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Bucks offseason homework: Figure out what kind of team they are

Apr 30, 2013, 4:46 PM EDT

jennings-ellis Getty Images

There is a dump truck full of questions the Milwaukee Bucks need to answer this offseason — what to do with interim coach Jim Boylan, should they expend a lot of energy to keep Monta Ellis and/or J.J. Redick, how much to offer Brandon Jennings, and many more.

But the answers to all of those questions start with the answer to another question:

What kind of team do the Milwaukee Bucks want to be?

Because the past couple seasons they have looked like a collection of mismatched parts with no overarching plan. They have two ball-dominating backcourt guards (that when paired on the court had the team -2.7 points per 100 possessions compared to their opponents) and they threw J.J. Redick in the mix, but that mesh was up and down. The Bucks played fast but were a bottom 10 offensive team, it all didn’t work.

So pick a style, Milwaukee. If you want to be defense-first then great, slow the pace down and get some better defending role players on the roster. Want to be a running team? Great, you need a roster that starts with guards who mesh better.

My guess is they stay up-tempo (the Bucks played at the third fastest pace in the league).

Once you pick a style, then get a coach that fits it — if that is a Jennings led up-tempo style Boylan is not your guy. Boylan took over the job mid-season after Scott Skiles left (they were .500 when he did). There are a host of good top assistants out there, each bringing a different feel and style to the dance (there is Mike Malone in Golden State, Brian Shaw in Indiana, but the rumor is the leader would be Kelvin Sampson of the Rockets).

Then the Bucks need to figure out the backcourt — do they want to make a big offer to Monta Ellis and let Brandon Jennings go, or watch Ellis leave and match any offer (short of a max deal) for Jennings? And what about J.J. Redick? Both Ellis and Redick are unrestricted free agents — they have the freedom to sign anywhere. Jennings is a restricted free agent, the Bucks can match any offer he gets — which makes him the most likely of the trip to stay.

Let me just note this for fun: As mentioned, when the backcourt was Jennings/Ellis the Bucks were outscored -2.7 points per 100 possessions. Ellis and Redick were +6.2; Jennings and Redick were -10.5. So you may seriously want to rethink plans for a Jennings/Redick backcourt.

The Bucks will have Ersan Ilyasova back, as well as Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Larry Sanders and Drew Gooden. Mike Dunleavy is a free agent but said he would be open to staying.

The result of all tis is likely the Bucks take a step back next season. That’s fine if there is a solid plan being followed to move forward after that.

What I fear for Bucks fans is another roster made up of whatever guys they can grab, with little concern for how it all fits together. We’ve seen that movie, and how it ends.

  1. saint1997 - Apr 30, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    Their frontline of Sanders, Henson and Mbah a Moute actually shows a lot of potential to be really good, especially on the defensive end. Surely they would want to build around solid defence. Maybe let BJ and Ellis leave and trade for Bledsoe, getting a Bledsoe/Ellis backcourt

    • moseskkim - Apr 30, 2013 at 6:10 PM

      How u gonna trade for Bledsoe and more importantly how do u let Ellis leave then have a Bledsoe and Ellis combo?

      • mazblast - May 1, 2013 at 12:16 AM

        I think he meant “let Redick leave”, but I could be reding my own thoughts into that. I’ve never been impressed by Redick, more pedigree than player.

      • saint1997 - May 1, 2013 at 4:18 AM

        yeh sorry man I meant reddick and I’m sure they can trade some future firsts and some quality role players for Eric

    • jjthesportsguy - May 1, 2013 at 3:25 PM

      Mbah a Moute is exactly what you see. A top 20 defender in the league, but will never be a threat offensively. He doesn’t show much potential at all actually. He has been exactly what he is since he came into the league.

      There are few worse shoot arounds that I can remember than Luc Richard pre-game. I do enjoy watching him defend, but the only worse jump shooter I can remember as a Buck with that size and athleticism was Joe Alexander. Luc Richard is a solid role player and dependable defender when needed to start against an elite player.

  2. onbucky96 - Apr 30, 2013 at 5:39 PM

    I’m worried. This team is rebuilding every other year. No one wants to stay unless we WAY overpay. The Bradley Center was state of the art in the 80s, good luck getting public money to pay for a new home. Milwaukee still is grumbling about paying for Miller Park. And Seattle is still looking for a team. No new arena means no NBA in Milwaukee in under 5yrs.

    • fm31970 - Apr 30, 2013 at 10:16 PM

      I said this last year when the Kings to Seattle talk started to appear, but will repeat it- I see the Bucks leaving as well, and Seattle seems the most likely destination. Herb Kohl retired as a Senator, he’s near 80, and I don’t think his heart is into owning the team as it once was. I think it would be better for the NBA to have a team in Seattle than Milwaukee. Herb Kohl could get way more money for the franchise from the Seattle group than he could anyone else, and the Bradley Center is not something I see him sticking his own money into. He already did that with the Kohl Center in Madison.

      The irony of a Milwaukee-to-Seattle move certainly wouldn’t be lost on any Pilots/Brewers fans, either. I honestly don’t see the rabid fan base here like I see in Sacramento, and the Bucks are always third behind the Packers and Brewers. A very distant third to boot.

      Once the Bucks move to Seattle, the T-Wolves could then take the Bucks place in the Central Division (where they should’ve been since the start of the franchise), playing Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, and Indiana, and the Seattle team would take Minny’s spot in the West.

      Also, doesn’t Ellis have a player option to return, or did he decline that already? Not a chance Reddick returns from what he said after Game Three of the Heat series. Boylan = gone. Jennings = probably gone, too.

    • moneymike23 - Apr 30, 2013 at 11:33 PM

      No, the team doesn’t rebuild. They are just TERRIBLE! I cannot remember the last time they actually tried rebuilding. Obviously they would take a huge risk doing this but this is the right thing to do. They finished under.500 w/ all these guys and have ended up picking in the lottery or fighting for the 8th seed for the last 10 years.

      Milwaukee Bucks= Mediocrity Central. Time to tank Herb or do the town a favor and relocate the team.

  3. logisticalvoices - Apr 30, 2013 at 6:16 PM

    For the prick that was crying earlier about the post dealing with the Lakers offseason homework: congratulations! Your dumpster fire of a franchise has a post of its own now!

    • philtration - Apr 30, 2013 at 8:51 PM

      And then you come into it and whine about the Lakers again.

  4. 1972wasalongtimeago - Apr 30, 2013 at 8:28 PM

    The Bucks aren’t that far off. Never should have fired Skiles. Get rid of Jennings. Get rid of Reddick. More Dunleavy. Mboute is good. So is Irslalov. Sanders is good too.

    It’s not about getting players to come to Milwaukee. Players will come. The Packers have no problem signing FAs.
    Bucks are much better than advertised. They just got a bad 1st round draw. Need a good coach. Skiles was a good coach. SVG?

    • jjthesportsguy - May 1, 2013 at 11:44 AM

      The Packers never sign free agents(when they do, they’re guys you’ve never heard of), so I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Attracting free agents to Milwaukee is definitely an issue. Outside of Charles Woodson and Reggie White(20 years prior), tell me one big name free agent who has chosen to join a Wisconsin sports team via free agency.

  5. senorpapino - May 1, 2013 at 9:07 AM

    The Bucks are similar to Houston until this year…some good players and a lot of role/complimentary players but nothing resembling a superstar. To take the next step, I think they will have to gamble on a star player like Bynum or S&T for someone like Pau Gasol. Not sure what pieces other teams would want but I think they will be in mediocrity unless they attempt a big move.

  6. gpack22 - May 1, 2013 at 10:35 AM

    They shouldn’t even consider keeping Jennings. Doesnt have a good shot yet keeps jacking it up. Can’t play D and is just as likely to have same amount of TO’s as assists. More importantly, he doesn’t want to be there. Been talking about a big market city for years. With all that said the Yucks will probably resign him for big $$$ because that’s what bad franchises do!!!

  7. jjthesportsguy - May 1, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    Here is my to do list for the Bucks. I think living 6 blocks away and attending 22 home games, one in Minnesota, and one in Chicago this year gives me good enough insight to have an opinion on the topic.

    1. Get Henson minutes. Going into year 2, I think he has shown enough off the bench to be a shoe-in for the starting power forward position. I love his athleticism and you never know when he is going to go for 20 on the offensive end.

    2. Keep Larry Sanders 2b. Get Larry Sanders a coach(or assistant) who can develop his immense potential and get him to understand the mentality a big man needs when teams are frustrating him. Technical fouls and that attitude are going to make or break his career.

    3. Luc Richard and Illysova are really role players. I think they should tag-team the 3 and backup 4 role. With these 2 guys you have to play matchups with your starting lineup depending on who you’re playing. Neither of them is an everyday guy in my opinion, but I think they should both be getting about 25 minutes a night. They do not currently have a starting caliber NBA 3/SF on the roster.

    4. DO NOT resign Redick. He has the attitude an make-up of a guy that was pissed he got traded to Milwaukee from the start. I’ve heard the 5 yrs 40 million rumor from several outlets, and even Drew Gooden thinks that is a bad contract…speaking of Gooden.

    5. Get Gooden some minutes. He is a servicable big in the NBA. Skiles and Boylan have blackballed him, and I think a new regime would be the best case scenario for Gooden and fans of the team who paid Gooden so much money.

    6. Pick either Jennings or Ellis and get them locked up long-term. Not only lock them up long term, but as an organization go out of your way to communicate that this is their team to whichever they choose to move forward with. My pick is Jennings as I think the writing has been on the wall that Ellis is leaving and he should have been traded at the deadline to get something, anything (picks or expiring contract) for him.

    7. Dalembert sounds like a guy already looking to sign to a contender for the veteran minimum….but I think Birdman is going to take that big man spot next season in Miami. Maybe Boston for Dalembert?

    8. Ayon, Daniels, Dunleavy, Ish Smith. Ayon/Smith – I think these two could be mid to long-term role players for a successful Bucks team. Daniels/Duleavy – They are a patch job to more servicable players in my opinion. I’m not sure the Bucks have a GM in place that can identify more servicable players though.

    9. Pryzbilla/Udoh. Pryzbilla – we get it, you own a full-time home in Wisconsin. I’ve met him personally and he is a great guy, just not sure he belongs on this roster going forward. Youth and potential outweigh an aging injury prone guy…for the right price he can stay. Udoh – Don’t know what to do with him. I think Udoh is a guy that will forever show flashes, but never amount to much in the NBA. In that case, trade him for picks/young guys.

    10. Tobias Harris – oh wait, they traded him(idiots).

    Going forward it will be tough for the Bucks to attract free agents to Milwaukee. There are rumblings in the local papers that the ownership group looking to move the Kings to Seattle will now be targeting the Bucks. If they’re unable to secure a new stadium in Milwaukee, the team and league have said that they will consider moving the franchise. Free agents have never been very keen on Milwaukee, so they are limited to targeting mid-tier guys. If the Bucks want more fire power offensively, maybe they make a run at a guy like Nick Young. I personally have always like Tyreke Evans(even with his well documented shooting struggles), but I won’t hold my breath on that. The Bucks could use his perimeter defense and ability to get to the basket. I would also personally love the bucks to go after a guy like Earl Clark or Al-Farouq Aminu, but I’m not holding my breath on that either. I think we’re more likely to see older free agents who are looked over much like the Dunleavy, Daniels, Pryzbilla types. It’s just the way the Bucks do business.

  8. pack93z - May 1, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    Personal opinion, the Bucks need to first find a constructive balance between owner and GM.. they might have that now, but reports every now and then point to Kohl pulling strings. But that really is the least of their problems.

    Hammond I think overall has done well in assembling talent and shedding contracts, albeit Gooden not playing this season and his contract extension withstanding.. not sure if that was more a coach issue.

    The coach and the relationship to all the players on the roster is the real issue. when player refuse to talk to the coaches, there is a freaking problem.. some of that is player related but some of that is coaching related.. based on JJ Redick’s comments, might be more of a coaching issue than players.

    So step one.. hire a coach that:

    1. Will stay in Milwaukee and understand the fan base is burnt out on the rebuilding talk, step in do more talk less about it.

    2. A coach that has a plan, will commit to a rotation and direction of play. (In line with the article)

    3. Has a personality and understands the blend between discipline and actually building rapport with the players. Skiles has the personality of a pissed off bulldog and Boylan apparently believed that grown men will accept being treated like teenagers.

    4. Prior to either cutting loose or resigning Jennings, actually has a real and honest discussion with Brandon. Jennings is what he is.. a maturing young man that most times plays with full effort. At the very least form an opinion in which they can work well together or not.

    5. After 4.. sit with the GM and figure out a game plan at guard. Not a throw it together and hope. Personally, if Jennings is allowed to walk, focus on Ellis and JJ.. when allowed to work together, that seemed like the best combo on the floor. Find a PG to groom and keep Dunleavy as a swing 2-3.

    The front court of this team is pretty solid, especially if we keep or put some beef behind Sanders. Sanders hopefully will mature emotionally and keep that in check..

    Chemistry, Communication and rapport between the players and coach seems to be the biggest issue on the Bucks. Start with a coach that can manage the above.. and I think the talent is here.

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