Thursday, May 9, 2013

Milwaukee Bucks Offseason Outlook

Now that the Miami Heat properly disposed of the Bucks out of the playoffs, it's time to focus on the offseason for the borderline lottery team. I'll be taking a look at head coaching possibilities, who the Bucks might look at in the NBA draft, and who the Bucks could target in free agency.

The Bucks will be in search for a new head coach for starters as Jim Boylan was relieved of his duties shortly after the Bucks made a quick exit from the playoffs. Nothing against Boylan, but he isn't what the Bucks want as a head coach heading into the offseason. His name doesn't draw any excitement to potentially land a free agent. (Actually, nothing about the Bucks really excites free agents but I'm on a roll here so I'm going to just keep going.) Boylan is a good guy and he will find employment elsewhere.

Brian Shaw as an assistant under Phil Jackson's Lakers.
A name I've been wanting to be the Bucks head coach since Skiles was fired is Brian Shaw. He is an assistant head coach for the Indiana Pacers, who are currently in a series with the New York Knicks. Before his gig with Indiana, Shaw served as an assistant coach with the Lakers for seven years. Shaw is everything you want in an NBA coach. Great leader. He can keep a locker room together, unlike Skiles who had all sorts of disciplinary issues with former players on the Bucks. The only downside to Shaw is that the Bucks won't be the only team interested in him. The 76ers, Nets, and Cavaliers are also interested in the services of Brian.

Other names circulating are the Van Gundy brothers, Jerry Sloan, and Kelvin Sampson. I wouldn't mind either of the Van Gundy brothers. Great coaches, great name value, and great draw. From what I understand, Jerry Sloan wants to sign with a contending team. So that pretty much eliminates him from the Bucks search, if we truly want to be honest with each other.

Two names that have had interviews with the Bucks are Kelvin Sampson (current Rockets assistant) and Nate McMillan (former Trailblazers head coach). Kelvin Sampson is a product of Scott Skiles...PASS. Nate McMillan is the former coach of Portland, which I'm sure many reading this did not know that until just today...PASS. Seriously, can the Bucks prove me wrong and just do one thing right? Just once is all I ask for. 

Moving onto the draft, I fully expect another trade from Hammond like we've seen in years past. We will likely trade down, maybe acquire an additional pick or a player on the trading block at the time of the draft. The Bucks could potentially lose all three guards (Jennings, Ellis, Redick) this offseason so the guard position needs to be addressed. Ersan had a lack luster year for the Bucks and they could to look to move him one year after he signed his big contract. When the Bucks traded away Tobias Harris, it left a huge hole at the small forward position. Basically, besides power forward and center, the Bucks need to add depth. Here are a few names I would look at in the NBA Draft class.

Dario Šarić, SF/PF, Croatia (6'10", 19 years old, 223lbs.) (Projected Top 15/mid 1st round pick) - Great mid range jumper, streaky a bit from 3-point range. He has an unorthodox jump shot, which may lead to streaks of missing shots. He's an excellent rebounder. Great ball handler and passer. His defense needs to improve a bit, but that comes with experience. He has a seven foot wing span, so there's that. (Highlight Video)

Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky
(6'5", 18 years old, 195lbs.) (Projected mid 1st round pick) - I got lazy and decided not to write five paragraphs on how much I like the potential in Archie Goodwin, so here's a 15 minute scouting video instead. (This pick would be Doron Lamb 2.0, literally. But, better upside.)

Shane Larkin, PG, Miami
(5'11", 20 years old, 162lbs.) (Projected mid/late 1st round pick) - Yes, Barry Larkin's kid. I went there. As I mentioned before the Bucks could be without Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, and JJ Redick next season. The thing I like about Larkin the most is that in his early age he takes a lot of responsibility in his play. If Miami lost, he blamed himself and his play and not others. Much like his father, sign of a true leader. He's got a good head on his shoulders and shouldn't be a locker room issue. He has a lot of pride. Good passer, always finds the open man. Takes smart shots. His only disadvantage will be his height and size, as he barely reaches six feet tall and weighs a buck-sixty. (Highlight Video)

Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan
(6'6", 21 years old, 185lbs.) (Projected late 1st/early 2nd round pick) - Hardaway Jr.  is going to be an elite player in the NBA, just like his father was for the Warriors and Heat. He is an NBA ready play and needs to develop very little to become a regular starter. A little tweaks in his offensive mechanics and being more consistent on defense would take him to the next level. He does a great job at creating separation for his jump shot, which is one of his strongest attributes. The Bucks need an elite shooting guard, and Hardaway Jr. is that guy. He has all the tools to become a great player in the NBA. (Highlight Video)

Deshaun Thomas, SF/PF, Ohio State
(6'7", 21 years old, 221lbs.) (Projected mid 2nd round pick) - Deshaun Thomas was the leading scorer in arguably the toughest conference last season (B1G TEN). He's a 34.4% shooter from 3-point range and a 44% overall shooter from the field. For how good he is on offense, that's how many questions surround him on defense. The biggest question is can he keep up with the NBA pace and play effective defense? Whoever drafts him will have to find out. This highlight video below shows how great of an all around basketball player Thomas is on offense. (Highlight Video)

Finally, the free agent market is shaping up to be something the Bucks should take a look at. One name that sticks out for many reasons is small forward Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks. The biggest reason is that the Bucks nearly had him coming to town via a trade at the deadline in February. Second, the Bucks need help at the small forward position. Yes, Smith is listed as a power forward. I know that. However, with Henson and Ilyasova sharing the power forward spot, Smith would fit in fine at small forward. You could put Ilyasova at small forward too, but I think Ersan is a better rebounder on both sides of the ball than Josh Smith. Smith is more of a defensive rebounder while Ersan stays consistent on both sides of the ball. Smith is also a better shooter than Ersan, in my opinion. Smith can really play anywhere on the court except point and center. He's that versatile. Mike Dunleavy is a great backup, but not a starter by any means and is also a free agent. However, Dunleavy has said he would like to return to the Bucks. Here are a few other names the Bucks should look at.

Jarrett Jack, PG/SG - Jack was arguably one of the best 6th man off the bench for any team this year and was in the running to win the Sixth Man of the Year award that eventually went to J.R. Smith of the Knicks. His stats off the bench just about line up with Jennings' stats, who starts. Now, the Warriors have a much better offense than the Bucks, but it is worth noting. He could fill in as a JJ Redick type player who could run the point as well as play shooting guard. Want a preview of him? Watch the Spurs/Warriors series going on right now in the NBA playoffs.

O.J. Mayo, SG - Highly unlikely Mayo walks away from Dallas for Milwaukee, but the Bucks have some money to spend. As I stated above, the Bucks have longed for premier shooter. Mayo is a much better guard then Monta Ellis will ever be. Mayo is a career 43% FG shooter, 38% 3-point shooter, and an 81% free throw shooter compared to Ellis who is a career  45% FG shooter, 31% 3-point shooter, and a 77% free throw shooter. Mayo would make the previous Bucks front office blunders of trading Ray Allen and letting Michael Redd walk not feel so painful.

DeJuan Blair, PF - About the only news tidbit to come out from the Bucks front office so far this offseason other than the coaching search is that the Bucks will be looking for a player to compliment Larry Sanders and John Henson in the paint. DeJuan Blair is the name that sticks out the most for me in this NBA free agent class. Now, if the Bucks would rather have another center with Samuel Dalembert likely on his way out, we could turn our attention to a guy like Al Jefferson or Chris Kaman. (No, the Bucks aren't going after Andrew Bynum or Dwight Howard.)

Not worth picking a specific player, but it's worth mentioning. The Bucks have lacked a good veteran presence that is a big enough name to draw a crowd. That is not a knock on Drew Gooden at all. I respect Drew. He's a good guy. What I'm saying is is that a name like Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, etc wouldn't be a bad idea for the Bucks to pursue as well. They need a little spark in the crowd, and a name like that would do justice.

The Bucks are going to be a team to follow this offseason as there is going to be a strong movement of out with the old and in with the new. A new coach, likely half of the starters will be new, and the entire bench could be new. They have a lot of money to spend, and I expect the Bucks to make a splash or two this offseason.

I want to finish this with a report from Ken Berger of CBS Sports. This news came out this morning, about 3 hours ago from the time I'm typing this. This article furthers my belief that the Bucks are really going to blow things up and start fresh almost everywhere. Here it is, word for word:

"The Milwaukee Bucks' search for a head coach has emphasized strong-willed candidates who would be able to control the locker room. Now we know why.
Monta Ellis and Larry Sanders nearly came to blows in the locker room after Game 3 of Milwaukee's first-round sweep at the hands of defending champion Miami, four people with knowledge of the confrontation told
Though the players had to be separated, the dust-up didn't get serious enough to trigger disciplinary action for either player. One source described the confrontation as “just words between teammates in the locker room.” But the incident offered a glimpse into some troubling team dynamics as the Bucks navigate a critical offseason for the franchise.
After the Bucks lost 104-91 to the Heat in Milwaukee on April 25, Sanders vented in the locker room and said in a fiery speech, “We need to start playing together as a team and stop worrying about next year,” according to one of the people briefed on the confrontation. “We need to stop being selfish and start worrying about right now.”
Ellis “took umbrage,” according to another person with knowledge of the situation. Correctly assuming that Sanders' comments were directed primarily at him and backcourt mate Brandon Jennings, who both are prospective free agents, Ellis approached Sanders and squared off with him, sources said. A teammate got between the two players and separated them before the conflict became physical.
Ellis was 2-for-9 with seven points and six assists in the game and became livid that Sanders implied he was playing selfishly with free agency looming this summer. Ellis can opt out of his $11 million contract for next season, and Jennings -- a restricted free agent -- has made no secret of his desire to explore an exit strategy from Milwaukee this summer.
The Bucks were swept by the Heat after Jennings had predicted on Twitter they would win in six games. The team fired interim coach Jim Boylan, who replaced Scott Skiles in January after Skiles and the Bucks agreed to part ways.
Bucks GM John Hammond, who got a three-year extension in January, has interviewed former Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan and Rockets assistant Kelvin Sampson for the head coaching job. It is believed Hammond also will reach out to former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy and Lakers assistant Steve Clifford, a Van Gundy disciple who worked for Stan in Orlando and brother Jeff in Houston, sources said.
Hammond declined to comment on the April 25 confrontation between Sanders and Ellis, calling it “an internal team matter.”
The Bucks acquired Ellis from Golden State in March 2012 in a deal that sent Andrew Bogut to the Warriors. Oddly, a member of the proposed ownership group trying to keep the Kings in Sacramento has done some background checking on Ellis as a possibility for the Kings if the team decides to part ways with restricted free agent Tyreke Evans this summer, a league source involved in the discussions said. Ellis is weighing his options and hasn't decided yet whether he will opt out of his $11 million deal.
Sanders, 24, had a breakout year in his first season as a regular starter and was a top contender for defensive player of the year and most-improved player honors."

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

Andrew Vrchota (@AndrewVrchota)

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