The Bucks drafted Jabari Parker last night. Yours truly has been skeptical of Parker, but there are positives. He does want to play in Milwaukee. He is a scorer. He seems to understand the game.
Parker's understanding of the game was one of the red flags that caused #BucksForest to want other players. Austin Rivers is the son of an NBA player, and he knew the game. Shabazz Muhammad has a father who taught him how to play, and he knew the game. These players learned early, and it allowed them to thrive at the high school and college levels despite relatively modest athletic gifts. Parker feels like a similar case. Maybe yours truly will be wrong. Maybe he'll be Paul Pierce or Big Dog.
Whatever the future holds, the Bucks' present seems to be set. They will have twelve players under guaranteed contracts once Parker signs, and a thirteenth in Chris Wright who is under a non-guaranteed deal. They have two second round draft picks who could be let go, but who are expected to be on the roster. That adds up to fifteen players, which is the NBA maximum.
Trade rumors have surrounded 2014 disappointments Big Ers, The Colonel and Juice Mayo. Even Brandon Knight has had his name floated. A trade would change the makeup of the roster, but at the moment Big Ers seems to be the only one who might move. The Colonel has one of the worst contracts in the NBA and Juice Mayo is not far behind. Big Ers may still be able to contribute, but at his current salary it's hard to imagine which team will take him without requiring the Bucks to give up an additional asset. Getting a team to take any of those men without giving up a good young player or a draft pick appears to be a long shot.
Whether the Bucks trade someone or not, they have a problem that has been a signature of the Hammond era: too many guys who think they are rotation players. A good NBA rotation is 8 1/2 to 9 men. Some teams can squeeze in 9 1/2 or 10 men if the right composition and chemistry exists. Look, then at the Bucks' over-population problem:
Players who believe they should be in the rotation:
-The Grecian Formula
-Juice Mayo (I know, I know. The way he played last season hardly warrants a rotation spot. But he'll be 27 years old this season. He'll want to play.)
Players who will/might be OK with being employed benchwarmers in 2015:
-"Johnny O" (O'Bryant)
-Damien "No Habla" Inglis
That's eleven rotation guys and only three benchwarmers. Last year injuries and attitude stripped the rotation to a manageable level, but I hope that they hope to avoid a repeat of that.
If Big Ers or The Colonel or Juice Mayo is traded for a 2014 Nothing (future draft pick, Euro-stash, injured/retiring veteran on an expiring contract), then that's fine. If the status quo is kept, then this team could see serious discord.
Bucks management's preferred rotation appears to be the following:
Point guards: Good Brandon (starter), Nasty Nate
Wing players: Los Delfino (starter), The Grecian Formula (starter), Khris Middleton
Big men: Jabari (starter), John Henson (starter), Big Ers, The Colonel
That leaves Juice Mayo and Zaza as unhappy benchwarmers. It leaves The Colonel and Big Ers as unhappy non-starters. More importantly, it leaves the starting lineup soft on defense and reliant on Good Brandon, Los Delfino and Jabari for scoring. The opposition would be salivating.
If Bucks fans think back one calendar year, the following starting lineup looks pretty darned good:
Sixty percent of that starting lineup is currently out of favor with Bucks coaches, fans and management, but the team should try to mend fences. Bring Juice Mayo in and tell him that he is still seen as a top 3-and-D guy. After The Colonel gets out of rehab, tell him that he no longer carries a burden. Ask him to pretend that he's still on a rookie contract and that he still is on the court merely to provide rim protection and the occasional dive on a pick-n-roll. Tell Big Ers that he has tenure and that he is still one of best shooting big men in the game.
That's a solid bench and it doesn't even account for The Grecian Formula. (Admittedly, Yours Truly has major doubts about the man from Hellas. If the Bucks are going to try to be the best they can be in 2015, then Giannis Antetokounmpo should not be counted on to play important minutes. That is not me "hating" or "trolling". That is just an honest assessment of the Greek's skills.) That is a bench and starting lineup that can contend for the playoffs. There is a segment of Online Fans who view "playoffs" as a dirty word (their motto is "Championship or Bust"), but for those of us who hold season tickets, playoffs are a good thing. Being in the Bradley Center when the team wins is enjoyable. That nine-man rotation could deliver the wins to make that happen.
The bad news right now is that Bucks management appears resigned to losing in 2015. The good news is that ownership appears unwilling to surrender blood (draft picks) or treasure (dead money acquired in bloated contracts) to move players who have fallen out of favor. Hopefully that the current group of Bucks can rally for a playoff run in 2015 and even more success beyond.