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Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

Been a long time since I wrote anything here, but I haven’t forgotten my roots.

Over at my Brew Hoop, Frank Madden has been sharing some discussions he had with Dave Deckard of Blazer’s Edge regarding a hypothetical trade proposal (purely hypothetical, people, let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet). Here’s the deal, in all its beautiful simplicity:

Bucks Receive: SG Wesley Matthews, 2012 First-Round Draft Pick (#11)
Blazers Receive: G Monta Ellis

Let me say first that in John Hammond’s place, I’d go REALLY hard after #6 before sliding back to #11. That’s partially driven by my own value assessment, but there’s also hope you could get the deal sweetened a bit.

The Blazers happen to be one of the few teams where Ellis could conceivably slot in without too much trouble. LaMarcus Aldridge is the only other player who really needs significant offensive touches, and it’s probably easier to accommodate a high-usage G/F combo than G/G. With Matthews’ less-than-friendly contract going to Milwaukee, Portland’s cap situation wouldn’t be at risk. Even if Monta represents an expensive re-sign in the first year of harsher luxury tax penalties, they should have plenty of room to do so without worrying about the financial implications (the wonders of a truly loaded owner). A core of Ellis/LMA/lottery pick/FA would give Portland a good shot at competing in the West for the next few years, especially with the Lakers re-tooling and the Spurs another year older (it has to catch up to them eventually, right?).

For the Bucks, it’s a decent cash-in on Ellis’ value when looked at in context. I’d still say in a pure value sense that Ellis is more valuable than Matthews/#11, but the latter pieces could potentially make the Bucks a better team. The oft-repeated truth is that no team is likely to find a player with the same abilities as Monta Ellis with the #11 pick. Ellis has his flaws, but so does every guard in every draft. You hope those guys can accommodate their weaknesses enough to produce like Ellis can. Most don’t.

That’s where context comes in. While Portland can work around Ellis’ flaws and highlight his strengths, there was a certain level of redundancy in Milwaukee. Not enough size, too many three-point attempts at a low percentage, questionable defense. There’s only so much room for the small and the quick on an NBA team. The second lottery pick might seem like the real prize in this deal, but Wesley Matthews actually accounts for all of those weaknesses.

He’s not a star, but Matthews fits well at the two next to Brandon Jennings. In his Milwaukee stint, SGs opposite Ellis put up a PER of 17.4. Matthews, a solid defender by reputation, gave up a PER of 12.6 to opposing SGs last season. His size alone should keep the Bucks from being abused by bigger backcourts. He’s also a career 39.3% shooter from deep, giving the Bucks much better floor spacing.

There’s obviously going to be some drop-off in athleticism and pure explosiveness should Ellis and Matthews switch places, but a closer look at Matthews’ career reveals some promising facts. In his first two seasons combined, Matthews shot 61.7% at the rim. Then last season, his FG% at the basket plummeted to 49.5%. A drop that significant seems unlikely without some mitigating factors, and a quick look at HoopData’s shot location data reveals a similarly precipitous drop: his assisted-percentage at the rim. Suddenly, Matthews was relying on his own ability to get to the rim and finish, instead of letting his teammates set him up. The Bucks acquired Ellis because he could do what Matthews apparently struggled to do: create his own shot and attack the basket. Would Milwaukee miss that ability if they swap him out?

Not necessarily. If Jennings continues to improve his shooting at the rim and Matthews rebounds to his previous ability, the Bucks will have two serviceable finishers at the guard spots. The Bucks were fourth in the NBA in assisted-percentage at the rim last year, which bodes well for the latter. Combined with better interior scoring, whether acquired through the draft or free-agency, the Bucks could come out of this trade with a more balanced, versatile offense, better equipped for the half-court game that gave them trouble last year. It doesn’t necessarily give you a “core” to work with, but it potentially makes you a better team without too much money tied up in veterans. That allows Kohl and Co. to fulfill their playoff aspirations in the near future while also leaving room for a more thorough rebuilding project.

The financial aspect of the deal is a little trickier for Milwaukee. While getting a young player under team control for the long-term sounds good, Matthews is owed over $20 million in the next three years. Not unreasonable for a good starter, but probably more than Matthews would earn on the open market right now. However, when you factor in the addition of another lottery pick on a cost-controlled deal, it’s easier to reconcile. What’s more, Matthews’ Milwaukee ties make him an easy sell to the fanbase, useful for drumming up interest and ticket sales.

The Bucks might not be ready to cut ties with Ellis; it’s unlikely they traded their franchise center just for the chance to flip the haul a half-season later. And like always, the fate of the roster is tied up in the direction Kohl wants to take the franchise. But this trade idea can certainly be made out as a win-win, satisfying the needs of both franchises while positioning them for future success.

As one last pipe dream, consider this possibility:

1. Trade Monta Ellis to Portland for Wesley Matthews, Shawne Williams, and the #6 pick
2. Draft Harrison Barnes with the #6 pick.
3. Draft a center like Meyers Leonard with the #12 pick.
4. Amnesty Drew Gooden’s contract (or not, if you’d like to keep him in the lineup)

You’re then left with a roster full of young players still on rookie deals, with another year or two to evaluate most of them. You’ve got a potential lineup of Jennings, Matthews, Barnes, and some combination of Sanders, Udoh, and Leonard. If things don’t go well? Play all the young guys and see how things go. You either score another lottery pick or they exceed expectations and make us all happy.

Who’s dropping this one in Hammond’s suggestion box?

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I can’t believe the volume of rumors flying around the Milwaukee Bucks right now. They were supposed to do something at the trade deadline–they sat still. They weren’t supposed to be in this lottery, and their tenth pick wasn’t even supposed to be that valuable in a down draft–suddenly the mid/late lottery is where everybody wants to be.

In actuality, it’s not a bad situation to find yourself in if you’re John Hammond. This is a team that feels confident it can compete in the Eastern Conference when healthy, and I’m inclined to agree. It’s a top-10 defense that can at least be average on offense if guys just hit open shots. I wouldn’t characterize the roster as one with major holes as much as small depressions. That means you can afford to roll with the punches as the picks fall. But it also means deciding whether you want to continue building around the pieces in place or maximize the assets you currently have. And you have to be confident in that choice.

Milwaukee is going to be supremely influenced by what happens ahead of them in the draft. Anytime the plan revolves around a “best player available” approach, you always have to consider what happens if a highly-ranked prospect falls. There’s also a ton of potential trades on the radar. For these purposes, I’m going to imagine that all of these trades are on the table for Milwaukee to sign off on. As such, I think the best way for me to suss out my ideal Milwaukee Bucks draft scenario is through a priority-style explanation. Here we go:

Priority #1: Draft Jonas Valanciunas if available

I’d pretty much completely talked myself into Colorado SG Alec Burks with the #10 pick until a day or two ago, when it was revealed that Valanciunas’s buyout situation was a minor mess. If that kills his 2011 stock to the point that he drops all the way to 10, I don’t know if he can be passed up. We’re talking about a true 7-footer who rebounds well, loves running pick & roll, and hits his free-throws like a point guard. Even if you don’t see him for a year, isn’t that worth it, especially if this season is truly in jeopardy due to the lockout? You’re also given the option of dangling him out for the highest bidder, and there are sure to be interested parties. I think the value of getting this guy at 10 is just too great.

Priority #2: Maximize first-round picks in this draft

If Valanciunas isn’t there, my first instinct is to say, “just grab Burks and be done with it.” But I can’t help feeling like there is a way to maximize the value of a suddenly-popular tenth pick and still grab Burks a few spots later. My favorite rumored deal for doing so would have Milwaukee sending the 10th pick and Ersan Ilyasova to the Houston Rockets in exchange for the 14th and 23rd picks plus Patrick Patterson. I’d love this deal, as I don’t think Ilyasova has much production in him beyond what the Bucks have already seen, whereas Patterson could be a very productive (if non-star) player for many years. The Bucks (and I) wanted him in last year’s draft anyway.

The other option that has been tossed around would send the 10th pick and Drew Gooden to the Knicks for the 17th, Ronny Turiaf, and Toney Douglas, but it’s contingent on Jimmer Fredette being available at 10. I’m not so hot on this for a few reasons: 1) I think the current trade climate is a good market for Milwaukee to acquire assets, not dump debts, which is what this is (the only reason Milwaukee makes this trade is to get rid of Gooden’s bad contract), and 2) I still think Gooden can be a reasonably productive player, and have no problem with a Gooden/Larry Sanders/Patterson PF rotation. Speaking of which…

Priority #3(a): Trade Ersan Ilyasova for a first-round pick this year or next

If Ersan isn’t moved in the Houston trade described above, I’d love to see him flipped for a first-round pick. This could go a number of ways, including independent of a straight pick swap with Houston in which Milwaukee trades 10 for 14+23, then packages the 23rd pick with Ersan to move back into the teens. If nobody’s biting on a deal in this year’s draft, there’s always the video-game strategy: try to predict who’s gonna be bad next year and grab their first-round pick. With the 2012 Draft supposedly stacked with talent, any such pick is likely to be top-10 or lottery protected, but even if you land a pick in the teens, it could be a huge boost.

Priority #3(b): Get Alec Burks…somehow

If any deal involving Ersan eventually nets the Bucks Alec Burks, I’ll be happy. I don’t know if the Bucks are totally sold on Burks, but I am. I talked myself into him a week ago, for better or worse, and I don’t think I can be talked out of him now. Until the Valanciunas news dropped, I was on board with him over anybody else likely to be available at 10. But while I think Jonas’s value is too great to pass up if available, I still want the Bucks to make an aggressive play on Burks. Maybe you can get him at 14 if Houston does the pick swap, but I could see Golden State, Utah, and Phoenix all snagging him depending on how the board played out ahead of them. If it means swapping 14 and 40 to move up with one of them, I think I’d do it, and I might consider 14 and 23 if something else came back. Either way, I just want Alec Burks.

Priority #4: Dump Gooden, Salmons, or Maggette’s contracts

I don’t think getting rid of these contracts should be a particularly high priority, and I’m glad to see that John Hammond has emphasized upgrading the team over dumping salary. With Michael Redd’s massive contract coming off the books, the Buck’s cap situation is very unlikely to be a serious issue in the next few years, especially considering they aren’t going to make any big plays in free-agency. Still, if Milwaukee’s options disappear, likely due to any desired players getting selected in front of them, there’s no reason to not explore options of trading back and unloading a contract. If a capable 4 can be acquired, Gooden is probably the most pertinent guy to move, but it would be tough to do so without some sort of contingency plan on the roster–otherwise we’re likely headed for additional time with Mbah a Moute starting at PF, which minimizes his value.

The truth is, John Hammond could absolutely crush this draft if he plays his cards right. Milwaukee could walk away with a very nice core of young players to develop. The bad contracts remain an issue, but Milwaukee’s roster has the talent to compete in the Eastern Conference next year. They’re not championship contenders just yet (and Hammond would be wise to acknowledge that), but Milwaukee has the chance to come out of this summer in much better shape than they went in.

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I haven’t posted anything here in a while (MIDTERMS!), and the recent news out of Milwaukee is relatively important, so I figured I’d point readers to the appropriate location for a limited analysis of the move that finalized Milwaukee’s roster. You can find it here, along with a couple other posts. Check out the poll and be sure to vote for your favorite Bucks player! We’re interested in hearing how people feel about this move and the team as it now stands, so join in the conversation by posting your comments!

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Hardwood Paroxysm has been keeping track of  this summer’s free-agent contracts and calculating the average value of each in $/WARP. Using Kevin Pelton’s updated version of WARP (wins above replacement player: i.e. the wins produced by a given player above another player who could be claimed at any time), it’s simple to just divide the money each year by the player’s total WARP from 2010. Not a perfect system, and certainly not very predictive, but it’s a good way of judging what the approximate market value is for players this summer.

So far, the going rate per WARP has been $2.2 million. This does not include a few of the max contracts, where guys like LeBron and Bosh took less money than they were worth (or allowed). The Bucks two significant free-agent signings fall like this:

  • Drew Gooden: 2010 WARP = 3.3, 2011 Salary = $6.4 million, $/WARP = 2.0
  • John Salmons: 2010 WARP = 4.2, 2011 Salary = $7.8 million, $/WARP = 1.9

Just from the numbers, it looks like the Bucks grabbed these two guys slightly below market value. Market value, in this case, being defined by the same people who gave Darko Milicic $5 million next year ($32.1/WARP). The going rate was up from $1.49 last year, not surprising considering the amount of money that was available to teams this summer and the reckless abandon with which some of it was spent (Travis Outlaw – $7 million – $7.9/WARP, even Rudy Gay – $16.2 million – $5.8/WARP).

Given this summer’s contract climate, just below market value was probably a relative bargain. Decent deals on two guys with 3+ WARP is not a bad haul for Milwaukee’s offseason.

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