How many games counts as an insurmountable lead for the Heat against the Bucks in a playoff series? Three? Two, or even one? There are numerous reasons why the Deer trail Miami by multiple games, and that is not a knock on Milwaukee as a franchise since they are facing two of the NBA’s current most talented players. Over-attentiveness and rebounding are two such reasons, and J.J. Redick’s alternately ineffective and limited play has not provided the Bucks the boost GM John Hammond was hoping would
get them to the playoffs make the team competitive in the playoffs. After waiting to make a move just hours before February’s trade deadline, here are two questions that may haunt the Bucks by the end of their time in the playoffs:
1) Did Hammond make the correct choice in acquiring Redick?
2) How would this team fare against the Heat if it had Pau Gasol?
Anyone who has followed the Bucks this season has an opinion on the first question with most of the results being negative as Milwaukee went 11-17 after trading a veteran point guard (Beno Udrih) and young assets (Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb) for a sharpshooting two-guard who looked poised to make the Bucks’ offense more diverse. Unfortunately for the franchise, Redick has shot only 31.8 percent from three since joining the squad, more than seven percent below the 39 percent he shot this season before the trade. The higher number also happens to be his career average. Redick’s turnovers have increased at the same time, as he plays fewer minutes.
An answer to the second question is tougher to nail down. I argued the Bucks should make a play for Gasol at the time, while two other BtBP-ers were decidedly against dealing for a then-injured, past his prime big man. Their thinking was more in line with that of Milwaukee brass, obviously, but the Bucks could have feasibly added both Gasol and Redick.
Presuming the same deal was brokered to acquire Redick and the two other Magic cast-offs, Ish Smith and Gustavo Ayon, were retained upon consummation of the trade, a swap with the Los Angeles Lakers would have had to look something like this: Ersan Ilyasova, Drew Gooden and Mike Dunleavy for Gasol.
The Bucks’ alternate-universe starting roster would probably be Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Gasol and Larry Sanders. The rotation would fill out with Redick, Ayon, Smith, Samuel Dalembert, Marquis Daniels, John Henson and Ekpe Udoh. Sorry, Joel Przybilla fans — he would still be racking up DNPs like nobody’s business.
Jettisoning Gooden’s contract to an ever-ailing Lakers team that needs additional depth would not be an issue for the Bucks, but losing the outside shooting offered by Dunleavy and Ilyasova would leave Redick as the lone *cough* reliable long-range shooter. The issue of guard depth still exists and the offense would have to shift toward an inside-out game, but the duo of Gasol and Sanders in the paint combined with Ellis and Jennings speeding toward the rim would create the necessary space for Redick to operate from behind the arc. Whereas Sanders is primarily a threat on defense (although he has upped his scoring production during three playoff games), Gasol would act primarily as an offensive spark plug and complement Sanders on D.
As rebounding and the presence of energetic big man Chris Andersen have troubled the Bucks in the first three games of this series, Gasol could be a game changer against a team he has had success against in the past.
Gasol in games against Miami this season:
Gasol vs. Miami in 2012:
Having already sold young assets from the auction block for Redick, adding Gasol for fewer than two seasons would have further co-opted Milwaukee’s win-(an eighth seed)-now mindset, but may have patched the Bucks’ losing streak toward the end of the regular season and potentially allowed them to avoid the Heat in the first-round, matching up with New York as the seventh seed and relegating the Celtics to another postseason showdown with Miami. Any success the Bucks found this postseason could predicate what would happen this summer — Redick’s choices in free agency, Jennings’ acceptance of offer sheets, Ellis’ exploration of the open market — but that will happen anyway, whether the Bucks get swept without Gasol or they steal Sunday’s game in South Beach.
Gasol isn’t a Buck. Examining this hypothetical situation is an exercise in futility, just like the Bucks’ eternal stretch for a low playoff seed, as some people say. But would you rather have a roster with Gasol on it when facing LeBron James and Co. in the playoffs, or the one that has has lost three games by an average of 16 points and faces a win-or-go-home scenario on enemy hardwood this weekend?