I write this on the cusp of the next wild section of the NBA league year: free agency. For the Bucks, this is the time that will tell us what the team’s true intentions are: do they sign enough bodies to fill a team and #TankforWigginsin2014 or do they go all-in and try to contend this year?
Frank Madden of BrewHoop wrote an excellent primer on the finer points of free agency which explains the Bucks’ status with their free agents (both restricted and unrestricted) and more of the technicalities surrounding the process. We’ll take a look at players hitting the free agent market tomorrow (July 1) and who the Bucks (realistically or unrealistically) target to round out their roster this summer. Tom Ziller over at SBNation created a fine list of approximately 90 of the top free agents on the market this year and while we’re not crazy enough to tackle each one in relation to the Bucks, we’ll take a look at the more plausible and impactful signings the team could make.
First, a bit of housekeeping:
Currently, the Bucks’ payroll for 2013-14 sits at $31,081,659 (courtesy of HoopsHype). That number includes Brandon Jennings‘ $4.3 million qualifying offer which, as Frank mentions, could become much higher as other teams bid on the restricted free agent. The projected salary cap for 13-14 is $58.5 million, with a salary floor around $52.65 million (meaning that teams must spend at least that much money).
This means that the Bucks will have approximately $27 million in cap space (which could be expanded to $34 million if they decide to use the NBA’s amnesty clause on a certain point forward) and be required to spend about $25 million to meet the cap floor. That being said, here’s a look at some of the bigger names in free agency this offseason:
Forget About It
Dwight Howard and Chris Paul: These two have to be included on the list, if only to say no way. Would it be really cool to have Dwight and LARRY SANDERS! patrolling the paint? Or maybe an exquisite pick-and-roll between CP3 and John Henson? Of course it would. But even though the Bucks can offer a max contract this offseason, there’s no way either of this year’s biggest names come to Milwaukee. Moving on.
Andrew Bynum: It’s not often you get the chance to acquire a top-3 player at his position (when healthy) at a relative deal. However, Bynum is the biggest of risks coming off a year when he was the biggest of busts for the 76ers and didn’t play a minute of basketball due to knees that are practically disintegrating before our eyes. That being said, he showed just how good he could be with the Lakers before the knee issues arose and he can be had for significantly less than the max deal many felt he would get before his lost season. He won’t be interesting to the Bucks, though, given the inherent risk and their frontcourt depth.
Monta Ellis: When you turn down a $24 million extension and an $11 million option, it’s pretty safe to say you’re set to leave. It sounds as though the Bucks want Monta back, but the feeling clearly isn’t mutual. He’d be helpful for an incredibly thin backcourt and would have the opportunity to be a primary scorer, but Monta clearly wants to have it all elsewhere next year.
JJ Redick: Another departing Bucks free agent who could help solidify a shaky backcourt, Redick appears to be making up his mind to head elsewhere, according to Adrian Wojnarowski. Can you spot the less-than-great trend developing among players whose Bucks contracts are up?
Andre Iguadala: He’d be a great addition to shore up a lackluster defense (which gave up 100.4 points/game, 20th in the NBA in ’12-’13) and would help fill the shooting guard/occasional small forward hole the Bucks have. That said, he’s a hot target in free agency and there are a lot more appealing destinations for the swingman, who doesn’t appear too interested in Milwaukee anyways.
Let’s Talk About It
Josh Smith: The groundwork for this pairing was started at the trade deadline, when it appeared that the Bucks were mere minutes away from obtaining Smoove in a deal with the Atlanta Hawks. The interest that the Bucks showed then may pay off in negotiations with the jumper-happy small forward, who is allegedly looking for a max deal. Would he come to Milwaukee if they offered him one? It’s a possibility.
J.R. Smith: He’s the reigning 6th Man of the Year in the NBA, he’s still only 27, and three of his first four Google search autocomplete results have nothing to do with basketball.
Two of those are good things. I’ll let you guess which ones. But J.R.’s a scorer (an inefficient scorer but a scorer nonetheless) and he’ll be more affordable than most other shooting guards in this free agent class (smart guesses are in the $6-7 million range). The real question is whether his “bad boy” persona will be tolerated in Milwaukee. Similarly, it remains to be seen if Milwaukee’s lack of nightclubs will be tolerated with J.R. That might be a deal breaker.
O.J. Mayo: The Bucks need guards. Mayo is a shooting guard. The Bucks seem to like guards who hover around 40% shooting. Mayo has averaged 43.6% shooting over the course of his career. Why don’t we just get this deal signed already?
Tony Allen: Another strong defender on the perimeter who struggles to score but can shore up the wing position. He’ll give you 9 points on fairly efficient shooting (53.9% career true shooting). If the Bucks are looking to shore up their defense, Allen will be much more affordable than Iguadala this offseason.
Could Happen, but Won’t Move the Needle
Darren Collison: Collison became an unrestricted free agent when the Mavericks declined to extend him a qualifying offer. That alone should speak to his value – that, and the fact that he lost his starting job to Mike Jones at one point in the season. He’s a backup on a good team or a starter on a bad one – but he’ll likely come cheap and a team like the Bucks with backcourt holes to fill could make the move.
D.J. Augustin: Two words. Backcourt. Depth.
Carl Landry: A bit of a misfit in this category, because signing a power forward whose strength is scoring in the post is actually interesting for the Bucks. But the number of forwards the Bucks already possess make another signing less interesting unless it’s a precursor to a trade of some of that frontcourt talent.
Others to Consider:
Kyle Korver, Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger, Devin Harris, Chris Copeland, Mike Dunleavey, Matt Barnes.
As free agency develops, we’ll continue to update you about the Bucks’ offseason strategy. Who would you like to see in a Bucks uniform this fall?