwight Howard, point guard Chris Paul, or power forward Josh Smith.  The agents for Howard and Paul probably would not even field Hammond's call so you can cross those guys off the list.  There is an outside chance that Smith's agent would at least take the call since the Bucks almost landed Smith at the trade deadline but Smith's main interest in playing with the Bucks was to team-up with Ellis so I would be shocked if Smith wanted to sign with the Bucks this off-season since it looks like Ellis will be playing elsewhere next season.

Instead of overpaying average players, think of the Drew Gooden and John Salmons deals, the Bucks should wait in the wings to let the mid-level guys get overpaid and then start bottom feeding.  The Rockets recently released former Bucks shooting guard Carlos Delfino.  Signing a guy like Delfino to a short-term deal like I proposed for Dunleavy above (two-years for $7 million) is fiscally responsible but handing out any bigger contracts to non-franchise guys is senseless.

In terms of undrafted free agents, there were a number of interesting prospects that I signed off on the Bucks taking with the 43rd pick in the 2013 NBA Draft that went undrafted so I obviously support the Bucks adding the following three players to their roster: Phil Pressey (PG), Seth Curry (SG), and Trevor Mbajwe (PF).

Besides the three undrafted free agent prospects just highlighted, here are ten other intriguing undrafted prospects that the Bucks should consider adding to their roster: D.J. Cooper (PG, 5'10", 172 lbs, Ohio, 20 years old), Myck Kabongo (PG, 6'3", 180 lbs, Texas, 20 years old), B.J. Young (PG, 6'4", 179 lbs, Arkansas, 20 years old),  Vander Blue (SG, 6'5", 197 lbs, Marquette, 20 years old), Brandon Paul (SG, 6'4", 201 lbs, Illinois, 22 years old),  Michael Snaer (SG, 6'5", 201 lbs, Florida State, 24 years old), Khalif Wyatt (SG, 6'4", 212 lbs, Temple, 22 years old), C.J. Leslie (SF, 6'9", 209 lbs, N.C. State, 22 years old), Jackie Carmichael (PF, 6'9", 241 lbs, Illinois State, 23 years old), and Vitalis Chikoko (C, 6'10", 219 lbs, Germany, 22 years old).

Although I don't hold out much hope, it will be interesting to see if Hammond follows any of my advice.  Either way, check back as free agency starts to unfold because I will have a full breakdown of Hammond's decisions.