Thursday, February 13, 2014

The 15 - All-Star Break Thoughts

The 2013-14 Milwaukee Bucks headed into the All-Star break with a whimper thanks to a league worst 9-43 record.  Bucks general manager John Hammond overhauled The 15 last off-season.  Although the Bucks have a horrible record, part of that is due to the fact that The 15 has been at full strength just a few times this season but my guess is that even if everyone on The 15 was healthy all season, the Bucks would still only be a borderline playoff team.  That is embarrassing for Hammond given how weak the Eastern Conference is this season.  I plan to write a lengthy post in the next few days for how Hammond should approach the 2014 NBA Trade Deadline. As an appetizer to that lengthy post, let's take a look at The 15 to see what assets Hammond has at his disposal.

The 15
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo (SG/SF, LR 2) 
2. John Henson (PF/C, LR 1)
3. Brandon Knight (PG, LR 4)
4. Ersan Ilyasova (PF, LR 7)
5. Larry Sanders (C, LR 3)
6. Khris Middleton (SF, LR 5)
7. Nate Wolters (PG, LR 10)
8. Gary Neal (SG, LR 6)
9. Caron Butler (SF, LR 9)
10. O.J. Mayo (SG, LR 8)
11. Miroslav Raduljica (C, LR 11)
12. Luke Ridnour (PG, LR 13)
13. Zaza Pachulia (C, LR 14)
14. Ekpe Udoh (PF, LR 12)
15. Carlos Delfino (SG/SF, LR 15)
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo (SG/SF, LR 2): When the Bucks drafted John Henson with the 14th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, I said that if I bough a Bucks jersey it would definitely be a Henson jersey.  Sadly for Henson that torch was officially passed to The Greek Freak early this season.  Sure The Greek Freak's PER (10.6) is not very impressive right now but he reminds me of a poor man's Kevin Durant.  You think that is hyperbole but despite the Bucks struggles this season, The Greek Freak is participating in the NBA Rising Stars Challenge and the Skill Competition.  I know The Greek Freak has not even finished his rookie season but he finally gives the Bucks their first potential franchise player since Ray Allen, which is perfect since The Greek Freak wears Allen's old number 34.

3. Brandon Knight (PG, LR 4): Currently leads the team in scoring (16.6 PPG) and assists (4.8 APG) but even horrible teams like the Bucks score at least 85 points a game so someone has to get numbers.  I can see Knight's career going one of two ways.  If Knight plays for a team that struggles offensively I see him turning into a combo scoring guard, a Rich Man's Mo Williams if you will.  If Knight ends up playing on a competitive team with better scoring options, I see him becoming more of a traditional point guard that is more selective with his shot.  Either way, the Bucks are much better off long-term with Knight running the show than Brandon Jennings.

5. Larry Sanders (C, LR 3): Earlier this season Sanders missed 25 games due to a hand injury suffered during a bar fight, which is totally on him.  Just as Sanders was getting back to full strength he suffered a broken orbital socket that will keep him out of the lineup for another six weeks.  The broken orbital socket was not Sanders' fault so I will cut him some slack.  This season is lost one for Sanders anyhow so there is no need to rush Sanders back.  Plus, next season marks the first year of the four-year, $44 million contract extension that Sanders signed in the off-season.  If I were in charge, I would chalk this season up as a lost one for Sanders with an eye (no pun intended) towards next season.  In case I wasn't clear, I would not play Sanders again this season, even if he is healthy.

I think it makes sense for Hammond to build The 15 long-term around Knight, Nate Wolters, The Greek Freak, Khris Middleton, Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson, Miroslav Raduljica, and Larry Sanders but only two of those guys are truly untouchable: Henson and The Greek Freak.  After that, the Bucks have a couple interesting expiring contracts (Butler, Ridnour, and Udoh) and long-term deals (Ilyasova, Mayo, and Sanders) that they could move at the trade deadline.  Unfortunately the Bucks would be selling low by moving any of the players currently signed to long-term deals so if I were Hammond I would be focused on leveraging the expiring contracts for long-term assets but make sure to check back for my extended thoughts on exactly how Hammond should approach the 2014 NBA Trade Deadline.

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