July has been quite enjoyable so far, hasn't it? An electric first week of free agency hasn't shown any signs of slowing down soon, and the annual Summer League circuits already are or just about to get underway. It's a nice pick-me-up after the denouement of the NBA Finals, and count us in as excited.
The Bucks dipped their hands in the free agent honey pot and kick off their Vegas Summer League adventure Friday evening. That activity naturally leads to a lot of welcome chatter, so we decided to sound the blogger conch and round up a few of our writers to kick around discussions on the latest news. Enjoy!
Let's start with a tricky one. Are the Bucks better now than they were at the end of last season?
Eric B: It feels easy to say yes and buy in to that new is always better mantra, but I really do think the Bucks are better. It's impossible to predict how dramatic that improvement will be, but TellyDelly seem like both upgrades as contributors and solid complements to the existing core of talent, both coming to Milwaukee at reasonable prices. Among other flaws, the bench was an area of need on this team, and the Bucks have a better bench than they did last year. The futures of Greg Monroe and Miles Plumlee may swing or strengthen this, but as of right now, they're better.
Aron: Slightly, but I think my reaction says more about how much talent they actually lacked last season, especially from the bench. They had one of the worst benches and that really brought them down. The signings of Mirza and Delly help, but we'll see how they turn out once the season starts rolling.
Mitchell: Yes, they are better than they were at the end of last season, by virtue of having a pretty low bar to clear. Michael Carter-Williams is assumed to be healthy, Rashad Vaughn should (hopefully) be better than his rookie season, and the bench has been upgraded with Mirza Teletovic's shooting, Matthew Dellevadova's über-grit, and whatever Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdon can provide (which could be nothing, but will be better than what we got from JOB and Inglis). Point Giannis and Post-ASB Jabari were very good, Khris Middleton was good for most of the year, and all three should continue to get better. The Bucks aren't there yet, but they are definitely better.
Eric N: The Bucks are DEFINITELY better than they were last year. While I don't think Teletovic and Dellavedova are impact additions, they are positive additions or I guess more importantly, they will likely not have a negative impact on the product on the floor. The additions are not the reason why I answer the question so authoritatively. The Bucks are definitely better than they were last year because Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, and Khris Middleton will all be better this season. Their improvement is the easiest way for the team to improve significantly.
Dan: Yes, the Bucks are better thanks at least in part to their free agency additions. Dellevadova and Teletovic are both solid role players, with Delly a decent bet to take over a starting position if the Bucks can find a taker for Michael Carter-Williams. Most importantly, neither is likely to upset the Bucks' hierarchy of player priority or style. This offseason was about giving the Middleton/Jabari/Giannis core some help at key spots, and the Bucks certainly seem to have done that, though the ability of those three to ultimately cover the weaknesses of the new arrivals will be critical.
Frank: The Bucks should certainly be better, but their improvement is still mostly tied to how much Giannis, Jabari and Khris can do to carry them. As for the new faces: replacing all of Johnny O'Bryant's minutes with Teletovic is an easy win, and Dellavedova and a healthy MCW (let's talk ourselves into this!) on paper can't be worse than what we saw a year ago at the point. We shouldn't trick ourselves into Delly or Telly as guys who elevate the Bucks into some new tier, but they hopefully will make life a bit easier for the young guys who can.
A two-parter: Do you like/dislike what they've done in FA so far? Do you think they're done?
Eric B: I'm in no rush to meet the new additions at the airport, but I can't find a reason to dislike either move. Compared to other contracts this offseason, you could argue the Bucks got "bargains" on their deals. I'm not sure the Bucks should be in any rush to sign anyone to big money soon, so I'm pleased with the clean work they've done so far. That being said, I still think there is a max of two more moves out there. Shooting and depth at multiple positions still exist, and there are still a decent amount of intriguing players on the market, not to mention the possibility of either keeping or moving on from Monroe and Plumlee. Predicting anything specific at this point feels dumb, so I guess I'll just leave it at a guess of two moves to come.
Aron: I like them, but they can still get better. They addressed some needs at reasonable prices, but another shooter is required. When you look back at that 2014-15 season, they had three solid rifles in Dudley, Mayo and Bayless. Another one to pair with Mirza, Delly or Vaughn (if they feel he's ready) would be ideal. You can never have enough shooters. Also, they need a backup power forward and can't feel all that confident going with the same centers they have. I don't think they're done yet.
Mitchell: I am most pleased with the Bucks moving quickly on guys they had identified as good fits for the roster. Teletovic provides shooting, Dellevadova provides steady-if-unspectacular point guarding, and they didn't truly overpay for either player. With the craziness this offseason has brought already, I can't find fault with the moves that were made, nor can I find fault with moves that weren't made (i.e. trading Moose to offer Dwyane Wade a max contract). Considering Miles Plumlee still has his RFA saga to endure, I feel safe predicting that the Bucks are not done yet. I don't believe that Moose will be traded at this point, so it will really come down to whether or not Plumlee sticks around, or the team can find something else to do with the combination of his cap hold and their remaining available salary.
Eric N: The Bucks did not make a splash in free agency and I'm pretty happy about that. Could they have used a flashy move this offseason? Possibly. Were there any flashy moves worth making this offseason? Probably not. You might have been able to talk me into Kent Bazemore or two years of Dwyane Wade, but ultimately any of the big money moves that could have been made would not have been particularly good for the Bucks. Both Teletovic and Dellavedova will help the Bucks shoot more threes next season and Dellavedova should help out the defense. Improvement due to free agent additions will likely be minimal, but two things have become much more clear because of the Bucks free agent activity: 1) Point Giannis is very real. 2) The Bucks are counting on the internal development of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, and Khris Middleton to improve the Bucks' win total next season. Both of those things are pretty cool with me.
Dan: I don't blatantly dislike anything they've done yet, though the Dellevadova signing bugs me just a bit. Accepting that the Bucks needed a tough-nosed rotational point guard who can shoot threes and play defense, did they have to have the guy who got all sorts of hype by virtue of lining up alongside the best player of all time (yeah, I said it)? Not that the contract is an obvious overpay, but the lack of subtlety is just so very Kohl-like. Although Delly will almost certainly be better the next year or two, I honestly wonder if Milwaukee could have been just fine using Malcolm Brogdon to fill his spot in relatively short order. Anyway, it's more of an abstract complaint than anything, and Delly's track record does inspire some confidence. And no, I don't think the Bucks are done, because the long-term plan at center still needs cleaning up.
Frank: As a cynic who has long bemoaned the difficulty of effectively spending money in free agency, I'm perfectly fine with a more conservative approach that doesn't try to be too splashy. I worry a little about Dellavedova living up to his deal given he's not a guy with a big margin for error, but it's also nice to have guys who are known quantities, have proven they can shoot and won't screw up a locker room. Of course, I'd also note that the Bucks aren't done, so all of this is subject to change.
And yes, I was somewhat relieved that the Bucks didn't land Dwyane Wade -- not because Wade is a bad player or anything, but just because I kind of like the purity of relying on the Bucks' young core rather than going for the sugar high of adding an older guy who will be gone by the time they're ready to contend for anything. Yes, it would have been cool for people to suddenly care more about the Bucks, but I also think it would have been a setup for disappointment. Besides, the last thing I want is a season of debating whether a 34-year-old is stealing too many shots from Giannis and Jabari.
Is there anything in particular that you're looking forward to with Summer League ball?
Eric B: I'm mostly looking forward to seeing Thon Maker play basketball and not be the subject of investigatory internetting. I'm sure Malcolm Brogdon will be just fine. I'm intrigued by Julyan Stone and Prince Ibeh, but I've learned over time to not get my hopes up for anything special (shoutout to McKenzie Moore from the 2015 squad!). I will enjoy casual and unspectacular basketball and try not to feel things one way or the other. Go, casual basketball!
Aron: Every year when I watch the Reese's Senior Bowl, I find a couple of under the radar players. Hopefully I can do the same for this venue — I haven't been able to thus far.
Mitchell: I am excited to see what Year 2 Vaughn can do in the defense-optional LVSL, and am doubly-excited to get a better look at Malcolm Brogdon, who I feel will be a big surprise this season. I expect very little from Thon Maker, but that's a product of how freakin' raw he is and how little I think he'll actually play his rookie season. If he somehow shows out and gets his jersey retired a la Nate Robinson, then so much the better.
Eric N: Nope. (Sorry, that was probably unnecessarily curt. I just don't think there is really much to take away from Summer League basketball. It's fun to see rookies for the first time and also quite enjoyable to see guys fighting to try to get on a NBA roster, but overall the product is pretty mediocre and not particularly indicative of NBA basketball.)
Dan: It would be nice to see Rashad Vaughn play well, as the Bucks could use some more productive depth at the two. Seeing Maker blow up would be fun as well, but I'm not going to put a ton of stock into his performance unless it's either 1) mind-blowingly awful, or 2) mind-blowingly incredible. And of course, I'm just waiting to see Jared Berggren dominate as the token WISCONSIN!!! rep.
Frank: It's all about Thon for me. While summer league is an imperfect proxy for a rookie's long-term production, it's usually a red flag if a guy looks completely overwhelmed in Vegas, and Maker could calm a lot of the concerns over his age and lack of experience vs. top-flight competition by looking like a guy who's close to contributing for an NBA team.
At the moment, we know his measurables are terrific and highlights impressive, but none of us have seen him play real games against NBA(ish) athletes. So I want to see whether he can finish over guys, hold his own on the boards, protect the rim and look comfortable stepping outside a little. Considering the Bucks have long-term guys at the two, three and four spots, does he look capable of holding down the five at some point, or is he "just" a four? His future won't be written in the next 10 days, but let's hope the first chapter is a promising one.