Milwaukee Bucks in half-rebuild mode
A lot of Bucks fans tend to agree with the position I took recently, that a teardown is necessary to escape the middling purgatory in which the team seems perpetually stuck.
But that's not going to happen.
So, you ask, what is the plan?
The franchise recently tipped its hand with its first-round draft choice for the future and its free-agent signing of O.J. Mayo.
It is, for the lack of a better description, a hybrid blueprint, kind of a half-rebuild. Whether or not it is possible, their intention is to try to remain competitive while growing the product for the future.
Politically, the Bucks do not believe they can strip down and lose 60 games next year, even if the 2014 draft is projected to be spectacular. Herb Kohl is concerned about what an awful season would do to the arena drive.
On the court, the Bucks are committed to building around Larry Sanders, John Henson and 18-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo, the first-round pick from Greece. I thought it was a terrific, gutsy choice, even if the kid, like Sanders was, is a couple of years away from developing his body and skills to an NBA standard.
The Bucks are gambling on Sanders, Henson and the "Greek Freak" becoming a dynamic, athletic frontcourt. The draft is the only way the Bucks will ever get an all-star, and any of the three has the potential to be the franchise's first homegrown stars since Vin Baker, Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson.
So what do they do about the backcourt in the meantime?
Mayo fills a scoring need at about $12 million less than Monta Ellis, who is probably wishing right about now he had taken the Bucks' offer. Mayo has had some off-the-court issues, but from what I know, he is a good teammate, which would be a vast improvement from the complete breakdown of civilities last season.
Maybe the best thing from a chemistry standpoint, he wants to be here. The Bucks have blown it enough with the Stephen Jackson-types to know they can no longer operate with bad acts in the locker room.
Mayo is also the level of free agent available to the Bucks, who won't be burdened by a salary commensurate for a 15-point scorer. Again, the Bucks are in no position to attract A-list free-agent talent. Mayo is representative of what is available. Whether he becomes a bridge or a solid contributor remains to be seen.
So what about Brandon Jennings?
It has been incredibly quiet on that front. General manager John Hammond said recently that the Bucks would match any offer for the restricted free agent, which doesn't, of course, preclude the possibility that the Bucks would sign-and-trade their point guard.
Most Bucks fans would be fine with the team moving on without Jennings. The Bucks really haven't won anything with him, and the way he monopolizes the ball does nothing for the development of Sanders and Henson.
A total rebuild would mean starting rookie Nate Wolters at the point. It's too early to say if he's another Jimmer Fredette, but the Bucks' plan to surround their young building blocks with reasonably priced veterans would lead you to believe that they would get a free agent to replace Jennings, if the Bucks are not overpricing him in the market.
How is any of this different from the last half dozen seasons isn't altogether clear at the moment. But for now, the Bucks are hoping that their three prized frontcourt players develop while they win enough games to keep them viable in their own market.