Milwaukee reportedly offered Monta Ellis a three-year, $36 million contract in early June, a month before the madness of free agency officially kicked off. Ellis immediately declined the deal and opted against exercising the player option on the final season of his existing contract, making him a free agent.
That chain of events was a loss for Milwaukee on the surface. The Bucks acquired Ellis in March of last year with the longterm in mind; though the team’s 2013 season could only be considered a minor success, that he was offered such a lucrative deal once it ended made that much clear. Whether that was the right approach is another thing entirely.
Ellis, the entire league should know by now, isn’t worth a contract that rich. Perhaps not half of it. But the Bucks got away with their big mistake regardless, and Ellis’ hubris is now getting the nemesis it deserves on the open market.
So Milwaukee lost out on Ellis but won in the end. Addition by subtraction on every level. Then yesterday happened, and the Bucks took the flexibility luckily afforded them by Ellis’ mistake to dip into the free agent market.
Milwaukee agreed to terms with OJ Mayo and Zaza Pachulia to deals that total $40 million over three seasons.
These aren’t horrible moves in the NBA vacuum. Both Mayo and Pachulia have proven their worth as role players for playoff teams in the past, and they’re precisely the kind of guys that are routinely overpaid. Mayo’s age, physical profile and ’3 and D’ potential would entice any team, and size and smarts like Pachulia’s always come with a price mark-up. To be sure, these contract numbers are high but not outrageously so.
For the right team, that is. The Bucks aren’t.
Mediocrity has been the game of Milwaukee basketball for years. They’ve won between 34 and 46 games every season since 2009, and even that low high-water mark in 2010 – with a far different roster, it should be noted – was an outlier; the Bucks’ win percentage has been between .415 and .470 in the campaigns surrounding it.
Milwaukee was forced to trade JJ Redick, lost Mike Dunleavy to the Bulls and ‘missed out’ on Ellis, leaving a gaping hole in its backcourt. That vacancy had to be filled. Fine. But opting to do so with Mayo for the reported terms gets the Bucks near a dangerous place they would have been with Ellis. An erratic, shot-happy player like Mayo needs reigns and structure, things he won’t get as a focal point of the Milwaukee offense. He’s more efficient, better defensively and cheaper than Ellis, but still nothing more than a bench spark-plug on a great team.
The acquisition of Mayo is yet another thing that assures that’s something the Bucks won’t be anytime soon. But at least his addition deserves scrutiny, because the same can’t be said for that of Pachulia.
Even without free agent Samuel Dalembert, Milwaukee boasts one of the deepest frontcourts in the league. Larry Sanders is foundational, Gustavo Ayon useful, Ekpe Udoh growing, John Henson the team’s most recent lottery pick and Drew Gooden a salary cap albatross. That quintet is promising despite its limitations, and each player is good enough to garner a place in the rotation. They’re also due approximately $17.7 million next season and sometimes lose minutes when the Bucks play small with Ersan Ilyasova or Luc Richard Mbah Moute at power forward.
It’s already far too much, basically, and now Milwaukee will be paying Pachulia somewhere in the arena of $5 million next season to fight in that scrum for minutes off the bench. Remember, too, that Sanders’ rapid improvement means he’s sure to play more than 27 minutes per game in 2014. The same can be said for Henson.
Remember the finally solved post logjam in Utah? That’s what Milwaukee has now, except it’s more crowded, less talented and full of redundancies. Yikes.
And, of course, it all comes back to Ellis. These reported agreements with Mayo and Pachulia would make far more sense if the Bucks thought they were challenging for a high seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs next season. If Ellis had agreed to terms, Brandon Jennings was re-signed and this above-average wedding band was brought back for another run, that’s the approach these acquisitions would signal. It’d be one that’s wrong and ultimately debilitating, but at least there’d be an effort toward progress. As it is, Milwaukee is running in quicksand.
Ellis’ blunder gave the Bucks a chance to start fresh. They avoided another cap burden and scrapped the always-vexing idea of a Jennings-Ellis backcourt tandem. They could have hit quick restart, swapped useful players to contending teams for assets, come as close to bottoming out as Jennings and Sanders would allow and come away with a future stud from the 2014 draft class.
Instead, Milwaukee elected to stay its routine course of mediocrity. The reasons why are anyone’s guess, but to expect anything different at this point is setting yourself up for disappointment.
Or, if you’re the Bucks, just another first round sweep.
Statistical Anomaly is a series where we explore all the mathematical nuances you may not have noticed watching the game the first time. Today, Kyle waxes Euclidian on the Mavericks win over the Pistons.
Jae Crowder matched a career high by handing out five assists as he is possibly carving a niche for himself as more of a big guard than a small forward. Already in March Crowder has two zero rebound games, something he didn’t do once in all of February. He has also had four consecutive games in which his assist total at least matches his rebound total, setting a career high for such games in a month. His playing time figures to fluctuate as the Mavericks have been outscored when he is on the court in three of their last four wins (including a -16 point difference against Detroit).
OJ Mayo is generally thought of a pure scorer, but until last night, his best scoring nights included a handful of assists. By scoring 20+ points and dishing out only three assists, Mayo ruined a nearly three month long streak of handing out more than three assists in every game in which he scored 20+ points. The explosive shooting guard has already recorded a season high in assists (268), but he is also scoring at the most efficient rate of his career. At 25 years old, the free-agent to be has got to be enticing to teams with franchise point guards who are looking for a back-court mate (76ers, Cavaliers, and to some extent the Wizards). Here’s a look at Mayo’s improvement in terms of shooting percentage and points per shot (PPS).
Vince Carter managed to tally seven rebounds against the Pistons without recording a single assist. He had gone 144 straight regular season games sense the last time he had as many as seven rebounds with no assists. It has been 536 regular season games sense he had more than seven rebounds but no assists. The rebounds these days are grabbed below the rim, but Carter has shown to be graceful when it comes to aging. He is 36 years old, but unlike some great players, he has adapted his game to his physical limitations, making him capable of helping a playoff team for the next season or two.
Jose Calderon may have changed jerseys this year, but his game has not transformed a bit. He registered his seventh game this season with at least seven assists and no turnovers, and has done so in 21.9% of his last 32 games. That is more often than LeBron James drops double digits dimes (18.3%) or Kevin Durant takes 22+ shots from the field (21.0%). His ability to create for his teammates has allowed Brandon Knight to establish himself as a scoring two guard that can pass when needed as opposed to an offense initiating point guard who was asked to keep his teammates involved. The Pistons are full of youth and potential, making Calderon the perfect man to run the show.
Kevin Garnett had choice words for Charlie Villanueva back in the day, and while I trust KG’s basketball intelligence, I highly doubt he used the word “marksman” when describing the Pistons big man. But the eighth year pro out of UConn has earned that title this year, connecting on multiple trey’s in 45.3% of his games this year despite averaging only 16.9 minutes. Kobe Bryant, who averages nearly 11 more points than Villanueva does minutes this season, makes two or more three pointers every other game. Villanueva is currently averaging about three more points per 48 minutes than another 6’11” shooter that played for Detroit (Rasheed Wallace) who always got considerably more press. He’s got one season left on his current deal and he should find himself on a contender before long.
Will Bynum plays on the same team as Calderon, but that is about the only comparison to be drawn. Bynum passed the ball to the wrong team four more times, giving him 54 turnovers in 44 days (not 44 games, 44 days) despite playing only 20.4 minutes per game. For reference, Ty Lawson has turned the ball over 43 times in that same time frame while averaging 36.9 minutes. On a team full of young guards (three that are 26 years of age or younger), Bynum may very well find himself looking for work in the near future.
In a game featuring two teams that will combine for 93-100 losses, I find it interesting that they have pieces that would be of interest to contending teams. Role players are difficult to find, and I believe both of these teams have assets that could be dealt in order to help them accelerate their rebuilding phrase. That being said, f the Mavericks think they can get another few solid years from Nowitzki, would it be unreasonable for them to bring in Calderon next season? They don’t seem to have a ton of faith in Darren Collison, and if Dallas is working in a small frame in trying to build a winner around Nowitzki, Calderon’s age shouldn’t be an issue. Neither one of these teams is headed to the playoffs this season, but who do you like to make a playoff run first: the very young Pistons or the aging Mavericks? Tweet me @unSOPable23 your responses, I’m curious what the public thinks.
Welcome to the Hardwood Paroxysm Mail Bag Round Table Capitalized Compound Word Bonanza!
Thing are happening in the NBA, and there are no better people to answer questions about these things than the HP crew. And there are no better people to ask the questions about these things than you, the fans and readers. Although, sometimes we’re good at making up questions, too. But other times, fans and readers are great. Oh, and reporters. They’re good at asking questions. But DEFINITELY fans and readers (love you guys <3).
Seriously, thanks to everyone who took the time to hit us up on Twitter and Facebook and send in questions.
1) Chris (Facebook): Do you trust this recent trend of NBA teams using the D-League or is it a fad that will go away?
Sean: I think the fact that teams such as the Blazers and Sixers are purchasing D-League teams is going to keep it in the conversation. The real test will come during the next CBA negotiations, when we see if the league and players’ union can come up with a system like baseball’s that allows teams to call up and send down players more freely.
Eric: This is totally dependent on the success of guys that went to the D-League, honed their skills, and came back to the NBA. If teams like the Thunder are going to send Perry Jones III and Jeremy Lamb to the D-League, and they come back and start killing it on the NBA level, then teams may look to emulate the OKC Model in the way front offices of rebuilding teams seek to emulate the Thunder’s approach to building a contender. On the flip side, Luke Harangody threw up a double-double in the D-League playoffs last year, but mostly just made fans want to throw up when they saw him play in the NBA level. No surprise the Cavs finally cut ties with him yesterday. The trend of using the D-League will continue if teams see a benefit; it won’t if they don’t.
Ananth: Thanks for the question Chris! Trust is crucial to any strong relationship but unfortunately not that many NBA teams have developed a strong relationship with their D-League affiliate. I don’t think it is a fad though, it seems like organizations are slowly coming around to building a proper minor league relationship with their D-League team. Boston does a good job with their affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, so does the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Philadelphia 76ers are rumored to being the old Utah Flash D-League team and moving the team to Pennsylvania. Hopefully more teams will join their ranks.
I once sat court side at a D-League game and watched a very raw Byron Mullens, who was playing for the Tulsa 66ers. These kids who were sitting next to me kept heckling him and at one point he took the ball out near us and said something to them which shut them right up. No real point to that story but it always makes me smile.
Jared: I want to trust it, but I don’t. Teams have never really used the D-League correctly before, so I don’t see why it would just start being the case now. Until they make it a full-fledged minor league system and stop docking teams an active roster spot when they send a player down, I don’t think teams will consistently use it the way it should be used.
Noam: I definitely don’t think it’s going away. There’s just been too much success with it – the Warriors having multiple callups make major contributions to the team (and eventually sign elsewhere – Dubs be Dubsin’), and Houston sending virtually every draft pick for seasoning and getting clear cut NBA players in return are two strong examples. It may spread slowly, but it will continue to spread.
ParoxyIntern: It is a fad that will go away. Chris, when was the last time, excluding the one and only Gerald Green, have you witnessed a NBA player make an impact after spending time in the D-League? NBA teams are trying to model the D-League after the Minor Leagues, but there is simply more talented baseball players then basketball players in the world.
2) David (Facebook): Have you seen a major impact from the new flopping rules?
Sean: Sure, there’s been an increase in “_________ is getting fined for that one” tweets in my timeline.
Eric: I don’t know if I would go as far as to say major yet, but it certainly hasn’t hurt matters. It’s hard to say whether flopping is truly down this year compared to previous seasons because no one really tracks that, but I will say it does not appear to be an epidemic like it was five years ago or so. Get back to me at the end of the season.
Ananth: Great question David! I personally have not seen a major impact from the new flopping rules but the fact that it is being discussed among players and coaches is significant. It will take some time to actually make an impact but it is a step in the right direction.
Noam: Not really, and frankly, I doubt we will. Headline-grabbing rule changes tend to disapate once talking heads turn elsewhere (remember the harsher tech rules, or the new synthetic basketball?).
ParoxyIntern: Not really. That is because players will still yell and flop trying to sell the call. That is how they grow up playing. I am 16 and I have played some AAU myself so I know firsthand this flopping technique of selling a call was not learned in the NBA for these players, it was how they were taught. With that being said I do not see much of an impact from the rules.
3) Dan (Facebook) Size up the Bynum acquisition vs. the Bogut acquisition.
Sean: Bogut hasn’t provided close to the comedic value of Bynum’s hair and the bowling thing. Advantage: Philly.
Eric: Awful for both sides, but clearly worse for the Sixers. Bogut is at least under contract for another year so Golden State should, theoretically, be able to salvage something out of the trade. Bynum is a free agent next summer and it is extremely likely that he will never suit up for a single game with the Sixers. Just a dumpster fire of a situation all around.
Ananth: Danny boy, this is a really good question. Both players are 7’0″ feet but Andrew Bynum weighs 285 while Andrew Bogut only weighs 260 pounds.
Jared: I keep going back and forth on this in my head, but I think I like the Bogut acquisition better. When healthy, he’s a top 5 defensive player in the league, and I don’t think you can say the same about Bynum on offense. The Bynum acquisition really changed the entire complexion of the Sixers. They went from being a defense-first share-the-ball team to one that would probably be offense-first and mostly based around getting the ball to one player, and that player hasn’t gotten on the court yet. It’s tough. The Bogut acquisition was really just filling in the last piece of the puzzle. He makes the Warriors roster make sense. He lets Lee do his thing on offense from the high post because Bogut is on the block. He can cover up for the defensive deficiencies of both Lee and Curry, and the stable of shooters Golden State can station around the perimeter is a good fit with his excellent low post passing.
Noam: Oft-injured, offensive cornerstone joins team going nowhere with major offensive issues vs. oft-injured, defensive cornerstone joins team going nowhere with major defensive issues. Pretty darn similar. The difference is, sadly, how oft-injured oft-injured can be. It’s been almost 3 years since Bogut was last an effective offensive player, while Bynum has at least shown short stretches of durability. This topic depresses me. Jrue Holiday! Steph Curry!
ParoxyIntern: They are very similar. Both huge risks. Both out indefinitely. Not a good acquisition for either team NOW, but at the time both looked like great deals for the Sixers and the Warriors. Honestly, I would be more worried to be a Sixers fan at this moment, because Bynum has a longer history of knee injuries then Bogut.
4) David (Facebook) Why is Pablo Prigioni the best? There is no wrong answer here.
Sean: Because he has the same first name as Bob Dylan’s teenage rapping grandson.
Eric: He’s 35 years old so he appeals to the older crowd. He’s a rookie so he appeals to the younger crowd. He runs the pick and roll well in an offense that is shifting away from more than just ISO-Melo. And he’s got a tremendous name.
Jared: ¡Pablocura! He’s pesky.
Noam: HE’S JUST SO HAPPY ABOUT EVERYTHING! It’s almost impossible to find something he doesn’t like. Here, I’ll show you. Pablo, how do you feel about J.R. Smith taking step back 32 footers?
ParoxyIntern: Because he is a 35 year old rookie!
5) Joe (Facebook): OJ mayo coming on strong. Main reason for his resurgence?
Sean: Not having to pretend to be a backup point guard anymore.
Eric: Environmental change? Has there been a player thrown into more Trade Machine scenarios over the past few years other than Pau Gasol and Mayo? He could have been a Pacer two different times but it fell apart in both instances. Maybe all he needed was a change of pace. Whatever it is, it’s paid dividends for the Mavs. He’s finally developed an efficient shooting stroke that’s led to career highs in field goal and three point percentages and his second highest free throw percentage since coming to the NBA.
Ananth: He changed his whole diet in the off-season and it has worked wonders – orange juice and mayo smoothies. Actually, a lot of the credit has to go to Rick Carlise and his system which is allowing Mayo to flourish. Mayo was a stud in high school and had a lot of hype surrounding him when he entered college. He probably will never match that hype but he is a damn good player and it is great to see him develop into a very solid NBA player.
Jared: Unsustainably hot 3-point shooting?
Noam: He’s making 51.2% of his threes. I really want to give him credit for being more aggressive (career high free throw rate, though not by a blowout) and for looking better without Lionel Hollins shackles (isn’t it weird how hit-or-miss Hollins is as a coach? He gets either 300% or 20% from everybody with no in-between), but if he took the same shots and shot his normal 38%-ish fromt three he’s the same guy he’s always been with more opportunities and less depressed glances at his feet.
ParoxyIntern: In Dallas, the guard position is not close to as crowded as it was in Memphis. Memphis had many players who played similar positions to OJ and played similar styles( Rudy Gay, Xavier Henry, and Tony Allen). Currently in Dallas he has no other competition. The fact that Dirk has been out for the whole season so far also makes OJ the number one guy in Dallas which is something he never was in Memphis.
6) @TheDissNBA (Twitter): Is Hasheem Thabeet better than Kendrick Perkins?
Sean: Most people are better than Kendrick Perkins.
Eric: On November 30, 2012, yes. Thabeet has outperformed Perkins in just about every main category (per 36 minutes) like points, rebounds, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage. Advanced stats are in favor of Thabeet too. Oh, and Thabeet is making $7 million less than Perk this year making him a better front office value as well.
Ananth: It’s funny but this is a valid question due to improvement in Thabeet’s play this season. Basically the only claim to fame Kendrick Perkins has is that the Boston Celtics never lost a playoff series with Perkins in the starting lineup. He is a solid low post defender though and am not sure if Thabeet can match up with some of better centers in the league. It is important to note that Thabeet comes off the bench so plays against second string centers and forwards.Perkins still has the edge over Hasheem “The Dream” but if Thabeet keeps it up he could eventually surpass Perkins, the potential is there.
Jared: Thabeet has all the better individual numbers: points and rebounds and free throws per-36 minutes, FG%, PER, TS%, TRB%, STL%, BLK%, O-Rtg, D-Rtg, WS/48, but he still fouls way too much, can’t stop turning it over (~30% of his possessions) and the team is better with Perkins on the floor than Thabeet (though that has a lot to do with Perk playing with the starters and Thabeet only playing with the bench guys). Basically, I don’t know, and I don’t know if that says more about Thabeet or Perkins.
Noam: ………yes? Oh god, Nenad Krstic was the best player in the Green-Perk trade, wasn’t he?
ParoxyIntern: No. His upside was and still is incredible which is why it is good to have a player like that on your team. But to answer your question, he is not better than Perkins. Perkins is much bigger and stronger which helps on the boards as well as defensively against opposing centers.
7) From my friend Mike via text message: Can you get the HP scientists on how Rashard Lewis shoots with a slomo rotation on every shot?
Ananth: No science involved. It’s an art.
Jared: It’s all in the hips.
Noam: Rashard actually shoots fastmo. It’s just that his time scale is different than ours because he’s a million years old.
ParoxyIntern: He was taught that way in his early childhood and I guess it has worked for him, so props to him.
8) BONUS (from me): What do you think of Pop benching his big dawgs?
Sean: #TeamPop all day.
Eric: Did it suck for the fans? Yeah. Did it suck for TNT and those who worked on it? Absolutely. But did he have every right to do it? Yes. Shockingly, last night turned into one of the more entertaining games of the season. I was pulling for the Spurs all night, if only to get a Pop post-game press conference where he remixed Shaq’s “Tell Me How My Ass Tastes” rap for David Stern.
Ananth: I love it. This was a controversial topic yesterday on Twitter and even David Stern weighed in on the issue. I believe in the Spurs and am all for them extending their season any way possible. In the long run this is just one game in the first month of the regular season.
Jared: I didn’t care at all until all the moralizing that came along with it. Now I care because everyone’s being so high-and-mighty about it and it’s really annoying.
Noam: I was initially mad at him for ruining my TNT Thursday. Then Nando De Yolo and Tiago Splitter played such a fun game that I didn’t care anymore. Pop is hilarious, scrubs playing basketball is fun, and any talk about Substantial Sanctions is ridiculous.
ParoxyIntern: I am confused. I think this is smart to let them rest, but this is not allowed. This is equivalent to tanking a season but in this case it is just a game. I respect Pop as a coach but I hope that David Stern does something about this because if not, it won’t be good for the NBA.