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Roundtable: 2018 NBA Free Agency

Guess who’s back. Back again. Ersan’s back. Tell a friend!

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls - Game Two Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Welcome back to the Brew Hoop Round Table, where we ask that everybody use coasters and please don’t feed the pugs from the table, thanks. Today, the staff checks in to give their thoughts on the Milwaukee Bucks, the 2018 NBA free agency madness, and Thon Maker’s FIBA haymakers.

How wild was that fight between Australia and the Philippines on Monday?

Kyle: I wasn’t planning on waking up heading to work and seeing a giant brawl. I really wasn’t expecting Thon to be coming in with the Captain Falcon knees. Also, how was Delly not involved?! I’m not sure how the game was continued, but yeah, that might have been the biggest brawl for a basketball game since the Malice in the Palace. I am also irrationally proud of Thon for going in and defending his teammates, and not afraid to fight.

Riley: All I know is that it went well with my morning cup of coffee at the office. Glad neither Buck was harmed during the fight and hopefully the punishments handed down by FIBA remain simply that: international sanctions. I don't think the NBA will punish Thon Maker for his actions, but you never know, right?

Adam: Thon Maker scrapping wasn’t that surprising given his sneaky, dirty on-court persona, but it does fit well alongside Delly. The takes that were appalled by this need to simmer down. Sure, it was outrageously unnecessary, but these kind of scrums happen in baseball. Heck, a major American sport encourages throwing punches. At least this gave Thon and the Aussies some pub.

The Bucks signed Ersan Ilyasova to a 2+1 deal for ~$7 million annually. Thoughts?

Kyle: I don’t like the deal. It happened way too early in free agency; you could have gotten him much later and possibly for a lower cost or fewer years. Now you have another bench player that is making around $7-10 million a year. Yes, he has skills that can complement the team, and specifically Giannis. But this seemed like a “too safe” move for a player that potentially doesn’t move the needle.

Riley: I'll go ahead and agree with my compatriots on pretty much every point. The current version of Ersan won't be as helpful as the version that earned him a four-year, ~$32 million deal with the Bucks in 2012, but that doesn't mean he can't be a plus if used correctly. Of course the Bucks should have waited him and the market out, but it is what it is.

My main concern with the signing is what it means regarding Mike Budenholzer's level of input on roster construction. He's coached Ersan previously in Atlanta, so is there a chance he was swayed by familiarity and actively pushed Jon Horst to bring him back? Even if only half-true, it raises questions about how well thought-out player transactions may prove to be with Bud around.

Mitchell: I will get dragged for this, but I don’t care anymore. I don’t think that the Ersan contract was a terrible contract, I don’t think it was a bad basketball decision, and I don’t even mind that it came early on in free agency. I’m not saying that this was the ideal outcome for Day One of free agency, but I am not convinced that the team is any worse or missed out on any huge opportunities either.

I think that fans’ distaste for the team’s current predicament (particularly regarding the salary cap) is to blame for the initial backlash, and I agree that the team is in rough shape to make any meaningful moves. But given that we know there weren’t any meaningful moves...why do we hate this so much? We know that Ersan can play, which isn’t a given for some younger “upside” players like Mario Hezonja or Glenn Robinson III. We also know that Ersan can fit in with Giannis and with what the Bucks want to do. If he helps the team win games, should we be that angry about the team offering two guaranteed years, or a few million dollars more than they might have paid someone else?

Adam: I’ll err on the side of Riley and Kyle here. Why two guaranteed years when next summer they’ll be struggling to retain both Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon? Wouldn’t it be handy to have a bit more flexibility then? Or perhaps the fact Milwaukee seems intent on popping its free agent champagne bottles the second the clock strikes midnight? I’m not sure why a team whose market demands smarter spending on fringe free agent folks is insistent on bursting through the gate and burning cash in the process. He makes sense from a basketball standpoint, but not from a franchise-building perspective.

Brandon Jennings’ second-year guarantee isn’t a guarantee. What becomes of him?

Kyle: I was annoyed that it was first reported he was getting his second year guaranteed. Now, unless you package him in a trade, there is no need to keep him come August 1st. Jennings had two good games against G-League level teams, and paying $2.2 million for your fifth PG (who isn’t that good!) seems like a really bad idea.

Mitchell: I don’t have any notable Brandon Jennings thoughts. If he stays (on a minimum level deal) through August and beyond, then I guess that’s what the team wants to do.

Adam: Ya, I can’t muster up much bluster for this type of fringe roster stuff right now. I’d prefer Milwaukee used that spot for a younger guy with a bit more potential.

What was the biggest surprise of free agency so far?

Kyle: Paul George staying in OKC for four years. I wasn’t surprised he was coming back, but to sign a contract for that long was a shock. Good for Oklahoma City for taking the risk and at least you have Russell Westbrook, George, and Steven Adams locked up. If they can withstand (or shed) Melo’s deal, there is some potential for building a pretty good squad.

Mitchell: LeBron James is a Laker! That’s huge!

Riley: I get the benefit of hindsight writing this after Kyle and Mitchell put in their submissions, but it probably has to be DeMarcus Cousins going to the Golden State Warriors on a one-year make-good deal. The rich get richer...and the Bucks get Ersan.

Adam: The cool market for Aaron Gordon. He really got screwed by jumping into this cap-strapped offseason, as he seemed like a prime candidate for a massive offer sheet in year’s past. I like his contract a lot, whether it’s for Orlando or any team that chooses to acquire him.

With LeBron James out of the East...what now?

Kyle: Boston will likely be the favorite and Philly second in the conference. For Milwaukee you have the conference’s best player (which is a 100% fact) and anything below finishing 4th in the conference is going a failure. Last year we could say Milwaukee underachieved due to two reasons: bad coaching or flawed talent. The Bucks fixed one of those hiring Mike Budenholzer, so that excuse won’t fly.

Mitchell: Expectations were going to be higher for Milwaukee regardless, and now that they don’t have to contend with the King for more than 2 games out of the year, expectations just rose a bit further. Boston and Philadelphia will get all of the attention, and Toronto (who was the 1-seed last year) should not be forgotten, but the Bucks might be able to impress everybody if they have their act together, schemes-wise.

Riley: Why not be bold? I predict that we somehow cruise our way to the second seed in the East. That expectation is predicated upon the (probably unfounded) belief that Budenholzer will be able to get this team to heights we could only have dreamed of a year ago. Is it too much of a leap to think the Bucks can make their way into the mid-50s in terms of wins next season on the back of an even better Giannis and whatever value Bud can salvage from the rest of the roster? Maybe I’m being a bit too optimistic, but this team has to break through at some point.

Or maybe we're all just wasting our time with this basketball thing.

Adam: Milwaukee probably moves up one slot in the Eastern Conference power rankings.