A lot is being made of the Bucks (potentially) losing Ramon Sessions for nothing, just like a lot was made of the Bucks losing Charlie Villanueva for nothing and similarly how a lot was made of the Bucks losing Richard Jefferson for very VERY little.
“How can the Bucks lose three of their best players from last season for nothing?!”
“Are they crazy?”
“Get (John) Hammond out of office!”
I’ll admit, it looks a little fishy. The Bucks were competing for a playoff spot last year sans Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut for a large part of the campaign. Charlie V. is in his mid-twenties and Sessions in the early part of his. Richard Jefferson, frustrating as he could be, was a reliable source of points on a team deficient of premier scoring options. Once they were healthy they surely would be a contender for one of the last playoff spots available in the East.
But what was the point?
What were the Bucks capable of even if completely healthy? Is this a team that was going to go any further than the first round of the playoffs? The goal of every NBA team should be to win a championship. This team had no shot at competing. They were not a player or two or even three away. There was no clear plan in place for the future at the end of last season. And this was something Bucks fans often complained about. Since the Summer of Larry Harris (Redd’s extension, Dan Gadzuric’s mind blowing raise and the Bobby Simmons fiasco) the Bucks had been on a path to nowhere. Typically talented enough to avoid top picks, but not quite good enough to make the playoffs. Injuries and bad luck often played a factor in preventing them from making a serious playoff run or a serious number one pick run, but they had no identity as a team. Overpaying for Redd and the rest of the spare parts kept them from being young and rebuilding. They continued to acquire the Ruben Patterson’s and Yi Jianlian’s, guys who were taking them only slightly further from the bottom. Milwaukee fans would annually complain about a team that was boring to watch and hopeless to root for.
Now a structure is beginning to take shape. So what that the organization chose not to make a qualifying offer on Villanueva? Let’s say they had. Now Villa is a restricted free agent and teams are weary on making him an offer. They know the Bucks are strapped for cash, but they aren’t exactly sure if the Bucks would make a run at freeing up money to bring back Villanueva if they saw a reasonable deal was made for him. Now he’s stuck in limbo and so are the Bucks. But let’s say the Pistons are really interested, maybe they’ll make a sign and trade offer instead of offering him a contract straight up. What is anyone going to give up of value for Charlie Villanueva? This isn’t Amare Stoudamire we’re talking about here. Teams aren’t’ going to throw prospects or anything other than bad contracts to the Bucks for a fourth or fifth scoring option. The only reason the Pistons gave up Amir Johnson for cap space in the RJ deal was because they had…well…given up on him. Look at the Pistons roster, who would the Bucks want back? No one. And don’t get me started about offering Villanueva an extension. What does he bring to the table that a combination of Ersan Ilyasova and Amir Johnson don’t at a little over half the price? Why lock him into a five or six year deal when no one knows what he’s going to bring to the table for the next five years.
Issuing a qualifying offer to Sessions made a lot more sense. No one really knew Sessions value coming into free agency and I’m not quite sure anyone really knows what it is now. All of the Sessions information is coming straight from the lips of his agent. There must be a reason he hasn’t signed a qualifying offer yet. I think teams know what is reasonable for him and what the Bucks will match. That’s why there is so much heat about a sign and trade right now. But again, what do the Knicks, or Clippers for that matter, have that the Bucks would want? Find one player on the Knicks that
A. the Knicks would be willing to give up for Ramon Sessions
B. the Bucks would want to be part of their plan to rebuild
Maybe Al Harrington for Dan Gadzuric’s contract and Sessions? But why would the Knicks want to take back a contract that extends past 2010? Isn’t that exactly why they dumped Jamal Crawford for Harrington in the first place? Sessions is nowhere near that valuable. Same for the Clippers. Are the Clippers going to dump a guy like Al Thornton to get Sessions when they have Baron Davis locked into a contract for the next four years? Would they dump Marcus Camby’s expiring for Gadz and Sessions? Why give up Camby when you’re gearing up for a playoff run and trying to sell tickets? It’s illogical, logic must be key for front offices. (Actually maybe not for the Clippers front office. Maybe they will dump Camby on the Bucks.) How many questions can I ask in one paragraph?
Logic is what is dictating the Bucks moves. They are finally grasping an identity. Andrew Bogut is a very good center. He’s also a young guy locked into a (mostly) reasonable deal. Brandon Jennings has immense potential. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute took a little more money for a little less freedom when he was drafted and now looks like a role player on a winning team kind of guy. Joe Alexander has incredible athletic ability that may or may not pan out. At least his contract isn’t going to kill us. Jodie Meeks looks like a real find at the two and Amir Johnson has a one year shot to impress the Bucks brass. All of these guys are young and cheap. This is where the Bucks have chosen to build. Not on bloated contracts to middling guys like Villanueva and Sessions. But don’t get me wrong, if Sessions latches back on with the Bucks for four years I’d be thrilled. I fell in love with his game last year and think he has a bright future in the league. But since none of us really know how good he can be or if he can really be special, it has to be at the right price. The Bucks are assembling a team of young guys who are athletic and cheap. Sounds like the recipe for the defensive minded Bulls teams Skiles guided to the playoffs a few years ago, no?
It’s clear the Bucks are blowing things up this summer, but this should have happened years ago. It’s a little painful to watch at time, I agree. But losing unproven guys like Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions for little to no compensation isn’t the end of the world. It simply means that the Bucks are finally beginning to recognize where value meets performance. Had the organization been doing that six years ago, we wouldn’t be in this mess right now in the first place. So if you find yourself howling about how bad of an off-season the Bucks are having and how embarrassing it is that they continue to lose players you think are good, just relax. Losing the best players off a team that failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs in each of the last eight seasons is not the end of the world. Just (hopefully) the beginning of the end of mediocrity.