State of the Cap: Milwaukee Bucks

Sun, 05/13/2007 - 8:50am

By Josh Redetzke

2007/08 Milwaukee Bucks Payroll: $41.7 million
2007/08 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $55 million
Roughly: $13.3 million under cap

[img_assist|nid=3879|title=Andrew Bogut - AP Photo: Jack Orton|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=302]The Good: Many of the Bucks were bitten by the injury bug during this disappointing season and Andrew Bogut was one of them, missing 16 games at the end of the year. However, up until that point, the Aussie center was having a good sophomore season in the NBA. His points (12.3) and rebounds (8.9) were up from last year and he once again shot 55.3% from the field, good for 7th in the league. Bogut also averaged 3 assists per game, a credit to his passing ability. He is only 22 years old and if he can continue to improve at this rate, he could live up to his #1 pick potential. Milwaukee has two more years at rookie pay to find out.

The Bucks will be well under the salary cap this summer thanks to the expiring contracts of Ruben Patterson and Calvin Booth and an option on Brian Skinner's contract that the team is not planning to exercise. Those three combined will save the Bucks $20 million and make them a major player in the free-agent market. Patterson played exceptionally well this season, but unless he re-signs for a much smaller amount, the team would rather have the cash savings.

The Bad: The contract of Bobby Simmons is now looking like a huge mistake after he missed all of last season due to ankle surgery. Milwaukee still owes Simmons nearly $30 million dollars over the next three seasons. After an injury like that, any type of contribution will be welcome next year. The team must make the best of the situation since they are probably stuck with Simmons for quite a while.

Another regrettable contract belongs to backup center Dan Gadzuric. With Jamaal Magloire gone, Gadzuric's numbers were supposed to improve enough to warrant the four years and $26 million left on his deal. Instead, all the Bucks got was 4.8 points and 4.6 rebounds in 15 minutes a game. Gadzuric's role must be expanded if he is to earn that kind of money.

Point guard T.J. Ford had a lot of talent and an improving game, but with Mo Williams waiting in the wings, Milwaukee traded Ford to fill a void at power forward with Charlie Villanueva. The team was right about Mo Williams after his phenomenal year, but Villanueva would like to forget this season as fast as he can. The promising scorer played in only 39 games and was never able to get into the flow with his new teammates. Meanwhile, Ford was helping Toronto run to 47 wins and a #3 seed in the playoffs. Villanueva needs to stay healthy and find his place in the offense if the team expects him to be a cornerstone of the franchise.

The Future: Considering the incredible amount of injuries sustained by the Bucks this season, they really need a do-over and pretend that it never happened. This team is rich with talent and there is little doubt that a healthy Michael Redd would have had them in the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference. With four years and about $65.5 million remaining on his contract, Redd is being paid like a superstar and playing like it. Though he only appeared in 53 games, Redd raised his scoring average for a seventh straight season, finishing 5th in the NBA at 26.7 per game. The Bucks have their horse to ride, they just need the rest of the team to stay healthy and come together around him.

Milwaukee has some big decisions to make this summer. The team is well under the cap, but Mo Williams shined this season and he could be pricy to keep. Rumors persist that the Bucks will go after Chauncey Billups in free-agency, meaning Williams would be a goner. There is no doubt that Billups would add toughness, leadership, and experience to the team, but is it wise to give max money to a 30-year-old, high-mileage player when Williams put up nearly identical stats and is six years younger? I say keep Mo (for the right price) and try to use the rest of your free-agent dollars on other needs.
The silver lining on an otherwise forgettable year is that the Bucks have the third highest shot at getting one of the top two picks in the draft. Kevin Durant could be the small forward Milwaukee is looking for to replace Bobby Simmons and form one of the top young frontcourts in the league with Bogut and Villanueva. Durant could also develop into a second star scorer alongside Redd. With a little luck, health, and smart moves this summer, the Bucks will have a chance to build something special.

Free Throw: Despite previous failures, Milwaukee once again decided to go with a rookie head coach, this time former player Larry Krystkowiak. The team's main weak spots have been defense and inconsistent play, aspects that more experienced coaches would have a better chance to solve. With first-time coaches, you are effectively rolling the dice and hoping they can become a good head coach instead of depending on previous performance. The players seem to respect Krystkowiak, but if he doesn't get results quickly, look for the Bucks to go with a veteran coach next time.

Grade: B

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