Updated Long-Term Plan for the Milwaukee Bucks

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Updated Long-Term Plan for the Milwaukee Bucks
Morry Gash/Associated Press

A surprising sense of frugality, highlighted by modest free-agency moves, is a luminous sign that the Milwaukee Bucks are not only aware of past mistakes, but that they also have a long-term plan in place.

That becomes even more evident when you look at what they have done, despite how much of a swerve it is from previous offseasons.

Instead of overpaying a player like O.J. Mayo, as they did a year ago, the Bucks focused the few additions they did make on players—such as Jerryd Bayless and Kendall Marshall—who add depth at a reasonable cost.

Now, as the bulk of activity in the free-agency period winds down and the most immediate needs have been addressed, here's what fans should expect in the long term.

 

Shedding Salary

Bill Haber/Associated Press

Even though the Bucks figure to begin the season under the league's $63 million salary cap, shedding some hefty contracts should still be a top priority.

Mayo and Ersan Ilyasova are on the books for a combined $15.9 million in 2014-15 after they both posted terrible numbers over the course of the 2013-14 season.

And earlier reports suggested the team was shopping both men at some point this summer.

First, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders tweeted that the Bucks were willing to part with Mayo:

Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times then stated that the team was making a strong push to get rid of Ilyasova:

However, ESPN's Marc Stein followed that up by reporting that there was some sentiment within the organization not to trade the 27-year-old Turk.

At this juncture, the likeliness that either player is traded prior to the season opener is doubtful.

That doesn't mean they won't be dealt, though.

Mayo and Ilyasova both will be looking to post better numbers than they did a year ago and are still too good to not play significant minutes.

If one, or both, of them can put their talent on display for the first half of 2014-15, contending teams might be more willing to take on their bloated salaries prior to the yearly trade deadline.

The sooner the Bucks can free themselves from these two deals, the better.

Not only would it give them more money to spend in free agency next summer, but it would almost certainly land them a few more draft picks as well.

That's never a bad thing.

 

Continuing to Build Around Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

While the Bucks have a solid core of young players, only two have the potential to blossom into superstars.

Those two players are Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

While both are young and still have plenty of growing pains to overcome, they are the future and the building blocks of the franchise.

As it stands, the Bucks certainly don't have bad youth surrounding these two men.

Two seasons ago, Larry Sanders was one of the league's most imposing shot-blockers, and in 2013-14, Brandon Knight took major strides forward during a career year. Finally, John Henson continues to slowly come into his own and is arguably the team's biggest scoring threat down low.

However, the aforementioned players shouldn't be off-limits in trade discussions and shouldn't make the Bucks think twice about drafting a player at one of those positions.

For example, if the team ends up with a top-five pick in the 2015 draft—which is a definite possibility—it would be hard to argue against drafting Jahlil Okafor or Emmanuel Mudiay because of Knight and Sanders.

Simply put: There are players who are expendable should the right opportunity present itself.

And that's why the Bucks need to actively listen to any inquiries for anyone not named Parker or Antetokounmpo.

Getting younger and adding potential superstar talent should always be the goal, especially for a team that is in the midst of a full rebuild and has a hard time attracting top-notch free agents.

A strategy to add talent—whether it be via trade or the draft—needs to be firmly in place.

There is talent on the current roster, but there are also weak spots remaining, especially if someone like Sanders cannot improve offensively.

 

Exercising Patience

Morry Gash/Associated Press

Rarely do things turn around overnight.

For the Bucks, that'll be no different as they continue their rebuild.

With Herb Kohl no longer owner of the team, the win-now mentality should be gone as well.

Kohl was notorious for his efforts to compete—or attempt to—even if it meant capturing the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference each season.

While I'm not the biggest proponent of tanking, Kohl's strategy was a bit of a head-scratcher as well.

The former owner made that clear prior to the 2013-14 season, per Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

We think we had a chance to be pretty good this year until we sort of cratered at the end. We want to be very good this coming year. We have a roster to put together; we have money to spend. We have our own free agents to deal with. We have our established players who are going to be with us this year.

Clearly, that didn't work out.

What's important now is that new owners Marc Lasry and Wes Edens, along with fans, exercise a certain level of patience in the franchise's future.

Truth be told, it's as simple as Jason Kidd letting his guys play.

It's highly unlikely that this Bucks team gets anywhere near playoff contention—though stranger things have happened—and letting youngsters log big minutes is great preparation for when the team does eventually contend.

Ultimately, there is no need to implement a tanking strategy.

Last season, the team clearly didn't intend to be bad, yet found a way to be awful.

Usually, things work themselves out, and by just letting these guys play, the Bucks should still be looking at a pick near the top of next summer's draft.

If fans and ownership alike can be patient, they'll be rewarded in a few years when this core of youth hits its full stride.

For now, outside of dumping salary, the roster needs little tweaking, and the Bucks should look a lot like they do today when opening night rolls around.

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