Offseason Report Card: Evaluating Milwaukee’s Eventful Summer

The Behind the Bucks writers hand out grades for each of the Bucks’ major offseason moves:

Acquiring Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton and Slava Kravtsov from Detroit in a sign-and-trade for Brandon Jennings

Nick Whalen: B

The Bucks gave up the best player in the deal but received a capable replacement in Knight, as well as a versatile, athletic wing in Middleton. Knight won’t bring Jennings’ fearlessness to the position, but he has prototypical size and is infinitely less likely to butt heads with Larry Drew. I’m not certain the deal immediately makes Milwaukee any better, but it was clearly time to move on from the Jennings era, and brining in a trio of high-character players with fairly intriguing upside was the right move.

Kevin Schield: B+

After alienating Jennings with the Teague offer, this had to be done. Unfortunately, there were not a lot of teams hunting for a point guard. Getting three guys with potential is nice, though a first-round pick, or a more solidified player, would have been nice. Either way, had to be done.

Nick Pitner: B

By trading the 23-year-old Jennings, the Bucks avoided paying a small point guard with inconsistent effort, attitude and production roughly $24 million over three years. In return, they received a bigger, 21-year-old point guard that is still on his rookie contract and has better potential on both ends of the court, while limiting the drop-off in production. Additionally, in Middleton, Milwaukee gets needed depth and size on the wing and another player who can stretch the floor.

Alex Skov: B

Middleton can likely gather a decent number of minutes in the Bucks’ rotation; Kravtsov maybe not; and Knight is the big addition. He may not be the scorer Jennings is, but he got dunked on several times last season, meaning he at least tries harder on defense than BJ.

2. Signing O.J. Mayo to a three-year, $24 million deal

Nick Whalen: B+

I may be in the minority here, but I’ve been a fan of Mayo’s game since his days as a high school superstar. Adding a player of his caliber is about as close as a team in the Bucks’ position can get to signing a legitimate star. He’s a cap-friendly upgrade over Monta Ellis and will have an opportunity to be the primary scoring option– a role he thrived in for the first half of last season before the injured Dirk Nowitzki returned to form (November-January: 18.3 points, 47% FG). Sure, his numbers took a nosedive shortly after, but he’s another high-character guy with a well-rounded game – plus, he’s still just 25 years old.

Kevin Schield: B

Mayo is a nice role player and $8 million a year is a reasonable. He is a more responsible player than Monta Ellis was, meaning he takes fewer risks on defense and takes smarter shots. He’s only 25 and should have an increased role, so hopefully he will give the Bucks the best years of his career.

Nick Pitner: B

In Mayo, the Bucks fill their need at shooting guard with a player coming off both his best shooting and assist season as a pro. He will turn 26 this year and will be a team’s primary scoring option for the first time in his career. At $8 million per year, it’s a solid deal, despite whatever defensive shortcomings he may have.

Alex Skov: A

The Bucks needed a scorer who didn’t have to shoulder the burden of facilitating, so catching Mayo for a very reasonable $24 million over three years is a coup. Remember, Mayo was the Dallas Mavericks’ battery for the beginning of 2012-13. Away from the crowded court in Memphis, Mayo should be able to replicate his Dallas days in Milwaukee.

3. Signing Zaza Pachulia to a three-year, $15.6 million deal

Nick Whalen: D

Of all the team’s offseason transactions, this is the ultimate “we refuse to rebuild so deal with it” move. At this point in his career, Pachulia is the type of player a near-contending team signs to provide playoff experience and solidify frontcourt depth – essentially what the Pacers accomplished in acquiring Luis Scola. Adding a veteran center to a team that already has core of promising young bigs, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and it can only stunt the growth of the promising John Henson. On the bright side, the Bucks got him at an affordable price, but the deal is baffling nonetheless.

Kevin Schield: B-

Zaza Pachulia is nothing flashy, but how often does anything flashy go to Milwaukee during free agency? Both he and Carlos Delfino seem like the type of players that could play a role in a conference semi-finals team, while also being guys who are not immune to playing on a tank-worthy team. Let’s face it, the Bucks were not going to get a center much better than Pachulia in free agency.

Nick Pitner: D

One has to question what role new head coach Larry Drew, given his time spent in Atlanta, had in convincing Bucks management to shell out such money to a 29-year-old big man coming off Achilles surgery. Sure, Pachulia is a productive rebounder and his veteran presence should help the development of players like Larry Sanders and John Henson, but with Ersan Ilyasova and Ekpe Udoh also vying for playing time, is Zaza really worth that much commitment?

Alex Skov: C+

I don’t love Zaza’s work ethic, but this is the usual coach-adds-former-player move and continuity will help Larry Drew in his first year on the bench.

4. Acquiring Luke Ridnour & a 2014 second-rounder (via LAL) from Minnesota

Nick Whalen: B+

I mean, why not? Ridnour is yet another great locker room guy that has proven to be a very capable backup point guard throughout his career. He enjoyed his first stint in Milwaukee and should aid in the development of Brandon Knight. I can’t believe I’m typing this, but considering he’s 32 and on an expiring contract, the deal actually makes a lot of sense.

Kevin Schield: B+

Getting a player on an expiring contract and a draft pick for basically nothing is a great thing for Milwaukee. Ridnour will have a role on this team and could mentor Brandon Knight. Again, not setting the world on fire, but an acceptable move.

Nick Pitner: A

Ridnour is an experienced point guard who has averaged 10 points and almost five assists per game during his 10-year NBA career. He is also one of the league’s best mid-range shooters and is on the last year of his contract. During his second stint in Milwaukee, expect Ridnour to back up Knight at point guard and even play alongside him, allowing the latter to showcase his scoring prowess. Further, the Lakers figure to struggle this season, so their second-rounder could be in the 30s or 40s.

Alex Skov: B

A two-guard who can play point in a pinch? Sure, that’s nice, but a second-round pick in the deep 2014 draft is valuable for the Bucks, especially if the Lakers remain a hot mess. John Hammond is sure to use it wisely.

5. Signing Carlos Delfino to a two-year, $6.5 million deal with a third-year team option

Nick Whalen: B

Delfino lived up to his reputation as a gunner last season, attempting more than six three-pointers per game in the fast-paced Houston offense. Hopefully he won’t be launching at that rate in his second tour with the Bucks, but – assuming he starts at small forward – Milwaukee will roll out four players (Knight, Mayo, Delfino, Ilyasova) who each shot at least 37 percent from deep last season. His contract is reasonable, and the third-year team option is an added bonus.

Kevin Schield: B+

Much like the Ridnour and Pachulia acquisitions, the Bucks bring in a veteran who has played in Milwaukee before. Delfino played a pretty important part on a much-improved Rockets team last season. As long as he is given the correct role, Delfino will bring good things to Milwaukee. The flexibility of a team option for year three only helps.

Nick Pitner: B-

The Bucks essentially replace Mike Dunleavy Jr. with another sniper who is two years younger and earns the same amount of money. Delfino, a fan favorite during his first go-round in Milwaukee, also made a career-high 158 three-pointers last season. He’s expected to start at small forward and space the floor, which he is certainly capable of doing.

Alex Skov: D+ 

What, no Jon Leuer?

6. Signing Gary Neal to a two-year, $6.5 million deal

Nick Whalen: C-

I’m of the belief that Neal benefited greatly from playing the past three seasons for the league’s best coach and organization. This is another Pachulia-type deal in that Neal could be a real difference-maker for an elite team – as he often was for the Spurs – but doesn’t have the ability to single-handedly impact a middling franchise. Neal has a reputation as a three-point marksman, but he shot just 34.8 percent from deep last season. Plus, he’s a bit of a tweener and does not bring much to the table outside of scoring (2.1 rebounds, 0.7 assists in 2012-13).

Kevin Schield: C+

Gary Neal is good at shooting and he likes to shoot, but he does not seem to bring a lot more to the team. His defense and passing have gotten a little better since he was First Team All-Rookie three years ago, but not what you would hope. Neal’s role under Popovich was perfect for the Spurs and for Neal, but I am skeptical that Larry Drew will find similar success. Fortunately, it is just a two-year deal with minimal risk.

Nick Pitner: C+

Given Neal’s performance during last season’s playoffs, he was going to receive a payday based solely on his ability to shoot the ball. The Bucks placed a clear emphasis on adding players who can stoke it this offseason and that is undoubtedly Neal’s calling card, even though last season.

Alex Skov: B-

Another shooting guard? Really? Neal comes from a good system in San Antonio and should bring a positive locker room presence while giving decent support on both ends of the floor.

7. Signing-and-trading J.J. Redick to the Clippers for two future first-round picks

Nick Whalen: F

In dealing Redick for two protected second-round picks, the Bucks parlayed one poor trade-deadline into an even worse offseason blunder. In case you forgot, Milwaukee dealt Tobias Harris, Doron Lamb and Beno Udrih to Orlando for Redick, Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith at the deadline. Now five months later, all the Bucks have to show for it is Smith and two second-rounders, while Harris appears poised for a breakout season in Orlando. The Bucks vastly underestimated Redick’s value and rushed into a poor deal that isn’t likely to yield any returns.

Kevin Schield: D

I do not think Eric Bledsoe was some sort of godsend, or even a potential top 10 point guard, but the Bucks needed to come away with him. The Clippers really wanted Redick and they probably were not getting him without the Bucks’ help. Instead, the Suns, a division foe of the Clippers, were awarded Bledsoe and Caron Butler (an expiring contract), even though they gave up less of an asset in Jared Dudley. It is understandable to get something for a guy who is leaving town anyway, but for just two second-round picks, I would have preferred to see John Hammond let Redick walk or force the Clippers’ hand.

Nick Pitner: F

To analyze this deal, more needs to be considered. The Bucks acquired Redick at the trade deadline last season for Tobias Harris, a young player and former first-round pick whose struggles defensively did not mesh with former coach Scott Skiles’ philosophy. Redick helped Milwaukee make the playoffs, but he then shot 33 percent from beyond the arc and played just 17 minutes per game, while Harris went on to average over 17 points and eight rebounds per night in Orlando. It was clear Redick was not going to re-sign with the Bucks, so receiving two-second rounders for his underwhelming services was better than nothing, but not commendable in the big picture.

Alex Skov: D

For dumb. At least they got two picks, even if they will be late second-rounders, rather than letting Redick walk for nothing. The travesty was the original trade that brought him out of Orlando, not this one.

8. Trading Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to the Kings for 2016 and 2018 second round picks

Nick Whalen: A

While The Prince thrived as a versatile defender/hustle extraordinaire during his tenure in Milwaukee, he’s owed more than $8 million over the next two seasons and has seemingly maxed out his limited potential. Flipping him for two second-rounders seems about right value-wise, and Khris Middleton should be able to step into his role nicely.

Kevin Schield: C+

I am not sure how many second-round picks the Bucks needed to acquire this offseason. Second-rounders are not an asset in the NBA like they are in the NFL or NHL. That being said, seeing Mbah a Moute leave is not a big deal. He was a very good defender, but he never seemed to have his bearings on offense. And hey, considering Mbah a Moute was a second-rounder out of UCLA, Maybe Milwaukee will get two Mbah a Moute’s in 2016 and 2018!

Nick Pitner: C

The Bucks drafted Mbah a Moute 37th overall in 2008 and he quickly earned praise from the organization for his defensive effort. Over his five seasons in Milwaukee, Mbah a Moute often guarded the opposition’s best wing player, while remaining a serviceable shooter from inside the arc. Now, the Bucks are left without a defensive role player to lock down swingmen, opting instead to give a chunk of Mbah a Moute’s minutes to first-rounder Giannis Antetokounmpo. While it’s a perfect season, given next summer’s loaded draft, to give the rookie the necessary playing time to develop, Milwaukee will miss Luc’s defensive-minded approach.

Alex Skov: C+

Mbah a Moute lost a step on defense last season after nagging injuries and was, as usual, a non-factor on offense. Trading him to a maybe-budding Kings squad for two picks is a better deal for Milwaukee, as picks pile up and these should both be high second-rounders.

9. Overall offseason grade

Nick Whalen: C-

The Bucks made a few solid, sensible moves that should reap benefits in the short-term, but this offseason will be overshadowed by the disastrous Redick deal and puzzling Pachulia and Neal signings. Of course, it will be much easier to evaluate the moves once we’ve seen the team on the court for a few months, but on paper the Bucks did not appear to do anything that promises an emergence from mediocrity. But then again, that hasn’t seemed to be the franchise’s top priority.

Kevin Schield: C+

It’s hard to make a splash in Milwaukee, but things could have gone better. The offseason would look a lot better if the Bucks proclaimed they were better off without Dwight Howard.

Nick Pitner: C

As the grades show, Milwaukee made its share of solid and shaky moves this offseason. The team entered the summer with questions surrounding the backcourt and intelligently parted ways with the erratic and expensive Jennings-Ellis partnership for higher character players with solid skills sets and better financial values. Also, the Bucks improved their outside shooting by targeting more efficient players. However, some of Milwaukee’s moves, when taken in context, are tough to completely justify. On the bright side, the Bucks have plenty of cap-room saved for next summer’s intriguing free agent class and a nucleus intact for the near future. Ownership will not allow the Bucks to tank ahead of the 2014 Draft, so the front office did an average job of keeping the team competitive enough.

Alex Skov: C+


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