Monday, December 15, 2014

Building The 15 - NBA General Manager Buyer's Remorse Day

Despite front offices becoming much more savvy in the last decade thanks to the use of advanced stats, there are still NBA owners (I'm looking at you Vivek Ranadiv√©) and general managers (I'm looking at your Billy King) that cannot help themselves from making short-sided draft picks or handing out ridiculous free agents contracts.  The number of owners and general managers that fit the description just provided is decreasing each year, which is too bad because those folks make a number of decisions that I love to second-guess.  December 15th marks the first day that teams can trade a player they signed in the off-season.  Although mulligans are not allowed on these deals, NBA teams love to trade bad contracts for bad contracts in hopes that one man's trash is another man's treasure.  As a result, I thought I would help Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond wade through some of these bad contracts.

Although it seems like these bad contracts are going away, let's not forget that the NBA's revenue will dramatically increase in a couple years when their new nine-year, $24 billion national television contract kicks in, which means the salary cap will sky rocket too, so I hope NBA owners and general managers will revert back to their old ways of giving out more ridiculous contracts.  There is a very good chance that will happen given that some estimates have the salary cap going up as much as $21 million between the 2016-17 and the 2017-18 season from $66 million in 2016-17 to $87 million in 2017-18.  Besides being great economic news to NBA players and agents, this will also provide more silly decisions for people like me to second guess.

Here are a couple outlandish trades for Hammond to consider that involve players that signed a free agent contract last off-season:

Bucks trade Ersan Ilyasova (PF) & O.J. Mayo (SG) to the Phoenix Suns for Eric Bledsoe (PG/SG) and Archie Goodwin (SG):
Hammond would make this deal even if it meant giving up a future first round pick, something I rarely sign-off on doing, just on the off chance that he could steal a potential franchise player in Bledsoe.  Sure Bledsoe has a checkered injury history and is signed to what looks like an expensive long-term deal (five-years, $70 million) but given the impending increase in the salary cap, Bledsoe's deal might NOT be that expensive in a couple seasons.  Hammond will get very few chances to add a player of Beldsoe's caliber so he honestly has to take it.  Plus, I have a soft spot for young shooting guards that under perform when they first get into the NBA so getting Goodwin as a part of this deal is the cherry on top that allows the Bucks to acquire another cost-effective contract.  Although I wish this trade were possible, even if the Bucks include a future first round pick, realistically they will need to give up a better player to acquire Bledsoe.

Bucks trade Brandon Knight (PG) & Ersan Ilyasova (PF) to the Phoenix Suns for Eric Bledsoe (PG/SG) and Archie Goodwin (SG):
This iteration of the trade most likely alleviates the need for Hammond to throw in a draft pick to make the deal work but it also means the Bucks give up two of the three best players in the trade.  Despite the fact that the Suns just signed the Morris twins to contract extensions, Ilyasova seems like the perfect stretch four that can shoot well from anywhere on the floor (I know he has struggled with his shot this season but I blame all the injuries he has had to with with) to round out their roster.  The problem with this working in practice is that Knight is due a huge contact extension that might be as large as Bledsoe's deal after this season so although the Suns move Bledsoe's five-year, $70 million contract, they are actually taking on even more long-term money in this deal.  Clearly the Suns would say no first to this deal, which probably makes it a non-starter but still fun to think about especially if you are a Bucks fan.

Bucks trade O.J. Mayo (SG) to the Charlotte Hornets for Lance Stephenson (SG):
The ghost of Ray Allen has hung over the franchise for nearly a decade since the artist formerly known as the Seattle Supersonics stole him from the Bucks, which is why I continually search for a franchise shooting guard for the Bucks.  My buy-low candidate the last few years was Eric Gordon but thankfully that never worked out for the Bucks since Gordon's injury issues make Bledsoe look like the healthiest player in the NBA.  With Gordon no longer in my sights, I think it makes sense to turn to Stephenson.  At one point last season there was talk that Stephenson could be a max contract guy if he hit free agency.  That was a cute thought if you were Stephenson or his agent but the rest of the NBA knows that he is an absolute head case, which ultimately lead to his departure from the Indiana Pacers via free agency.  In terms of comps, Chandler Parsons signed a three-years, $46 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks.  That felt like it was the floor for Stephenson but he ultimately signed a three-year, $27 million contract with only the first two years guaranteed so the third year is a club option.  I know this next statement makes me captain obvious but boy did the market fall out for Stephenson in the last year, I just wonder whether it was too big of a fall or a proper market correction.  Even though Mayo is playing much better this season than last season, this is essentially a $2 million gamble (Mayo earns $8 million each of the next two seasons while Stephenson earns $9 million per year) on getting a franchise shooting guard.  Don't forget the Bucks acquired the perfect veteran in Jared Dudley, which could actually help keep Stephenson in check.  I know that is a tall order for Dudley but let's not forget that Stephenson is just 24 years old too so there is an outside chance that he could still mature.  Despite all of Stephenson's issues both on and off the court, this is the kind of swing for the fences trade that I know Hammond will never do but would love to see him at least entertain.

Bucks trade Jerryd Bayless (PG/SG) to the Sacremento Kings for Ben McLemore (SG):
ESPN's NBA Trade Machine does NOT allow you to include draft picks but the Bucks would have to part with at least one of their multitude of extra second round picks from the next few draft to make this trade work.  Keep in mind that the Bucks still have all of those extra second round picks even though they threw away two when they acquired head coach Jason Kidd.  I say threw away because although Kidd has been a much better coach this season than I ever thought he could be, it was clear that the Brooklyn Nets wanted Kidd out so they might have even fired Kidd before the Bucks showed interest.  For real NBA junkies, which you clearly have to be if you are reading this post (or a member of my immediate family), had a great behind-the-scenes look at the 2014 NBA Draft for the Sacramento Kings.  I love their new owner, the aforementioned Vivek Ranadiv√©, repeatedly "asking" if Nic Stauskas was the right pick and getting the entire room to say "Nic Rocks" on their welcome conference call with him after they foolishly took him over Elfrid Payton.  That means McLemore's days in Sacramento are numbered even though he is their starting shooting guard this season.  Bayless and a second round pick may seem like a low-ball offer but NBA teams see the writing on the wall with McLemore so it might be better for the Kings to get something for McLemore if Stauskas is truly the person they envision as their long-term shooting guard.

There is less than a 1% chance that any of the trades above happen but it is still fun to speculate.  If Hammond actually does make a move, make sure to check back for full coverage in this space.  If Hammond doesn't make a move, make sure to check back in early 2015 for my updates to The 15.

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