30 teams in 36 or so days: Milwaukee Bucks
September 15th, 2007
Players acquired via free agency or trade:
Desmond Mason (two years, $10.4 million)
Jake Voskuhl (one year, $3 million)
Awvee Storey (one year minimum)
Players acquired via draft:
First round: Yi Jianlian (6th overall)
Second round: Ramon Sessions (56th overall)
Maurice Williams (re-signed, six years, $51.263 million)
Ersan Ilyasova (signed in Spain, rights retained), Charlie Bell (unsigned, rights retained for now), Damir Markota (waived on general principle, see blog entry), Earl Boykins (opted out, unsigned), Jared Reiner (signed in Spain), Ruben Patterson (signed with Clippers), Brian Skinner (team option declined, unsigned)
It’s difficult to convey how I feel about the Bucks offseason and recent past without stealing too much directly from my own recent blog entry. So that’s exactly what I’ll do.
After a poor 2004-05 season in which they finished with a disappointing 30-52 record, the Bucks beat long odds to win the lottery, and also had maximum cap room available to them. This offseason, they once again had potentially maximum cap room, and a high pick (#6) in a supposedly powerhouse draft.
And once again, they have not taken advantage.
2005’s offseason yielded Andrew Bogut with the first overall pick, one of the better players of a weak draft but far from the best. The cap space was spent on re-signing Michael Redd to a maximum contract (decide amongst yourselves whether it was worth it), signing the Most Improved Player of the previous season (Bobby Simmons) to a $46.4 million contract only to then see him miss one season and disappoint in the next, and re-signing Dan Gadzuric to a considerably overpriced deal, all while letting the younger, cheaper and better Zaza Pachulia sign with Atlanta, unchallenged.
This offseason brought much of the same. They signed another starting small forward in Desmond Mason, who figures to not only make the Simmons signing look that much worse, but who should also be roughly the equal of the man he is replacing – Ruben Patterson – and signed Jake Voskuhl to compete with/replace Gadzuric at the back-up centre spot. Voskuhl, too, figures to be the mere equal of the guy he has replaced, the unheralded Brian Skinner. (OK, so “unheralded” is a blatant embellishment. But you know what I mean.)
In addition to the disappointments in free agency, the Bucks also had an ongoing saga with their draft choice at #6, Yi Jianlian, whose agents and ‘people’ warned Milwaukee that their client did not want to play there, going as far as refusing to let Bucks personnel watch a private workout conducted by Yi. The Bucks took the risk and drafted him anyway, and much dalliance ensued. It ended reasonably amicably, as Yi has signed his rookie contract and will join the team as normal. But it is reported that he does so only after obtaining a minimum playing time guarantee. And that’s…..bizarre.
Charlie Bell, one of the few bright spots over the last two years (an under-the-radar find by General Manager Larry Harris, a man who is quite good at doing that), has been subjected to his own soap opera with the Bucks this offseason. A restricted free agent combo guard, Bell had to take a back seat as the Bucks prioritised the re-signing of unrestricted guard Maurice Williams (who, for what it’s worth, has the same agent as Bell), and also had no choice but to look on as Milwaukee spent the rest of their cap space on Desmond Mason and Jake Voskuhl (who, for what it’s worth, also has the same agent as Bell). This probably unsettled Charlie a bit – if a team spends the salary slot that they should be using on you to instead sign a 10 mpg backup centre, you’re entitled to interpret that as a bit of a kick in the balls.
Nevertheless, the Bucks kept Bell as a restricted free agent, not renouncing him as they did with everybody else (except Ersan Ilyasova), and continued to negotiate with him. Bell turned down all offers made to him by Milwaukee, but never signed an offer sheet with another club, despite playing the field a bit to try and force Milwaukee to increase their offer. Milwaukee didn’t – at least, not by enough for Bell, who turned down Milwaukee’s reported final offer of three years and $9 million. And now Bell’s all but gone, leaving Milwaukee with Lynn Greer, Ramon Sessions and David Noel as backup guards for next year. They can, they will and they should do something about that before the season starts, but with only the minimum salary to work with, that’s not a good result from what started out as near-maximum cap room.
All in all, something of a cock-up this offseason. Even the bits that went well only did so via a roundabout method.
Oh, and let’s not forget the Damir Markota experience. This was fun.
The Bucks’ championship aspirations last season were marred by two rather important drawbacks:
a) Everybody seemed to get injured
b) They were a terrible defensive team.
The only Bucks players to play more than 68 games last year were Patterson and Bell. The only Bucks players to play much defence last year were Patterson, Bell and Brian Skinner.
Those three have all left the team.
Replacing them are Desmond Mason, a player that Milwaukee need not have ever lost in the first place were it not for the extremely poor Jamaal Magloire trade of October 2005, and a man scheduled to play Ruben Patterson’s former role to a lesser standard than Ruben Patterson did. Jake Voskuhl replaces Brian Skinner and, while he’s not a particularly good one, Jake has an outside chance at being the Bucks’ best defensive player this season. (If he sees the court, that is.) And as mentioned above, Charlie Bell and Earl Boykins have not been replaced, leaving the Bucks very thin in the backcourt behind the starters.
This rather unsuccessful shuffling of personnel leaves a lot of pressure and expectation on the Bucks’ young big man trio of Andrew Bogut, Charlie Villanueva and Yi Jianlian. In the coming season or two, one – or preferably more than one – of these players has to step up, break out, and assume the franchise mantle. Villanueva and Bogut have the talent to do so, but both suffered disappointing sophomore seasons in which they did not make particularly significant improvements to their games, albeit with both missing a lot of games due to injury. However, all the opportunity they can handle is once again available to them (unless you think Jake Voskuhl was signed to be a regular starter, in which case, you’re an idiot), and the Milwaukee franchise goes as far as they do. Milwaukee needs them to succeed for this current era to be going anywhere.
If they don’t, the Bucks will once again be an offence-only team, led by the perimeter games of Michael Redd and Maurice Williams, a team that can make the 6-8 seeds if all goes well, or a team which could once again end up in the lottery if their luck with injuries does not change.
Oh yeah, and Andrew Bogut cut his hair into a pony tail. I thought you should know.
I am continuously intrigued by the esoterica and minutiae of all the aspects of building a basketball team. I want to understand how to build the best basketball teams possible. No, I don’t know why, either.
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