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.

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