As the 2015-2016 NBA regular season winds down, 16 teams around the NBA turn their focus towards the playoffs. This year, the Milwaukee Bucks are not one of those teams. Instead, they turn their focus elsewhere.
This is an incredibly important offseason for this growing Bucks team. Even with Giannis, Jabari and Khris Middleton establishing themselves as the clear future core of this team, there are many question marks on the roster moving forward. As I’ve alluded to before, the NBA Draft will be incredibly important for the Bucks, but until we get lottery and scouting results, most of that is pure conjecture at this point. Equally as important will be how Milwaukee’s front office attacks free agency.
Last year, the Bucks wowed people across the league when they won the Greg Monroe free agency stakes amidst competition from huge markets like New York and Los Angeles. Bucks fans have since learned that Monroe is indeed not elite, but his signing set a new precedent for Milwaukee’s ability to garner interest from talented players in the league. Recently, eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard expressed his interest in playing with Milwaukee’s young core, one that has improved exponentially since he said so at the trade deadline. Add these reasons along with head coach Jason Kidd, a front office committed to winning, and the shiny new stadium on the way, and all of the sudden Milwaukee is an appealing free agent destination with plenty of room to grow.
There are plenty of question marks Milwaukee needs to address with this roster. O.J. Mayo, Greivis Vasquez, Jerryd Bayless and Steve Novak are all set to be free agents at season’s end. Miles Plumlee will be a restricted free agent, which means Milwaukee can match any offer a team makes him, so I’m assuming he’ll stay given his second-half performance. Add in questions surrounding the long-term fit of Michael Carter-Williams and Greg Monroe, and there’s plenty that needs to be addressed.
With so many question marks, I only have so much to work with. That said, I feel pretty confident Mayo would only stay at a huge discount, and I doubt Novak and Vasquez will be brought back. Bayless was an absolute steal for the Bucks and is a wonderful combo-guard off the bench, but his stint with the Bucks means he is about to earn a lot more than the $3 million per year the Bucks were paying him. With all that in mind, I’d like to look at some potential bench options for the Bucks to target in free agency. If you’re more interested in pursuing potential starters, read here for a nice primer on free-agent-to-be Nicolas Batum.
The importance of solid bench play cannot be overstated; just look at the depth and success of San Antonio’s and Golden State’s reserves. It helps your stars play less minutes during the grueling regular season and it gives lineups much more flexibility in the postseason. Milwaukee’s bench has been simply atrocious this year, although some of that can be attributed to injuries to Mayo, Vasquez, John Henson, Tyler Ennis, and MCW.
Even still, the Bucks’ bench is 29th in per-game averages of scoring, minutes, rebounding, three-point field goals made/attempted, and most notably Efficiency Recap and Efficiency Recap Difference, which essentially try to account for the entire unit’s effect on the game. If the Bucks want to make the playoffs next year, improving the bench will be as important as anything this offseason. Milwaukee specifically needs to target shooting, defense, and playmaking. Here’s how they can do it.
Big men who can shoot
Mirza Teletovic (30, current salary: $5.5 million)
After trading away Jared Dudley to save cap space, it became immediately apparent how badly Milwaukee needed a stretch-4 on the roster. None of Milwaukee’s big men can shoot, and it has really affected the Bucks’ spacing and lineup flexibility. Teletovic is a 6’9” sharpshooter who would fix this problem, and he’s also capable of putting the ball on the floor and driving to the hoop. Jason Kidd is a huge fan of his game from coaching him in Brooklyn, and it was rumored the Bucks targeted him at the trade deadline. Teletovic wouldn’t solve the defensive issues, but he would bring much needed shooting and veteran experience to this team.
Jared Dudley (30, current salary: $4.38 million)
Can we just bring Dudley back and pretend like he never left? He was instrumental in Milwaukee’s playoff success against Chicago last year, acting both as a spot-up shooter and defensive leader. He’s liked wherever he goes and brings years of regular season and playoff experience in different situations. Man, I really miss Jared Dudley. He also won’t break the bank and may go overlooked by teams due to Washington’s down season.
Ersan Ilyasova (28, current salary: $7.9 million)
We might as well just get the whole squad back together. Ersan likely won’t command as much money as his current contract, and rumor is he never sold his house in Mequon (Milwaukee suburb).
Ryan Anderson (27, current salary: $8.5 million)
Anderson will be easily the most coveted of the bunch, as he’s shown for years he’s capable of scoring 30 points on a given night. He’s a notably poor defender, though, and has also proven to be inconsistent. Rumors already have him linked to his old coach Stan Van Gundy in Detroit, so I don’t really see this happening.
Marvin Williams (29, current salary: $7 million)
Williams as reinvented himself as the starting stretch-4 in Charlotte, and has had a very successful season as a result. With the expected rise in the salary cap and the new emphasis on spacing, I expect Williams to get a raise next season, and I expect Charlotte to try to keep him around. He is, however, the prototype of what Milwaukee should be targeting.
Kris Humphries (31, current salary: 245k, veteran’s minimum)
Though you may only remember Humphries from his Kardashian days, he’s actually a pretty legit stretch-5 that has quietly been helping Atlanta’s current hot streak. He’s another overlooked player, and one I think the Bucks should seriously consider, as he’s also a solid rebounder and defender and could pair nicely with John Henson.
Jeff Green (29, current salary: 9.2 million)
Courtney Lee (29, current salary: $5.7 million)
Lee is one of the more anonymous starters in the NBA, even though he started for a playoff team last year in Memphis and will do so again this postseason in Charlotte. He plays good defense, shoots the ball well, and doesn’t hurt team chemistry. He recently blocked LeBron, which should earn him at the very least a $2 million signing bonus. He’ll probably go elsewhere, but he’s the type of three-and-d wing Milwaukee needs to add to its depth.
Randy Foye (32, current salary: $3.3 million)
See above. Foye is a slightly older and shorter version of Lee who doesn’t play defense quite as well. That said, he’s more of a playmaker, so he could share second-unit playmaking duties with Ennis and MCW.
Dwyane Wade (34, current salary: $20 million)
So… this isn’t going to happen. But could you imagine?!?! I would personally pitch in to pay part of his contract.
Lance Thomas (27, current salary: $1.6 million)
That’s fine if you don’t know who Lance Thomas is. But he’s a solid bench contributor, and at 6’8” and with a decent midrange game, he could play the three or the four. He actually shot a really impressive 40% from three this season (in New York no less), and will likely be overlooked as he recovers from an MCL injury.
Gerald Green (30, current salary: $1.3 million)
When did Gerald Green become 30?? Green is the kind of player who will register three straight DNP-coaching decision and then come in and drop 27 the next game. Really though, I just want to see what would happen with him, Jabari and Giannis on the fast break. That is actually what we need to make America great again.
Marcus Thornton (28, current salary: 200k, veteran’s minimum)
Thornton is more of a shooter than a three-and-d player, and he’s played for seven different teams in six seasons. Still, at only 28 and a career 36% three-point shooter, he’s a cheap, low-risk option to fill out the end of the roster if Milwaukee needs to save money.
Leandro Barbosa (33, current salary: $2.5 million)
I think I just really like Leandro Barbosa. But seriously, he brings playoff pedigree, shooting, defense and a touch of playmaking, and he’s Brazilian, which is awesome. With Golden State busy trying to extend Harrison Barnes this summer, the Bucks should take advantage and add some much needed experience to this young team.
Aaron Brooks (31, current salary: $2.3 million)
Brooks is always getting into it with Bucks players, which probably doesn’t bode well for this pairing. With MCW and Ennis on the roster and Giannis the official starting point guard, I’m not convinced that Milwaukee even needs to go this route. But if they do, Brooks is the type of player they should target: he can shoot the three, run the offense, defend other point guards, and he doesn’t turn it over a lot.
Matthew Dellavedova (25, current salary: $1.2 million)
Look, I get it. You probably can’t stand this guy. But that’s exactly the point: if you can’t beat him, join him. Delly is a younger version of Brooks, and at 25, still has some potential to grow. Delly was supposedly unhappy with the way Cleveland handled his contract this offseason, and he clearly has earned a larger role than he receives with the Cavs. He works hard, gets in your face on defense, shoots the ball well enough, and is always the first guy in the floor for a loose ball. Even after last season’s playoff heroics, Delly barely garnered interest in free agency, which is why Cleveland was able to sign him to such a bargain deal. If that happens again, Milwaukee should pounce.
Rajon Rondo (30, current salary: $9.5 million)
Re: MCW’s shooting issues. No thanks.
Photo courtesy of USA-Today Sports.