Category Archives: NBA Draft

Bucks trade No. 10 pick, John Salmons and Corey Maggette

This just in from Georgia, where my pal Johnny, noted Royal Ivey fan, was on the road listening to ESPN radio:

The Bucks No. 10 pick is gone, and with it John Salmons and Corey Maggette.

ESPN reported today that the Bucks have agreed to trade the pick to Sacramento as part of a 3-team deal that sent Corey Maggette and Sacramento’s No. 7 pick to Michael Jordan’s rebuilding Hornets team (which now has the No. 7 and No. 9 picks).

Bucks shooting guard John Salmons returns to Sacramento, where he became an 18 ppg scorer (in 2007-08), to the Kings team that signed him in free agency from Philly. This will be a homecoming of sorts for Salmons.

The Bucks get Charlotte shooting guard Stephen Jackson, reserve Shaun Livingston and the Bobcats No. 19 pick.  From the Kings, the Bucks receive a tall, lefty, good-vision point guard who can shoot, Beno Udrih.

There’s no need to sit and wonder why.  Yesterday, I wrote that the Bucks “would improve quicker and with more alacrity if they use the pick to dump the junk on their roster and try to bring in an NBA player (not a college kid) to back up John Salmons.”

The Salmons-with-a-rookie-backing-him-up idea never sounded very good.  Improvement in that scenario relied on Salmons bouncing back from his worst season since 2006-07, when he was a Sixer, and then on an untested college player.

I did think Salmons would bounce back. Fish sprained his knee last summer in a Philly pick-up game and was never fully healthy last season in 72 games.  His shooting suffered mightily from a series of dings and muscle pulls in his legs, and he often seemed sluggish on the court.  2011-12 may turn out to be his best, most consistent season as a pro, and there are few 2-guard defenders in the NBA as good as Salmons.  That story, unfortunately, will unfold in Sacramento while Bucks fans learn to love (and hate) Stephen Jackson.

Stephen Jackson, slated now to be the Bucks starting shooting guard, is — like Salmons — one of the better 2-guard defenders in the league, an aggressive competitor whom Scott Skiles will love (though ESPN is already reporting that Jackson’s not happy about the prospect of playing in Milwaukee).   This seems odd for a guy who played the early years of career with the small-market Pacers.

(It turns out Jackson was drafted by Phoenix when Skiles was a Suns assistant to Danny Ainge.  Skiles and Jackson spoke yesterday, had a good long talk and everything’s fine).

It should be noted, however, that even when healthy Jackson has not shot as well in his career as even a sluggish, limping Salmons did last season, a sobering reality for Bucks fans who certainly don’t need any more sobering realities.

But it should also be noted that Jackson’s 2-year/$19.3 million contract is not as lengthy as the 3-plus years remaining for Salmons, and he’s $1.5 million cheaper than Maggette, which means the trades carve out a savings of $1 million next season.

(On re-read edit, that last note looks completely absurd, now that we realize that Bucks owner Herb Kohl is writing of millions in player depreciation every year and kept Michael Redd around because, more than anything, Redd was a walking tax shelter.)

Jackson’s Career averages:  16.3 pts, 41.8% field goal shooting, 33.9% 3-point shooting, a brawl in the stands in Detroit and a couple of recent run-ins with Luc Mbah a Moute and Salmons, who have consistently D-ed up on Jackson a little tougher than Captain Jack prefers.

Shooting, as Bucks fans know too well, is not high priority for a Skiles team that makes constant pressure defense, forcing turnovers and strong rebounding its calling cards.  Jackson’s streaky shooting will drive Bucks fans nuts, but he’s got the defensive requisites covered.

As the Bob Boozer Jinx editorial board broke open a 30-pack of Pabst, threw some cheap-o pizzas in the oven and settled in for the NBA draft special, we came to one conclusion:  In addition to moving Maggette, who proved incapable of playing Skiles-worthy defense, the key to the deal may turn out to be …

Beno Udrih, a tall, rangy, left-handed, pass first point guard who can stick a jumper.  Udrih, who’s had some great floor games against Jennings in the last two seasons, will be slated to back up Jennings and Jackson (given Keyon Dooling’s limitations and inability to run an offense or a fast break).  The idea that he’ll be like Luke Ridnour and share the court with Jennings for some rotations, is already gathering steam in the Bucks camp.  It’s a good idea, and could prove to be explosive offensively despite the defensive limitations of the principals.  A Jennings-Udrih-Delfino-Mbah a Moute-Bogut rotation has a nice ring to it.

Udrih last season for the Kings: 13.7 pts, 4.9 assists, 1.2 steals in 34 minutes per game.   Beno shot 50% from the floor, 35.7% from downtown and 86.4 percent from the line.

As far as the Bucks go, only Ersan Ilyasova, who made 50 percent of his two-point jump shots last season and shot 89% from the line, is as reliable as Udrih from the outside.

Ersan, by the way, is still a Buck.  The rumors about the Bucks trading Ilysovsa for a draft pick haven’t panned out, as the Kings are about to announce their pick which will go to the Bobcats with Maggette.

THE DRAFT

The Bobcats at No. 7 went with Bismack Biyombo, 6-9, 245 defensive phenom with a 7-7 wingspan who dominated the 2011 18-year-old Nike Hoops Summit.  Biyombo, from the Republic of Congo, was absolutely monstrous in the paint in that game, and was a player that many Bucks fans had hoped would fall to No. 10.

Biyombo, Maggette and the Cats also have the No. 9 pick.

Kemba Walker and Kawhi Leonard are still on the board, as the Pistons selected Brandon Knight at No. 8.  (I would have taken Walker ahead of Knight).

Texas big forward Tristan Thompson went No. 4 to the Cavs, the surprise of the draft so far.

The Bucks have the Bobcats No. 19 pick, where they should find a decent player, possibly a center such as Nikola Vucevic or Keith Benson, possibly Donatas Motiejunas.  Marshon Brooks may even fall to No. 19, though he’s been on the rise and this doesn’t seem likely.

Michael Jordan’s haul today for the Bobcats … Corey Maggette, Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker.

None of the Above: The ultimate Milwaukee Bucks draft blog

Like many NBA bloggers, I’ve been scouring the interweb-o-sphere for any and all minutia relating to this 2011 draft class that, while it began heralded as the most underwhelming draft in years, seems to have a better grip on the attention spans of the NBA obsessed than many recent drafts.

The lack of the super-duper-talented has something to do with that; nothing is true, everything is permitted and no one is wrong.  The influx of top notch talent from outside the United States knocks a lot of mock drafts reeling (except for the mighty international site Draft Express)

In this draft, the big men from Europe are better than the guy from Morehead State who ruined your NCAA bracket and the guy from Oakland who gave your small college sneaker picks credibility on your favorite tournament blog.

In this draft, the guy who ran the table at the NCAA’s earned more suspicion than upside.

In this draft, a No. 10 pick is just as good as a No. 15, and the player who drops to No. 10 just may be the last player a team would want to draft.

In this draft, trust no GM.

That’s why today, upon a visit to the Bucks official site, I wasn’t surprised in the least bit to see three players prominently featured as possible Bucks draft picks:  Shooting guard Alec Burks, U. of Texas forward Tristan Thompson and Kansas forward Marcus Morris.

The usual suspects.  All three vaguely fit Bucks GM John Hammond‘s “best player available” rhetoric.  They’re all from the competitive Big 12, all from big, recognizable state schools, all safe, sound reasonable possibilities familiar to NCAA hoops fans.  And they all shot poorly enough in college to have “upside” as basketball players.

The chances are that the Bucks, although they interviewed all three players at last week’s draft combine, don’t want any of the above.

Because in this draft, it’s better to be sneaky than bold … or good.  Bucks GM John Hammond cannot be described to be “in bold mode” after mucking up last summer with the signings of Drew Gooden and Keyon Dooling, and trading for Corey Maggette.  This was after a season in which he drafted Brandon Jennings and made a deadline trade for John Salmons, moves that solidified the Bucks starting backcourt and earned him NBA “Executive of the Year.”

That was Hammond the good.  Sneaky?  Hammond’s pretty good at sneaky in the draft.  Last season the players the Bucks had worked out were gone by the team’s No. 37 pick in the 2nd round, so Hammond took Kentucky shooting guard Jodie Meeks, a player he knew the Philadelphia 76ers were interested in.  Mid-season, he traded Meeks to Philly for … well, for nothing basically, but that’s another blog and it’s important to remember that being sneaky is all about being sneaky, not necessarily about being effective.

So what’s to gain for the Bucks in advertising interest in three players they may not necessarily want?   To trade them or the pick, of course, which is precisely what  Hammond should do.  It’s in the Bucks best interest to swap one or both of their picks (Nos. 10 and 40), plus a roster mistake (Dooling, Gooden) for the rights to draft a bit lower in the 1st round.

Because in the 2011 NBA draft, there’s no such thing as good or bad.  And sneaky, this time, is more akin to shrewd.

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Despite a lot of negative feelings about the “no competitive matchups” format of the combine, there’s plenty of fodder flying around.

***Turkish 7-footer Enes Kanter, the projected top eight pick who hasn’t played in a year (NCAA ban prevented him from playing at Kentucky) wasn’t as impressive to some as Russian-by-way-of-USC center Nikola Vucevic, the biggest player at the combine (7-0, 260, with a 7-5 wingspan.  Kanter skipped out on scheduled interviews with the Bucks (wonder what Ilyasova might’ve told him?), Jazz and Raptors, apparently part of an effort to ensure that the Wizards draft him.  Does up-and-coming center Javale McGee, who made more defensive plays per game last season than anybody not named Dwight Howard or Andrew Bogut, know about Kanter’s plans?

***Jonas Valanciunas is still considered the best big man on the board, according to Euro-scouts.  The 6-11 Lithuanian has a 7-6 wing span and led Euroleague play in rebounds per minute.  Valanciunas ain’t cheap, though.  The team that drafts him will have to immediately buy him out of his contract with Belarus Rivas.

*** Remember Providence’s Marshon Brooks dropping 52 on Notre Dame this season and 43 on Georgetown?  He’s 6-4.5 with a 7-1 wingspan, and, unlike Alec Burks, doesn’t seem to have problems sticking a long range jumper …

Trading down and selecting Brooks or Klay Thompson or centers Vucevic or Keith Benson (Oakland) might be the Bucks best bet to improve, if they can move a Gooden and/or Dooling in the process.

More Bucks forwards: 2011 NBA Draft signs point to the Bucks adding to a crowded power forward situation

The 2011 seasons of Luc Mbah a Moute (“reliable”) and Drew Gooden (very “unreliable”) failed to provide much in the way of writing material (or so I’ve found) so what’s to keep Bucks GM John Hammond from adding another another power forward type to the roster in the draft?

Nothing of course, and that’s what many draft watchers thought Hammond would do even before he said last week that the Bucks No. 10 pick was one of those kinda-sorta “best player available” kinda picks.

In Hammond speak, that means “We don’t know but I’m probably gonna draft an athletic 6-foot-8 guy and hope he can figure out some NBA offense.”

In 2008 that translated to Joe Alexander in the first round and Mbah a Moute in round No. 2.  In 2010, that was Darington Hobson, “the best player available” whom the Bucks had worked out.   In this draft?

Tristan Thompson, 6-8, 225, Canada by way of the University of Texas.

“The Bucks have two terrific building blocks in Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings – but after that, it’s mostly question marks. They traded last summer for Corey Maggette and signed John Salmons and Drew Gooden as free agents, and none of them really panned out as expected,” according to ESPN Draft Insider Chad Ford.

“They really could use help at the 2, 3 and 4 positions. I have Thompson here because, of the players on the board, he’s the most likely to be a Scott Skiles-type player. He’s tough, aggressive and just a beast on the offensive boards. His skill level isn’t particularly high on the offensive end yet, but he’s a good fit alongside Bogut on the front line.”

Chad Ford pays very little attention to the Bucks, but that probably doesn’t matter with this draft.  Here’s how the thinking goes:

Everybody in and around the NBA knows the Bucks need backcourt help.  Unfortunately, what little backcourt help there is in the draft will likely be gone by the time the Bucks pick (assuming they don’t improve position in the lottery).

The point guards (Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and Brandon Knight) are slated to go in the top five.  Forward Derrick Williams (Arizona) will likely go No. 2.

Bismack Biyombo, the 6-9 phenom from the Congo with 7-7 wing span, won’t survive past Detroit’s No. 7 pick.

Three of the international big men who’ve been on NBA radar for two years (Jan Vesely, Enes Kanter and Jonas Valanciunas, in no particular order) will be gone in the top eight.

The rest of the lottery board:  a group of NCAA forwards plus shooting guard Alec Burks and 6-11 scorer Donatas Motiejunas (Lithuania).

Ford thinks Charlotte at No. 9 will take San Diego State forward Kawhi Leonard.  Others have a feeling that Jordan isn’t looking for another version of Gerald Wallace and will take Motiejunas, a big forward who’s got a scoring arsenal but a disdain for defense and rebounding. In other words, he’s the least like “Crash,” whom Jordan just traded.

Still others think Jordan will like Burks’ game most of all and will take a chance on the guard developing a reliable jump shot, a la Jordan himself.

The questions about these players are the same ones the Bucks will be asking.  Why bother with Motiejunas if he’s disinterested in defense?   After being dead last in shooting and scoring, can the Bucks afford to play a shooting guard (Burks) who can’t extend past midrange?

Who’s better — Leonard or Thompson or Marcus Morris, a classic 6-9 college power forward with three years at Kansas on his resume?  They’ve all got knocks.  Leonard and Thompson have offensive skill work to do.  Morris’ downside is athleticism and short arms, mid-range shooting.

The best answer for the Bucks is that hard-working Leonard fits the Bucks core personality, if for no other reason than he has a nose for winning 50-50 plays that Skiles can’t resist.  But he’s also a fair bet to be off the board by the nine pick, which would leave the Bucks picking between Thompson, Morris, Burks and Motiejunas.

They’ll likely shy away from Kentucky one-and-doner Terrance Jones, who’s not ready for the pros.

“Best player available” would then be Motiejunas — but Thompson becomes the player the coaches want — a 6-8 defender with scoring potential (Mbah a Moute again) who can play small or big forward.

Thompson would join a crowded stable of versatile Bucks power forward players, in keeping with GM Hammond’s modus operandi:  overload the frontcourt while he figures out who’s staying and who’s going.  The path of least resistance then becomes the trade Hammond backed himself into when he signed Gooden — Ilyasova for whatever veteran backcourt help the Bucks can get back.

Ilyasova wants full time NBA power forward minutes (32-35 per game) but  Skiles and Hammond have thus far been unwilling to entrust him with this.  Meanwhile, Ersan’s already considering offers to play in Europe if there’s an NBA lockout.

Randolph, not Alexander has had the inside track in Bucks draft

I’m sticking with my earlier prediction that Hammond is working to move this pick, or trade whomever the Bucks draft — which may or may not explain why West Virginia’s Joe Alexander was in town today for a second visit with the Bucks. Until now, LSU’s Anthony Randolph has been viewed as the Bucks likely top choice, though there are concerns now that other teams are re-positioning ahead of the Bucks and Randolph may be gone by the time the Bucks draft at #8.

What makes me say this when all draft speculators have the Bucks taking Alexander with the #8 pick and Randolph slipping out of the top 10? For starters, I was at the June 6 workout of Randolph, Alexander and Donte Green of Syracuse. The man of the day was Randolph.

As the media straggled into the court area at the Cousins Center and the players reached for the gatorade on the sidelines, Bucks assistant Joe Wolf strode up to Randolph and the two 6’10″ers exchanged an emphatic high five. I’d say things went very well for Randolph in Milwaukee. In the post-workout interviews, Randolph declared himself the best player on the floor. I don’t think there is much doubt about this in the Bucks camp. Later that day, Coach Scott Skiles and Randolph were reportedly spotted Downtown eating dinner together.

Alexander and Green were also feeling the Bucks’ pro-Randolph vibe. Alexander hung around on the court taking in a few extra high post pointers from Bucks assistant Kelvin Sampson (no harm in kissing up to the coaches). Green decided he needed to show the media some of his stuff and slammed home a couple of high flying dunks on a side-basket. It worked — Green’s an impressive athlete and would be a good pick anywhere out of the top five or six in this draft. Green may yet sneak in to the Bucks plans.

I’d be very surprised if anyone in the media came away from the Cousins Center with the impression that Joe Alexander would be the pick. Journal Sentinel columnist Michael Hunt said as much in his column yesterday, writing that Randolph will likely be taken higher than #8. Here’s the excerpt:

“’Everything’s in play,’ Hammond said recently. ‘Was, still is and probably will remain that way probably right up until draft day. We’re going to explore every option that we can to improve our team, and, as we said, potentially maybe even move the pick.’

That’s good, because LSU’s Anthony Randolph, the 6-10 forward who was probably the best option that worked out for the Bucks, will likely be gone by then. Draft-day trades, though, have become more and more uncommon in the NBA, so it’s possible the new and promising regime will have to take this reclamation project deep into the summer.”

The New York Daily News yesterday echoed the Hunt (and BBJinx) take on Randolph.

The Bucks are sending out strong signals that they like LSU’s Anthony Randolph at No. 8. A legitimate 6-10, Randolph has been called a cross between Tayshaun Prince and Odom. But West Virginia small forward Joe Alexander, a hard-nosed worker, is seen as a better fit with new coach Scott Skiles. …

You know whoSo why does ESPN’s Chad Ford have Randolph possibly “slipping out of the lottery” in his latest Mock Draft? Ford writes:

“A number of young, inexperienced bigs have been hurting themselves in workouts. It’s now a possibility that LSU’s Anthony Randolph falls out of the lottery. Texas A&M’s DeAndre Jordan, Nevada’s JaVale McGee and Florida’s Marreese Speights might not hear their names called until the 20th pick or after.”

Ford doesn’t talk to teams as much as he talks to agents, which means whatever he’s got happening with Randolph probably serves the interest of a sports agent or two.

(Since originally posting this, a little research revealed that Randolph’s rep is former Chicago Bull B.J. Armstrong of the Arn Tellem agency. Armstrong, a teammate of Bulls GM John Paxson on the 1992 and 1993 Bulls championship teams, also happens to be the rep for one Derrick Rose. Employing the Chad Ford principle we can assume that Armstrong is one of Ford’s primary sources regarding not only Rose and the debate over who the Bulls will pick, but Randolph as well.)

Ford wrote in his mock draft last week that Randolph may now be perceived to be a headcase (Brewhoop notes it here.) That’s probably a seed planted by Armstrong or other interested parties who want to see certain teams take a pass on Randolph. It’s not all that clear what the Sonics, Grizzlies or Knicks will do ahead of the Bucks — and the Grizzlies and Knicks at least have had interest in Randolph or Alexander or both.

(Brewhoop today notes that weeks ago Ford had Randolph in the top 5 talent-wise, a good sales pitch by Armstrong right about the time of the Randolph-Alexander Bucks workout. Armstrong and Ford seem to either have Randolph high out of the Bucks reach or too low for the Bucks to dip for. Go figure.)

Expect Ford, ever the accomplice for NBA agents, to be wrong on this one, and Hunt to be the writer who’s got the Bucks and Randolph in better focus.

Ford also has Eric Gordon now going to the Memphis Grizzlies at the #5 spot — that’s a first for Gordon in these mock drafts — and writes that he “would be shocked” if the Bulls took Beasley over Rose.

I’d be shocked if Chad Ford is on target.

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Here’s an interesting analysis from Adi Joseph on NBADraft.Net. Joseph points out that many players in this draft are struggling to fit an NBA position, and that a little pessimism might be in order for fans of lottery teams.

Alexander can’t handle or shoot well enough to truly play on the wing, but he’s too short for the post. He’s definitely got some Shawn Marion in him, but often players with similar skill sets struggle to find their offensive games in the NBA.

Randolph is being compared to Chris Bosh. But he struggled with his efficiency as a freshman, turning the ball over 3 times per game and shooting just 46% from the field. And he’s rail-thin and had the worst bench press results at the Orlando predraft camp. He’ll have to bulk up big time to ever play in the post. But his 2-of-19 shooting from three-point range will need to improve if he expects any respect from defenders at the NBA level.”

Ouch. Joseph might even be meaner than I am!

The Chad Ford Watch and …. Redd to Cleveland hits snag

FordESPN rumor mongerer Chad Ford is at it again. Last week Ford was speculating that the Bucks want to move up in the draft to “add some star power to their team.”  In his mock draft 6.0 today Ford has the Bucks picking Joe Alexander out of West Virginia with their #8 pick.

I have developed what can only be called “The Chad Ford Principle.” Whatever Ford mongers out there as rumoroid fact, expect it to be false and driven by the needs of certain agents whom Ford spends far too much time listening to. And bear in mind when reading him that Ford an ethically challenged journalist who doesn’t seem to be able to put two and two together very well.

Let’s give The Chad Ford Principle a test run. If Ford writes that his sources say the Chicago Bulls are taking point guard Derrick Rose with the number one pick, expect the Bulls to pick forward Michael Beasley.  In fact Ford himself is beginning to back off his “90 percent” assurance that the Bulls would take Rose, writing in mock draft 5.0 that he’s “not as confident as I was a week ago that he’ll be the pick.”

The Bulls will take Beasley and I would bet on it. Again using The Chad Ford Principle, expect the Bucks to take Anthony Randolph (LSU) and not Alexander or do something more creative with the pick.

(Note: I’ve since learned that Rose and Randolph have the same agent — former Chicago Bull B.J. Armstrong, a rep for the Arn Tellem agency. Using The Chad Ford Principle, assume that agent Armstrong is one of Ford’s key sources regarding both Rose and Randolph).

As for the Bucks moving up in the draft, Bucks GM John Hammond said last week that he doesn’t “have a deal to move up or to move down” and that he’s seeing movement among the teams drafting ahead of them. This could mean the Bucks might trade out of the first round altogether or trade whomever the Bucks pick.

That wasn’t the only Ford-broadcasted fire that was extinguished last week. Remember all that talk about trading Yi Jianlian to Golden State in a deal for developing 21-year-old forward Brandan Wright and the Warriors #14 pick?  A rep from the Warriors contacted Ford last week and “took umbrage” at the rumor. This from Ford’s column last Thursday:

“A Warriors representative shot down an assertion made in a couple of my columns that the team was looking to move Brandan Wright. He especially took umbrage at the report that the team coveted Milwaukee’s Yi Jianlian. I’ve been assured that Warriors GM Chris Mullin, who makes the final decisions at Golden State, isn’t trading Wright for Yi.”

The Warriors called to demand a correction, didn’t they Chad?

And it was likely the first contact Ford’s had with the Warriors in all of this. Still, Ford didn’t quite have to the guts to label it a correction and just tacked it on at the end of his column with the following caveat:

“This time of the year, the information is flying fast and furious. Sources often have agendas, and from time to time I just get things wrong.”

That’s well and good, except that in an earlier version of the very same column, Ford wrote that, in still another trade involving Golden State and Wright, Cleveland was set to trade Anderson Varejao and their #19 pick to the Warriors. The Varejao report is apparently what prompted the Warriors to shut Ford’s rumor mill down. Ford was slinging agent slime at Golden State week after week.

Guess who Yi Jianlian and Anderson Varejao have in common? Sports agent Dan Fegan, who obviously fed Ford the Yi trade rumors last season and is at it again now with Yi and Varejao. You bet Fegan’s got an agenda. He wants Yi out of Milwaukee and Varejao out of Cleveland. Ford has been Fegan’s willing accomplice when the agent feels the need to toss grist into the NBA rumor mills. I assume Ford knows fully well that Fegan has no ability to make trades.

Ford’s problem is that this is not a “this time of year” thing; it’s general Chad Ford practice. Ford routinely references agents off the record with tags such as “a source familiar with the talks” — which is how he referred to Fegan in the Varejao rumor write-up.

In Cleveland, the Morning News called its sources and quickly debunked the Varejao to Golden State talk as “nothing more than a rumor.” The Cavaliers are apparently not as upset with Ford as the Warriors were.

Journalistically, Ford’s general practice is unethical. Because he writes for ESPN, NBA teams and the daily newspapers in NBA cities are compelled to react, in large part because he doesn’t let his readers know that he’s spinning rumors from agents — not sources from NBA teams. That’s downright unethical.

Is Ford writing for entertainment purposes only and is that an excuse? No and no, and Ford doesn’t write in an entertaining style anyway. He shows little flair for absurdity, wit, sarcasm or humor, or even the cut-the-crap asshole-ishness that sometimes makes for good writing. Overall, his style is banal. There’s so little there and so many other mock NBA draft outlets for fans, such as Draft Express and NBADraft.net.

What purpose does Ford’s column serve ESPN other than to generate site hits with agent-flushed yellow journalism? And what does that say about ESPN?

Cleveland, we have a problem here:  The Akron Beacon Journal’s Patrick McManamon took an in depth look at Anderson Varejao’s situation last week and revealed something I don’t think any of us wildly speculative blogger types had realized — Varejao can reject any trade up until Dec. 5. That date matters because Dec. 5 is the one-year anniversary of the Cavs matching the contract offer Fegan and Varejao negotiated with the Charlotte Bobcats last fall.

According to NBA rules, a player can reject a trade for one year after a team matches a contract offer to keep him. The Bucks Charlie Bell, for example, could have rejected the trade to the Knicks that Larry Harris had reportedly negotiated before the trading deadline last February because the Bucks last summer matched an offer sheet from Miami to keep Bell. Now Varejao, a key piece of a potential trade for Michael Redd, could be off limits to the Bucks this summer unless Bucks GM John Hammond can make Varejao (and Fegan) happy. Remember that Fegan is also Yi’s agent and that on the Bucks Yi and Varejao would be sharing power forward minutes.

Still, Akron’s McManamon likes a trade for Redd, calling it “logical” and writing that “it all makes sense.”

McManamon does however, have more bad news for the Bucks. Guard Boobie Gibson underwent ankle surgery this offseason and could be considered off the table. If Gibson is off limits it wouldn’t leave Cleveland much to deal with beyond the Wally Szczerbiak contract and the #19 pick — not enough of a return for Michael Redd.

I’m suddenly concerned that the Bob Boozer Jinx — the Bucks jinx at the power forward position — is once again working its crazy mojo.

Rumor central: Redd on the trading block… Eric Gordon’s the pick apparent

No question about it — as you read here last week — Michael Redd is officially on the trading block. And with that realization this week, national sports media scrapped its conventional wisdom on what the Bucks will do with their lottery pick.

Bucks GM John Hammond has been contacting other GMs to scout out trade interest, with Redd featured prominently in those discussions, reported Racine Journal Times Bucks writer Gery Woelfel in his Tuesday column. Woelfel also reported that Charlie Villanueva is a focus of interest from the GMs Hammond has talked to. Hammond’s search for a small forward is on.

“In a recent interview with The Journal Times, Bucks general manager John Hammond said the one position he would like to ‘address’ is small forward. Desmond Mason and Bobby Simmons are the Bucks’ current small forwards and both are coming off pedestrian seasons,” Woelfel wrote.

“Hammond could find a potentially good forward in the draft with the team’s eighth overall pick. There is also increasing speculation small forward Ersan Ilyasova, whom the Bucks selected in the second round of the 2005 draft and who spent this season playing for FC Barcelona in Spain, will return to the Bucks next season.

Hammond could also acquire a veteran small forward via a trade. There are a surprising glut of talented small forwards who could be dealt, including Denver’s Carmelo Anthony, Miami’s Shawn Marion, the Clippers Corey Maggette, Sacramento’s Ron Artest, Washington’s Antawn Jamison and Chicago’s Andres Nocioni.”

Add to that list Dallas SF Josh Howard, Utah’s Andrei Kirkilenko and the Nets’ Richard Jefferson. Most of these forwards have contracts comparable to Redd’s, making the trades viable.

The CNN-Sports Illustrated NBA site has the Woelfel story linked in its rumor section. Join the discussion about it here on the Sportsbubbler fan forum.

ESPN’s NBA Rumor Central got into the action, featuring Michael Redd trade talks today. It’s an Insider story – a pay feature – and this is not an endorsement. If you’re not in the mood to give ESPN money, wildly speculate as I do.

As of Tuesday, it was assumed the Bucks were looking for a point guard in the draft (which they’re not). Many mock draft sites, ESPN and SI included, had the Bucks taking Texas point guard D.J. Augustin with the #7 pick.

I wildly speculate that national sports media doesn’t pay that much attention to the Bucks unless the team is trying to acquire a coach or player that the NY Knicks want. But then Woelfel’s column hit the rumor mills, Bucks GM John Hammond, I’m sure, had a few conversations when he was in NY/NJ for the lottery, sources were called, some journalism got done and suddenly the national sports media realized what the Bucks and Hammond are up to this summer.

By Wednesday, Indiana shooting guard Eric Gordon was the consensus pick, Augustin was out of the picture and Redd was on the trading block, with Hammond scouting for a small forward and willing to trade Redd to get one. What a difference a few hours makes.

Sports Illustrated:

“[Gordon]’s the best player available here, an explosive scorer with a solid family background. His arrival may allow the Bucks to move Michael Redd’s enormous salary if they’re so disposed.”

ESPN Insider Chad Ford

“Milwaukee could go in a lot of different directions. Its biggest need is at small forward, but this may be too high to draft Joe Alexander or Donte Greene. With the Bucks expected to be active on the trade market this summer, they can draft the best available player and then work things out later. Gordon is a dynamic scorer who could free up the Bucks to trade Michael Redd.”

A pitfall to this scenario is that Gordon could be gone when the Bucks pick, unless Hammond is able to trade up, which doesn’t seem likely. The culprit would be the L.A. Clippers, drafting ahead of the Bucks at #7. The concensus seems to be that Gordon would be the best player available at #7, but that the Clippers need a point guard and seem likely to draft for need rather than go into next season with Dan Dickau as the starting point guard.

If the Clippers take “the best player available” route and draft Gordon, the Bucks would be looking at a couple of small point guards, “project” forwards Anthony Randolph and Donte Green, maybe UCLA’s Kevin Love, who would only crowd the power forward position further for the Bucks. Italian small forward Danilo Gallinari‘s stock is rising, and it seems unlikely he’ll be available at #8.

If Gordon is gone, the Bucks would do well to swap the pick for a lower pick to trigger any number of trades, especially when dealing with Western Conference playoff teams.

Brewhoop’s take on the Woelfel column notes that it may be tricky putting the pick in play in trades involving some key players because of the NBA’s base year compensation (BYC) rules. For example, the Bucks can’t trade the pick to Dallas with Michael Redd in a deal for Josh Howard because Dallas can’t do a Redd-Howard deal until after July 1. (Bucks would have to draft on behalf of Dallas or swap picks with the Mavs for future considerations). Howard received a big raise last summer, so for trading purposes, his salary doesn’t yet count fully against Redd’s, and is still tied to his base year salary of 2006-07.

In an NBA trade, the salaries going out have to match the salaries coming in, give or take 25 percent. The base year rule prevents a team from giving a player a big raise simply to make the salaries in a trade work. A team giving a big raise to a player is forced to wait a year before trading that player to ensure against salary shenanigans. Any trade involving Mo Williams would have to wait as well, Brew Hoop points out. (Mo got a $5.8 million raise last summer).

This is important because the Dallas Mavericks are a good possibilty for a Redd trade, given the Mavs stable of aging shooting guards and an early exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Hornets. Howard fits the bill as a small forward Hammond will likely be inquiring about. This trade is also known as Brewhoop’s favorite Michael Redd trade.

Bucks Diary doesn’t think too highly of this year’s lottery talent. His verdict: “It stinks!” Now, if you invert it … BD makes a good argument for there being more NBA-ready players projected to go in the lower half of the first round. Richard Hendrix, Joe Alexander, Mo Spaights, Ryan Anderson, et al. “The Bucks have to trade out of the lottery. The gold is all down stream!”

Coach sees Sessions as potential playoff starter at point

I predicted yesterday that the Spurs would lose, this not being their year, and, of course, they won. Happens every time. I’m not the only one feeling the Spurs “same old same old” grind. Now, on to the matter at hand:

Ramon SessionsHow high are the Bucks on Ramon Sessions‘ potential? Much higher than many NBA observers seem to think, especially those writing about the upcoming 2008 draft.  The conventional wisdom around the league is that the Bucks are looking for a point guard in the draft, the current Bucks starting point guard of note being Mo Williams.

There’s little or no mention in draft talk of the Bucks other point guard, Sessions, who started in place of injured Mo in the final seven games and won the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honor for April.  Inside the Bucks camp, however, Sessions’ is a hot topic, maybe hot enough to change the Bucks draft outlook.

How good could Ramon Sessions be?

“I could see him becoming a starter on a playoff team — that’s how good he could become,” Bucks development coach and Sessions’ mentor Bill Peterson told the Reno (Nevada) Gazette Journal in April. Though the story is a month old, it’s worth looking at again with NBA lottery and the draft order on tap tonight.

Sessions averaged 13.1 pts., 13.1 assists, 5.6 rbs and 1.7 steals in seven starts, including a Bucks franchise record 24 assists set April 14 against Chicago at the BC. That was good enough to catch the attention of the daily newspaper in Reno, where Sessions played his college ball, and good enough for Rookie of the Month. It might even be good enough to lead to some Bob Boozer Jinx conclusions, such as:

  1. The Bucks may not necessarily be looking for a point guard in the draft, but would welcome Derrick Rose finding the Bucks via some lottery luck tonight. Assuming the Bucks are looking at guards in general, moving up to the number three spot is crucial. Rose and OJ Mayo, the cream of the guards this draft, will be long gone by the 7th pick.

2) Mo Williams may no longer be the Bucks starting point guard. Put another way: If Williams is on the roster next season, refrain from assuming he’s the starter. And certainly don’t assume Mo will be on the roster.

In the Reno Gazette story, Peterson, the lone assistant Scott Skiles retained from last season’s staff, went so far as to compare Sessions to the young Steve Nash, a Peterson development project in Dallas 1998-2000.

 “If you only knew [about Nash’s struggles]. Guys don’t just start out in this league and they’re lights out. I can remember nights when Nash was booed unmercifully. There were nights when they would boo him every time he touched the ball. I told Sess, ‘Look where he is now. All it takes is hard work and dedication.’ And Sess has that.”

To put a rookie who’s only played 17 games in context with the two-time MVP is high praise. Peterson worked with Nash in Nash’s third and fourth years as a pro. Nash became a full-time starter for the Mavs in his fifth season. Peterson went on to Colorado state where he was associate head coach for seven seasons until Larry Krystkowiak brought him on staff last year as player development coach.

Peterson took Sessions under his wing when Sessions was called up February and fractured his left hand in his first practice. Together they dissected Sessions game on video while Sessions sat out four weeks with the injury. Here’s more from the Reno Gazette story:

“I can’t put into words how much Coach Peterson has helped me. Whatever I need, he is there for me. We watch game film together, he helps me during practice, we work on all the little things. Coach Peterson cares about me as a player and a person.”

Skiles decision to keep Peterson is a good sign for Sessions, obviously. Assistants Kelvin Sampson and Joe Wolf also reflect the strong development bent of the new Bucks staff, and the other three coaches — Skiles, Jim Boylan and Lionel Hollins are all former point guards. Milwaukee is suddenly a good place for a young point guard to develop. The Bucks own a one-year option on Sessions for next season.

Center Andrew Bogut has already implied whom he’d like to see playing point:

“He was a true point guard. I haven’t played with a true point guard since I’ve been here, really. I think he did a great job of trying to find teammates first and shoot second. Hopefully, he’ll keep that mentality. I think he definitely deserves everything he got.”

GM John Hammonds, in the Racine Journal Times feature from ten days ago that will come to be known as “The Lazerus Interview” after a few more blogosphere resurrections, is anticipating trade interest in Sessions:

“The way he finished the season … as we continue to work the phones (in trade talks) I guarantee you his name will come up.”

Sessions’ former head coach, Larry Krystkowiak, after Sessions’ 24-assist game:

“I think he does a really nice job of finding the open guy. He has a knack for when to advance. I think he’s got what it takes to have an impact in the league. He certainly is taking advantage of his opportunities. He could be a future piece to the franchise.”

And now some brilliant analysis from ESPN’s Chad Ford, who convinced himself that most of the teams in the lottery will want point guard Derrick Rose over Beasely in the draft because Ford thinks point guards are hot:

“Now that John Hammond has taken over as GM, he’s looking for a tough leader. Mo Williams may be entrenched at the point in Milwaukee, but if Hammond gets a shot at a franchise point guard, I think he’s taking it.”

Williams is so entrenched at point that Ford’s ESPN Lottery Mock Draft has had Texas point guard D.J. Augustin locked in at the Bucks’ most likely #7 pick for weeks. New Orleans’ Chris Paul is a dazzling player, but not so dazzling that NBA teams are convinced that the small point guards in the 2008 draft are CP3 caliber.

The Bucks could always sign Damon Jones again, or Mike James or T.J. Ford. Hammond could even see what Reece Gaines is up to these days. (See yesterdays rant about Larry Harris’ point guard candy store).

For insight on point guards, let’s refer back to the Bucks coaching staff and development guru Peterson:

 “If you only knew [about Nash’s struggles]. Guys don’t just start out in this league and they’re lights out. I can remember nights when Nash was booed unmercifully. There were nights when they would boo him every time he touched the ball. I told Sess, ‘Look where he is now. All it takes is hard work and dedication.’ And Sess has that.”