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Bucks closing in on Salmons/Gooden

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The Bucks today acknowledged they were negotiating with John Salmons and Drew Gooden, but as per league rules they won't be announcing anything until the signing moratorium ends on July 8, which is when the new cap and tax numbers become official. Meanwhile, we haven't found out very much more on contract details in the last 24 hours, except for the fact that it's looking increasingly likely that Gooden's deal is fully guaranteed (five years, $32 million) and Salmons' deal is close to fully guaranteed (five years, $39 million, partially guaranteed last year). Yep, that's a lot.  But it could be much worse...Rudy Gay ($82 million) or Joe Johnson ($120 million) anyone?

As for me?  I wanted to retain Salmons and have been hoping the Bucks could acquire Gooden since they almost got him at the all-star break, so talent-wise I'm very happy to have both guys on board. Are the Bucks better than they were at the end of last year? Absolutely, provided of course that they haven't upset the chemistry that helped them win 46 games. Still, it's obvious the Bucks don't want to sit on their hands and simply hope that an overachieving 46 win team organically becomes a legitimate contender. To get better you have to keep tweaking and adding talent, and that's what they've done.

The contracts do seem rather generous, however, which has left many of us hoping there is in fact less guaranteed money involved than first reported. But I also don't see the Bucks' recent spending spree killing them long term in the way the Redd/Simmons/Gadzuric Bonanza did in 2005. That year Larry Harris committed over $160 million in free agency, while this year the Bucks are looking at around $70 million for free agents. That's not including the $30 million they now owe Corey Maggette, but given that $14 million was still owed to the mostly useless Dan Gadzuric and Charlie Bell, only half of Maggette's salary is incremental to the status quo. And he's actually a quality talent to boot, so we got that going for us. Which is nice.

While we all try to make up our minds, here's a sample of what others are saying:

Ford: Salmons deal for five years, $39 million
Nothing new since yesterday. Chad Ford writes that the final year will only be partially guaranteed, which provides some solace to those of us concerned about a long-term contract with a 30-year-old shooting guard. No word on the $5 million in bonuses David Aldridge mentioned in the initial report on the deal yesterday, nor any mention of whether the deal is escalating, flat or front-loaded.

The structure of the deal is important given the Bucks will likely be fairly close to the luxury tax once they've added a point guard. If it's front-loaded then they probably only have the bi-annual exception to play with (around $2 million), while if the deal is escalating they could have enough money to bring back Luke Ridnour for around $4 million next year. Steve Blake's signing with the Lakers takes one potential Ridnour suitor out of the equation, but it does sound like the Bucks are resigned to losing Ridnour and going with a cheaper option. Given Ridnour's fluke-ishly good 09/10 season, it's probably not the worst idea to go with a bargain basement option with at least one of the Bucks' offseason signings.

Hollinger: Salmons deal unlikely to hurt Bucks
John Hollinger doesn't see the deal harming the Bucks' long-term cap situation.

Finally, in this case the move doesn't seem to hurt Milwaukee's future cap flexibility much. Despite adding Corey Maggette, Drew Gooden and now Salmons the Bucks only have about $40 million committed for 2011-12; depending on how the new CBA pans out, they could become a major player in free agency and by that point be able to sell prospective newcomers on a very competitive roster.

For all those reasons, there's a logic to what Milwaukee is doing here. John Salmons isn't a $39 million player or anywhere close to it, and he sure as heck won't be one four years from now. But given the way the cap rules work and Milwaukee's future outlays, paying John Salmons double what he's worth was still a far more palatable option than the alternatives.

Hollinger: Gooden deal makes sense
Hollinger has also talked himself into liking the Gooden deal, especially when put into context of what the Bucks wanted and what else was available.

He was easily the best big man available at this price: Sorry Amir Johnson. In all seriousness, who were the other options for Milwaukee? They wanted a big man who could start at the 4, back up Andrew Bogut if he had to, space the floor and rebound. Who else was available for less than $50 million that could do that? Udonis Haslem? Brad Miller? The list thins out pretty fast once you get through the Amare/Boozer/Lee crowd, which is why Milwaukee jumped early.

Dwyer: Gooden deal can work
Kelly Dwyer is a Bulls fan and watches more hoops than anyone anyway, so you can trust he knows Gooden's game. And the good news is that he doesn't hate this deal.

So, wretch away. I understand. I have no idea why Hammond had to lock Gooden in for so long, but this isn't anywhere near signing a near-average (just a bit ahead, in fact) guy like Hedo Turkoglu(notes) up for twice the amount. It looks pretty nasty on paper, but Gooden will be fine, as will the Bucks. The Bucks need offense, badly, and Gooden can put the ball in the hole once the play breaks down. I think this can work.

Pelton: Deals could get ugly

A couple of years ago, I looked at how disastrous mid-level contracts have historically been, and I suspect Milwaukee's signing of Drew Gooden will only be another example. John Salmons might actually have the highest $/WARP ratio of any major free agent this summer. Salmons parlayed two good months and the Bucks' desperate need for scoring (even after the addition of Corey Maggette) into a reported $39 million offer over five years. He's on the wrong side of 30 and was never substantially better than replacement level, so this has ugly written all over it.

Courtside Analyst: Bucks are overspending in the middle (aged) market
Ty voices concern over Salmons' age and the likelihood of a major decline in productivity...like, now. No arguments here.

Salmons performance with the Bucks last spring, as I’ve documented, was out-of-line with his career production. A smart team, a team invested with people who utilize analytics and objective analysis, would know this. The Bucks are paying a guy according to a blip on his resume rather than the entirety of his resume.

FanHouse: Bucks Sign Drew Gooden
Tom Ziller is less of a fan, mainly because the deal just doesn't pass the smell test.

Gooden is a useful player, though considering just a year ago no team would offer him more than an unguaranteed one-year deal worth $4 million, springing for the full mid-level seems awfully hasty, especially considering power forward does not seem to be a need position in Milwaukee. Gooden just does not seem like a player you rush toward in the first hours of what should be a long free agency period.