It’s easy to slam the Bucks past off-season.
Richard Jefferson was a big name, possibly a bigger name than Michael Redd. Jefferson led the Bucks in virtually every important offensive category last season. Jefferson has loads of playoff experience, a tendency to get to the free throw line and convert and as much athleticism as nearly anyone on the team. RJ has been a twenty point a night scorer (or thereabouts) for nearly his whole career, and the Bucks look to be short on scoring. He even had his own series of Time Warner Cable Triple Play commercials, after less than a year with the team.
Charlie Villanueva was arguably even better than Jefferson from January on last year. He found the three point stroke he never previously had and put up as many shots from deep as he had been before — which was a lot. He even occasionally rebounded well and converted from the line when he got there. Chuck V. is still only 25, so the word upside is still frequently used when he’s spoken about.
Ramon Sessions is everyone’s favorite guy that no one knows about. He holds the Bucks record for assists in a game. He had 44 and 12 against the Pistons once last year. He averaged roughly 15 and eight over the last three months. However you break down his numbers, they almost always look great. And, since no one really knows about him, Sessions was available for the bargain basement price of four million dollars a year, a steal for a (possibly) starting caliber point guard.
All three of these players left the Bucks in the past four months. The return?
Kurt Thomas, Carlos Delfino and Roko Ukic. Not. So. Impressive. At least to the naked eye. In addition to those guys, the Bucks got out of Jefferson’s cumbersome contract. The Bucks are sorely were sorely in need of financial healing after a slew of bad contracts over the years left them in NBA purgatory: good enough to be outside of the top five picks but bad enough to miss the playoffs every year. So, like ripping off a Band-Aid, John Hammond dealt a big money contract that was given to a not quite so big money player and cut the cord on two younger players with great offensive talent and suspect defense. After all, if defense isn’t your priority, you won’t be playing for Scott Skiles anyway.
These moves have earned the Bucks relentless panning. ESPN.com, SI.com, Bill Simmons and everyone else think the Bucks are a sure fire bet to finish last in the Central and the East. Mostly because they lost Jefferson, Villanueva and Sessions. After all, players as good as those three must have been an integral part of any success the Bucks had last year, right?
Most lineups that included those three players together, generally faired poorly on the court last year. The best they did was when paired with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Francisco Elson which netted a plus 11 net points on the year in 227 minutes. When paired with Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut, the lineup was outscored by 13 points in just 37 minutes. Being that likely would have been the starting lineup were all three of them brought back, it makes me feel slightly better about things.
Yes that is a small sample size and there could be many reasons for that, but when looking at a lineup like Sessions-Redd-Jefferson-Villanueva-Bogut one can’t help but wonder where the defense would have come from. And that’s likely some of the logic that Scott Skiles and John Hammond used when weighing the pluses and minuses of bringing back Villanueva and Sessions.
So it is POSSIBLE, that this off-season was not as bad as it’s currently being painted.