Saturday, January 10, 2009

Vision Is Not Just for Guards

The best laid plans take time and patience. In the sports world however there are two things that are usually not allotted to those running the teams; time and patience. And when the time and patience of their fan bases and owners are running thin, trades for players like Stephon Marbury or Steve Francis happen. The NBA: Where Panic Happens. It is not always negativity that causes teams to stray from their plan though. If a team is further along than thought, its easy to think adding a piece here or there will propel them to that next level. Suddenly the Milwaukee Bucks have become le chic in the NBA. Hard to beat at home and scrappy on the road, the Bucks have become playoff sleeper team de jour. It would be easy for a casual fan to think they could make some noise in the playoffs this year. But my message to John Hammond is urgent and clear...


Rebuilding is the name of the game in Milwaukee. Michael Redd will be remembered as a great scorer and awesome guy, but by all means Redd needs to continue to be dangled, especially as he begins to heat up. Between Redd and Richard Jefferson the Bucks have commited 28.9, 31.24, and 33.3 million dollars in the next three years. That represents nearly 50% of the payroll over that time period. When half of an NBA teams payroll is invested in two players who are neither 1's or 2's on championship teams, something needs to change. The problem is not only that these two are not even top 10 players at their positions, it’s the positions that they play. Very few shooting guards or small forwards are even worth elite money. For the things that Redd and Jefferson do at 30 million, wouldn’t the Bucks be just as well off with say, Roger Mason and Josh Howard for 15 million?

Giving giant contracts to wing men is seriously illogical. The positions that require big money are point guard and center, with center becoming less important as the game evolves into more of a point guard game. Going forward point guard seems to become more important with each passing year. Shouldn’t the Bucks be doing everything in their power to get in position to make a play for Brandon Jennings or Ricky Rubio this year? Even if they are not able to move up, stock piling draft picks can never hurt. The biggest problem the last regime had was their apparent disregard for drafts. The only way to successfully build toward a brighter tomorrow is the draft! Free agency has proven time and time again it is not the answer. Look at the most high profile signings from this off season:

Elton Brand
Baron Davis
Corey Maggette

How well are those guys working out? Development is better than instant solutions. Oklahoma City looks like they are pathetically run, but they are just following the blueprint for a future that Portland laid out.

I am just as excited as anyone to see the Bucks winning again. The games this week against the Raptors and Nets were thrilling contests that the Bucks did a lot of things right in. Winning games against competitive Eastern Conference opponents without their most important player was a significant sign of development in the 2008-09 Milwaukee Bucks. The thought of returning to the playoffs is an inviting one, after the atrocities of the last two seasons. The recent string of consistency from Charlie Villanueva has been another plus. It would be very easy to get sucked into a line of thinking that says the Bucks could be a pretty strong team if he has finally figured out how to bring the same game every night. But even if the Bucks roll out a top lineup of Bogut, Charlie V., Jefferson, Redd, and Ridnour, where will that get them after this season? After Bogut and Charlie V., none of those guys are going to get any better than they already are. This is not Major League Baseball in the late 90's, guys don’t suddenly become superstars after age 30.

It’s a lot of fun to see a team competing hard at the defensive end, hitting big shots, and winning games against good teams. I recognize that Redd and Jefferson don’t necessarily need to be dealt tomorrow. Their contracts extend long enough that the brain trust can take their time and wait for the right deal, whether that comes this week, next month, or next season. If I say that they need to have patience, then Bucks fans need to do the same in waiting for the right moves to come along. But this is not the season for the Bucks to tool up with bad contracts or silly trades. Any trades they do must be based on acquiring future assets, not players for this season. Hammond and Skiles are doing a great job, and I’ll enjoy the ride that the Bucks are on for now and hope that they are able to avoid any of those big trees that block their vision of the forest.

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