Where Do the Milwaukee Bucks Go with Their Roster from Here?
The Milwaukee Bucks had plenty of questions to answer heading into the trade deadline last weekend.
Coming out of it, they seem to have just as many questions.
The Bucks were unable to pull of a deal for Josh Smith and decided to keep their backcourt intact, despite the fact that both Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings plan on testing the free-agent market (Ellis will likely decline his player option, and Jennings is slated to become a restricted free agent).
Sure, the Bucks did secure the biggest name that was available, J.J. Redick, but he too will be a free agent when the season ends.
So what exactly should the Bucks do with their roster?
Figure out who to keep
Ellis is probably playing his final season in Milwaukee. If he thinks he is worth more than $11 million per season, the Bucks should avoid crushing his delusions of grandeur.
He is a one-dimensional player that can score in bunches but doesn't do anything else well.
In fact, he doesn't really score all that efficiently either. He takes a ton of bad shots and is terrible on defense.
But the Bucks want to try for the playoffs this year, and who can blame them; their recent history has been somewhat disappointing.
Ideally it would have been nice to see the Bucks get something for Ellis, but it's just as well if they didn't receive a decent offer. No sense in giving the guard away.
But by no means should they get into a bidding war for him. The pairing of Ellis with Jennings was a noble experiment that essentially doesn't fit.
Redick is a good player to have around, but is he a starter on a playoff-caliber team? His bad defense would suggest that he isn't. But it will be interesting to see how he pairs with Jennings going forward.
It could be possible that the Bucks are holding a tryout for both Redick and Ellis over the final 20-odd games. But it is more likely that neither player will be in Wisconsin next year.
Now for the biggest question of the offseason: what to do with Jennings?
Jennings is about to become a restricted free agent, which means that the Bucks basically have the right of first refusal. They can match any offer that is extended to him.
Typically, restricted free agents stay put; the game is skewed towards the original team.
In the rare cases that players aren't extended with their original team, like Jeremy Lin last year, it typically is due to exorbitant contracts that the original team can't match.
The Bucks should have upwards of $20 million in cap space next year, so it is unlikely that any team will be able to pry Jennings away.
That being said, it is a very weak free agent class, especially with point guards after Chris Paul, so you may see a team or two go after Jennings.
If someone like the Dallas Mavericks decide to offer Jennings a maximum deal, should the Bucks opt to keep him?
The most likeliest of scenarios, however, has Jennings returning to Milwaukee.
Figure out the wings
The biggest holes on this roster heading into next year will be at the shooting guard and small forward positions.
Provided the Bucks choose not to bring back Ellis, Redick or Mike Dunleavy, they will have a glaring hole on the wing.
Tobias Harris no longer figures into this equation after being dealt for Redick, and the rest of the wing players on the roster are basically "tweeners" that fit better at the 4 spot.
There should be a few options on the free-agent market, but nobody outside of O.J. Mayo would be a game-changer.
Tony Allen is a stud defender but offers little on the offensive end. Randy Foye is more of a combo guard, and the rest of the solid names are either aging or are likely to stay put.
The small forward crop is an even bigger mess. It contains has-beens like Metta World Peace, Richard Jefferson and Stephen Jackson.
Overall, this is not the year to load up on wing players of consequence.
That being said, this is a very deep draft on the wings. Provided the Bucks have a mid-first round pick, they could get a very good small forward like Glenn Robinson III or Otto Porter.
Ideally speaking, the Bucks should try to fill one of these holes through the draft.
Since Mayo likely will go elsewhere, the Bucks might find it best to just re-sign Redick to a reasonable deal and try to replace him over the next few seasons.
Smith still in play?
The Bucks were unable to bring in Josh Smith via trade, but might they take a shot at him through free agency?
The Bucks lack scoring up front. They are a very backcourt-heavy team, relying on their guards to score and their bigs to rebound and defend.
Smith could be a genuine fit in Milwaukee. He can score in a number of ways, and he is athletic enough to play defense against both big forwards and small forwards.
Having Smith around would allow the Bucks to start Ersan Ilyasova. They could basically trot out a frontcourt of Smith, Ilyasova and Larry Sanders. This would provide defense and rebounding to go along with potent scoring.
So what should Milwaukee pay for Smith? The likely answer is a max deal. But would the Bucks be willing to pay that on top of whatever it takes to re-sign Jennings and/or Redick?
Outlook is cloudy
There is both good news and bad news surrounding the Bucks' future.
The good news is that they have some financial flexibility. They have largely been wise with their money and now have some cap space.
The bad news is that they have a lot of question marks on their roster and plenty of holes to fill.
They are not an elite destination for free agents, so they will have to either overpay or hope to draft elite players.
If they plan on remaining relevant in the East after this year, that might just be what they have to do.
All is not bad in Milwaukee. However, how they answer this offseason's questions will determine whether or not they will be contenders in the years to come.
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