The Bucks are rarely in a favorable situation come trade deadline time. They’ve seemed to yearly be trying to sneak in the back door of the playoffs while trying not to sell out their future. Remarkably they are rarely able to accomplish either. But the Bucks went to great lengths this trade deadline to finally try and have some success now, while building towards a realistic plan later. It has the appropriate amount of sweet mixed with enough of the tang I like. Just like the candy that pulls fillings out on a daily basis. The sweetest part of the deals were the accumulation of draft picks, but the tang that has some excited now was the Bucks big player acquisition.
So, John Salmons, huh?
Salmons is a scorer first and foremost and should fit well on a team that needs as much scoring as they can get. And as much as everyone knows the Bucks need some more punch up front at the four, shooting guard may have been an even bigger need. According to 82games.com, the Bucks have a net PER production of 11.7 at the shooting guard spot and defensively allow a 14.4 PER to opposing twos. The negative 2.7 difference is slightly worse than what the Bucks produce at the three and far worse than what they’ve produced at the four, making two guard statistically their worst position.
It’s not too difficult to believe that. Charlie Bell has spent the majority of the Bucks minutes at the two, but he’s really just a spot-up shooter and below average hustle player. Don’t get me wrong, Bell does everything he can and is getting the most out of his talents out there, but he just doesn’t have a lot of gas left in his tank at this point. He can’t create his own shot or get anything off the bounce. Salmons is as good a three-point shooter and has taken more than twice as many free-throws as Bell this year, indicating he can get to the hoop a little. Even from a simple physical perspective, it helps the Bucks to have the 6-6 Salmons checking the Vince Carter’s and Stephen Jackson’s of the world at the two rather than the overmatched Bell.
But to be honest, as much as I like picking up Salmons for the next two years, what actually elated me about the deadline deals Milwaukee made was the insistence on picks in return and the keeping of first round picks.
If Milwaukee is ever going to win a championship, it’s not going to be because the Bucks signed the equivalent of a Shaquille O’Neal like the Lakers did in the late 90’s. It’s unrealistic. Don’t even acknowledge any talk you hear about the Bucks and big time free agents in 2011, because it isn’t going to happen. 2011 may be the Bucks big plan and it isn’t a bad one, but if they think they’re going to reshape the roster through free agency with anything other than overpaid semi-star players, ala the Bobby Simmons signing, they have another thing coming in two years.
That’s why the picks are so important.
Quality young players are hard to find and the NBA draft is, to say the very least, an inexact science. But the more picks teams have, the more they can do. The Bucks now have six second round picks in the next three years and while it’s easy to scoff at those picks as being wastes given the general lack of impact in the second round, they’re actually quite valuable. See a European guy who has some talent but needs refining? Take him in the second round and stash him in Europe, maybe he’ll blossom. **Cough** Ersan Ilyasova ***cough***. Medical problems or a questionable attitude have someone falling? If a team has extra picks, taking a flier isn’t such a bad idea on the Dejuan Blair’s and Deandre Jordan’s.
And if the Bucks really want a star, acquiring young players is the real route for them. Every year more and more teams are looking to dump quality players at the deadline if they can get a young player or two in return. The Bucks are positioning themselves to have numerous quality young players if they draft well, or perhaps a couple first round quality guys if they trade some of the second round picks to move up in the draft.
I asked John Hammond about the importance of holding onto the upcoming first round pick.
“I think right now where we’re at; I think it’s very important. We had some discussions about moving our pick and, you know we just feel right now, where we’re at as an organization, we talk about the future, one summer removed in 2011, if we can add good young assets I think it’s important for us to keep our picks.”
Hammond said the draft picks were an important part of the deal with Chicago, just one team that was interested in the Bucks expiring contracts.
“You’d even like more than what we got out of the deal. We’re happy with how things worked out. We talked about having on our roster already and acquiring more expiring contracts and really our expiring contracts were by far what brought us the most conversation on our roster.”
As for the concern some have had that the Bucks have just made it possible for their division rival to swoop in and land Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh?
“You hesitate trading in the division with a team like Chicago who is, so to speak, right around the corner from us. Chicago was in a significant position already, they already had $13 million in cap room. Did they pick up additional room? They did. I think they were going to have other ways to do that if they didn’t do that with us and I think there were other opportunities out there with them. I don’t mean to speak for them, but I think you can safely say if they didn’t move John to us, they were going to move him somewhere else. At the end of the day you have to do what’s best for your organization.”
So as much as I like the thought of getting more production out of the shooting guard position on the Milwaukee Bucks as currently constructed, I’m even more excited that, for the time being, the Bucks general manager is seeing the value of a draft pick. It’s hard to recall the last time Milwaukee fans were able to say that.