We’ve got the center position covered. Shooting guard is locked up too. And point guard will take care of itself in the next few days. Either draft a point guard, bring back Ramon Sessions or do both. But what happens next at the forward positions?
The Bucks have given themselves a number of options.
One option would be Kurt Thomas. He might be bought out with the hopes of joining a playoff team before the season is over, but he could provide great toughness next to Andrew Bogut and know-how for the younger guys in the locker room. Amir Johnson could learn a lot from this guy. But Thomas won’t be getting a lot of minutes even if he did start.
The biggest question is whether or not Charlie Villanueva will return now. I say no. Realistically the Bucks freed up roughly ten million before moving Oberto for Amir Johnson. Now they sit around $8.5 million under the luxury tax with the task of signing Villanueva and Ramon Sessions at hand. The Bucks will likely offer Charlie Villanueva the qualifying offer of roughly $4.6 million, but it’s unlikely he’ll settle for a one year deal at that rate. If another team comes in and offers Villanueva eight million or so, the Bucks would be hard pressed to match that offer. Yes, Villanueva did a fantastic job after Michael Redd got hurt last season, but how would he adjust to life as the third or fourth option again? There would be less touches and chances to get into rhythms and for a player as streaky as Villanueva that would be damaging. Is that the kind of guy you want to head into luxury tax mode with?
I’m not saying Villanueva isn’t a good player and couldn’t be a valuable piece on a contender. I’m just saying for a team with as few assets as the Bucks that seems like a lot of money for an average power forward. And I don’t think you can rule out him getting a nice offer this summer. He was productive last year and is up against a fairly weak free agent crop. He’s likely the third or fourth best power forward available after Lamar Odom, Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap and maybe Rasheed Wallace.
Chad Ford on ESPN.com is reporting though that the Bucks are leaning more towards Charlie V. than Sessions as the main attraction for their money this off-season. Curious, but somewhat logical given the glut of point guards available in the draft. At the ten pick they should have the option of going with either Jrue Holiday, Jonny Flynn or Brandon Jennings.
Tuesday’s other acquisition, Amir Johnson, will be in the mix for minutes at the power forward spot also. If Villanueva were not to return it seems fathomable that the job would be Johnson’s to lose pending the draft pick. Johnson’s greatest flaw has been his inability to stay out of foul trouble and he’s had two coaches essentially give up on him in Detroit, but could be turning the corner at age 22. 22-year-old kids frequently need wake up calls before they make any progress, believe me. Johnson’s game screams energy guy off the bench if he is unable to defend in the post and word is that has been a problem for him in the past also. But Ben Wallace wasn’t that great of a post defender at first either, so who knows.
Their power forward options in the draft will be Jordan Hill or DeJuan Blair. Hill would have to do some falling to end up here for the Bucks, but in the most recent update at DraftExpress.com that’s exactly what he does. In Chad Ford’s newest mock draft he has Hill going to Golden State. If he falls past them it should land him in Milwaukee. Blair is still seen as an injury risk and I’m assuming unless his people can convince the Bucks otherwise, he won’t really be in the running at ten.
In that case Hill would probably be the pick and Villanueva would have to do what more and more people are doing these days, look for another job.
Speaking of draft picks, it will likely be last year’s draft class battling it out for minutes at the three. (Bruce Bowen was added in the RJ trade, but he’ll likely be cut or serving in a mentor type role.)
Speaking solely on talent, upside and the pride factor, Alexander probably has a bit of an edge. The front office is going to want to prove Alexander was not a mistake and they knew what they were talking about when they said he’d come around eventually. At the end of last year he was looking more and more comfortable with and without the ball and appeared to have range out to the three point line. That could be what swings things in his favor. Mbah a Moute was not a great three point shooter last year, and according to the Journal-Sentinel, will not be one next year either.
I’m not trying to shoot threes or anything like that . . . just having the proper rotation on the ball and developing the proper technique.
But one thing Mbah a Moute was great at was defense and in Scott Skiles, that’s what’s really important. With Bogut back and Johnson roaming the court as a help side defender, Skiles may very well be inclined to heap starter minutes back unto Mbah a Moute after he proved to be the Bucks best perimeter defender in his rookie season. A rookie season, I might add, that he spent the majority of at the power forward position. When he settles into his natural role at the three, he may be even better.
Hammond was adamant before that he expected to stay where he was at the ten spot and I don’t see a lot of opportunity to move up and grab any of the better wing players available, so I don’t see any real competition in the draft at the small forward position.
No matter what, it’s likely we’ll be seeing a lot more of both 2008 draft picks next year. If all goes well with the 2009 draft the Bucks should have a terrific young base to build upon with all their new-found 2010 cap room.