We're counting down the most valuable assets on the Milwaukee Bucks' roster, one by one, to get a clear picture of how Bucks fans view the current roster. While we still might not know how exactly to define "value," we're slowing working our way out of the old, overpaid, and obsolete. As we enter the middle of our rankings, deciding between future trade value, current salary obligations, and on-court production will become an interesting exercise in a sort of backwards-team-building strategy.
The next player cast off the roster is Zaza Pachulia, the Bucks' presumptive backup center who is owed $10.4 million over the next two seasons. Pachulia's three-year contract was a puzzling deal for the Bucks last summer, considering the big contract extension they inked with up-and-comer Larry Sanders that same offseason. It made Pachulia one of the higher-paid backup centers in the league, though his talent level was also on the high end in that group. But when Sanders' season quickly fell apart due to injuries and off-court transgressions, Pachulia assumed a larger role than anticipated.
Zaza had a pretty strange year. It wasn't just his minutes that got an unanticipated boost--Zaza's role on the court was larger than anyone would have expected. Whether by design or by default, Pachulia's usage rate jumped to its highest level in six seasons. Unfortunately his shooting percentage responded by plummeting to its lowest mark since Zaza's rookie year. His free throw rate also dropped substantially, a tough loss for a player who could generally counted on to hit 70-plus percent of his free throws.
This massive drop off in his own efficiency was matched, oddly enough, by a big bump in Pachulia's passing numbers. His assist rate jumped to nearly twice his career average, and Zaza finished fifth on the team in total, per-game, and per-minute assists. His abilities as a strong screener and distributor from the high post were welcome sights on a team with very little reliable methods for creating shots.
Defensively, Zaza remained as ground-bound as ever, rarely taking both feet off the floor at the same time. Despite his size, Zaza isn't much of a rim protector, which really hurt the Bucks in Sanders' absence.
It's likely Pachulia's shooting numbers will bounce back from last season, and his passing ability from the pivot is a useful quality, but when it comes to appraising his value, it's hard to view "highest-paid backup" as a positive asset. Offensive-minded big men are a tricky breed to quantify, but considering his contract, its hard to imagine Milwaukee getting much in return via trade. Sanders' return should (hopefully) diminish his role, and at that point its hard to justify paying a backup big man with little defensive ability more than $5 million annually. Pachulia might have additional value to the Bucks as a steadying veteran leader in the locker room, but his trade value is pretty low.
Milwaukee Bucks Roster Asset Rankings