Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick will no doubt garner the most attention when the Bucks make their offseason plans, but once their futures are decided, Milwaukee may have to fend off other teams for another of their free agents. HoopsWorld's Steve Kyler touched on Mike Dunleavy this week, writing that the Bucks might see Dunleavy as a fallback option in case the team doesn't retain as many of its top three guards as it would like. The 32-year-old has never lived up to his promise as the third overall pick in the 2002 draft, but he's found a niche as a long-range shooter with plenty of size.
Dunleavy set a career mark with 42.8% three-point shooting this season, helping make up for the mediocrity of his teammates. Despite the presence of Ersan Ilyasova, who led the team by making 44.4% of his treys, and Redick for half a season, Milwaukee ranked just 13th in both three-point percentage and three-pointers made. Dunleavy could be particularly useful for the Bucks if they retain Jennings and Ellis but not Redick, since he'd help keep teams from packing the lane. The Bucks tried the Jennings-Ellis-Dunleavy combination fairly frequently, putting it on the floor for 10.4 minutes per night over 67 games. The Bucks were +0.8 in point differential with those three on the floor, compared to their season plus/minus of -1.5. The Bucks also improved from three-point range with that combination on the floor, shooting 37.3% compared to 36.0% for the season as a whole.
Dunleavy isn't the defender that Luc Mbah a Moute is, so I don't think the Bucks would be anxious to start Dunleavy at small forward, particularly alongside Ellis. Dunleavy has never been a full-time starter for a playoff team, and that probably isn't about to change now. Still, Milwaukee could run out the 6'9" Dunleavy as a backup two-guard and pair him with Mbah a Moute at times, giving the team plenty of length.
As I detailed earlier this evening, many of the best mid-level exception signings this year involved three-point shooters who came off the bench. The Bucks used cap space to ink Dunleavy to a two-year, $7.5MM deal in 2011, but that sort of contract would fit for a team that wanted to use part of its non-taxpayer's mid-level. The Duke product is probably in line for another such deal, though a slight paycut could be in order given his age. Accepting that might put several contending teams in play for him, since the taxpayer's mid-level includes a starting salary of $3.183MM for next season, only about $600K less than Dunleavy is making this season. The Heat, Thunder, Knicks and Spurs, the teams that grabbed the top two playoff seeds in each conference, all finished among the top five teams in three-point percentage this year, so Dunleavy might fit right in with a club that has title hopes.
Dunleavy's father, Mike Dunleavy Sr., wants to coach again, and is interested in joining a team with the financial wherewithal to make a title run. If he winds up with a coaching job, Dunleavy Jr. would probably be hard-pressed not to follow him, especially if he's with a playoff team. That could throw a wrench in the Bucks' plans to re-sign him, and Milwaukee could conceivably strike out with all four of their wing players this summer. That seems unlikely, though, and depends on several hypotheticals. And just because Dunleavy Sr. says he wants to coach, it doesn't mean he's headed for a sideline anytime soon. A reasonable expectation is for the Bucks to sign one or two out of Jennings, Ellis and Redick, and that sets them up to bring Dunleavy Jr. back, perhaps on another two-year deal. If they want to fend off the title contenders, I think keeping him on at his current salary would get the job done.