With the NBA finally zeroing in on an official return plan, much of the chatter has been dissecting its safety, its effect on the Milwaukee Bucks, how fair it is for competition etc. However, we still have nearly two months before we’ll even get our first glimpse of NBA basketball once again, so we have to fill the time with some more typical offseason fodder. With the multitude of far more important conversations happening over the course of the past week about racial injustice, launching the companion to my “Worst Bucks Contracts of the Last Decade” series was woefully unimportant. Those conversations should continue today, tomorrow, and every day into the future.
But, I thought it seemed okay to return some on-court Bucks discussion back into your everyday lives. And what better way to do that than with this far more positive series breaking down the best contracts of the last decade. First off, I will say, there are significantly fewer candidates for this exercise. Such is the life for the Bucks faithful.
Just like with our “worst contracts” series, we need to lay down some guidelines for this excercise.
- No Rookie Contracts Allowed: Yes, we all know Giannis Antetokounmpo and Malcolm Brogdon were hugely valuable with their massive contributions on minuscule rookie deals. They’re also dictated by the CBA and they’re far less fun to debate. Rookie extensions are allowed.
- No 10-Day Contracts Allowed: Once again, It’s just too small of a commitment. If a player signed a 10-day, then was ultimately signed to a larger contract, the larger contract would be the nominee for this exercise. That means that Brandon Jennings’ glorious second run with the Bucks can be included here, but solely from the point once his second 10-day was converted to a full deal. Bucks in Six forever.
- Contracts Traded for Don’t Count: This one pains me, because Johnny Hammond swung his fair share of solid deals for savvy contributing veterans during his time in the 414. But, ultimately it doesn’t feel fair to this exercise given the player didn’t explicitly sign the contract to stay in Milwaukee of their own volition. Again, if that player then signed an extension with Milwaukee (i.e. John Salmons), that extension is then eligible. Apologies to Jared Dudley and Michael Beasley.
- Buyouts Don’t Count: Akin to contracts they traded for, these deals aren’t necessarily a product of shrewd negotiations/talent evaluation as much as seemingly a “right place, right time” scenario, at least in my view.
- Only contracts signed after January 1, 2010 Count: Yes, it’s midseason, but that will mean guys like Hakim Warrick won’t be in this exercise. Jerry Stackhouse can be though!
- No contracts signed last offseason: This criteria might be a tad controversial, but it seems premature to call anyone in the first year of their deal one of the “10 best contracts of the decade” given they haven’t even played a full season with the team under that deal. This means no George Hill, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, Kyle Korver or Khris Middleton max. It’s also in line with the candidates chosen for the worst contracts series.
As for the criteria you should try to take into account for the “best” contract, I want to leave some level of leeway for folks to interpret as they want, but there was a bit of confusion last time so I want to clarify.
- Hindsight is Welcome: The advantage of doing this reflective exercise, rather than in-the-moment reactions, is that we have years of seeing how these contracts benefited the franchise as a whole. You should certainly use your reflective ability to judge these contracts with the benefit of our intervening years of wisdom.
- Context is King: This goes beyond just the state of the team at the time, but extends to the state of the league too. A contract signed just before the impending cap spike might be lucky, but sometimes that’s all that really matters in the NBA.
- Player Performance: Gauge how the player ultimately performs relative to their contract in compared to not just their fellow Bucks, but similar players around the league at that pay scale and position.
With all that preamble out of the way, please toss any suggestions for contracts you think make the cut in the comments below. On Wednesday, we’ll get the voting started from a field of 10, as long as we’re able to get that many qualified candidates.