Free Agents: Khris Middleton (Restricted), Jared Dudley (Early Termination Option)
Milwaukee recently released another rebranding effort, one that looks fantastic. With a new logo, uniform, and court, this young team has a renewed look that separates it from the middling years of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. They continue to draft well, and with the addition of Rashad Vaughn, the Bucks potentially add a reliable scorer in 3rd year head coach Jason Kidd’s rotation. With just a few moves, this surprise playoff team in the East could be trending even higher after the conclusion of free agency.
Though the Bucks lost Jabari Parker early on after he suffered an ACL tear, they put together an unexpected run to the playoffs. This meteoric rise saw the lottery Bucks improve on a terrible 15-67 record in 2014 to a playoff-qualifying .500 in 2015. Much of the credit to their newfound success has to go to Kidd, whose defensive schemes helped establish the Bucks as a top-tier team on that end of the court. Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Henson were pivotal contributors towards that feat, and it is highly likely that Middleton will be quickly re-signed by the Bucks after they created cap space by jettisoning the disappointing Ilyasova to the Pistons. Jared Dudley will likely not exercise his ETO, which that could be a blessing in disguise for his value after a career year in Milwaukee (which makes his languishing on the bench of Doc Rivers during the 13-14 season that much more confounding).
“To be honest, I always believed we could do better. But I didn’t know if we could go from 15 wins to get 40”
The biggest surprise regarding Milwaukee, however, is their apparent interest in centers DeAndre Jordan, Brook Lopez, and Tyson Chandler. The acquisition of Lopez would give the Bucks a formidable scoring option in the low post and on the inside (if he can remain healthy), and his defensive woes could be adequately hidden by his fellow starting mates via their ironclad help defense (yet another credit to Jason Kidd’s coaching).
Chandler, however, is a capable offensive player in his own right, and his elite defensive presence would elevate the Bucks to astounding heights – even if he will turn 33 later this year. The thought of plays similar to Kidd’s own in their 2010-2011 championship season in Dallas would work very well for the 32 year-old that just had an incredible season in Dallas.
The Bucks are a long shot to acquire Jordan’s talents however, which is probably for the best, as his definite lack of post-offense wouldn’t help Milwaukee enough to warrant him being at the top of their list. They are likely to see him go to a larger market team in Los Angeles or Dallas.
If they were to acquire one of these players, they could make an enticing deal by conducting a sign-and-trade which would send point guard Michael Carter-Williams and big man John Henson to a new home. The Bucks were reportedly considering trading the two players for a top ten draft pick, but when it became evident that wasn’t happening, they stuck to their guns and made a smaller deal for the Toronto Raptors’ Greivis Vasquez. With Dudley, Middleton, Vaughn, Mayo, Bayless, Vasquez, and Carter-Williams all manning the guard spots, a deal could definitely be made to reduce the clutter in that part of their rotation. The motivation for dealing Henson could be because the Bucks’ management feels like Parker can adequately replace his production after coming back from injury next season. Look for Coach Kidd to improve on his stellar performance coaching his team to the playoffs with a better record and a more competitive playoffs (barring injury)
Either way, the Bucks figure to come out of free agency as one step closer to contention, at least on paper, and we at Reunion Lights will be watching for this young playoff team to get even better this year.
Prediction: Jared Dudley will not exercise his ETO. Caron Butler’s non-guaranteed $4.5 million contract will be waived. This will carve out space to retain Middleton, who will get around $10 million per year. Finally, the Bucks will make their biggest splash in trading Carter-Williams, Mayo, and Henson in exchange for Brook Lopez signed onto a max deal (with other players and draft picks added on both sides to make things compatible). Head Coach Jason Kidd will land his team in the postseason or for the third time in as many years.
This piece is part 2 of the 30 Team Offseason Preview Series by Fazal Ahmed.