Jake's Take - 7/6/10
Spreading the Wealth
A collection of teams have spent much of this summer, the past year and, in some cases, the past two years drastically slashing payrolls and rosters. Most recently, Chicago practically gave away Kirk Hinrich and the 17th draft pick in the NBA Draft, Miami left Daequan Cook and the 18th draft pick on Oklahoma City's stoop and New Jersey sent Yi Jianlian packing while receiving little in return. Each of these moves, and many others, were made to clear salary so teams could sign one, two or possibly three of the big-name free agents that have flooded the market.
Teams like New York, New Jersey, Chicago and Miami have been the main culprits behind these cost-cutting maneuvers. Each of these team's rosters have been reduced to almost the bare minimum, all in the hopes of bringing in LeBron James and Chris Bosh, or Dwyane Wade and Amare Stoudemire, or Joe Johnson and Carlos Boozer.
Even if a team like Miami is able to attract two of the top-tier free agents, these players will demand such excessive salaries that there will be little left to spend on the supporting cast. And what if Bosh, Wade or Boozer gets injured? That will leave the unfortunate team that's signing their paychecks with subpar backups that can't come close to matching the injured star's ability or salary.
And what happens if the aforementioned teams aren't able to sign any of the free agents they covet? Then they're stuck with the quickly deteriorating free agency leftovers. This is what happens when you put all of your eggs in one basket. You risk having a team with a shallow pool of talent, or no talent at all.
The Bucks reached that fork in the road and decided to go in the opposite direction. They've decided to spread their many of eggs across several baskets. They've used this offseason to increase the quantity of quality instead of just the quality. I think this approach has quickly improved the Bucks roster to one of the deepest and most versatile in the NBA.
Outside of the to-be-determined backup point guard spot, the Bucks are a solid two- or three-deep at every position. There are very few teams in the league that could legitimately say they could lose a starter and feel completely comfortable with the backup stepping in to the starting lineup. Milwaukee's offseason thus far has made it one of those teams. Let's look at the positional breakdown based on the recent trades, draft picks and likely free-agent signings.
This is the one position in which there is not a defined backup at this point, but there may not necessarily need to be. I think everybody is hoping that Brandon Jennings can be come a 36-40 minute-a-night guy next year, which leaves very little time for the backup. Depending on how things play out in summer league and practices, versatile second-round draft pick Darington Hobson may be able to take on those minutes.
Shooting Guard/Small Forward
There were some questions about whether or not John Salmons would return to Milwaukee, but if this past week has been any indication, it appears as though he will be. His resigning combines with the acquisitions of Corey Maggette and Chris Douglas-Roberts to give the Bucks excellent depth and versatility on the wings. I think Salmons, Maggette, CDR and Carlos Delfino are pretty much interchangeable at shooting guard and small forward. To me, it would seem likely that Salmons and Delfino would play with either Maggette or CDR, but not with each other. This would provide balance between the outside shooting capabilities of Salmons and Delfino with the slashing styles of Maggette and CDR. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute's ability to defend multiple positions also makes him a possibility here. If wings like LeBron or Kobe start heating up, Skiles can always call in The Prince to put out the fire.
The Prince and Ersan Ilyasova each put in a lot of minutes at the 4 last year, but I think the recent signing of Drew Gooden signals a changing of the guard (or power forward) for next year. Gooden seems like a potentially excellent complement to Bogut down low. He's one of the best rebounding power forwards in the league, he can step out and hit an 18-footer and he can lay some muscle on some of the league's bigger bigs. Also, his versatility allows him to potentially put in some time in at center as well.
Depending on matchups, Ilyasova could be the better option, though. Ilyasova is still a young guy and could drastically improve during the offseason. He provides the Bucks with the increasingly-coveted "stretch 4" and gives the team numerous extra possessions with his hustle on the offensive glass. He doesn't have the girth of Gooden, but it won't be needed in some matchups. Throw in The Prince and draft picks Larry Sanders and Tiny Gallon, and the Bucks have five guys who could potentially log minutes at power forward.
The injury to Andrew Bogut late last year showed how little the Bucks had down low without him. While Kurt Thomas certainly provided some valuable minutes down the stretch, it was evident that Milwaukee needed more youth, length and athleticism behind Bogut. Enter Gooden, Sanders and Tiny. Gooden has primarily been a power forward throughout his career, but he proved last year in Dallas that he could man the 5 if necessary. Sanders may need to pack on a few pounds, but his absurd length should be more than enough to overcome his moderately slender frame. Much has been made of Tiny's weight, but it's something that could serve him well against the likes of Dwight Howard and Shaquille O'Neal.
It's a rare occurrence when an NBA squad can legitimately go 10- or 11-deep on any given game day, but I think the Bucks, as currently constructed, can claim that. After looking over the other rosters around the league, Orlando and Portland are the only other teams that can match Milwaukee's quality of depth. There may not be any household names on the roster, but that may be what separates the Bucks from the rest of the league.
While other teams are relying heavily on two or three players, Milwaukee now has six or seven guys who could score 20 points on any night. And nobody should be surprised. This is a very similar dynamic to the one that John Hammond helped create when Detroit won the NBA Finals in 2004. Balance, depth, defense and spreading the wealth is what won the title that year, and those are the principles in which this roster has been built.
There are going to be fans in the very near future that are going to be extremely happy with their team's free-agent haul. Miami may keep Wade while adding Bosh, New Jersey may sign LeBron James and Chicago could bring in Carlos Boozer, and fans in those cities will no doubt go to bed dreaming of the possibilities. I'm going to go to bed dreaming of those same possibilities, but for completely different reasons.
Note: These are the views of the 6th Fan Blogger. Thoughts and opinions expressed in this articles are not necessarily the views of the Milwaukee Bucks.