The 5 Likeliest Free-Agent Signings for the Milwaukee Bucks

Chris Paul wants to be traded to the Knicks.

Beno Udrih works out at the Cousins Center ( photo)

Remember when the new collective bargaining agreement was going to help even the playing field for the small-market teams?  Now, not only is the realm of player movement still warped, but Paul’s demand will tick off the hawkish owners, who haven’t even signed off on the new CBA deal yet.  

In any case, the Bucks still need to put together their roster, even if, as a small-market team, they are not operating from a position of strength. Milwaukee currently has 11 players under contract and two draftees:

Under contract: Bogut, Jennings, Gooden, Delfino, Jackson, Udrih, Livingston, Dooling, Sanders, Brockman and Ilyasova.

2011 Draftees: Harris and Leuer.

If those 13 players occupy roster spots, then the Bucks need only sign a player or two.  Depth on the wing and at center remain the two biggest holes to plug.  John Hammond could certainly look to fill these gaps via trade. But if he attempts to work the free agent wire, then here are five possible, or even likely, signees.      

Luc Mbah a Moute

The Bucks’ sole restricted free agent is a prime candidate to come back to Milwaukee.  At his season-opening press conference, John Hammond went out of his way to praise Luc.

“We appreciate Luc and what he’s done for us as an organization and what he stands for.  We have every intention of bringing Luc back.”

If defense is the core to the identity of this Bucks team, then expect Hammond to make a serious pitch to re-sign Mbah a Moute. As a restricted free agent, the Bucks will have the right to match all offers, but would have just 72 hours to do so under the new CBA.

Joel Przybilla

The Bucks need a backup center badly, and both the Bucks and Przybilla have made their interest for each other quite clear.

The 7’1″ center isn’t as agile now after dealing with a chronic knee condition the past few years, but he’s a huge, strong, savvy defender in the paint.  While he only played in 36 games last season, he still showed defensive prowess.  Opponents, according to SynergySports, converted just 35 of 86 field goals (40.7%) when guarded by Joel.

In an offseason interview with Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times, Przybilla indicated that Milwaukee would be one of his desired destinations.  He started his career with the Bucks in 2000. Today, Woelfel also reported that the Bucks put in a call to Przybilla’s agent, Bill Duffy, and that the Bucks are  the “frontrunners” in a group of about six serious bidders for his services.

For what it’s worth, lots of Przybilla’s family and friends — including his wife — are from Wisconsin.

Caron Butler

According to the same report by Woelfel (linked above), the Bucks have contacted Caron Butler — a Racine native.  But signing Butler isn’t nearly as likely as signing Mbah a Moute or Przybilla.

First of all, Butler should command a decent salary as an unrestricted free agent, and the large number of suitors (SA, MIA, NYK, MIL, CHI, LAC) will only serve to drive the price tag higher.  The presence of high-payroll contenders in the list indicates that his value could rise near or past the midlevel exception.

The only mitigating factor holding back his free-agent desirability is the ruptured patellar tendon he suffered on New Year’s Day in the Bradley Center.  He has since rehabilitated the knee and should begin play when the season starts in December.

Who will Butler ultimately pick?  A lot of signs point to Chicago, a team with championship hopes. But the Bucks can offer his home state and the promise of lots of minutes.  They’ll also need lots of cash, though, too.

Jason Smith

If the Bucks sign Przybilla, then you can ignore this prediction.

But if they lose Przybilla to another team, they will still need a backup big man.  In Smith, the Bucks would get a 25-year-old, 7-footer who can anchor a second-line defense.  He’s not spectacular, but he’s not too old (Theo Ratliff), too short/expensive (Chuck Hayes), or too power forward-ish (Chris Wilcox).

Looking within the division (which will be especially important given the conference-heavy schedule), picture Smith banging with the likes of Omer Asik and Ben Wallace.  The Bucks can still use Sanders against smaller, faster teams, but Smith will be there to occupy the paint against the bruising bigs.

Carl Landry

Sadly, the Bucks probably won’t make a play for Landry, who could add scoring punch to the oft punchless Bucks as an undersized power forward.

Today, Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel noted that the Bucks were not going to pursue Landry, a Milwaukee native and unrestricted free agent.  Landry spent the 2010-11 season split between Sacramento and New Orleans, averaging nearly 12 points per game.

However, if a certain combination of factors took place — Mbah a Moute signing elsewhere, Ersan trying to get back to Turkey — then the team would presumably have a need at forward and the spare salary with which to fill it.  Enter Carl.

Landry is a dependable two-way player.  Showing nice touch around the rim, he has made over 50% of his field goal attempts in each season of his career.  At the same time, he held opponents to 0.88 points per possession and under 40% shooting on the defensive end (according to Synergy).

Landry, who has four years of NBA experience, is 28-years-old and entering the peak of his career. That’s both a plus and a minus, since his top career years will likely also coincide with his highest earning years.  And on the open market, Landry, with all of his talents, should get his payday he deserves.

Chris Paul

Just kidding.  Paul isn’t even a free agent yet… even if he’s trying hard to act like one.

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Tags: Joel Przybilla Luc Mbah A Moute

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