Bucks Saying Goodbye to Villanueva Tough, but the Right Choice

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Bucks Saying Goodbye to Villanueva Tough, but the Right Choice
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
A couple of days ago, the Milwaukee Bucks announced that they were giving qualifying offers to point guard Ramon Sessions and forward Ersan Ilyasova, making them both restricted free agents.  This means that any team will be able to offer them contracts, but the Bucks can match them and retain the players.

What the offers to Session and Ilyasova also means is that power forward Charlie Villanueva, 24, becomes an unrestricted free agent and will not be returning to the Bucks next season.  Villanueva played three seasons for the Bucks where he averaged 13.5 points per game.

Last year, Villanueva took over the reigns, along with Richard Jefferson, when Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut went down with season-ending injuries.  Villanueva will draw many offers as a free agent, with Detroit and Cleveland being two possibilities.

Many Bucks fans did not understand why general manager John Hammond would trade Richard Jefferson for very little and then let Charlie Villanueva go despite drafting a point guard in the first round of the NBA draft.

First things first, the Bucks are retaining a player in Ramon Sessions that has become a triple-double threat every night if he is able to see the minutes.  He seems to be entering his prime right now, and while it might have made more sense to let him go, Sessions is a starting point guard in the NBA that comes at a fairly cheap price.

Speaking of price, Sessions was also going to be the cheaper of the two to re-sign.  While that can not be a deciding factor in who stays and who goes, it definitely is a factor.  Villanueva has two years on Sessions and has more than just half of a good season under his belt.  Also, with such a strong point guard class in this year’s draft, Sessions’ stock would have been down anyway.

In regards to the draft selection of Brandon Jennings, the Bucks were in a spot where they needed to obtain the best basketball player on their board and they believe they did just that. The Bucks are not one piece away from a championship, so selecting Jennings wasn’t a make or break deal.  Management believed he was the best player available.

Furthermore, today’s game allows for more than one point guard to be on the floor at a time.  If the Bucks really believe Jennings is going to be that good, they would have been foolish to pass on him.  Sessions and Jennings will form great depth in the Bucks backcourt along with Michael Redd and Charlie Bell.  The addition of Jodie Meeks, drafted in the second round, gives them a lot of scoring options that they lacked last year.

Another reason for letting Villanueva hit free agency was the acquisition of power forward Amir Johnson.  After the Jefferson trade to the Spurs, the Bucks sent Fabricio Oberto to the Pistons for the 6′9″ Johnson.  Drafted back in 2005 in the second round by the Pistons, Johnson has had trouble finding minutes on a deep Pistons team.

For the Bucks, Johnson will compete for the starting power forward position with second year forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.  If Johnson’s potential shines through, he will be a steal in the trade and make Bucks fans forget about Villanueva.

As hard as it was, the Bucks were better off letting Charlie Villanueva walk away instead of giving him an offer.  For as good of a guy he was off the court and the way he carried the team through rough portions of last year, the money wasn’t right and the Bucks felt he was dispensable enough to let go.

As for Richard Jefferson, it was also an economic decision that had to be made in order to keep Sessions.  In letting him go, a gaping hole was left at the small forward position that will be filled by Bruce Bowen and Joe Alexander.  While a move like this had to be done, it would have been nice to see some other moves made so that Sessions could be retained while keeping Jefferson as well.

Next year’s Bucks team could really go either way.  Losing two key players in Jefferson and Villanueva will undoubtedly hurt the unit, but new players will get a chance to prove themselves.  Johnson and Alexander will get the most minutes of their careers and Brandon Jennings can learn from Sessions in the backcourt.  It might not happen next year, but things are looking up for the Bucks’ future.

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