It’s the pressing question that is surprising to say the least.  I mean, the guy was once given a $90 million contract.  He’s likely going to end his career the Bucks all-time leading scorer.  He’s averaged over 20 points in six consecutive years.  Is it simply a case of a favorable schedule lining up for the Bucks at the right time, or is there really something to this current squad’s makeup.  The question is being tossed around Milwaukee with vivacity these days.

Are the Bucks better off without Michael Redd?

Even though I might be in the minority, I say no.  Many people are ready to dump Redd for expiring contracts, just to get him off the books.  Well it’s typically not that easy.  Teams have been gearing up for this off-season for the last few years, so taking back a player whose contract isn’t up for another two years isn’t high on everyone’s to do list.  Even if the Bucks were offered large expiring contracts that likely keeps them from being a serious threat to the playoffs this year, and if the Memphis Grizzlies have shown us anything, it’s that it’s hard to develop young players on consistently poor performing teams.  The Bucks would better serve the development of their young guys (not to mention satisfy the hunger of the guys who have been here for a few years) by making a playoff push this year.

If you haven’t yet, check out Alex’s recap of Monday’s game over at BrewHoop.  You’ll notice he points out the Bucks free throw shooting woes as one of the reasons they lost last night and one of their most pressing issues going forward.  Not only do the Bucks shoot poorly from the line, they almost never get there.  For all the wonderful things Brandon Jennings has done, get to the free throw line a bunch hasn’t been one of them.  He’s averaging roughly five attempts per game.  In Redd’s injury plagued 2008-09 season that’s about what he managed, but he’s typically good for seven free throw attempts a game.  When the competition gets tougher and the other team is rolling, those will really come in handy.

Part of the reason for the struggles at the line has been the limitations in the respective games of Redd’s primary replacements, Charlie Bell and Jodie Meeks. Combined, Bell and Meeks have attempted 13 free throws in 14 games.  Bell isn’t terrible, but he’s not very good either.  He’s been hitting the three point shot with some regularity, which is something the Bucks need from him off the bench, but when he’s forced into a primary role, he’s simply not talented enough to contribute what a typical starting two guard does.  In shooting guards who’ve played at least eight games, Bell ranks seventh from the bottom in PER.

As for Meeks?  Was his 5-for-7 from three point range outburst against the Knicks a mirage?  It has been the exception thus far rather than the rule.  After that game he was all but anointed starting shooting guard for the next decade, but it’s clear he’s not quite that good of a shooter for real.  A lot of his shots seem to hit the front of the rim. I don’t know if that’s an issue with him not using his legs or some other mechanical thing, but I think it’s a good sign he’s missing the same way often, makes it seem more “fixable”.  Meeks athleticism has been a pleasant surprise, but it hasn’t translated into many trips to the line.  He’s been getting by his man, but not doing much once he does.

Meeks and Bell combine for a PER of 18.7 … or 1.2 points lower than Michael Redd’s career number.  For Redd’s flaws he still can be a factor offensively.  No, he shouldn’t ever try to dunk again, but that doesn’t mean he can’t absorb some contact and be an efficient scorer.  The Bucks struggles over the years have fallen on Redd, and semi-rightly so (his contract was/is an albatross that prevented the Bucks from doing some things.  Though Larry Harris probably would have screwed up in some other way had he not given Redd those dollars.) but Redd has never had a point guard like Brandon Jennings before.  Frankly, Redd has never had a teammate like Jennings, but look at Redd’s starting point guards since he took over for Ray Allen.

Year Point Guard
2003-04 TJ Ford
Damon Jones
2004-05 Mo Williams
2005-06 Ford
2006-07 Williams
Earl Boykins
2007-08 Williams
Ramon Sessions
Royal Ivey
2008-09 Luke Ridnour
Ramon Sessions

Not exactly a hall of fame roster.  Williams was a good scorer, but never known for his distributing, while Ford was the exact opposite.  Earl Boykins?  Royal Ivey?  These are the guys getting Redd the ball and sharing the load in the back court with him?

Jennings talked yesterday about Redd coming back and being the number two option after Andrew Bogut. While I’m sure the Mo Williams’ of the world said those types of things, rarely did we see him make a concerted effort to get Redd going.  No, the poor quality of players next to him doesn’t absolve all of his sins, but playing with Jennings may prove to be a revelation for Redd.

He certainly has been one for those of us watching him.