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.

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