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.
Hickson may be undersized at only 6-9, but has a high enough motor to have averaged 10.3 rebounds a night last year. Hickson played center for the Portland Trail Blazers last season next to All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Hickson might not have been able to match Aldridge’s skills offensively, but on the glass and at times defensively, Hickson might have been the better of the two players. However, rumblings out of Portland indicate they may let Hickson walk if it means netting a taller big man to place next to Aldridge. Hickson will be a steal for whichever team is able to sign him come July and in Milwaukee, he could even remain a starter and form a dangerous, aggressive duo with Sanders.
Daniel Gibson is a name forgotten by many fans outside of those who watch his reality show with his wife, Keyshia Cole. Gibson has also seen a drop in the amount of minutes he’s played since LeBron James departed Cleveland. “Boobie” Gibson is just 27 years old and when LBJ was still in town, Gibson showed that he is not only capable of contributing, but showing up in clutch and pivotal moments during playoff games. Gibson needs a fresh start in the worst way and Milwaukee will give him the opportunity to get minutes as the backup to Jennings. As long as he hasn’t lost his shooting touch, he could make an immediate impact for the Bucks.
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DRAFT TARGETS: Tim Hardaway Jr., Erick Green and Pierre Jackson
Tim Hardaway Jr. was part of the Michigan team that made a run all the way to the NCAA Championship Game this past season. Though Trey Burke and Mitch McGary got a lot of the publicity during the tournament, and rightfully so as they were dominating, Hardaway Jr. made more than his fair share of contributions. He was inconsistent during his career at Michigan, but there was always noticeable talent in his game. Hardaway Jr. has the ability to score at every level: in the paint, from midrange and from deep. If he is able to work on tightening his handle (maybe steal his father’s famous UTEP 2-Step), he will have an offensive repertoire to match some of the NBA’s best wing scorers.
Erick Green had an amazing season for the Virginia Tech Hokies, leading the ACC and the country in scoring, averaging 25 points per game. Green showed the ability to get shots when all the defensive attention was focused on him, even converting some of the more difficult shots too. Though Green had to carry the scoring load for the Hokies, he is by no means a gunner. He simply played his role. You could see that Green would make the right pass to the open teammate when the situation called for it. In the NBA, teams won’t be able to load up on him like the schools did last season and the openness of the game will only help him excel. Green could replace Ellis has the team’s unconscious scorer and also do it for cheaper while coming off the bench.
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Pierre Jackson was one of the most electric and exciting players in all of college basketball. Though small in stature, measured at 5-10.5 in shoes at the 2013 NBA Draft Combine, his effect on Baylor was enormous. A JUCO transfer, Jackson played only two years at the Division 1 level yet made them count. In his first season, he helped lead the Bears to an Elite Eight appearance and this year he was the team’s best player (19.8 points, 7.1 dimes and 1.5 steals a night). With the recent playoff success of Chicago Bulls point guard Nate Robinson, being short is not as much of a stigma as it once was. Jackson’s skills closely resemble Robinson’s. If he can hone them throughout his career, he can make quite the impact as well.
What do the Bucks need to do this summer?
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