Bucksketball Podcast

Trading futility for flexibility: John Hammond as the Milwaukee Bucks general manager thus far

| July 25, 2013

Category: The Off Season

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(photo source: NBA.com)

(photo source: NBA.com)

Struggling small market teams don’t need to tank. They need to be smart, they need to have a plan, and they need to stick to that plan.

The sudden rise of the Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets should give Bucks fans a glimpse of hope that a team stuck in mediocrity can make it out of NBA Hell without completely bottoming out. The “Morey Model” (i.e., savvy, analytically-driven asset accumulation) could easily replace the “Oklahoma City Model” (i.e., tanking!) as the new hip trend for small market teams that are desperate for a shot at relevancy. In reality, both models are probably anomalies — successful in large part due to luck and not directly replicable. But it’s time for the Bucks to at least try something new and be transparent with their vision along the way.

Milwaukee seemed to be treading along these lines prior to last season. Combining impressive Summer League performances by Tobias Harris and John Henson with Larry Sanders’ sudden breakout early in the season, Milwaukee looked destined to build around that budding core. The small forward, power forward and center pieces were seemingly in place, surrounded by a “win now” cast of Ersan Ilyasova, Monta Ellis, Mike Dunleavy, Luc Mbah a Moute and the like. Brandon Jennings, as always, was the wild card. The approach rendered itself as the classic “win now while kind of rebuilding” mindset of the franchise, but none of the season’s potential outcomes seemed overly harmful:

  • The Bucks could go to the playoffs on the backs of their young talent. (Perfect!)
  • The Bucks could miss the playoffs on the backs of their young talent. (Plenty acceptable and still a valuable experience for talent evaluation)
  • The Bucks could go to the playoffs on the backs of their “win now” players. (That’s fine — the young core can get their shot the following season, and the Bucks will have the opportunity to rebuild with half their team coming off the books)
  • The Bucks could miss the playoffs on the backs of their “win now” players. (Not ideal, but the team can move on and rid itself of the “win now” players)

It appeared like a legitimate plan, even if questionable, and it looked like Milwaukee could make the playoffs without further sacrificing the future.

But the front office oddly panicked and aborted that plan — if it actually existed — when they saw an opportunity to both seal a playoff spot and move up the standings to avoid Miami all in one swing. Milwaukee shipped out Harris, rookie Doron Lamb and Beno Udrih for J.J. Redick, Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith. There were also rumblings about Josh Smith joining Redick in Milwaukee, but a deal with Atlanta reportedly fell through at the last minute.

The trade turned out to be a disaster, and it was probably a disaster from the start. It’s always more rational to analyze the process of a basketball decision than the result. The process was flawed — the Bucks were willing to give up a young player with untapped potential for a 29-year-old fringe starter, who appeared to give Milwaukee a better chance of securing a low playoff seed and moving up to a slightly less low playoff seed.

The results were equally bad. Harris played well in Orlando, while Redick floundered in a reduced, inconsistent role with the Bucks. Milwaukee remained the eighth seed and, as it turned out, never had a realistic shot of moving up or down in the standings. To make matters worse, a miffed Redick quickly bolted Milwaukee for a better opportunity this summer.

The Harris trade is just the most recent and striking exemplar of failed asset management — something the Bucks have to avoid with an inherently small margin for error. There are no shortage of further examples, but I want to focus on one frustrating aspect of Hammond’s tenure with the Bucks: inherited asset management. It doesn’t tell the whole story, but it’s a good starting point — particularly when you see how Morey masterfully transformed his modest inherited assets into two superstars, James Harden and Dwight Howard.

***

After an impressive run with the Detroit Pistons, including a seven-year stint as vice president of basketball operations, John Hammond agreed to terms as general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks. He signed a five-year, $8 million contract on April 11, 2008. As is customary, Hammond praised the franchise he departed, thanked Bucks owner Herb Kohl for the new opportunity and expressed his excitement for the future. With a quick glance at Milwaukee’s roster, one could have reasonably deducted that this honeymoon wasn’t going to last very long. In short, the roster was an utter mess.

While the new general manager was settling in during his inaugural summer, Brew Hoop‘s Frank Madden eloquently summed up the reality Hammond faced upon signing on the dotted line:

Rather than giving a pep talk full of promises, Hammond instead seemed all too aware of the challenges ahead of him. An undisciplined, defensively-indifferent team that amassed a staggering 114 losses over the previous two seasons.  No cap room likely for at least two years, with the possibility of luxury tax issues in 09/10 (emphasis added). And an increasingly disillusioned fan base that was losing both patience and interest.

Below is the salary structure Hammond inherited in 2008, via HoopsHype:

Inherited Salary

The inflated contracts of Michael Redd, Dan Gadzuric, Bobby Simmons and Mo Williams were daunting impediments for Hammond’s short- and long-term goals — whatever they actually were. For reference, the NBA would set the 2008-09 salary cap at roughly $58.7 million and the luxury tax level at $71.2 million. When Hammond took over in the summer of 2008, the Bucks had $62.4 million committed to 10 players. Furthermore, the Bucks already had an estimated $46.8 million (a conservative estimate, given the impending contract status of Bogut) tied up in salaries for the 2009-10 season, in which NBA would set the salary cap at $57.7 million and the luxury tax level at $69.9 million.

Clearly, Hammond had plenty of decisions to make his first summer on the job in order to wane himself out of an ineffective roster with an unsustainable cap situation. When asked whether he would blow up the team he inherited or just tinker with the roster, Hammond was ambivalent. ”Maybe something in between,” Hammond told Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times. “Maybe more than a tweak, but you sure as heck wouldn’t want to blow up a team with some of the assets that are here (emphasis added).”

The moves Hammond made that summer echoed his indeterminate answer. As hinted at, he neither blew up the team nor simply tinkered with it. While Milwaukee’s cornerstones — Redd and Bogut — stayed intact, eight new faces appeared for training camp in 2008.

Hammond completed two significant trades in the summer of 2008, with somewhat contradictory approaches. On June 16, 2008, he acquired Richard Jefferson from the New Jersey Nets. Jefferson, at age 28, was coming off one of his more productive seasons, despite signs of declining athleticism. He led the Nets in scoring at 22.6 points per game on 46.6 percent shooting (57.1 TS%) and posted a 17.4 PER.

The Nets, however, were in the middle of dismantling its once promising — yet underachieving and aging – core of Jefferson, Jason Kidd and Vince Carter. After trading Kidd to the Dallas Mavericks midseason, the Nets dangled their leading scorer around the league as trade bait in the summer. Milwaukee bit.

Hammond agreed to send out Simmons, who was never the same after suffering a severe ankle injury that forced him to miss the entire 2006-07 season, and Yi, the disgruntled sixth overall pick in the previous year’s draft.

Salary-wise, the trade had little short-term impact — adding less than $1 million to Milwaukee’s 2008-09 payroll. However, when Simmons’ inflated deal was set to expire in 2010, Jefferson was still going to be owed $15 million during the 2010-11 season. (Hammond avoided this conundrum when he pawned off Jefferson to San Antonio for expiring contracts after his first season in Milwaukee.)

Less than a month after the Jefferson trade, Hammond announced that the Bucks had agreed to a five-year, $60 million extension with Andrew Bogut, who would have been a restricted free agent following the next season. In August, Hammond completed his second trade of the offseason. His mission was to astutely break up Milwaukee’s highly compensated Williams-Redd backcourt tandem. It was also a necessary salary dump, with the additional long-term money tied up in Jefferson and Bogut. Hammond shipped Williams to Cleveland and Desmond Mason to Oklahoma City in a three-team trade, acquiring Luke Ridnour and a couple expiring contracts, Damon Jones and Adrian Griffin. Hammond finalized his first offseason by signing a few low-cost veterans in free agency.

***

So far, so good. Now fast-forward a handful of years, and the trickle-down effect of his inherited assets has been anything but prosperous. The chart below demonstrates the existing value of each player when Hammond took over the team in 2008:

PlayerAge PER (2007-08 Season) Remaining ContractArbitrary Asset Grade (2008 Summer); Brief Reasoning Result
Charlie Bell 2810.9Four years, $14.9 millionD; Bell was just one year removed from the Heat's five-year, $18 million offer in restricted free agency. Against his wishes, Milwaukee matched the offer, and Bell began to prove he was nothing more than a role player. His value only went south from here. After the "Fear the Deer" campaign in 2010, Hammond wasted little time moving two menial, overpaid pieces -- Bell and Gadzuric -- for Corey Maggette. Bell disappeared down the stretch and was suspended for the team's final playoff game after missing shootaround. Bell's value was rock bottom at the time of the trade, but his contract was set to expire in two years, which the Warriors (wrongly) thought they could handle.
Andrew Bogut2317.5One year, $6.3 million (then qualifying offer/restricted free agency) A-; Bogut wasn't exactly living up to his number one overall selection three years prior, but big men always need time to develop, and Bogut certainly showed flashes. He had just appeared in 78 games, following years of 82 and 66, so injury concerns were yet to be abundant. Hammond also had the flexibility to either let Bogut play out his final year before heading into restricted free agency or extend his contract. In one of his first moves as GM, Hammond agreed to a reasonable five-year, $60 million extension with Bogut in July 2008. Bogut's value would peak in the next couple of seasons, until his devastating fall amid the "Fear the Deer" run. His right arm has yet to -- and likely never will -- fully heal. Milwaukee chose to go a new direction when Bogut was slowly recovering from a serious ankle injury in 2012. He, along with a dissident Stephen Jackson, were shipped to Golden State for Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown['s expiring contract]. The Bucks moved Bogut at easily his lowest point of value. (It also aided the Warriors' tanking efforts.)
Dan Gadzuric 2910.7Three years, $20.2 million D-; Gadzuric had solidified himself as an average and highly overpriced backup center by the time Hammond took over. After three consecutive years of 17+ PERs (!) from 2004 to 2006, Gadzuric's production decreased significantly. He never reached the potential of which his contract was purely based. Hammond waited to dump Gadzuric until he became an expiring contract, which Golden State somewhat valued. It was a garbage-for-garbage swap, though the Bucks viewed Maggette as gold. He was actually fool's gold. Or something. The Bucks added a ton of salary and years with Maggette, who came to Milwaukee with three years and $30 million remaining on his contract. Hammond could have achieved salary relief sooner had he simply let Bell and Gadzuric expire. He then chose to dump Maggette a year later -- moving down seven spots in the draft and acquiring Stephen Jackson in the process. The trend continued with Jackson.
Yi Jianlian 2011.3Three years*, $10.2 (then qualifying offer/restricted free agency)

*One year guaranteed, followed by two team options
B-; This is a tough one. Yi was coming off a very disappointing rookie season, but he was a coveted draft pick just a year prior. It was also well known that Yi didn't want to play in Milwaukee from the onset, so other teams could have attributed his slow start to a lack of focus -- not skill and talent. (In hindsight, he was approximately worth just-out-of-his-prime Richard Jefferson, which means I still have no idea how valuable of an asset Yi was when Hammond took over.) In Hammond's first of many "win now" trades, he shipped Yi and [dumped] Bobby Simmons to New Jersey for Richard Jefferson. By default, with Bogut and Redd missing most of the season, Jefferson was one of the Bucks' most productive players in a disappointing 2008-09 campaign. But Hammond was eager to dump a declining Jefferson and his high price tag the following offseason. You can see the endgame of this on the inherited assets tree below.
Desmond Mason 3012.3One year, $5.3 million C; The 30-year-old swingman was a proven commodity at this point. He knew his role, he knew his limits (couldn't shoot), and he played decent perimeter defense. Mason held some value as a $5.3 million expiring contract. As a salary filler in a three-team deal, Mason was packaged with Mo Williams for Luke Ridnour and the expiring contracts of Adrian Griffin and Damon Jones. In addition to clearing up salary, it appeared to be a rebuilding-type move, which was odd in light of the Jefferson acquisition.
Michael Redd2818.8Three years*, $51.1 million

*Player option for the last year
B; This is also a tough one. If he were on a reasonable contract, he would have been an "A" asset when Hammond took over. But Redd was a max-contract player who was never going to live up to the money. He went on to play only 61 total games in three seasons under Hammond, in which he suffered an ACL tear in consecutive seasons. Whatever value Redd had when Hammond took over (and if Cleveland's incessant interest in him was any indication, he had some) quickly dissipated due to injuries. Interestingly, Redd became somewhat of a hot commodity when his contract eventually turned into a massive expiring deal. However, the Bucks opted to hang onto him for impending salary relief in the 2011 summer.
Ramon Sessions2116.2One year, $711,517 (then qualifying offer/restricted free agency) C+; The second-round pick only played in 17 games as a rookie, so Milwaukee and the rest of the league didn't have much data to go on. Sessions did impress in limited time -- averaging 10.2 assists per 36 minutes and posting a 16.2 PER. Sessions' value skyrocketed during his sophomore season, in which he played 79 games (39 starts). He posted a 17.6 PER, displayed excellent court vision and upped his efficiency despite a higher usage rate. Milwaukee let Sessions, a restricted free agent after his second year, walk without compensation when Hammond (after drafting Brandon Jennings) neglected to match a four-year, $16 million offer from Minnesota.
Bobby Simmons 2710.3Two years, $20.5 million D-; His value was at an all-time low after missing the 2006-07 season with an injury and failing to come back strong the following season. At 27, Simmons didn't show any signs of returning to his "NBA Most Improved Player" level of play in Los Angeles. Hammond didn't have much to work with here. His inflated contract actually came in handy as a salary-matching piece in the 2008 Richard Jefferson trade, and New Jersey was willing to stomach the last two years of his contract.
Mo Williams 2517.0Five years*, $43.5 million

*Player option for the last year
B; Williams had established himself as an effective score-first point guard. He was coming off the best season of his career, in which he averaged 17.2 points per game on reasonable efficiency (56.6 TS%). Despite a dense contract, Williams certainly held some value -- especially at age 25. Hammond had to choose between shipping out either Williams or Redd, as it was plenty clear Milwaukee couldn't win many games with the duo chucking up 30 shots per game. The Cavs were willing to take on his contract and valued him as sidekick next to LeBron in Cleveland, where Williams became an All-Star in 2009.
Charlie Villanueva2314.9One year, $3.4 million (then qualifying offer/restricted free agency)B; Villanueva was coming off a so-so season. He averaged 11.7 points (on poor efficiency) and 6.1 rebounds per game -- a regression from his first two seasons. Yet, he was the sixth overall pick three years prior and, at 23, still had youth on his side. The Bucks brought Villanueva back for his contract year without offering him an extension. He answered with a career year, averaging 21.7 points and 8.9 rebounds per 36 minutes. With lingering salary concerns, the Bucks renounced their rights to Villanueva following the season, making him an unrestricted free agent. He certainly still held value around the league, as Detroit offered him a five-year, $37.7 million contract. (Hindsight: Ouch.) Basically, the Bucks killed two valuable assets by not trading Villanueva and Sessions at the 2008-09 trade deadline, when their values were as high as they'd ever be in their careers.

Five years later, not a single player Hammond inherited remains (unless we count Ilyasova, whose rights Milwaukee owned) – which is perfectly fine, because there were no superstars.

However, that doesn’t excuse squandering nearly every inherited asset, and this what Hammond has left to show for his work:

Hammond Inherited Assets Tree

*click to enlarge*

Green = active asset
Red = expired asset
Yellow = expired asset, but returned to team at least one season afterward

Note: The chart doesn’t represent every trade in full — only the parts directly connected to an inherited asset. (E.g., The Bucks didn’t trade Shaun Livingston straight up for Dalembert; they also traded Jon Brockman and Jon Leuer, while swapping first-round picks with Houston.)

That is not productive asset management. At risk of oversimplification, Hammond basically turned all of his inherited assets into Ekpe Udoh, Gustavo Ayon (update), Ish Smith and two protected second-round picks.

Oh, and cap space — a  lot of cap space.

***

Hammond, who received a three-year extension this past January, spins most of his moves as progress toward roster flexibility and a responsible salary structure. If he sells low and burns a few assets along the way, it’s not supposed to really matter — perhaps these are sacrifices needed for the later, greater good. The end, as they say, justifies the means.

There was this from the Las Vegas Sun in 2009:

Hammond’s major task over the past year has been creating roster flexibility for the Bucks. That, he insists, was what trading Richard Jefferson to San Antonio was about.

To consistently win with the proper salary structure, Hammond said, is the key. Do that and you put yourself in a position to go from good to great when a dynamic acquisition becomes available.

“Then you can acquire the piece that will make the difference,” he said. “It might make us a (luxury) tax team … but I know this, we have an owner (Sen. Herb Kohl) who will do that.”

And this from Omaha.com in 2011:

“Our goal here, just like when working with Joe in the process of rebuilding the Pistons, is to put a good team on the floor with a good salary structure,” Hammond said. “If you have that, then you can be a good team consistently. And then, when that difference-maker piece comes along, and you have a good salary structure that allows you to get that piece, that’s when you can go from good to great.”

And this from The Boston Globe in 2012:

Another asset we have, I think we have a favorable salary structure. We’re not in a position where we’re pushed to the cusp of the tax.

The goal today is not to make trades. The goal today is to try to find a way to keep some of these young pieces together and build with this young nucleus but continue to keep a fair salary structure that will give us flexibility to change and improve this team.

And this from the Bill Michaels Show in 2013:

I think we’re in a fairly good position. We have a  lot of young players. We have a good salary structure right now moving forward.

Finally, following Milwaukee’s exit from the 2013 playoffs, there was this from Fox Sports Wisconsin:

I like the fact that we still have our salary structure in such a standpoint where we can control our own destiny to a certain extent. That’s important to us.

In theory, abundant cap space, roster flexibility and a responsible salary structure are all essential assets for building a relevant team. But they have to evolve into legitimate talent to actually make a difference.

Thus far, the Bucks have used their salary structure, cap space and flexibility this summer to trade for Luke Ridnour and sign O.J. Mayo, Carlos Delfino and Zaza Pachulia. The franchise’s needle is not moving — either direction.

On April 20, 2009, the Bucks Twitter handle posted a quote from Hammond, who would soon be named NBA Executive of the Year:

Indeed, he achieved that flexibility.

Now where is the greatness?

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  1. Joe Olivo says:

    Great article. There is one asset I’m very interested in seeing how Hammond uses, Brandon Jennings. I fully expect Brandon Jennings to be back as a Buck at least to start the season, signing the 1-year $4.5 mil offer that has been placed on him. I also expect him to play great since he’s looking for that big new contract. That being said I hope to see a revitalized attitude by Brandon and if that happens i can see his assist/turnover ratio continue to improve along with his FG%. If both of those things happen i wouldn’t mind him signing a $10-$12 mil extension for 4 years. If not I don’t think its a stretch to either see him traded around the deadline or even kept and allowed to walk as a UFA. Next off-season hope to see the Bucks draft a SF. We desperately need a starter quality, young SF. After watching Tobias Harris leave i felt cheated out of a full 2 seasons of development and chemistry that our young core would’ve had together. Obviously if we rid our team of Jennings we need a PG of the future as well and that would take draft and FA signing priority.

    • L says:

      If BJ signs the QO then I don’t believe he can be traded during the season next year and what makes you think he’d resign with the Bucks the following season? He’d be a UFA and he’d bolt for another team unless the Bucks way overpaid, which the hopefully wouldn’t. Ideally, the Bucks and Jennings come to some terms on a 2-3 year extension before the start of this season for around 8M/season and if his attitude isn’t good, but his stats are then trade him mid-season for future assets and tank the season for a high draft pick.

      There’s no other way to put the T.Harris trade other than WTF!! The Bucks’ front office and Hammond were on some crazy drugs when they pulled the trigger on that trade and it left me incredibly pissed-off at the franchise. Maybe T.Harris was causing all kinds of locker room and team chemistry problems and so moving him was the stupid decision that they decided to go with to solve the conflict, but I highly doubt this.

      Anyways, this article is spot on in-regards to Hammond’s deficiencies with asset management, but I would give him a nod in-regards to working with other NBA front offices to make moves because there’s something to say about having a decent reputation around the league to allow you to make moves to rid yourself of bad contracts and player’s who are mistakes for the team.

  2. Patti #2 says:

    Man, I miss Livingston

  3. Clark says:

    Phenomenal article. really good insight.

    • Sfisch says:

      I agree with Clark — great article! Thanks for the good history, Preston. I didn’t know half of half this stuff.
      To be fair to John Hammond, it doesn’t seem like any of the guys he inherited did anything all that good anywhere else. I’m not sure what to make of the moves he made with his original roster, but I do think Hammond has a lot to answer for with the trade of Tobias and other more recent moves. Also, I wonder how much Herb Kohl is involved in all of this, then and now.

  4. Kafa says:

    You didn’t mention Syzmon Szewczyk at all. How can you talk about assets and not mention him?

  5. Sfisch says:

    Although the Tobias trade is already a fireable offense, I am trying to give John Hammond another chance — but his recent moves haven’t been a source of much confidence, at least as I understand them.
    For example, did Hammond really offer a big deal to Monta Ellis, something like $36 million over three years? Was he really still interested in Josh Smith for big money? Did he want to add J.R. Smith? Maybe I’m wrong, but these three guys don’t seem to have a lot of discipline on the court, don’t seem to play all that well with others, and don’t seem to have good self-control with the quantity or quality of their shots. Why would Hammond want to build around any of them?
    Second, the freak draft choice of Giannis at #15 overall seems so utterly silly and stupid that I wonder how Hammond made this selection out of all the many players available in the draft. I think we got Larry Sanders and Tobias Harris at #15 and John Henson at #14, so there are good-to-excellent finds at this draft position. I can see taking a big risk in the second round, but definitely not in the middle of the first.
    So after wasting a first-round pick at #15 when we traded Tobias, now we’ve wasted a first-round pick at #15 by picking a trendy rumor on grainy film, a mythical Greek god who won’t be ready for the NBA until about the time he is a free agent eligible to go elsewhere.
    It doesn’t seem like John Hammond has a good eye for talent, the imagination for finding (and keeping) guys who have that rare combination of talent and intangibles to make a winning team. I hope I’m wrong, but the question is how much longer do we give this guy?

    • bucks1988 says:

      One thing Hammond knows how to do is draft. All of his draft selections would be a lot higher if they were to do a redraft. Give this draft time before you call it a bust. At pick #15, you probably wouldn’t get anyone besides a role player anyways, so why not take a risk on a high upside guy

      • BOB says:

        WHY.. because everyone in the building KNOWS JB IS GONE!! We could of got the next point at 15….

        • Chris says:

          No we couldn’t have Bob, the next point was not in this draft. This was a horrendously weak draft and there were few potential starters from the beginning. Larkin would have been the best point available, but if you think he would have been the PG of the future I’ve got a bridge in Death Valley to sell you.

    • Clark says:

      He wasn’t a trendy pick…he was selected right around the time ppl thought he would be selected. If we didn’t pick him, someone right behind us would have. BTW, look at Yi Jianlin. When did we pick him? sixth overall. look where he ended up. he was the most worthless first round selection we’ve had in a long time. This guy has tremendous upside and could be a very viable pick up. yes at the same time he could be a bad pick. But as of now, he was probably the best pick at the time for us. he is young and has the physical ability to be great. listen to his interviews…he is only interested in being in the nba and getting better. the only reason he is in the U.S. is because of his nba potential. if not for that, he would have no life in the United States. If he turns out to be great, he will more than likely stick with the team that selected him. we have to give him time time to develop cuz he’s a developmental player. do i need to remind anyone of Sanders??? we all bashed him for the first 5 months, now he’s a deff player to build around. don’t judge anyone we draft before he gets viable nba minutes. hammond has made some bad decisions (trade with harris obviously) but we all make mistakes. give hammond a chance to make up for it. who knows, 3 years to come, I COULD SEE us being a very, very competitive team. I think we are all very sick of just being mediocre, but we have some good young potential talent that we can all be excited about.

    • BOB says:

      SFI… You nailed it bud!!! It seems that we are always taking a step back?? Jennings should of been shipped at the trade deadline and Monta should of been part of a sign and trade!!! We GAVE AWAY Tobias for nothing!! JJ is gone, today they waived Gus and it looks like they will never give ISH a chance?? JJ, Monta, and soon JB will be off the roster and what do we have to show for it??? SQUAT!!!!

  6. bucks1988 says:

    Great article Preston! This is the problem when trying to rebuild, you have a great chance of staying in one place. If they would have tanked and rebuilt five years ago, they probably would be better than they are now. And why do people still think Harris is a SF? He’s not! He sucked at threes and is too slow to keep up with them. He is an undersized PF like a Millsap. We dont need more of those. Should we have gotten something better in return? Absolutely, but its not the end of the world. His numbers were inflated just like reddicks were. Also, the Bucks have to take risks if they ever want to get out of mediocrity without tanking. One could argue, everybody available when the Bucks drafted are just as big of risks or just merely role players. I for one applaud hammond when it comes to drafting. He has shown he obviously can draft.

    • bucks1988 says:

      trading is a different story, but i think he is somewhat limited since he is working for a win now boss

    • Sfisch says:

      Respectfully, bucks1988, but apparently you don’t think that Tobias was a good draft choice by John Hammond. You treat the trade of Tobias with just a shrug — no big deal, apparently — and you dismiss his many impressive performances of last year in the NBA (including some 30 points in a victory against the Bucks, the awesome team that Hammond assembled over the course of four seasons) — and yet we’re supposed to trust that Giannis is going to be a big star? Based on what, exactly… his play for the junior varsity team for the basketball powerhouse Greece? Before the draft, who exactly for the Bucks had seen this kid play, and how many games? Yikes!

      • bucks1988 says:

        For the 19th pick in the draft, Harris was a dang good pick. Do i think he will be an All-Star or the second coming of Carmelo Anthony like some people are making him out to be? No i don’t. Do i think that he will be a good starter for years to come at the POWER FORWARD position, yes i do. Yet i would still take Henson over him. Brandon Jennings scored 55 points in a game too, and I don’t think scoring 30 points against the Bucks is anything spectacular. I also don’t think Harris will score 30 points again this year because teams will figure him out and the team as a whole will get better. It goes back to what i was saying before, somebody had to score the points. That’s why the amazing Reddick for the Magic suddenly became worse on a better Bucks team. I dont think GA will necessarily become a star but i think he will be exactly what Harris will be, a solid starter. If you look back on Hammonds drafts, all of his selections would be much higher in a redraft:
        Sanders, Henson, Harris, and even Jennings. I think its safe to say that Hammonds has earned the benefit of the doubt

        • bucks1988 says:

          and GA plays better defense than Harris and shoots a better three ball, thus potentially making him a better fit at the small forward position

        • BOB says:

          bucks1988…. The Harris trade… JJ walked, We wavered Gus TODAY, and Ish is third out and probably will not make the team??? WHAT PART OF THAT TRADE DID WE WIN??? Harris went to the magic and avg over 20pts a game against the east teams not to mention the other guys we GAVE AWAY in that trade!!!

          • bucks1988 says:

            where did i say we won the trade? I just don’t think he’s a franchise changing player or that the trade was the reason we are where we are today. It certainly didn’t help but not the reason. That’s the problem with a win-now mentality that Kohl forces on the Bucks and sometimes you have to take chances. The bucks lost on this one but i don’t think we traded away a superstar that’s all i was saying. Just like everything, lets see how harris develops. I think the Ray Allen trade back in the day was a way worse trade

        • Sfisch says:

          @bucks1988… I appreciate the good back-and-forth. In that spirit, if Tobias was such a good draft pick, why did we trade him for so little in return? If Tobias scoring 30 against the Bucks is nothing spectacular, why is that… in other words, whose fault is it that the Bucks were so mediocre? Also, is it possible that the reason Tobias and then J.J. scuffled with the Bucks is that the Bucks were a lousy team without any pass-first point guards who were able or willing to consistently get their teammates good shots?
          Finally, how do we know anything about Giannis (GA) — whether he plays better defense or shoots a better three ball than anyone else in the NBA? Who among us has seen this mysterious figure play basketball — and even if we did, how could we evaluate a guy playing Under-20 basketball against Estonia and Montenegro?
          Anyway, although we fans at this site are sincere and serious about this, it’s all in good fun, too, and I appreciate other observations and opinions. We fans are all on the same team, rooting for our Bucks. My concern is that in three years John Hammond could leave us with a mess (like Mike Dunleavy did) and cause us many sorry seasons for years to come.

          • bucks1988 says:

            I do appreciate the good back and forth dialogue. It keeps it exciting during these dull months. The only thing ill say about GA is that he is only 18, basically the same age as a high schooler. If he had played high school basketball over here in the U.S., im pretty sure a lot of scouts would have been high on him too. You can’t compare college age kids to younger high school age kids. They are apples and oranges

    • Preston Schmitt says:

      Thanks for reading! You’re right — Harris probably doesn’t have the lateral quickness to excel at small forward, particularly on defense.

      However, I’m not sure I buy that Milwaukee KNEW he couldn’t cut it at small forward and were therefore willing to deal him. Even so, if the Bucks truly believed he was a better fit at power forward, they should have given him a trial there — even with the glut. (If it worked, he’d have been a much cheaper and younger alternative to Ersan, whom the Bucks could have dealt instead.)

      I covered the Magic-Bucks game after the trade, and Jim Boylan mentioned something really odd — claiming he wasn’t overly surprised Harris was shining in Orlando, while noting Ersan Ilyasova provides many of same things as Harris at the power forward position. Aside from the obvious — Ersan and Harris playing nothing alike, really — it just seemed like a convenient excuse (reliant on hindsight) for the franchise.

      • Sfisch says:

        Hey, the Packers drafted two running backs this year; and in any given season, they have four or five really good receivers. Point being, it’s good to have talent to rotate in and out, and the Bucks would have dcne well to have Larry, John and Tobias as budding stars, with plenty of playing time for each. There would probably have been situations where Tobias could have moved over to small forward — if the Bucks were playing a zone, for instance, or the other team had a slower guy at that position — and all three of them could have been on the court.
        What is easy to forget is that Tobias can do what neither Larry nor John nor Ersan nor Ekpe nor Zaza nor Carlos can do, that is create his own shot off the dribble, going to the hoop on the drive or pulling up for a jumper from as far away as three-point range. (That, by the way, is a big reason why I think we should take a good hard look at Scott Suggs from our team in Las Vegas — he made a couple of sweet jumpers off the dribble against tough defense in crunch time against the Spurs.)
        Yes, I’m trying to move on from the seemingly casual trade of Tobias, but just thinking about it is still a painful memory — and questionable attempts to justify the trade just make it worse.

        • Sfisch says:

          P.S. Stats for Tobias against the Bucks April 10(or 11):
          30 points/19 rebounds/5 assists
          Made 13-20 from the field, including 3-4 from the arc.
          Dramatic game-tieing three-pointer sent game into OT.
          Magic won game.

          Stats for Tobias with Magic on average over 27 games:
          17 points/8 rebounds/2 assists.

          Age of Tobias: about 21 years old, entering third season.

          • Paleoreef103 says:

            I agree with you for the most part. Harris should not have been shipped out and our signings were blah to awful. However, I like the Giannis pick. This was a weak draft class. Giannis has a ton of potential that will take time to develope, but Larry took years to pan out and Henson could certainly use some seasoning. In three years Giannis COULD be a star which is more than I could say about most players taken after him except Dennis Shroeder (sp?).

            I am excited by the potential of an all gumby armed front court in three years and little else. I’m still willing to keep developing Jennings, but I think his ego is honestly going to hinder his attempts to improve. Jennings needs to add about twenty pounds of muscle and a new footwork / shooting coach which I doubt he’ll do either.

          • bucks1988 says:

            JJ Reddicks stats in Orlando
            2006: 6.0 ppg
            2007: 4.1 ppg
            2008: 6.0
            2009: 9.6
            2010: 10.1
            2011: 11.6
            2012: 15.1
            Two things i take away from this, 1)Reddick was a pretty good player in his own right so it wasn’t like we traded for brian roberts or somebody like that. 2) his numbers suddenly increased the year the Magic bottomed out. Im not saying he is, but Harris could be a casualty of inflated numbers too. The game against the bucks, players always play better against the teams they were traded from. Partly becasue they have more motivation to stick it to them and partly because they know the players weaknesses on their former team. I know it goes both ways but he was better able to exploit it that night

  7. Kevin says:

    I understand most of the comments here, but dont agree with all!!! Fist off forget about Harris trade. This was a WIN-Now move that needed to be made!!! Also, Harris blossomed in Orlando because they had one less scorer on the roster, enough said!!! Now on to Hammond!!! He needs to take drafting lessons from Ted Thomson!!!! Hammond may draft a starter or future starter, but he is only accurate at drafting 1st round Stars to ALL STARS about 50% of the time!!! Also, Most of his 1st rounders could have picked a little lower in the draft!!! Who was looking at B Jenn a few years ago??? And we could have traded down and still got Giannis this year!!! But, He is very good at finding 2nd round talent!!! Now I do agree with the Ellis situation!!! A wasted non move in my mind!!! We could have traded him to Dallas for thier 13th pick (which they wanted to trade) and took a PG (Shreoder or Larkin)!!! Comments please…

    • bucks1988 says:

      I agree with most of what you said except that when the Bucks are drafting in the 10-16 range, your lucky to even find a starter in that group. I think Hammond has done well with where he has been drafting, and its too hard to say we could have traded down and still gotten our guys because we can’t look into other teams draft rooms. It’s all speculations. Some other teams could have been high on our picks too, you never know

  8. Joe Olivo says:

    i just want to add one more name to the list of terrible moves by John Hammond. Joe Alexander. Since this conversation mentions alot of his transactions heres an actual list for everyone. http://hoopshype.com/general_managers/john_hammond.htm

  9. Nick says:

    Jeff Teague. This was the most recent screw up. We didn’t offer him enough money. We offered a low 4 year $32 mill, and as a result Atlanta matched and we lost our KEY next piece in our future. Jeff was the guy to tie it all together. To complete our young nucleus. And Hammond lost him by not paying him enough. He was too busy signing Zaza Pachulia for $15 million. If we would have used that cash on Jeff we would be set, instead we have to pay Brandon $13 million in a player we value LESS than Teague. Hammond screwed up here.

    • bucks1988 says:

      I think people are so anti-jennings that they are making Teague into an all-star, which he is not. I don’t think Teague was necessarily the last piece and i don’t think jennings necessarily is either. I think there might be better options in the future

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  11. Andyroo says:

    “At risk of oversimplification, Hammond basically turned all of his inherited assets into Ekpe Udoh, Gustavo Ayon (update), Ish Smith and two protected second-round picks. Oh, and cap space — a lot of cap space.”

    At the RISK of oversimplification? That seems like a fairly huge understatement. First, why ignore Ersan from this conclusion? Certainly seems relevant, to me, considering he was an inherited asset that has returned great value so far, and appears will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Also, Tobias Harris is no more a SF than Ersan is (i.e., he’s not a SF), so it seems a little disingenuous to start off the piece by arguing the Bucks seemed set at three spots with Sanders, Henson and Harris.

    But more importantly, I think your conclusion oversimplifies because it renders any interim value moot. Meaning, saying that Hammond took Yi, Simmons, Bell, Gadz, Williams, Mason, and (after you’ve suppressed your gag reflex and/or cleaned the vomit out of your keyboard) Bogut, and ONLY got Udoh, Ish and two 2nd-round picks to show for it: (a) ignores that Delfino, Ridnour, and Thomas helped the team gain 20 more wins and a 6th seed just two years removed from the horrendous 56-loss team Hammond inherited; (b) ignores the service the team got out of Maggette, Beno, Ellis, Livingston, Dalembert and Redick, further down the line (mind you, I’m not evaluating the quality, I’m saying it existed and had value); and (c) implies that letting assets walk is never beneficial or, conversely, that Hammond had better options that HE failed to capitalize on – which, I think, assumes facts we don’t have before us.

    Ultimately, I think what’s missing here is a comparison of Hammond to his peers, with things like asset-walk-rate included. In order to say he’s done a poor job, don’t we need to know what other GMs are doing with the assets they inherited? I just have a hard time saying that Hammond has done a bad job or that the Bucks would clearly be in better shape right now had any other random GMs been in charge. This doesn’t give due credit to the condition the Bucks were in when Hammond started, and the extent Herb Kohl influenced Hammond’s strategy, for example.

    • Preston Schmitt says:

      You definitely raise some good points. I’ll try to address a few here:

      1. “… it seems a little disingenuous to start off the piece by arguing the Bucks seemed set at three spots with Sanders, Henson and Harris.”

      I think it’s still fair to say it did, indeed, *appear* that the Bucks were set in the future at those three positions. Many people, myself included, thought Harris could still grow into the small forward role going into last season, even though a few of his limitations were apparent. He primarily played SF in last year’s Summer League, which he more or less dominated.

      2. “But more importantly, I think your conclusion oversimplifies because it renders any interim value moot.”

      This is true, but it certainly wasn’t my intention. Obviously, it’s not productive to evaluate the flowchart in a vacuum. There needs to be context — some of which I tried to present here, but I can’t touch on every single event and outcome in one post. The Bucks have yet to get out of the first round under Hammond, and they have finished only one season over .500 in his tenure. In a league where over half the teams qualify for the playoffs, the Bucks have only qualified two out of Hammond’s five seasons (not to mention they play in the East). The one year when they actually made some noise — “Fear the Deer” — turned out to be a fluke, thanks to Salmons’ quick (and predictable) regression, as well as the addition of questionable locker room characters. I’d say the interim value of all these “win now” moves has been, shall we say, underwhelming.

      3. “… implies that letting assets walk is never beneficial …”

      It can definitely be beneficial, but it simply hasn’t been for the Bucks. I can’t think of one overly savvy move Hammond made with his cap flexibility. If he would have taken on Caron Butler’s large expiring contract in order to snag Eric Bledsoe, then I would have applauded that move in this article. Ditto to taking on Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson for a bunch of draft picks. Instead, Hammond is spending the money from letting assets walk (this year being Dalembert, Dunleavy, Ellis and the like) on a bunch of middling free agents. I don’t find that praiseworthy.

      4. “In order to say he’s done a poor job, don’t we need to know what other GMs are doing with the assets they inherited?”

      Daryl Morey is the most obvious example for productive asset management. It’s admittedly tough to compare Hammond to his counterparts, because most GMs have more free will to run the team (and can therefore conduct a full rebuild). Furthermore, how many GMs get a second contract extension with Hammond’s track record? I’m willing to bet not many.

      • Andyroo says:

        Preston, thanks for taking the time to respond. I guess I would just say that I am more forgiving of Hammond due to the mess he inherited from Larry Harris. Sure, it hasn’t been a Daryl-Morey-esque smashing success, but I don’t think the Bucks are that far off. Hammond has been phenomenal in the draft (hits with Sanders, Jennings, Henson, Harris, LRMAM, Meeks, and only one failed first-rounder in Alexander) and even though you don’t like the “middling talent” he’s signed recently, can you say there are any albatross contracts in there? Nothing akin to the Salmons and Gooden contracts, nothing akin to the contracts awarded to welcomed jettisons (yes, I’m using that as a noun) like Villanueva and Ellis. So far nothing regrettable to Jennings. You’ve got to put a team on the court and you’ve got to reach a minimum salary threshold, after all.

        But lastly, you again cite Morey as the measuring stick for Hammond, and I just don’t think that is entirely fair. Sure, everyone has hopes and aspirations. But you can’t use the BEST recent example as the baseline, especially when it involves factors that the Bucks as a franchise, the BMO Harris Bradley Center as a facility, Milwaukee as a city, and Wisconsin as a state, don’t have. It’s like when everyone who favors tanking cites Oklahoma City – look how easy it was for them, let’s tank then reap glory and fame! Except that for every OKC, there’s two Sacramentos and Charlottes. I suspect the same goes for GMs and shrewd asset-managing.

    • Bucksrule44 says:

      If only the Bucks would employ more scouts than PR monkeys, we wouldn’t be having this conversation…

  12. Sfisch says:

    Now that Preston mentions it, and after reading other comments from fans on this blog site, it does seem like we’ve signed a lot of middling free agents that fall mainly into two groups: (1)shooting guard with O.J., Carlos and Gary (2)big men with Zaza and Miroslav (the exception being Luke Ridnour at point). Why not just sign one player from each group? Meanwhile, we’re still lacking at point guard and shooting forward. All this is starting to seem more and more questionable, if not downright ridiculous.
    Also, Preston seems to bring up the specter of Herb Kohl as possibly a shadowy presence meddling in basketball affairs (my words, not his). Is our owner more or less like Jerry Jones with the Cowboys? In exchange for job security, is John Hammond giving up much of his independence? I would be very interested to know what is going on behind the scenes, as well as what we don’t know about what is going on behind the scenes. For example, does Hammond ever really explain his draft choices and trades in any meaningful way, individually or as a whole? Are we left guessing unnecessarily about what the plan is for the Bucks — while the team flounders year in and year out and the fans suffer in the dark?