Just a few months ago, the Milwaukee Bucks had assembled a trio of players (Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick) that gave their team solid scoring on the wings. But as it stands now, two of those players (Ellis and Redick) have taken their talents elsewhere and Jennings is in the midst of a restricted free agency that appears to have no resolution in sight.
It already seems like a lifetime ago that the Bucks were a playoff team, even if they lost to the Miami Heat in the first round. For a team like the Bucks, long on the outside, the playoffs are a step in the right direction. Even now, though, there are good pieces on this roster. A core moving forward of Jennings, O.J. Mayo and Larry Sanders isn’t such a grim reality. Even if that’s not a contending team, it will be competitive in an Eastern Conference that is wide open at the bottom.
Anyway, let’s took at the Bucks’ entire offseason.
NBA Draft Grade: C
Players Selected: Giannas Antetokounmpo (15), Nate Wolters (38)
The Bucks took risks in the 2013 NBA Draft. With their first pick, they took Giannas Antetokounmpo, who some analysts have compared to a young Kevin Durant due to his body type. However, there are doubts about the young Greek player. First off, scouts have likened his playing level to that of a Division III college if he was playing stateside. Secondly, he’s still frail and will need to put on solid weight in order to get an NBA body. If he decides to come over from Greece right now, he might be better off staying in the D-League for a season or two before joining the Bucks 12-man roster.
Their second pick, Nate Wolters from Cal, is a guard that Chad Ford compares to Jimmer Fredette with better court vision. At best, he plays minutes right away, and at the worst, he’s insurance in case Jennings gets a deal Milwaukee won’t match.
Free Agency: Incomplete
The final grade for the Bucks will depend on what Jennings ends up doing. If they can keep him – and at a fair price – then they’ll be in the B- range. That’s for a multitude of reasons, starting with cutting ties with Ellis. Jennings and Ellis both need the ball in their hands to play at their best, and I expect Milwaukee to be more efficient without Ellis taking almost 18 shots a game. Secondly, they brought in Mayo, who should work alongside Jennings pretty well. $8 million is a little steep for the former USC Trojan, but considering their geographic location, Milwaukee is going to have to pay more to get a player like Mayo. And lastly, the Bucks made smart moves in a) adding Carlos Delfino and b) waiving Drew Gooden.
In summary, if they keep Jennings, the Bucks could sneak into the playoffs next season. If not, then it’ll take career years from Mayo and Sanders to still be playing come May.
Projected Starting Five: Brandon Jennings (PG), O.J. Mayo (SG), Ersan Ilyasova (SF), John Henson (PF), Larry Sanders (C)
Overall Offseason Grade: B-
*This grade assumes that Jennings comes back in Milwaukee and gives the Bucks the starting five projected above. That team could score lots of points and Sanders can hold his own against a lot of bigs in the association. And considering they won’t be a contender next year, that’s the best they can ask for.