With the NBA's latest free agent frenzy due to kick off on Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks' brass figures to have a busy week ahead of it.
Friday delivered news that the Bucks, Clippers, Mavericks and Lakers had meetings planned with Clipper free agent center DeAndre Jordan, though reports on Sunday confirmed what we had suspected: that Milwaukee isn't a likely destination for the 26-year-old big man. Via Sam Amick of USA Today:
Milwaukee Buckshave interest in Jordan, but a person with knowledge of their situation deemed the notion of landing Jordan "a long shot" and said it was unlikely they would meet with him. The Mavericks are expected to meet with Jordan on Wednesday, while the Knicks and Clippers are expected to meet with Jordan on Thursday. The timing of the Lakers meeting is unclear.
No shocker here. The Bucks can't offer the supporting cast and cash that Jordan can get in L.A., nor the home state nostalgia that Mark Cuban and the Mavericks provide. Still, it's encouraging that the up-and-coming Bucks are even in the conversation, and based on the past 72 hours it seems likely that the Bucks will be involved in plenty of conversations.
One of those figures to be with former Piston Greg Monroe, who will reportedly meet with the Bucks and four other teams this week. Via Darrell Williams of the Louisiana-based Advocate:
"I'm looking to be with a team that's ready to win," said Monroe during a timeout at his youth basketball clinic Saturday morning at the Delgado Community College gymnasium. "Hopefully it will be a team where I'm the missing piece."
The 25-year-old Monroe is a virtual lock to sign a max deal starting at just under $16 million, with the Knicks long rumored to be the favorites to land him. You may recall that Monroe surprised many last summer by turning down a long-term payday from the Pistons, instead opting to accept a one-year, $5.5 million qualifying offer and the chance to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. That spoke volumes about his disinterest in remaining with the Pistons, and you could make a strong case that Monroe is the best player to ever turn down a monster rookie extension.
Overall, Monroe would bring two obvious skills the Bucks have lacked: rebounding and interior scoring. While he's usually labeled as unathletic due to his lack of explosion, the former Georgetown star is actually a pretty good runner and carries his 250+ pounds rather fluidly, especially on the offensive end. He's a major threat either facing up or with his back to the basket, and he's also a good passer capable of initiating offense from the high post. Monroe's only obvious offensive flaw is his lack of range; though he's a good free throw shooter and made a respectable 37.2% of his midrange jumpers last year (29/78), Monroe isn't a floor-stretcher and that's one obvious reason why he simply doesn't make sense playing as an oversized power forward next to a low-skill guy like Drummond.
Defensively, Monroe has been an above-average rebounder throughout his career, averaging a double-double per 36 minutes each of the past four seasons. But he's hardly a prototypical defensive center; he's not a rim protector and doesn't have the quickness to handle quick fours or the ideal size to battle with elite offensive bigs. Nevertheless, his encouraging defensive RPM of +2.29 last season suggests his IQ makes up for a lot, and his splits at center are encouraging on both ends. In 805 minutes playing without Drummond and Josh Smith, Monroe averaged an exceptional 21.6 points/36 minutes on 59.3% true shooting (via NBA Wowy), and the Pistons were actually better defensively with Monroe at center (104.3 pts/100 possessions) vs. Drummond (108.9). Interestingly, they were dramatically better offensively with Drummond in the middle (112.1) than Monroe (106.1), though the bottom line remains that both guys were very good without the other.
So would he be worth a max deal in Milwaukee? I'd say yes simply because of his age and overall talent level -- at worst he's a useful trade chip if things don't work out -- though the concerns over his defensive fit are worth debating. In an ideal world everyone wants a rim protector, especially with Jabari Parker a potential major liability at the 4/3 spots, and Monroe simply isn't the type to erase others' mistakes. But he's also no Enes Kanter defensively (more on him in a moment), and he's a vastly better defensive rebounder than anyone currently on the roster. Also remember that the Bucks were a stellar defensive team with Zaza Pachulia and Ersan Ilyasova starting together for the second half of the season, and the Pistons were good with Monroe in the middle a year ago. I won't begrudge anyone preferring Jordan or even the older Tyson Chandler, but Monroe's age and productivity would make him a worthwhile gamble in case he were actually interested.
IN OTHER NEWS...
Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Chandler acknowledged the Bucks' interest at Dirk Nowitzki's charity softball game last week.
However, Milwaukee Bucks coach Jason Kidd has reportedly shown Chandler a lot of love. Kidd and Chandler were teammates when the Mavs captured the 2011 NBA title, and the Bucks have made Chandler one of their top free agent priorities.
"That's pretty interesting,’’ Chandler said prior to the Dirk Nowitzki Heroes Celebrity Baseball Game at Dr Pepper Ballpark. "I didn't see that coming.
"But obviously it's a huge honor, because I spent two years on the (same team with Kidd), and that they want to pursue me means he thinks highly of me.
"He’s a future Hall of Famer, and that's humbling.’’
Wherever he lands during free agency, Chandler would prefer for the decision to happen quickly.
"I'm not a free agent guy,’’ Chandler said. "You know, I just like to get things over with as soon as possible.’’
I'm not exactly sure whether "pretty interesting" is a real endorsement or not, but we'll presumably know within a week. You get the sense Chandler's first choice would be to remain in Dallas, though unlike Jordan and Monroe, he's unlikely to get a max deal due to his age (32) and thus there figures to be room for a team like the Bucks to offer him more years and money than others.
Of course, age is also the main argument against the Bucks making him a Godfather offer to take his talents north. Though he's shown no slippage over the past four seasons and would provide some welcome veteran leadership in the locker room, Chandler won't be a double-double guy forever. And unlike the Mavs and Clippers, the Bucks also aren't likely to contend in the next two years. Still, I'd make Chandler a priority just to see what it would take to get him; the Bucks could afford to pay him a ton for two or perhaps even three years, and he might be able to provide the sort of veteran boost that the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker would really benefit from as players and professionals.
Enes Kanter. Yes, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders did suggest the Bucks could pursue the Thunder's restricted free agent this summer:
The Bucks have been linked to a number of free agent centers. I'm hearing they also have some level of interest in RFA Enes Kanter.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 26, 2015
For the purposes of my own sanity, I'll assume "some level of interest" means "not really," but who knows. While the 23-year-old Kanter has been an intriguing offensive talent for years, he's also been known as an unwilling passer and indifferent defender throughout his four NBA seasons -- perhaps his former teammates in Utah hating him isn't without reason?