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Offseason In Review: Milwaukee Bucks

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees and more will be covered as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.




Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks

  • Rashad Vaughn (Round 1, 17th overall). Signed via rookie scale exception to rookie scale contract.

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

The Bucks entered this past offseason riding high after increasing their win total from an anemic 15 during the 2013/14 campaign to a respectable 41 victories last season, and Milwaukee earned itself a playoff berth as a result. Despite being eliminated in the first round of the 2014/15 postseason by the Bulls, the future is certainly brighter than it has been for Milwaukee basketball in quite some time.

The biggest move for the Bucks this offseason, and perhaps one of the summer’s most surprising developments, was Milwaukee landing free agent big man Greg Monroe. The former Piston accepted a three-year max deal from the Bucks, passing on similar offers from the Lakers, Knicks and Blazers in order to do so. Milwaukee has not traditionally been viewed as a free agent destination over the years, but with the franchise landing one of the top free agents of the offseason, that perception may need to change. Monroe isn’t necessarily a franchise-level talent, and he’s not quite at the level of Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge, both of whom were also free agents this summer, but he is a player who could aid in vaulting the Bucks toward the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference when combined with the rest of the young talent assembled. There were reports that the Bucks had also interest in Robin Lopez and Brook Lopez, but landing Monroe was a far more exciting move for the team given his age and potential.

Milwaukee didn’t limit itself to throwing cash at just Monroe. The team also re-signed restricted free agent Khris Middleton to a five-year, $70MM deal, and agreed to an extension with John Henson that will keep him in the fold through the 2019/20 campaign. Middleton is certainly one of the league’s success stories, having gone from a second-round pick in 2012 to a max player. While I certainly can see Middleton’s value on both ends of the court, he is a player who has never averaged more than 13.4 points per contest in his career, which makes this deal a bit of a risk for Milwaukee if he is at his plateau talent-wise. But Middleton’s value does extend beyond the numbers in the box score, and with the salary cap set to increase next season, his deal has the opportunity to look better over time.

Signing Henson to an extension was a solid move for the team, though his career averages of 8.1 PPG and 5.5 RPG are more fitting for a reserve than someone who will be paid an average annual salary of $11MM per season over the life of the extension. On the plus side for Milwaukee is that Henson’s deal is front-loaded, and his salary will decrease each season. The 24-year-old would have likely commanded a higher salary if he hit the open market, considering the league’s propensity to overpay big men, so Milwaukee did well for itself with this decision to lock down the center through 2019/20.

The Bucks were active on the trade front during the offseason, executing a series of minor deals that cleared valuable salary cap room for the team’s other dealings but provided little in the way of a return for the team. Monroe rendered center Zaza Pachulia unnecessary, so the Bucks essentially gave him away to the Mavs, who were in desperate need of a big man after DeAndre Jordan spurned them. Milwaukee also parted ways with Jared Dudley, shipping him to the Wizards for another heavily protected second-rounder, and the Bucks cut ties with Ersan Ilyasova, a solid stretch four whom they sent to the Pistons in exchange for two veterans they subsequently waived.

The only player acquired via trade this summer who still remains on the roster is point guard Greivis Vasquez, who cost the Bucks the Clippers’ 2017 first round pick and the rights to Norman Powell, the No. 46 overall pick in this year’s draft. Vasquez certainly fills a need for the team behind starter Michael Carter-Williams, and his outside shooting should prove vital to any success that Milwaukee hopes to achieve this season. While surrendering a first round pick may not sit well with some of the team’s fans, it was likely to be a late first-rounder given the Clippers’ expected success over the next few seasons, and Vasquez is likely to prove more valuable than any player who would have been selected that late in 2017’s draft.

Speaking of the draft, the Bucks did extremely well for themselves when they nabbed UNLV freshman shooting guard Rashad Vaughn with the No. 17 overall pick. Vaughn is a project who isn’t ready to defend NBA-caliber players, and he isn’t likely to contribute anything of significance in 2015/16. But he is also a player who has the potential to develop into a top-10 scorer in the league, and he may turn out to be one of the steals of the draft if the team shows patience in bringing him along. The sky is the limit for Vaughn, and he, alongside the team’s other young talents, should form a solid young core for the Bucks as they move into their new arena in the near future.

The opening of the arena has been pushed back to the 2018/19 season, but the new building should aid the team in future free agent pursuits, as well as ensure that the Bucks remain in Milwaukee, where they should be, well into the future. In fact, the arena-to-be has already aided the team, with Monroe noting to David Aldridge of that he took the team’s new facility into account when making his free agent choice this summer. “When I signed, it wasn’t all the way done yet, but now, they have a new stadium coming,” Monroe said. “And I saw how the fans were. We played there, been coming there for years now, multiple times a year in the division. I know what kind of fan base they have. And I talked to a couple of my former teammates in Detroit who played here before, and they had nothing but great things to say about the city and the organization. So with all of that combined, I just definitely felt I made the right decision.”

Milwaukee also made a number of front office decisions over the summer that will shape the organization moving forward. The team inked GM John Hammond to a one-year extension that will keep him in the fold through the 2016/17 campaign. Team co-owner Wesley Edens told Charles F. Gardner of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he felt it important to align the end of Hammond’s contract with that of coach Jason Kidd, whose deal also expires after the 2016/17 season is complete. The Bucks also hired longtime NBA executive Rod Thorn as a special consultant, and he is expected to work closely alongside Hammond. Thorn most recently served as the NBA’€™s president of basketball operations, a job in which he oversaw the league’s day-to-day business under commissioner Adam Silver.

The addition of Monroe this offseason was huge for the franchise, not just because of what he can provide on the court, but for the perception of the franchise as a viable destination for free agents. The retention of Middleton was equally important, and the team did well to re-sign the young wing. The return of Jabari Parker, who missed all but 25 games of his rookie campaign, and the continued development of the roster’s younger players, including star-in-waiting Giannis Antetokounmpo, give the Bucks an extremely bright future in the improving Eastern Conference. Milwaukee’s roster does lack athleticism beyond the Greek Freak, which could slow the team’s growth somewhat, and it’s an issue that the team may need to address via the trade market if it becomes a glaring issue. But for now, it’s a good time to be a fan of Milwaukee basketball, given the team’s solid direction and growing collection of talent.

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

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3 thoughts on “Offseason In Review: Milwaukee Bucks

  1. Chuck Myron

    The Bucks are going places, though I get the sneaking suspicion that neither Monroe, Antetokounmpo or Parker is going to become the true superstar a real contender usually needs.

    • hill

      I tend to agree. Giannis is more likely a franchiae glue guy and occasional defensive player of the year candidate than a perennial all*star. Jabari is a major injury concern right now with upside somewhere between Big Dog Robinson and Carmelo. Moose? Nice guy, team player, good IQ, good rebounder but limitef defensivelt can’t be the offense’s first option like he is now.

      I like my Bucks but this roster just doesn’t make any sense right now.

      Many of us expect progress in the culture and franchise but a W-L regression and a ~#10 lottery pick next year.

      • Chuck Myron

        I think the Bucks should end up around .500 again, probably enough to sneak into the playoffs, but that’s not far from what you’re predicting.

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