While everyone has anointed the Heat as the Eastern Conference frontrunner (I believe they are), and the Magic, Celtics and Bulls as the best bet to challenge them, one team has slowly solidified its status as a contender: the Milwaukee Bucks. They didn’t have max money to shell out on free agents, but that hasn’t stopped them from having a brilliant offseason – even if it has gone largely unnoticed.
First, the Bucks added Corey Maggette in a trade for Dan Gadzuric and Charlie Bell. While Maggette probably is overpaid at $10 million per year, he filled the Bucks’ most glaring need: a shot creator. Last year, the Bucks really only had John Salmons who could create his own shot on the wing, and Maggette, despite his flaws, can flat-out score. Also, Gadzuric and Bell were nothing more than spare parts in Milwaukee that really had no future there.
After getting Maggette, John Hammond went into the Draft and picked up three very solid players. At No. 15, he got Larry Sanders who was very impressive in Summer League and will fit in well with Scott Skiles‘ system as a rebounding and defensive specialist. Sanders also is incredibly athletic and can get up and down the floor with this young Bucks squad. The Bucks also drafted Darrington Hobson, a lockdown perimeter defender, and Tiny Gallon who has the muscle to play inside, and the jump shot to step outside.
Next up for Hammond was stealing Chris Douglas-Roberts from the Nets. He traded a future second-rounder for CDR, a guy who provides instant offense off the bench and an incredible desire to win that Skiles surely admires. After the CDR and Maggette pickups, nobody thought the Bucks would re-sign their season savior from last year, John Salmons. Yet, Hammond re-signed Salmons to a five-year deal worth $39 million. In a market where Darko Milicic makes $5 million annually, and Rudy Gay signed for five years at $82 million, this contract is very reasonable for a potential 20 point per game scorer.
With Salmons back, and Douglas-Roberts and Maggette now on board, the Bucks filled their most glaring need quite well. That’s when Hammond went to work shoring up his front court. He signed Drew Gooden for five years at $32 million, and while some might say that’s a steep contract for Gooden, I wouldn’t say so. Gooden can be a starting quality power forward in this league, and Sanders won’t be ready to start for probably two seasons. When Andrew Bogut went down last year the Bucks lacked front-court depth to compensate in his absence, and Gooden helps solve that. He can be a solid role player for them, your stereotypical system guy.
The last set of moves (I think) Hammond has made occurred yesterday. He brought in Keyon Dooling for two years at just over $4 million, and traded for Jon Brockman. Dooling is an underrated player who will provide a veteran presence for this team, solid defense, and good shooting. Last year, the Bucks had Kurt Thomas as their veteran leader; this year I expect it will be Dooling. Brockman adds more depth to the front-court and can be a dirty-work player on the boards.
So while their offseason moves haven’t been overly talked about, the Bucks have done something rare over the past few seasons. Led by Hammond, the team has effectively solidified its most glaring needs: wing scoring and front-court depth without egregiously overpaying anyone. Job well-done. Not to mention that Hammond also has Michael Redd‘s huge expiring contract to work with in trade scenarios to further improve his squad.
Potential Depth Chart:
PG: Brandon Jennings, Keyon Dooling
SG: John Salmons, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Carlos Delfino
SF: Corey Maggette, Luc Mbah a Moute
PF: Drew Gooden, Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders, Tiny Gallon
C: Andrew Bogut, Jon Brockman
What do you think?
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