The Free Agency Profile for the Milwaukee Bucks
*Photo via AP
2014-15 Record: 41-41 (3rd Central Division, 6th Eastern Conference)
Season Summary: The Milwaukee Bucks had a very interesting and chaotic season. After finishing with the worst record in the league the previous season, the Bucks managed to finish .500 and make the playoffs.
The Bucks played the superior Chicago Bulls tough in the first round of the playoffs, but they ultimately fell to Chicago in six games.
One of the biggest reasons for the Bucks turnaround was first year Head Coach, Jason Kidd. After just one season as the Brooklyn Nets’ coach, Kidd had a falling out with the team and filled the Bucks vacant heading coaching position. Kidd helped the Bucks improve, and his excellent coaching was especially on display in the playoffs.
In Game 4 of the Chicago series, the Bucks found themselves down 3-0 with Game 4 tied at 90 apiece. The Bulls gave the ball to Derrick Rose for the last shot, but Khris Middleton stole the ball at the foul line. Before heaving up a desperation shot from the opposite foul line, Coach Kidd wisely called a timeout with 1.3 seconds left on the clock. This decision allowed the Bucks to move the ball up to their end of the court and draw up the game-winning play to extend their season.
While the Bucks were a pleasant surprise this season the team still had its share of setbacks. Promising center, Larry Sanders agreed to buyout his contract with the Bucks after deciding to retire due to personal issues. The absence of Sanders leaves a void in the middle for the Bucks as they build their team moving forward. In addition, his contract will still count for $5 million against their salary cap in each of the next three seasons. After finishing with the worst record in the league the Bucks were rewarded with the second pick in the draft. They used this pick to select Jabari Parker out of Duke. Unfortunately, Parker’s rookie season was cut short after he tore his left ACL. The injury ended Parker’s year after just 25 games. At the time Parker was the early favorite for Rookie of the Year. Parker’s return to full health and the continued development of Giannis Antetokounmpo are the keys to the Bucks present and long-term future.
Cap Space: About $17 million under the current salary cap projection of $67.1 million.
Impending Free Agents: SF Jared Dudley ($4.25 Million player option), PF: Johnny O’Bryant ($845K team option), SG/SF: Khris Middleton (Restricted free agent)
Will They Stay or Go: Power Forward Johnny O’Bryant, who started 15 games for the Bucks, will likely have his inexpensive team option picked up. Jared Dudley has stated that he would like to be back in Milwaukee, but there is no guarantee that Dudley returns. The biggest question for the Bucks is whether or not to retain Khris Middleton. Middleton has become one of the most complete wings in the league. He is an excellent defender and three-point shooter who has proven he can score around 15 points per game if needed. Middleton will not be short on suitors in free agency, and it is unclear how much teams will be willing to offer him. Regardless of what other teams offer, the Bucks control Middleton’s future since he is a restricted free agent. As long as the contract is not completely absurd the Bucks should make retaining Middleton their offseason priority.
Team Needs: The Bucks already have ten players under contract that can be counted upon as rotation players, and that’s not counting the team’s impending draft picks or signings. The Bucks do not have any pressing needs and should look to deal quantity for quality. Milwaukee holds the 17th and 46th selections in this year's draft and has many veterans on expiring contracts. O.J. Mayo, Ersan Ilyasova(now traded), Jerryd Bayless, and Zaza Pachulia are all either unrestricted free agents or under a team option after this season. The Bucks should take advantage of these favorable contracts and package them with a combination of young players and draft picks if a desirable player becomes available in the trade market.
Tyson Chandler- Chandler would be able to step in and fill the role that Larry Sanders was supposed to take for the Bucks. Chandler would be the backline of a long and athletic defense in Milwaukee. In addition, Chandler brings championship experience and veteran leadership to a young team on the rise. If the Bucks really want to spend big, they can also go after DeAndre Jordan who would fill the same role as Chandler.
Alan Anderson, Corey Brewer, Danny Green, Marco Belinelli, Mike Dunleavy- Before dealing with signing wings from other teams, Milwaukee must figure out whether Jared Dudley and Khris Middleton are returning. If both return there is no need to target these players, and if both leave the shooting guard/small forward positions become the Bucks biggest need. All of the players above having varying skill levels and price ranges, but they all can be brought in and play valuable rotation minutes. Danny Green should only be targeted if Middleton leaves in free agency. The other players can be looked at as replacements for Dudley if he declines his player option.