Beyond Maggette and CDR: What next for the Bucks?

If you thought the Bucks' big day of trading would answer some of our questions about their offseason plans, think again. With Corey Maggette and Chris Douglas-Roberts now in the fold for 2011, the Bucks are no doubt a more capable offensive bunch than they were on Tuesday Morning, but new questions are now open for discussion. How does Maggette's contract affect the Bucks' cap situation going forward? Does John Salmons still have a role with Maggette under contract for three seasons? Are the Bucks more likely to go big at 15 with two new wings in the fold? Can they add a lights-out shooter to complement the slashing games of Maggette and CDR? And what to do with all those second round picks? [breathes deeply]

We've had some great conversation in the comments on most of these topics over the last day or two, but after the jump I've done my best to catalog the facts, rumors, quotes, and of course my own reckless speculation.

 

How does Maggette's contract affect the Bucks' cap situation?

Swapping Bell and Gadzuric for Maggette and CDR lowers the Bucks' cap number by around $700k this year, giving the Bucks $51.3 million committed to 10 players, including the 15th overall pick (at 120% of scale) and Darnell Jackson's NG'ed deal. The Bucks will still only have the MLE and BAE to sign outside free agents, in addition to the Bird rights they have on Salmons, Luke Ridnour, and Kurt Thomas. They also should have a ton of room under the luxury tax, which will likely be just under $70 million.  So if they re-signed both Salmons and Ridnour while bringing three second round picks into camp they'd already be at the maximum 15 roster spots. That means they wouldn't have room to sign someone like Drew Gooden with their MLE, though they could certainly get one or more big men in the draft. For that reason all indications are that the Bucks will move at least one of the seconds (see below).

As for 2011, the Bucks should still have plenty of cap room even after adding Maggette's long-term deal. Including the 2010 first rounder, the Bucks have less than $33 million committed to six players as of now. That means they'd have plenty of work to do to fill out 13-15 roster spots, but it also means they would have significant cap room to do it. With the current CBA they should have plenty of room to sign a max free agent, but given the long odds of that let's just say they could sign multiple second-tier guys (like Carl Landry).

All that space is one reason why I'm less opposed to the Maggette deal now than when it was first suggested. Yes, he's probably overpaid, but it's not like paying $11 million to Gadzuric and Bell year in and year out. You're at least getting some value for that $10 million, and with no other fat on the payroll after 2011, you've got plenty of freedom to sign free agents or try to absorb salaries via trade. The picture changes a bit if the Bucks decide to re-sign Salmons or Ridnour to multi-year deals or if they use their full MLE this summer. But again, it's only a huge deal if you were hoping to sign a monster free agent. Check out the details below:

 

What becomes of John Salmons and the Bucks 2/3 rotation?

All summer I've been sounding like a broken record whenever the Bucks' needs are mentioned. Athletic big man and scoring wing. Athletic big man and scoring wing. The good news is that acquiring Maggette and CDR in many ways addresses the swingman issue, though at this point it's also worth noting that not all wings do the same things. The 09/10 Bucks were seriously short on attacking ability, and thankfully both Maggette and CDR do plenty of that. But neither is an accomplished three point shooter, and even Maggette may be best suited to coming off the bench as an efficient but ball-dominating second unit scorer.

That's why John Hammond was sure to reiterate the Bucks' interest in re-signing Salmons when discussing the Maggette deal. Via the JS:

"Regarding John, in this deal we have about a $1.5 million savings that we could apply to something if need be for this off-season and we created a roster spot on top of that," said Hammond. "This has nothing to do with John (as far as) hindering him to come back. More so, it strengthens the position.

"Add a piece like Corey Maggette to the team we had last year and I think we’re better. We would love to have John Salmons back here and I think he knows how badly we want him back and our intention is to do that. Whether we can get that done, who knows? But our hope is to do that."

I have to think Salmons and Maggette could coexist, and in a perfect world I'd love to see Salmons/Delfino starting with Maggette playing 25-30 mpg off the bench--the same role he flourished in with the Warriors and Clippers. OK, maybe "flourished" is the wrong word, but he was willing to do it and it's easier to stomach a ball-hog when he's doing most of his work with the second unit. So it's obvious for Hammond to say nothing has changed, since the Bucks would still be happy to have Salmons...for the right price.

The Salmons questions is a very different matter financially, as the Bucks will likely have to pay a fair bit to keep the 30-year-old in Bucks colors for a second season. It all depends on how silly other teams' offers get, but it wouldn't surprise me at all to see Salmons command three years and $22-27 million on the open market. Given how many teams have cap space that number could be higher, but then again the specter of a new CBA and an uncertain economy will likely mitigate the free spending we might otherwise see. With Salmons the problem is as much the length of the contract as the dollars--do the Bucks really want to have two good-but-not-great wings in their early 30s making upwards of $20 million per season combined? In 2010 it's a tempting scenario--imagine if the Bucks of last year had a more mature Jennings next to Salmons for a full season and a scorer of Maggette's ability off the bench. But how about when Salmons and Maggette are 32 and 33? At that point the Bucks might be wishing they had saved their money for younger options. 

But a major benefit of the Maggette deal is that the Bucks don't have to panic if Salmons prices himself out of their budget. While the Bucks' 2011 cap number is actually lower after yesterday's deals, it would be silly if the Bucks didn't lower their willingness to pay for Salmons now that their swingman rotation has been fortified with Maggette and CDR. If I had to guess I'd say Salmons gets a silly offer from a team with cap space that strikes out with the big names, and at that point it simply wouldn't make sense for the Bucks to match it. If he can be had for two years, $14 million?  Hmm...

How do the Bucks address their frontcourt issues? With the 15th pick?

Going big at 15 would be the obvious "need" move, but it's not clear that the Bucks are in love with the frontcourt options available there.  Billy McKinney last week refuted that a promise had been made to Larry Sanders and went so far as to suggest he would be a stretch for the Bucks at 15, though DraftExpress is among those now projecting Sanders will be the pick. McKinney sounded even more dismissive of Hassan Whiteside, and Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich and Ekpe Udoh are likely to be gone by the time the Bucks pick 15th.

It's very possible one of them falls, but as of now it seems more plausible that the Bucks are left with some combination of wings to choose from: Luke Babbitt, Xavier Henry, Paul George, Gordon Hayward, and James Anderson. I'd hazard that only Anderson is guaranteed to be there, but it wouldn't be surprising if any of them slip to 15. More importantly, all of them have outside shooting skills that would complement the slashing style of the Bucks' newest acquisitions. That's useful given that, for the moment at least, Carlos Delfino is the only swingman under contract with three point range.

So the Bucks continue to say they'll go best player available at 15, and it's tough to argue with that philosophy. Hammond provided Jim Paschke some insight into their thinking yesterday, noting that the Bucks had a grouping of 3-5 guys they would be targeting at 15:

If the Bucks don't go big at 15, they would then have further chances to add size by either trading up into the late first or with all the second round picks. To that end they've worked out a ton of big men who could be in play late in the first or second round, namely Tiny Gallon, Craig Brackins, Gani Lawal, Charles Garcia, Ryan Richards, Derrick Caracter, and Samardo Samuels. Brackins and Lawal figure to be the first of that group to go, though Gallon seems to be the guy getting the most buzz of late--you're guess is as good as mine as to whether it's justified. And don't overlook the possibility that Whiteside or Daniel Orton could also crash into the late first or even second round. Orton's situation is particularly interesting since he stopped working out for teams despite rumors that his surgically repaired knee could be a long-term issue.

If the Bucks don't get a rotation-worthy big (or two) in the draft then they can still use their MLE/BAE to target big man depth in July. Drew Gooden is the most obvious name we've thrown around to target with part of the MLE, though the Bucks could also add a cheaper name as well. With Gadzuric gone, Andrew Bogut is suddenly the only center on the payroll, so the Bucks will presumably be adding at least a couple guys who can provide minutes at center. Gadzuric's departure also increases the chance the Bucks try to bring back Kurt Thomas, though as mentioned in the comments it's been suggested he might try to sign with a title contender. We'll see. I'd love to add a young 4/5 to go with one more year of KT, but maybe I'm just being overly nostalgic.

Are the Bucks really going to keep four picks?

Hammond told WSSP today that it was "probably not feasible" to keep four rookies on the roster going into next season, suggesting it was likely the Bucks would keep 15 and 37 but possibly move 44/47 for cash or future considerations. Makes sense--the Bucks already have nine veterans under contract, so they would only be able to add two more vets if they had three second rounders and their first going into camp. Still, remember that Hammond did not give up one of this year's picks in the CDR deal, either because he wants more ammo for the next 24 hours, New Jersey didn't want another pick this year (they already have #3, 27, 31), or both. 

I'd like to think that's Hammond having more tricks up his sleeve, but it takes two to tango. And if the Bucks are going to move into the late first round then those second round picks look like good ammo to do it. [Update: Gery Woelfel writes the Bucks are indeed looking to add a later first] Another option would be trying to move up into the lottery, but McKinney all but dismissed that possibility last week and Paul Imig writes that Hammond is singing a similar tune:

“Right now I think today that we might be able to get the same player at 15 that we can get at 12,” Hammond said.  “It’s that upper-tier, that top seven or eight players, which would be hard to get to for us, I think.”

Who else could be in play?

We all know Michael Redd is the Bucks' last remaining bad contract, but as an expiring deal we also know he could be used to acquire actual talent before next February's trade deadline. For instance, before the Maggette trade we were speculating a bit on the possibility of using Redd's expiring deal as the centerpiece of a trade for Andre Iguodala and his $55 million contract.

Though Gery Woelfel writes that the Bucks are "shopping" Redd, I'm not sure how much that really means. My guess has been that Redd won't be traded until closer to the trade deadline, simply because no one really knows if or when he might be back on the court this year. Barring a miraculous recovery, it's likely that any team acquiring Redd would be doing it purely for cap relief (sending the Bucks longer-term obligations in return), and it's important to note that his $18.3 million contract will be 80% insured until he steps back on the court. So from a heartless economic standpoint--which, let's be honest, is how other GMs have to view it--Redd's value as a trading asset is much higher if he's unable to return. I really have no idea how the Bucks will handle Redd's return, but I can only assume he won't be rushed back into action as quickly as he was last year. Whether that means he's back in November, December, January or never...I have no idea. And until a potential trade partner can figure it out, I'm not sure why another team would be willing to do a deal unless they were trying to make a deal as soon as possible.

In contrast, Carlos Delfino is the one Buck who's clearly more valuable than anyone else...for the next week at least.  Because Carlito's $3.5 million salary for 10/11 is only guaranteed to the tune of $500k until the end of June, he's a potentially invaluable asset to a team like Miami that's trying to clear more cap space before July. That's why earlier today Miami gave away their 18th pick and Daequan Cook for nothing more than OKC's 32nd overall pick (I haven't looked into it, but I assume OKC used a trade exception to absorb Cook's salary).

As far as I can tell, the Bucks could ship Delfino and Darnell Jackson to Miami for Michael Beasley, merely so Miami could cut Delfino and Jackson. They'd owe Delfino $500k but otherwise they'd be free of the $4.962 million owed Beasley. The Bucks would have Beasley (I know...) and could try to re-sign Delfino later in the summer, though they'd have to use part of the MLE to do it. If you really want to keep Delfino then that move essentially means the Bucks use their MLE to get Beasley rather than Gooden or some other FA. I'm guessing the Bucks might consider Beasley too much of a handful to be worth the risk, but if you're looking to potentially hit a home run out of nothing then you have to consider it, don't you?

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