What the RJ/Amir trades mean for the draft, free agency, and beyond

 

So now that we're slowly wrapping our minds around the Bucks' big day of wheeling and dealing, what does it all actually mean?  We start with the Bucks' current cap situation (above) and work our way forward.

 

  • There's enough room to sign Sessions and maybe someone else.  If the luxury tax comes in at $71 million (perhaps slightly optimistic), then the Bucks would have nearly $8 million to play with in free agency.  Well, not really play with, because that's space under the luxury tax, not space under the salary cap.  They'd have Early Bird Rights to sign Sessions and Ilyasova and their MLE in case those guys aren't signed.  Similarly,  they could re-sign Villanueva using their Bird Rights without having to tap the MLE.  That's the assumption in the table above, which also reflects Bowen being cut and owed half his $4 million salary while Kurt Thomas stays with the team (not clear if that will happen).  Factoring in the two draft picks the Bucks have and Elson/Allen taking their options, the Bucks would also have 14 guys on the roster even excluding Sessions/Villanueva/Ilyasova.  Considering how many expiring deals they now have on the roster, that suggests more trades could be on the way.

    Given that Sessions can't be offered more than the MLE (which could go up to about $5.8 million), the Bucks now have plenty of cushion to match any offer sheet.  A four or five year deal that balloons in the third season might well get them to blink, but at least they can now credibly state their intent to match offers for Sessions.  Until now they haven't done that and might not have been convincing even if they did--stay tuned to see if they change their tune.  I'm hoping it does.  Meanwhile, I've been going on the assumption that Charlie V was gone regardless of whether the Bucks freed up more space, but every summer I predict Charlie V's departure and it never happens, so I suppose I shouldn't be so quick to judge. 

    Bringing Ilyasova back to replace Villanueva would appear less likely now than 24 hours ago.  Like Sessions, Ilyasova has played two years in the NBA and the Arenas rule applies to him--other teams can only offer him up to the MLE as a starting salary, but the Bucks can match.  The Bucks might be able to spread out $7.8 million between Sessions and Ilyasova (especially if Sessions doesn't get a full MLE offer elsewhere), but the Bucks also wouldn't need Ilyasova as much now that they've got Johnson and Thomas (if he's not bought out).  Still, neither of those guys can spread the floor like Ersan, so he could still bring something to the table.

  • This probably doesn't change the draft strategy.  OK, so that statement implies we actually know what the draft strategy is, which we might not.  But on the surface it certainly seems like the Bucks would be happy to take Jordan Hill if he falls (looking less likely), with point guards Jonny Flynn, Jrue Holiday, and maybe Brandon Jennings right there as well.  Unless something strange happens, at least a couple of those guys will be available at 10, and one of the PGs is certain to be around.  So if the Bucks really want to pick a PG, they can have one.  DeJuan Blair and Earl Clark will also be available, but no one seems to think those guys are in the mix, unless they trade down (like for instance by swapping 10 for the Bulls' 16th and 26th picks).  They could also try to trade up to get Hill, but with Washington trading their pick to Minnesota earlier today, the obvious way to do that is now no longer an option.

    Picking a point would give them insurance against losing Sessions, but more practically would also pave the way for a trade of Luke Ridnour.  As a mediocre player on an expiring deal, Ridnour will be getting shopped hard no matter what the Bucks do, but taking a point in the draft and freeing up the cash to re-sign Sessions makes it even easier.

    John Hammond alluded the other day to also possibly taking a wing if that player was BPA, and with Jefferson gone a wing player would actually be somewhat useful in the short-term as well.  Still, the Bucks haven't worked out DeMar DeRozan and Tyreke Evans, and neither guy figures to be around at 10 anyway.  Just like the Bucks picked Joe Alexander and Luc Mbah a Moute despite the RJ draft day acquisition a year ago, I'd expect the Bucks will go with the BPA and worry about their roster later.
  • What gives among the bigs?  While it's not going to scare anyone, the Bucks' frontcourt added a fair bit of depth with the acquisitions of Johnson and Thomas--though for completely opposite reasons.  Johnson is a human pogo stick who shot 60% last year on athleticism alone, and even in a down year rebounding the ball he was above-average for a PF (15.1 rebound rate).  Defensively, he immediately becomes the Bucks' best shotblocker (1 bpg in only 15 mpg) but he also fouls at a ridiculous rate--2.8 pfs in only 14.7 mpg last year.  Not even Dan Gadzuric was that bad.  Despite that, Johnson's defensive on/off splits were rather exceptional: the Pistons allowed 9.0 fewer ppg while he was on the court than off it.  At 36, Thomas is all savvy and experience, not shooting much anymore but capable of sticking a mid-range jumper while defending both frontcourt positions.  I'd easily take him over Gadzuric, Elson, and Allen, though that isn't saying much.  Both Allen and Elson are expected to pick up their player options for next year, but I'll hold out a tiny bit of hope that acquiring Johnson and Thomas could scare them into looking for PT elsewhere.
  • Who's at three?  Then you have the small forward position, which all of a sudden is wide open for Luc Mbah a Moute and Joe Alexander to grab meaningful minutes.  A couple national reports I've seen have alluded to Alexander now having the chance to start, but it would seem like Mbah a Moute would be the obvious choice for now.  The only problem?  Mbah a Moute doesn't shoot threes, and neither does Sessions or any of the true PFs on the current roster.  That means a hypothetical lineup of, say, Sessions/Redd/LRMaM/Johnson/Bogut would have only one player capable of hitting a three point shot, which I don't see as a sustainable way of playing in the NBA.  That would be a clear benefit of signing Ilyasova (or even CV), since he can actually be a perimeter threat at the 4.
  • The summer of 2010 should be drama-free.  You know how we've spent the past few months moping about the possibility of losing two affordable young players, all because we've got two good but overpaid wings nearing the age of 30?  Well, we probably would have been in the same boat next summer, banging our heads against the wall about Dan Gadzuric making $7 million a year and forcing us to dump good players for nothing to avoid the tax. 

    Good news!  As you can see in the above table, the fact that all the players acquired today have expiring deals means that the Bucks are now in very nice shape for 2010.  And by "very nice" I mean "not awful."  It's possible the Bucks could actually have a decent chunk of cap space if they were to deal Redd for expiring deals before the deadline, but for now let's celebrate the fact that they at least shouldn't have any problem staying under the tax.  That could of course change if they parlay some of their expiring deals into players with longer-term contracts, but let's cross that bridge when we come to it, OK?
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