The Bucks have too many big men. At this point, it’s almost too easy to trade Samuel Dalembert.
After starting 13 of the Bucks’ first 14 games, Dalembert hasn’t played at all in the last seven contests.
The first sign of Dalembert falling out of favor with coach Scott Skiles popped up in the first game against Chicago. After hinting at a last-minute change in his pregame interview, he shocked everyone by starting Joel Przybilla, who had yet to play a non-garbage-time minute on the season.
Ted Davis first cited the reason as a tardiness issue. When given the chance to follow up on what had happened, Skiles continued to dodge addressing the issue, and Dalembert labeled it as a misunderstanding where he was tagged as late for stepping outside the locker room to take a phone call.
The far more damning evidence to the schism arose a few weeks ago when Samuel Dalembert did an interview with Hoopsworld. Since it’s posting, Dalembert has played in just one game, a December 12th win over Sacramento.
“It is not working,” Dalembert said. “It’s not quite… I thought my role would have been a little bit more. But, like I said it’s coaching and everybody is doing their best.
The non-verbal clues in the interview — face rubs, lip grimaces, eye darts — are just as telling as the words. He isn’t happy with his situation.
Dalembert is under contract for $6.7 million this season, then he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He has played 277 minutes for the Bucks this season. With a reasonable contract and no baggage beyond this season, teams have no reason to fear acquiring him.
If the Bucks wanted to make a trade, they should be able to find a willing partner. He could fetch a functioning guard in return, one that the team badly needed when Beno Udrih twisted his ankle.
If the season ended today, Dalembert would finish with career-high success rates on both field goals and free throws. Of the Bucks bigs, he finishes better off the pick-and-roll than anyone else despite being neither fast nor explosive. He uses his long arms and soft hands to both catch and finish up high without bringing the ball down or hesitating to attack.
Defensively, Dalembert is still blocking shots exactly as his career rate (5.6%), but his defensive rebounding is down a bit (20.7% this season; 25.4% for his career). He hasn’t fit seamlessly into Skiles’ defensive schemes though, and for that, he sits outside the rotation looking in.
But there have been games — see the debacle against Memphis, for example — where Dalembert should have been useful in theory. With so many bigs, Skiles should be able to highlight them in games that play to their strengths. Dalembert’s fortes should be showcased against bigger, slower teams; squads like the Grizzlies and Pacers that roll out heavy, strong players at both power forward and center. Ekpe Udoh and Larry Sanders are unquestionably better defenders, but Dalembert should be able to body up post players without fouling better than both. It hasn’t played out that way, though.
So even if Dalembert isn’t worth a starting spot, he should be able to crack a rotation — either in Milwaukee or elsewhere. And so it’s time for Skiles and general manager John Hammond to decide. Trade him or play him. Letting him writhe unplayed on an imbalanced bench doesn’t do the useful, veteran player justice.
And it doesn’t help the Bucks, either.