The Milwaukee Bucks weren't especially active this summer, mostly because they made their biggest move at last year's trade deadline in dealing Andrew Bogut for Monta Ellis. They did do some small things, trading for Samuel Dalembert and picking John Henson in the first round of their 2012 NBA Draft. But their most important decision was trying to figure out how to handle one of their own players who had a career year last season.
Let's take a look at the Bucks' offseason moves.
RE-SIGNED ERSAN ILYASOVA
The Bucks were in a classic "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation with Ilyasova. Let him go, and they would be hard-pressed to replace him given their salary-cap situation. Keep him, and they were only making that cap situation worse and spreading it out down the line. In the end, they did the best they could, re-signing Ilyasova to a five-year, $40 million contract, with the final year mostly unguaranteed.
The dilemma with Ilyasova is that he very well could improve his game and still not produce like he did last year. His career season was fueled by some absurd shooting percentages, especially in the second half of the season. Coming into this season, Ilyasova was a career 33-percent shooter from three-point range. He shot nearly 46 percent from there last year, including 51 percent (!) in the second half of the season. So much of his value stemmed from that hot shooting, but no reasonable person can expect him to keep it up at that level for the next five years. Nobody can. If the Bucks think he can replicate that kind of production, they will be sorely disappointed.
But can Ilyasova shoot better than he did in his first three years? That's far more reasonable. Consider: he shot 39 percent from three-point range in the first half of last year before exploding in the second half. Thirty-nine percent from three-point range, along with his other gifts as a rebounder, cutter and positional defender, would make him worth his contract (it is worth noting that Ilyasova's rebounding numbers were also way, way above his career averages last year). It's also worth noting that Ilyasova was just 24 last year, so to a certain extent, his improvement was natural.
All this is to say that I don't envy the Bucks' position here. Given the circumstances, I think they did the best they could.
TRADED FOR SAMUEL DALEMBERT
Dalembert is a consistent, average center that can always be counted on to provide rebounding, shot-blocking, screen-setting, a weird fascination for 18-foot jumpers and hilariously awful goaltending. You know exactly what you're getting with him. The Bucks needed some inside help after trading Andrew Bogut, and Dalembert will provide it cheaply. The Bucks sacrificed a couple useful rotation players (Shaun Livingston, Jon Leuer) to get Dalembert, but they probably came out ahead in the exchange.
Better yet, the Bucks moved down two spots in the draft and still got the guy they wanted. Speaking of...
DRAFTED JOHN HENSON
I'm still shocked that Henson slipped to No. 14. He's skinny, sure, but with the way the league is going, speedy and athletic big men like Henson are becoming the norm, not the exception. He can play in the high post because he's an excellent passer and developing jump shooter, and he can play in the low post against smaller defenders because of his array of hook shots with both hands. Defensively, he is already way ahead of most rookies with his positioning and understanding of NBA concepts. Here's what I wrote about him after he dominated in Summer League:
His defensive discipline was superb. Henson committed just five personal fouls all week, a staggeringly low number for a young big man playing in the tightly-called Summer League style. Sometimes, this discipline was mistaken for lack of effort, but I think that's unfair to Henson. Considering his length, it's more valuable for him to contest shots than fly around the court blocking them. In particular, he displayed that skill guarding Jared Sullinger in the Bucks' win over the Celtics.
The Bucks probably would have drafted Henson at No. 12. Instead, they traded down two spots, picked up Dalembert for their troubles and still got their guy.
LET CARLOS DELFINO GO
Delfino was not the same player after the Monta Ellis trade and he has some ongoing health issues, but I still think his departure will hurt the Bucks this year. He's very good at spacing the floor and keeping plays moving, and when called upon, he can make plays with the ball in his hands as well. The Bucks will replace him with a combination of Mike Dunleavy, Tobias Harris and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, which is a better allocation of roster resources, but may hurt the team in the short term.