State of the Cap: Milwaukee Bucks
By Josh Redetzke
[img_assist|nid=1119|title=Yi Jianlian|desc=Icon SMI|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=450]2008/09 Milwaukee Bucks Payroll: $62.3 million
2008/09 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $58 million (estimate)
Roughly: $4.3 million over cap
Last summer’s biggest transaction, re-signing point guard Mo Williams, is off to a pretty good start. Mo maintained his scoring and assists at 17.2 and 6.4 per game while raising his shooting percentages, both from the floor and the three-point line. His contract is fairly priced as well, averaging about $8.7 million the next five years. He might not be a star point guard, but he plays well for the money. The only knock on Mo has been his health. For the third straight season, he hasn’t played more than 68 games. If Mo can get rid of those nagging injuries, the Bucks have a solid floor leader for a while.
Andrew Bogut is steadily improving his play from year to year. The Australian center nearly averaged a double-double with 14.4 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. More importantly, Bogut added some shot-blocking ability to his game and figured out how to get in a better defensive position. If he continues to work on his defense and fine tunes his offensive moves, Bogut could soon be an All-Star. I guess that is to be expected from a former number one pick. Milwaukee only has one more year of Bogut under his rookie contract. They should probably lock him up with an extension this summer to potentially save themselves some money.
Ramon Sessions was an absolute revelation late in the season for the Bucks. The second round pick from Nevada got a lot of playing time after the team was all but eliminated from the playoffs and he made the most of it. Sessions had 10 or more assists in five straight games to end the season, including a Milwaukee record 24 in a game against Chicago. Sure, it was a meaningless game between two bad teams, but that’s still pretty dang impressive. Sessions looks like he will be an excellent backup to Mo Williams next season for the bargain price of only $711,000.
The draft choice of Yi Jianlian was extremely risky, but early in the season the Jianlian experience seemed to be going well. Yi showed a nice touch on his jumper, good shot-blocking instincts, and crashed the boards, culminating in a 29 point, 10 rebound effort against Charlotte. However, soon after that game, Yi hit a wall and then endured a nagging left knee sprain. He seemed to be too exhausted from the long NBA season and his national team commitments. The jury is still out as to whether Yi can be a viable starter in the league and worthy of the sixth pick in the draft. Next season will be very important to his development and his confidence.
I can’t write enough about the horrible contracts of Bobby Simmons and Dan Gadzuric. After missing all of the previous season due to injury and with the arrival of Desmond Mason, it wasn’t surprising to see Simmons’s minutes take a nosedive. What’s alarming is that Simmons’s shooting percentages went along with it. If he can’t beat out Mason for the bulk of small forward minutes then Simmons has no business making $9.9 and $10.5 million the next two seasons.
Gadzuric fell even further out of the rotation, struggling to reach ten minutes a game. To think that he will be paid $20 million dollars over the next three years is enough to make any Buck fan sick to their stomach. If new GM John Hammond can find a way to jettison either player this summer, he should get some votes for Executive of the Year.
Milwaukee finally hired a coach with experience, calling in Scott Skiles to provide defense and discipline, two things this team desperately needs. The new coach is a good first step, but more big changes could be coming soon. Michael Redd is set to make loads of cash the next three years ($15.7, $17, and $18.3 million to be exact). He is still one of the best scorers in the league, but it has become very obvious that Redd cannot carry a team on his own despite his pay scale. Since he is highly valuable and would be better off playing with another star or two somewhere else, the Bucks will field a few trade offers for him this summer. The right combination of draft picks, good young players, and cap relief would certainly be tempting. I like Redd as a person and a player, but he just doesn’t seem to be the right fit for this team.
The changes may not stop there. Charlie Villanueva still has value because of his cheap contract and occasional flashes of skill. However, defense seems to confuse and frighten him and his outside shot isn’t very dependable. Villanueva might not last long on a Scott Skiles team, so they need to find a player who will. If the Bucks can use him to get rid of Gadzuric’s contract, even better. There is talent here on this Milwaukee team, though with contract extensions coming up for Bogut and Villanueva, they could be in salary cap trouble the next couple of years if some personnel changes don’t take place. The pressure will be on Skiles to get this group to play together and give a consistent effort every night.
It’s tough being a coach in the NBA these days. No matter how much they win, some coaches still can’t keep their job. Scott Skiles was 137-109 in three seasons commanding a young Bulls team. One bad 9-16 start and he gets the axe. Flip Saunders won 47 to 58 games in five straight seasons and then he was booted the year after a Conference Finals appearance because of a .500 record. After that, he won no less than 53 games in his three seasons with the Pistons, including three straight conference finals appearances. That wasn’t enough as he was fired again. That means Flip lead a team to the conference finals four times in a five year span and was fired TWICE. Mike D’Antoni won between 54 and 62 games for four straight seasons and Avery Johnson compiled a 194-70 mark over four seasons with the Mavericks. Both were removed from their duties. I know the main goal of any franchise is to win a championship, but some of these teams are really going to regret losing a talented coach. They aren’t easy to find.
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