Samuel Dalembert Gives The Milwaukee Bucks Short, Long Term Flexibility


Yesterday’s Milwaukee Bucks trade for center Samuel Dalembert was a John Hammond move in every sense of the phrase. While not as exciting as bringing in loose lips that have sunk an admirable number of ships (Stephen Jackson) or a guy that looks like he could be cast in The Expendables (Corey Maggette), this was a comprehensive value move that cost little financially and immediately upgrades the Bucks’ starting lineup.

Milwaukee essentially gave up two gift shop novelties (Jon Brockman’s trick shots, Jon Leuer’s Wisconsin roots) and a third string point guard (Shaun Livingston) good for at least one annual story rehashing one of the most brutal injuries in NBA history. The drop from 12th to 14th in tonight’s NBA Draft is also of minimal concern, as most of the players expected to be taken in that range are fairly interchangeable in terms of value.

While Dalembert won’t directly contribute to boosted ticket sales, he brings a solid defensive pedigree and some sneaky offense to a team needed both from the center position.

The Bucks have an immediately improved paint defense (26th in the NBA in shots allowed at the rim), and activeness off the glass (26th in total rebounding rate). Among active players, Dalembert ranks 10th in blocks per game (1.87), 7th in offensive (12%) rebounding rate, and 5th in total rebounding rate (18.66).

Interestingly enough, .2 is all that separated the 2011-12 offensive rebounding rate of Ersan Ilyasova (12.7) and Samuel Dalembert (12.5), and Dalembert actually registered a higher overall rebounding rate (18.3) than Ilyasova (17.6). Ilyasova is obviously a better offensive player, but if he bolts, the Bucks shouldn’t much of a reduction in the offensive mulligans Ilyasova so often created.

Bringing is a proven center (however ambiguous that term may be) also creates a domino effect that lets Drew Gooden shift back to a more comfortable spot at the four. Perhaps more importantly, combining Dalembert with another quality shot blocker (Larry Sanders, Ekpe Udoh) overcompensates for a tyrannosaurus-armed backcourt more prone to blow-bys and back-downs than Tim Pawlenty in a political debate.

How Dalembert fits into the Bucks

Last year, according to Synergy Sports, Scott Skiles’ offense featured a lot of pick-and-rolls (19.4% of all plays), spot ups (20.1%), and transition plays (13.4%). Although Dalembert is anything but a world beater on offense, he was a solid pick and roll scorer last season (1.21 PPP – good for 13th in the NBA), shooting at a solid 60.7% clip.

Additionally, the Bucks’ offense functioned best when ball movement was crisp, as shown in the team’s underrated scoring ability off basket cuts (1.26 PPP – 2nd overall) and its assist totals (61.95% of baskets were assisted, good for 2nd best in the NBA). Dalembert has a knack for exploiting defensive lapses off the ball (1.33 PPP on cuts to the rim), and could match last year’s career high PER (17.03) if the team’s passing remains a consistent strength.

How Dalembert doesn’t fit into the Bucks

Your nightmares about Andrew Bogut’s errant baby hooks shouldn’t get much better if Samuel Dalembert’s post-up reputation holds true. Dalembert spent ample time with his back to the basket in 2011-12 (25% of all his offensive plays), finishing with a meager .62 PPP and an equally putrid 30.7% FG.

For understandably deficient reasons, Milwaukee didn’t engage in a lot of post-ups last year. It appears that those “easy” buckets will be anything but that if the team expects Dalembert to post up regularly. His jump shot (32.7% on spot ups) is also an underwhelming addition to a cast of bigs with a collectively underwhelming face-up game.

Defensively, Dalembert was most vulnerable in spot up (.94 PPP) and post-up situations (.87 PPP). He won’t get outworked like Drew Gooden was for most of last year, but he won’t shut down the league’s most physical big men.

How does this change tonight’s draft strategy?

Reports said the Milwaukee Bucks were enamored with this year’s NBA Draft crop of PF/C big men. Reports said the Bucks could have a big SG/SF in the crosshairs. Reports said the Bucks were content with picking at No. 12. Reports said the team wants to move up. If the Bucks’ pre-draft intentions were a beer, they’d be a Hefe Weiss.

This past week of Bucks news serves as a prime example of why you should never put all your NBA Draft eggs into one basket of rumors. Still, adding a big man and moving down a couple slots does answer a few questions.

One, Milwaukee doesn’t see much of a difference in available talent between picks 12 and 14, and felt they were better served moving down rather than moving up (my apologies, John Henson). Two, whoever they choose (wing, power forward or otherwise), will not be expected to shoulder a workload too heavy for their current skills.

Given the NBA’s evolution into a league conquered by sharpshooters and big, lengthy, athletic wings, I’d like to hope the Bucks got the memo and are now leaning towards someone like Terrence Ross or Jeremy Lamb. However, under John Hammond the Bucks have trended towards raw players while extorting a “win now” philosophy. This move just adds an interesting new wrinkle to the storyline.

All in all, Hammond addressed the team’s biggest area of need outside of the draft without breaking the bank, while shedding a few pounds of unnecessary power forward/point guard weight.

Milwaukee can justify selecting a player at nearly any position tonight, and is instantly a contender for a bottom four seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Whether you consider that a worthy goal or not is irrelevant; the fact is the Bucks brought in a starter at little cost to their youth movement. Typically, in a league where most trades are crap for crap, that’s considered a win-win.