With only four teams remaining in the NBA Playoffs, it means a few “contenders” have already been eliminated from title contention. The offseason is the time for these teams to retool to prepare for deeper runs next season. The Milwaukee Bucks found themselves back in the postseason after a three-year absence this year. Led by the electric backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, Milwaukee snuck into the playoffs with a 38-44 record. However, their prize — or punishment — for claiming the final spot in the Eastern Conference was a matchup with the Miami Heat. Despite Jennings’ prediction that the Bucks would win in six games, the Heat disposed of Milwaukee in a convincing sweep.
The Bucks have several decisions looming over their head as the offseason begins. Both starters in their backcourt tandem could become available. Sharpshooter J.J. Redick, who they traded for at the deadline, will also hit the open market. And interim head coach Jim Boylan has been told the team won’t be bringing him back for another season.
For the remainder of the post, I will assume the role of Bucks GM John Hammond. I will give my suggestions and analysis on who the Bucks should keep, who they should lose, and players to target in free agency and the draft.
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KEEP: Brandon Jennings, J.J. Redick
Jennings is a player hard to figure out for Milwaukee. He grabbed the league’s attention by scoring 55 points only two weeks into his rookie season. Jennings has the ability to get hot in a moment’s notice. However, for the remainder of that first year, he shot only 37 percent from the field. His shooting woes have not gone away since, and for his career, Jennings is shooting only 39 percent. These numbers need to get better if Jennings ever wants to see his name mentioned with other elite point guards like Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo. The Bucks must decide between Jennings and Ellis this offseason and my money is on Jennings; he’s younger, he is a point guard and playmaker, and he’s shown more of a willingness to stay in Milwaukee (at least in comparison to Ellis).
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Redick is one of the best shooters in the NBA. A Naismith College Player of the Year at Duke, Redick has adapted his game from go-to player to solid role player in only six seasons. Redick made contributions to the Orlando Magic but following the midseason trade this year, he averaged just 12.3 points and shot 32 percent from deep. While Monta is the more versatile scorer of the two, the Bucks haven’t done much more since he arrived in Milwaukee. I believe that Redick would be a much better fit next to Jennings at the two guard spot going into the future.
LOSE: Monta Ellis, Samuel Dalembert, Joel Pryzbilla, Marquis Daniels and Mike Dunleavy
Ellis is one of the NBA’s best scorers and, at only 6-3, is able to hold his own on the defensive side of the floor against other starting shooting guards. Yet, I don’t believe his game is best suited as a starter or even as a team’s first option. I think if Ellis is willing to accept a sixth man role for a contending team he will have much more of an impact playing the role Jason Terry held down at times over the years in Dallas.
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Samuel Dalembert and Joel Przybilla are expandable thanks to the emergence of Larry Sanders as a rim protecting big man. Both are also getting long in the tooth, and while veteran leadership is key to any team’s success, Dalembert and Przybilla aren’t necessarily known as great leaders. Marquis Daniels and Mike Dunleavy fall into the same category. Even though both of these players have shown the ability to still play and contribute, the Bucks really need an infusion of youth and fresh faces on the wings.
FREE AGENT TARGETS: Dorell Wright, J.J. Hickson and Daniel Gibson
An eight-year vet, Dorell Wright has a potent three-point shot and even lead the league in three-pointers made during 2010-11 season when he shot the deep ball at 37.6 percent. Wright spent the past season with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers were a lost team, due to star center Andrew Bynum missing the whole year with a knee injury. Wright put up 9.2 points in 22.6 minutes per game, and could come to the Bucks to serve as the younger replacement to Mike Dunleavy Jr. Wright is also from California, the home state of Jennings. Those two know each other well. Having Jennings around could speed up the chemistry process for Milwaukee.