The Milwaukee Bucks' quest for the middle of the Eastern Conference continues, as they brought back Zaza Pachulia on a reported three-year, $15 million contract. Pachulia spent a year in Milwaukee before bolting to Atlanta in 2005, where he spent the last eight years. Now, he's back.
Why is he back? I'm not really sure, to be honest. The Bucks really didn't need to make this signing, both because it doesn't make sense with their current roster and because it ties up cap flexibility for a team that really should be embracing a full-fledged rebuilding effort.
The minutes crunch right now is obvious. Milwaukee already has two incumbent starters in Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova, a promising youngster in John Henson who needs more minutes, a solid reserve in Ekpe Udoh and a bigger small forward in Luc Richard Mbah a Moute who can play the 4 in small lineups on the roster. Those five players sopped up all the minutes last year, rendering Samuel Dalembert, the fifth big man, unnecessary. Now, barring roster moves, Pachulia is the fifth big, all for the decent price of $5 million per season. Perhaps a trade of Ilyasova or Udoh erases the logjam, but why did the Bucks need to rush to sign Pachulia before that trade happened?
Pachulia isn't a bad player, of course, but he also doesn't have a lot of upside. At 29, you pretty much know what you're getting from him. He's willing to bang inside, can rebound pretty well, sets good screens and commits a baffling number of turnovers for someone who rarely looks to shoot. If healthy, that's good enough to at least make him an adequate backup big man, but Pachulia also has battled several injuries in recent years, missing 30 games this year and 24 the year before.
This point keeps getting harped on whenever we talk about a Bucks' free-agent decision, but it bears repeating: the Bucks really don't need to add all of these mid-level deals for veterans onto their cap in the first place. This is a team that should be renting its cap space to hoard assets or trying to make big-money offers to young veterans like the Pelicans did with Tyreke Evans. Instead, they've locked in O.J. Mayo, Pachulia and Carlos Delfino for a combined $49 million over the next three years if Delfino's final year ends up being guaranteed. Mayo has a little upside left since he's turning 26 next season, but that's about it. The other signings aren't particularly inspiring, and in Pachulia's case, not even at a position of need.