It’s been a long, winding road to get here, but it’s finally time to put a capper on our worst Milwaukee Bucks contract of the last decade exercise. And it finished, as many expected, with Miles Plumlee taking home the dubious honor. Rather than prolong the suffering with a lengthy discussion of what led Plumlee to Milwaukee (the MCW trade), we’ll dive right into the lead-up to this outsized contract.
It was the Salad Days of Summer 2016, and GM Johnny Hammond had just doled out deals for Mirza Teletovic and Matthew Dellavedova, firming up his bench with a 3-point stretch big and an off-ball point guard. When the smoke cleared on that dollar bill-fueled spending spree across the NBA, there were still a few piles of money hanging around Hammond’s coffers. Peering at the ledger, and with Mark Bartelstein whispering sweet nothings into his ear, Miles Plumlee’s negotiations finally kicked into high gear once the free agency frenzy was over. On July 18, it happened:
Restricted free agent Miles Plumlee and the Bucks have come to terms on a four-year, $52 million deal, agent Mark Bartelstein tells ESPN.— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) July 18, 2016
BARTELSTEIN!!!!! And with that tweet, the Bucks had locked themselves into a player who had appeared in 61 games the year prior and averaged...*squints*...*rubs glasses*...*tries contacts just in case*...5.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Now, there were some reasons you could try to make sense of this deal. Greg Monroe wasn’t the ideal fit clogging the paint next to Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, which thrust Miles Plumlee into an occasional starting role with his rim-running ability in 2015-16.
He ranked in just the 55th percentile shooting at the rim among bigs that season, per Cleaning The Glass, the year before his big contract bump. He wasn’t a particularly adept rebounder either, never helping solve the Bucks defensive rebounding woes of that era. He held opponents in 15-16 to 55.2% shooting at the rim, not a bad percentage, but that was against only 3.2 attempts per game. His primary boon: elite rim-rolling in 2015-16, ranking in the 98th percentile for scoring efficiency among roll men. He also averaged just one of those possessions per game according to the tracking data though. The hope was that role could expand and he remain as efficient.
Still, it’s not like Plumlee was really capable anywhere else but as someone who could finish decently in the paint. He didn’t offer any of the stretch abilities that would eventually unlock Giannis. And his defense remained passable, at best. Except his volleyball blocks. Those were always delightful.
Kevin Durant rubbing his right elbow a little after this Miles Plumlee block pic.twitter.com/hFfbUmaQCZ— Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) March 6, 2016
It all seemed like an overpay on Hammond’s part, plain and simple. Even within the context of that cash-rich period, Plumlee’s contract, and the fact it was handed out after the musical chairs of free agency had stopped, were the most bewildering. Here’s a spectacular round-up of all the deals made that summer, in the order they happened. The vast majority of deals at that time had trickled down to one- or two-year deals. It really is a brutal number, as further evidenced by how John Hammond treated it nearly the second it was signed. By February of 2017, Hammond somehow found a way to swindle the Charlotte Hornets by sending them Miles Plumlee in exchange for Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes.
It was an incredible coup given the barrel the Bucks stared down with his contract, and Plumlee had appeared in just 32 games to that point. Hawes proved a far better fit with his floor-stretching ability, and Milwaukee offloaded a contract that would’ve still been on their books until last year. Most recently, Plumlee played in Australia. Quite the fall from grace for the Plumlord. It also marks some of the last vestiges, hopefully, of overpaying for a one-dimensional big man with little to no shooting ability.
From the Archives
Frank with a level-headed and insightful breakdown at the time it happened:
Contractually, let’s start with the obvious: it’s not clear that any other team was going to offer the same kind of deal length or annual salary that Plumlee ended up getting, and it’s a bit scary giving a four-year deal to an almost-28-year-old whose game is almost entirely predicated on athleticism. While the dollars aren’t crazy in 2016 free agency terms, this deal could look rather bad if Plumlee suffers a Gadzurician productivity dip.
Still, it should also come as no surprise that the Bucks wanted to keep a guy who served as the perfect pick-and-roll complement to Giannis Antetokounmpo over the last few months of the season. Plumlee led the entire NBA in P&R finishing last season, scoring 1.44 points per play while shooting 76% on 61 such possessions, and he was a fixture in most of the Bucks’ best lineups from February on. Four-man lineups featuring Plumlee, Giannis, Jabari and Khris Middleton outscored opponents by around five points per 100 possessions over the course of the full season and by 10 points after the all-star break, reflective of Plumlee’s value as a low-usage rim finisher and mobile defender.
Thanks to everyone for making this a fun distraction during these NBA-starved weeks. Here’s the final list of worst Bucks contracts this last decade. How does it match up to everyone’s personal list? And tune in next week when we kick off our best Bucks contract of the last decade (H/t to oldresorter for the suggestion)!
Brew Hoop Worst Contract of the Last Decade Ranking
10. Ersan Ilyasova (2012; 5-year, $40M; team option last year)
9. O.J. Mayo (2013; 3-year, $24M)
8. Mirza Teletovic (2016; 3-year, $31.5M)
7. Tony Snell (2017; 4-year, $44M)
6. John Salmons (2010; 5-year, $39M)
5. John Henson (2015; 4-year, $44M)
4. Drew Gooden (2010; 5-year, $32M)
3. Matthew Dellavedova (2016; 4-year, $38.5M)
2. Larry Sanders (2013; 4-year, $44M)
- Miles Plumlee (2016; 4-year, $52M)