It might feel funny to say, but on or around July 9, 2015 it will become an official, signed-and-sealed reality. That's when the league's annual moratorium ends and the league's new cap numbers kick in, paving the way for Monroe (three years and $50 million) and Khris Middleton (five years, $70 million) to officially put pens to paper on their shiny new contracts.
Looking forward, the Bucks' decision to offload fan favorite Jared Dudley (which I'm still feeling emotional about) means they could have have around $5 million in cap space in addition to the $2.8 million cap room exception to play with before Middleton signs. The Bucks will be over the cap once they replace Khris' cap-friendly $2.75 million cap hold with his new eight-figure salary, though their $75 million cap number still figures to be well short of the $81+ million luxury tax threshold. Still, with 15 guaranteed salary slots they don't really need to make additional signings anyway, especially with logjams at center and in the backcourt that will presumably be dealt with via trade. The further good news is that the Bucks could have around $31 million in cap space again next summer, thanks to the expiration of most of their veteran bench guys and the skyrocketing salary cap.
Not surprisingly, the Bucks' signings have drawn rave reviews -- their trades less so -- and in the grand scheme of things the Bucks' future is looking decidedly brighter today than it did just one week ago. Here's a sampling of what people are saying about the Bucks' big move for Monroe:
Monroe chose the Bucks and on paper this looks like a very good fit. His strengths -- scoring and rebounding -- happen to be their weaknesses and his liabilities as a defender will be mitigated by all those long, switching teammates surrounding him. Note that Monroe isn't a disinterested defender as much as he's just limited in that area. The guy gives a solid effort and is particularly strong on the defensive glass. He's not going to be cast as a savior in Milwaukee, as much as a strong piece of an intriguing puzzle.
And that’s the best part here: imagining how Monroe might work as a hub on offense in hybrid lineups, with Middleton and Antetokounmpo on the wing, and Parker at power forward. Those feel like younger, springier versions of the "long-ball" lineups Kidd used in Brooklyn, with Paul Pierce as a stretch power forward.
There is something very Warriors-y about how Middleton, Antetokounmpo, and Parker could switch across three positions, with Carter-Williams making it a four-way dance on the right nights. Monroe doesn’t have the wheels to switch, but neither does Andrew Bogut, and the Warriors still did plenty of it around their plodding big fella.
The pairing of old and new with Monroe’s low-post savvy and his cast of unpredictable but potentially-explosive teammates feels at once like a needed marriage and a rather odd bedding of fellows. It’s important to note that Monroe isn’t your typical plodder, he’s not hurting anyone offensively by not running the floor and he can start the break with a defensive rebound. Monroe gobbled up a quarter of the available defensive rebounds last season, nearly a top ten mark even with Andre Drummond (who finished third in the league defensive rebound percentage) mostly out there with him.
For the vast majority of players in the NBA, finding situations where teams can accentuate their strengths while subsidizing their weaknesses is the only way to unlock their true potential. By choosing to take the Milwaukee Bucks max contract offer earlier today, free agent big man Greg Monroe did exactly that.
Offensively, Monroe should be a major upgrade. He can be a threat as a playmaker from the elbow, as Pachulia was in Jason Kidd's offense last season. Yet defenses must also respect Monroe's ability to score, particularly out of the post. Shot creation was the Bucks' biggest weakness after trading point guard Brandon Knight at the deadline. They were the only team to make last year's postseason with a bottom-10 offense on a per-possession basis, ranking 25th.
Yes, players want to be paid. They also want to win. So those harsh Wisconsin winters that would supposedly scare off free agents? It’s not as cold when you’re playing on a good team and being paid handsomely. The NBA’s latest collective bargaining agreement helped level the playing field among franchises. The Bucks have helped their own cause by showing good times are on the way. It’s a new day.
Milwaukee was a pitiful offensive team last season, though within its roster one could see the bones of something interesting. Monroe is a means of accessing that promise; his high-usage utility eases the burden on the Bucks' overwhelmed creators, even if the roster's current state doesn't yet allow Monroe himself to maximize his offensive game. Give it time. First, Milwaukee must find a balance in its operations around Monroe as the team's other young players come into their own. Then comes the refinement of the roster to contending precision - a next step made possible by moves like this one, coaching like Kidd's, and a team-wide commitment to organic growth.