Cost-Effective Moves the Milwaukee Bucks Can Make in Free Agency
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Much like the rest of the world, money means everything in the NBA.
Getting the numbers correct when it comes to signing players can make a world of difference for a given franchise moving forward. For the Milwaukee Bucks, it's no different.
As the free-agency period rapidly approaches, the Bucks will not only need to sort out their backcourt issues, but they'll need to spend money wisely in order to avoid future disasters.
For the upcoming season, the Bucks owe $29.5 million in guaranteed money.
With Monta Ellis opting out of his contract and losing Brandon Jennings a real possibility, the team will likely have plenty of money to spend. But being thrifty is always better than overpaying, which is why the Bucks must be smart and target players that won't hurt them in the long haul.
When Jennings becomes a restricted free agent on July 1, it's tough to imagine some other team not offering him more than the $4.5 million qualifying offer he has from the Bucks for 2013-14. If he does receive an offer sheet from someone else and the Bucks decide not to match, they'll be in the market for a new point guard.
One possibility is veteran—and Milwaukee native—Devin Harris.
Harris is coming to the end of a five-year, $43 million deal, and due to his decline in play, he probably won't see anywhere near the $8.5 million he made with the Atlanta Hawks this past season.
And while his numbers have dropped, he could still be a valuable piece if the price is right.
With the Hawks, Harris averaged 9.9 points and 3.4 assists per game in 58 appearances—primarily coming off the bench.
At 30 years old, Harris isn't a kid anymore. However, if he can remain healthy, he could provide his hometown team with the production it needs from the point guard position if Jennings does in fact end up elsewhere. He still has the explosiveness needed to get by defenders, and he's always had a knack for getting to the free-throw line.
While he may never return to his 2008-09 form, Harris could come home and, if healthy and if given the reins, provide affordable value for the Bucks.
Half of the salary he made last season—or maybe even less—would be reasonable for his services.
Despite young talent like Larry Sanders and John Henson in the frontcourt, the Bucks could use some added depth, especially with the concern over Sanders' ability to stay out of foul trouble.
One player who may provide a bit of intrigue is Andray Blatche.
Blatche averaged 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game this past season with the Brooklyn Nets and proved to be a solid option off the bench.
But along with his skill set comes a fair amount of baggage that many teams might not have the patience to deal with.
Entering the free-agent market after making a little over $854K this season, he'll almost certainly be looking for more money and deservedly so. A veteran presence who is willing to grind in the post is exactly what the Bucks need to go along with the length and athleticism of Henson and Sanders.
For the right price, Blatche could be that guy.
With Mike Dunleavy slated to become a free agent when July 1 rolls around, the Bucks could very well be looking for another option off the bench at small forward.
And Chase Budinger may be a good one.
A younger, more athletic version of Dunleavy, Budinger seemed to be slowly establishing himself as a legitimate contributor for the Minnesota Timberwolves before suffering an injury that forced him to miss 59 games.
After making just over $885K last season, he'll like be seeking a raise and should get one. However, any salary hike likely won't be substantial, and the Bucks could easily get him for less than it'd cost them to re-sign Dunleavy.
Not to mention, at age 24, Budinger still has plenty of years to grow as a player and could potentially become a big value at a low cost, much like Chandler Parsons has become with the Houston Rockets.
Whether he does or not is yet to be seen, but Milwaukee general manager John Hammond should take a close look at him once the free-agent period begins.
Another option the Bucks may have at the small forward position is the Washington Wizards Martell Webster.
At 26 years old, Webster put together the best season of his career in 2012-13 by averaging 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists while shooting 42.2 percent from three-point territory. Like Budinger, Webster would provide the Bucks with more athleticism at the 3 than Dunleavy and, given the minutes, could prove to be an excellent scoring weapon at an efficient cost.
Which of the aforementioned players would be the best fit for the Bucks?
He made $1.75 million with the Wizards in 2012-13, but will probably command at least another million or so as he seeks a new deal.
Still, spending more to acquire his services would certainly be in Milwaukee's interest.
He's still young, can score and showed this past season that he can also defend a little bit by recording 2.4 defensive win shares.
As it currently stands, the Bucks won't be forced to penny-pinch, but spending money wisely, instead of handing out bad contracts, is always in the franchise's best interest. The ability to spread the wealth out wisely will be a major determining factor in the future success of the organization.
And it all begins this summer.
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