If you haven’t already heard the latest splash by the Bucks in free agency, here it is: Bucks center Miles Plumlee has signed a (prepare to be surprised, even with the new NBA salary cap in mind) 4 year/$52 million deal.
Now for some history on Miles Plumdog. Plumlee has had an interesting stint with the Bucks. After having a very good 2013-2014 season on an overachieving 48-win Phoenix Suns team, he found himself the odd man out the following season. He entered his new role with the Bucks through the backstage of the infamous 2014-2015 Brandon Knight – Micheal Carter-Williams trade. Plumlee – along with Suns 2014 1st round pick Tyler Ennis – was thought to be the icing on a stale, bland cake. After not playing for much of the season following the trade, Plumlee’s role was in question. This past season Plumlee saw his role increase, especially after the All-Star break and the emergence of Point Giannis. His rim-running and high-energy play seemed to gel with the starting unit and fans alike. He was fun to watch, and showed a penance for highlight blocks and dunks.
Plus he can do this (Don’t mind that he did it against the Bucks):
Now that that’s out of the way, we can discuss what impact signing the 27-year-old center will have on the team now and in the future.
Tell me more about the guy with great hair and beard.
It seems as if most Bucks fans were A-Okay with resigning the 6’11” center for a price relative to his value as a back-up or spot-starter. Something along the lines of $9 to $10 million a year seemed fair after seeing how the rest of the big-man market panned out with the massive jump in the salary cap. It’s pretty late in the offseason at this point, so the notion of an even cheaper deal was possible. There have been no rumors of other teams offering Plumlee much of anything. At this point, only four teams have the cap space to offer the Duke product that kind of deal: the 76ers, Nets, Suns, and Nuggets. Of those teams, only the Nets make sense due to their lack of front-court depth behind the offensive half of the Lopez twins, Brook. All signs point to this being a puzzling head-scratcher.
That said, the Bucks seem to be placing a new emphasis on keeping and rewarding their performing players. After the aforementioned disaster of the Knight – MCW trade, and watching how that has panned out for the team (hint: very poorly), the team taken a likening to roster consistency by rewarding contracts to Khris Middleton, John Henson, and now Miles Plumlee. Unlike the two latter deals, the Plumlee deal seems like an obvious overpay. Henson will only be making on average $11 million over the course of his four year contract as a 25-year-old and superior defender. Plumlee will be 28 at first tip-off this season, and will be 32 at final tip-off at the end of the decade. If Plumlee had been a superior defender last season, this wouldn’t be much more palatable. His noticeably low defensive RPM and BPM and a mid-to-low tier opponent field-goal percentage among NBA centers (Henson was 3rd at 41.8%!!!!!!!) makes this deal tough to swallow next to the likes of the cheaper Festus Ezeli (who is admittedly a big injury risk) and Dewayne Dedmon.
On the upside of the move, Plumlee seems to be the perfect fit for a high-flying, athletic Bucks offense. He led the entire NBA in scoring as the roll-man, scoring at a 75 percent clip. That same athleticism and quickness would seem to lend itself well to coach Kidd’s aggressive trapping defense, and another year of defensive seasoning and renewed confidence could be great for the eldest of the Plumlee Bros. Remember, the most successful purveyors of the Kidd-scheme were at or near 30-years-old – those being Zaza Pachulia and Jared Dudley. Both have been sorely missed.
This move seems puzzling… are the Bucks moving Monroe?
The most difficult to swallow proponent of this deal is based on a mind-boggling (yet not surprising considering recent events) team strategy. I’m no salary capologist, but this deal puts immense strain on the Bucks future plans. This seems like a deal a contender with an established core would make, similar to the brow-raising contracts of Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith. The Milwaukee Bucks won 33 games last year, they are no Warriors, Cavaliers, or even Jazz. Their core is still in question, with Jabari Parker struggling in many facets of his game, even after his game took off sans-Monroe following a similar pattern to Giannis post-All Star break. The Bucks are bolstered by decent deals from Mirza Teletovic and Matthew Dellevadova, but they are far from set talent-wise amongst the questionable Rashad Vaughn, the yet-to-show-much Tyler Ennis, Malcolm Brogdon, and Thon Maker. Even more confounding is the ridiculous amount of money they have sunk into arguably the least valuable position in the modern NBA. Between the much-maligned Greg Monroe, Henson, and Plumlee, the Bucks will be spending $42 million at center position this season (good luck splitting those minutes evenly per million dollars).
Most importantly, this would seem to indicate some kind of trade for either Henson or Monroe is in place or being finalized. “The Gadget” is a good fit for many teams around the NBA and is on a very reasonable contract, which, in this author’s humble opinion, should make him very trade-able. I think most are well aware that the Bucks have been rumored to be shopping around Monroe. Has the rumor mill been producing any actual trade partners this summer? Nope. While the Bucks would rather not dump Monroe for change, I would imagine the sure handed negotiations of Plumlee’s party has forced management to place a huge priority on getting some kind of deal done.