Monday, June 23, 2014

Building The 15 - How to Handle 2014-15 RFA's & UFA's on The 15 in 2013-14

Welcome to the start of my off-season advice for Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond.  In years past I wrote one long post (2011, 2012, and 2013) but much like I did in my seven-part off-season advice for Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson, I wanted to break down how Hammond should Build The 15 for the 2014-15 season into multiple posts.  NBA free agency officially opens on July 1st but rumors are already flying around.  Given that Hammond currently possesses four picks in the 2014 NBA Draft, I will reserve my advice for how Hammond should approach players that were not on The 15 for the Bucks last year till after the draft.  Instead I will focus on how Hammond should approach the restricted and unrestricted free agents that were on The 15 for the Bucks last season.

Let's start with the only restricted free agent on The 15 for the Bucks last season, power forward Ekpe Udoh.  The Bucks acquired Udoh from the Golden State Warriors right before the 2012 NBA Trade Deadline when they traded Andrew Bogut (C) and Stephen Jackson (SG/SF) for Monte Ellis (SG), Ekpe Udoh (PF), and Kwame Brown (C).  After a promising end to the 2011-12 season as a member of the Bucks, Udoh has been very underwhelming ever since.

In fact the most impressive contribution Udoh made to the City of Milwaukee last season, despite the fact that he was essentially in a contract year, was off the court with his book club.  On the court Udoh posted the lowest PER on the entire team, which is disappointing given that Udoh was the 6th player selected in the 2010 NBA Draft by the Warriors. At the time it seemed like the Warriors reached when they drafted Udoh but just to add insult to injury, two of the next four players taken in the 2010 NBA Draft after Udoh were Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe and Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George.  Hindsight is always 20/20 but Monroe and George looked like much better NBA prospects than Udoh even before the 2010 NBA Draft, which frankly makes the Udoh pick a head scratcher.

The Bucks hold a one-year team option on Udoh for next season.  Given that picking up Udoh's team option would cost the Bucks almost $6 million, there is no way in the world that the Bucks should tender Udoh.  In fact I am not sure Udoh is even worth keeping on one-year, veteran minimum deal no matter what players Hammond selects in the 2014 NBA Draft.

With my advice to let Udoh walk out of the way, let's take a look at the unrestricted free agents that were on The 15 for the Bucks last season.  Hammond needs to be very cautious with how they deal with their unrestricted free agents: combo guard Ramon Sessions and small forward Jeff Adrien.  I say Hammond needs to be cautious because of his penchant to overpay borderline starters in free agency. Case-and-point, last off-season Hammond signed shooting guard O.J. Mayo (three-year, $24 million) and center Zaza Pachullia (three-year, $15.6 million) to expensive contracts despite the fact that both are borderline starters.

Neither Sessions or Adrien are worth breaking the bank but each are somewhat useful, at the right price. Sessions is an interesting player given that he posted an 18 PER last season.  Unfortunately for Session, the Bucks have two younger combo guards in Brandon Knight and Nate Wolters that if they continue to implement will need extensions soon, which cuts against Hammond offering Sessions an extension.  I would offer Sessions the mini mid-level exception that amounts to a two-year, $5.5 million contract.

Possessing one above average skill makes a player at least somewhat enticing to keep on The 15.  For Adrien, his above average skill is rebounding, which helped him post a robust 18.4 PER last season.  I have no grand illusions that Adrien will turn into a franchise guy but the fact remains that he is a really useful player given his rebounding prowess.  I would offer Adrien a three-year, $4.5 million contract with no money guaranteed. That allows the Bucks to keep Adrien under contract at a relatively cheap price with no salary cap ramifications if they cut him.  Best case the Bucks bought cheap on a rebounding machine, worst case the Bucks either cut or use Adrien as a cap filler in a future trade.

Sure the above decisions are important for Hammond but the key to building the Bucks is the NBA Draft.  Besides the second overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Hammond also currently has three picks (31, 36, and 48) in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft too.  Make sure to check back tomorrow for my all important preview of the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft.

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