While Thursday's trade sending Ersan Ilyasova to the Detroit Pistons for the non-guaranteed contracts of Caron Butler and Shawne Williams was a bit of a surprise, it certainly wasn't a head scratcher. It gave the Bucks a chance to get out from his $7.9 million owed next season while also freeing up both a bit more of the team's cap space--now estimated at around $22 million-- and a positional logjam in the team's frontcourt.
On the other hand, the deal did raise a few question marks, the most important of them centered around what the Bucks would now look to do with their new found cap space when it came to free agency. As it previously stood, the Bucks could have offered a deal of roughly $15 million/year to whoever while also using Khris Middleton's Bird Rights to retain him in restricted free agency. Now that their cap room has increased, so could their potential offer to any free agent, at least in theory.
In other words, the deal put the Bucks in a position to get a little more ambitious this summer, should they choose that option. But the question now is, well...who might be the targets of this new found ambition? Early Friday morning, ESPN's Marc Stein offered a little insight.
"League sources say the Bucks want a proven center in free agency if they can score one, and have pinpointed two kinds of former All-Stars -- Dallas' Tyson Chandler and Brooklyn's Brook Lopez -- as targets for the top of their wish list.
Bucks coach Jason Kidd knows both of them well, having played alongside Chandler in both Dallas and New York and having coached Lopez with the Nets. And word is that Milwaukee intends to chase both hard come July 1 in hopes of emerging as a serious contender for at least one of them."
In that SLL report, ESPN sources say Bucks plan to pursue top centers in free agency and will chase Tyson Chandler & Brook Lopez speciically— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 12, 2015
Stein also writes that the Bucks would be willing to jump in on the DeAndre Jordan sweepstakes, but notes that they'd only seriously do so if they thought they had a tangible chance at luring him to Milwaukee. I would imagine the same sentiment goes with other top-tier free agents like Marc Gasol or LaMarcus Aldridge, but back to reality.
Both Chandler and Lopez would generally be considered upgrades as the starting center spot. Chandler, who's 32, would be a nice rim protector who knows his role while also providing a great presence in the locker room. Lopez, 27, is much more offensively skilled and could give the Bucks their first true post threat in years. Both players also have familiarity with Jason Kidd, which makes the connection to this Bucks' interest not really surprising.
Both players definitely provide their share of perks, but both also come with their own flaws. Chandler is "aging" and doesn't offer significant long-term value (or really much variety on offense), while Lopez's history with injuries--specifically foot injuries--are a legitimate cause for concern going forward. Neither guy figures to choose Milwaukee over another destination for a discount, so signing either guy certainly carries a fair share of risk.
So, would one of them be worth it? As Frank and Steve discussed on their big man podcast, now could be the right time for the Bucks to "go for it" in terms of spending some big money on a player in the FA pool, given that the cap is set to spike in the next few seasons and the Bucks are one of just a handful of teams that can offer a big deal this summer. Of course, the counter argument here is whether now is the time to strike, which is an entirely fair question. The Bucks aren't figured to make serious noise for a few more seasons, so would giving a free agent money--specifically these two targets--now help the Bucks in the big picture? Maybe. Maybe not. There's a reason these deals are called gambles and not super fun happy easy deals.
We're still three weeks away from free agency and four weeks away from actually putting ink on paper, but this report certainly starts greasing the wheels of the rumor mill surrounding the Bucks' summer strategy. We'll have to keep an eye on how this progresses in the next month.