Well, there it is folks. Gery Woelfel reports that Michael Redd tore both his ACL and MCL in last night's win over the Kings, a crushing blow to a team that has been barely hanging on to the 8th playoff spot with Andrew Bogut battling back problems. In theory Redd could be back for the start of the 09/10 season, but he might not be back at full speed for quite some time (ETA Ty writes that it could be a 10 month recovery). Either way, we certainly wish him the best as he sets out on a long rehab process.
Of course, the real question remains: what do the Bucks do now? CLICK FOR MORE...
There's no silver lining here--whether you wanted to ride the season out with Redd or trade him for cap relief and picks, a major knee injury makes either scenario irrelevant. So how good can the Bucks realistically be, and what are their options from here on out?
This season the Bucks are 17-16 with Redd and 5-9 without him. However, it's worth mentioning that the Bucks played nine of those 14 games one the road and 10 of those games came against teams currently in the playoffs. So they probably weren't quite as bad as their 5-9 record indicates. Last season the Bucks were a respectable 5-5 without Redd, but the year before that they lost 23 of 29.
And while the Bucks have become more offensively-oriented with Bogut out (read: their defense has taken a major hit), losing Redd and hopefully getting Bogut back tomorrow should at least allow them to be more defensively capable. Charlie Bell has typically started in Redd's absence, but Bell has also been out lately due to lingering soreness in his surgically-repaired ankle and I'd rather give Ramon Sessions or Luc Mbah a Moute a shot there anyway. Still, there's no other natural two on the roster aside from Bell, so getting him healthy would be a very good thing.
Bell and Mbah a Moute obviously aren't in Redd's league offensively, but both bring much better defense to the table. Even if Bell is back, expect lots of small backcourts with Ramon Sessions playing alongside Luke Ridnour, with Tyronn Lue also seeing more minutes.
Joe Alexander also stands to see his minutes increase. Redd had played 11% of the Bucks' available small forward minutes, and Jefferson and Mbah a Moute will probably see occasional time at the 2, which opens more minutes for Alexander at the forward spots.
If Bogut continues to struggle with his back issues then the playoffs can be written off. If he's healthy then the Bucks certainly have a shot, though they'll need Villanueva to continue his offensive consistency and Sessions will have to recapture the dynamic play he showed in November. In short, everyone needs to be as good or better than they've been, and even that won't be good enough if another rotation player goes down with a major injury. The Bucks likely don't have the firepower to win high-scoring games anymore, but Jefferson, Villanueva, Bogut and Sessions will at least need to keep them afloat.
Trade Deadline Decisions
Of course, this also raises the question of what the Bucks should be looking to do with the trade deadline approaching in four weeks. Trading Redd is no longer an option, so to me the idea of trading Jefferson becomes the primary question. I know the Bucks don't want to go into an all-out rebuild, but hanging on to Jefferson at the risk of losing Villanueva and Sessions just doesn't really add up.
With Redd gone, the Bucks might still be able to sneak into the playoffs but their best-case scenario--getting Bogut healthy, finding a groove in the last few months, and being a team capable of pulling off a first round upset--just isn't realistic anymore. Heck, even if Redd wasn't hurt you can make a very good case that they should quit messing around and do everything they can to keep their young players at the cost of winning now, since the vets aren't good enough to make them contenders anytime soon anyway.
So unless the Bucks think they can parlay Sessions or Villanueva into another good young player or two--and I have my doubts that someone like Mike Conley exactly fits the bill--it's Jefferson who should be the guy they're looking to move. As we've talked about in the fanposts, a team like Portland could be a good trading partner given they have expiring contracts (LaFrentz), a decent spare swingman (Travis Outlaw) and plenty of decent young players and future draft picks. Are they actually interested in him? Tough to say.
For the Bucks it all comes down to tradeoffs. While Jefferson's veteran presence has been of particular value on the defensive end, he's not quite the game-changer he once was so losing him may not hurt the Bucks on the court as much as one might expect. And more importantly, for a team that should be more focused on the future than near-term respectability, the idea of losing Sessions or Villanueva for nothing because Jefferson's making $14.2 million next season doesn't make much sense.
I'm not sure how valuable Jefferson is at the moment, but let's hope the Bucks are at least exploring their options. While the Bucks need a respectable season to regain some of the fanbase they've lost in recent years, short-term respectability shouldn't come at the cost of long-term competitiveness.