Monday, June 29, 2015

Building The 15 - 2015 Free Agent Shopping Guide for Hammond

Milwaukee Bucks general manager was active this off-season given that he already completed two trades.  I made no bones about it that I disliked the decision to trade small forward/power forward Ersan Ilyasova to the Detroit Pistons for expiring contracts and absolutely hated that Hammond traded two draft picks to the Toronto Raptors for backup point guard Greivis Vasquez.

The two trades seem to be inconsistent given that Hammond shipped out Ilyasova's $7.9 million salary for this season for non-guaranteed contracts to presumably give him enough cap space to try to lure in an expensive free agent but then Hammond swallowed up almost all of that cap space when he traded for Vasquez's bloated $6.6 million salary for next season.

Hammond drafted UNLV freshman shooting guard Rashad Vaughn with the 17th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.  All told, assuming that Hammond resigns restricted free agent shooting guard/small forward Khris Middleton and that small forward/power forward Jared Dudley does NOT exercise his early termination option, Hammond will have 18 players under contract for the 2015-16 NBA season even though he only actually has 15 roster spots.

Here is how the depth chart currently shakes out:
- Point Guard: Michael Carter-Williams, Jerryd Bayless, Greivis Vasquez, Tyler Ennis, and Jorge Gutierrez
- Shooting Guard: Khris Middleton, O.J. Mayo, and Rashad Vaughn
- Small Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damien Inglis, and Caron Butler
- Power Forward: Jabari Parker, Jared Dudley, Johnny O'Bryant III, and Shawne Williams
- Center: John Henson, Zaza Pachulia, and Miles Plumlee

Hammond has some wiggle room since at least three of the contracts (Gutierrez, Butler, and Williams) are NOT guaranteed but that also means that Hammond cannot sign more than one or possibly two free agents without trading away players.

Hammond has $12 million in salary cap space for the 2015-16 season but most, if NOT all of that, will be taken up Middleton if the Bucks are able to retain his services.  That means the Bucks will be left with almost no money to shop on the free agent market.  Hammond will most likely create $7 million in salary cap space by cutting Butler, Gutierrez, and Williams.

For better or worse even if Middleton does NOT resign with the Bucks they are all set at point guard, shooting guard, and small forward.  The same could be argued for power forward or center but there is a ton of potential turnover at those spots over the next couple season and those are the two positions of strength in free agency this off-season so the Bucks need to at least take a look.

At power forward there are some interesting expensive veterans: LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan, Kevin Love, Paul Milsap, and David West.  The same goes for center too: Omer Asik, Tyson Chandler, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Brook Lopez, Greg Monroe, and Amar'e Stoudemire.  There are some really enticing restricted free agent options at center too in Bismack Biyombo and Enes Kanter.

There are some more cost effective power forwards (e.g. Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright) and centers (e.g. Cole Aldrich, Robin Lopez, and Greg Stiemsma) about to hit the free agent market but unless Hammond is considering signing Wright, this is NOT the season to make a move on guys like that given how precious roster spots on The 15 are for the 2015-16 season.  Hammond might beed to fill out The 15 with cost-effective backups next off-season given that the Bucks have two restricted free agents (Henson and Pumlee) and four unrestricted (Bayless, Mayo, Pachulia, and Vasquez).  Hammond should always try to balance the short-term and long-term needs of The 15, unfortunately this off-season he painted himself in a corner.

It would be easy to say that it makes sense to break the bank on a couple of sexy names listed above but a number of those free agents will NOT even consider Milwaukee (Aldridge, Duncan, Gasol, and Love) so that already narrows the field.  Of the those free agents that would realistically consider the Bucks, the three most intriguing are DeAndre Jordan, Brook Lopez, and Greg Monroe.  I am not sure if it is the pull of The Greek Freak and Parker but there are some quality players that publicly said they have the Bucks on the short list of teams that they are willing to meet with. Jordan is reportedly only meeting with four teams (Bucks, Clippers, Lakers, and Mavericks) and Monroe is reportedly only meeting with five teams (Bucks, Celtics, Lakers, Knicks, and Trailblazers).

In terms of realistic moves that Hammond could make, I would offer the max to Jordan, Lopez, or Monroe.  I would even be okay with a sign-and-trade for any of those guys as long as it does NOT involve giving up more than one future first round pick or any of the top-end talent on The 15 (The Greek Freak, Parker, or Henson).  The odds that any of the three actually come to Milwaukee are slim but it is fun to speculate because a stud center would round out The 15 nicely for the Bucks for the next couple seasons.  Plus, it will help me get over missing out on Dakari Johnson (C, Kentucky) as a part of the horrific 2015 draft day trade the Raptors that netted the Bucks an overpaid backup point guard in Vasquez.

If Hammond misses out on all of the guys above, I will given my advice for how he could bottom feed in mid-to-late July.  In the mean time, buckle up because rumors are going to start flying daily for the next two weeks until players actually start signing with teams on July 9th.  Whatever happens, make sure to check back for full coverage in this space in mid-July.

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