The Bucks’ Future
With the season over for the Bucks, it’s time to look on to the future. Free agency is on the horizon and the Bucks find themselves in a situation they may not have expected. Before this season it seemed likely that Greg Monroe was going to be dealt, and he surely wasn’t going to opt in to his third season with Milwaukee. Not so fast. Monroe had a stellar year off of the bench with Milwaukee and there is a chance the 26 year old could bet on himself next season and look for a monster contract in the 2018 free agency period. The Bucks have one starter from last year who is a free agent, and that is Tony Snell. Snell is one of the biggest surprises from this season. He was acquired from the Bulls for Michael Carter-Williams and he was right at home in Milwaukee. Snell was a perfect 3 and D guy that replaced Middleton until his return. In a contract year, Snell had career highs in points per game, field goal, and three point percentages. With free agency looming and the Bucks having a lot of bad money tied up, will they be able to keep both Monroe and Snell?
Before we get into who will stay and who could go, let me remind all of you why the Bucks are in this position in the first place. Next season Matthew Dellavedova will be making just over $9.5 million, Mirza Teletovic will be making $10.5 million, and John Henson will be making slightly over $11.5 million. That’s over $31 million dollars tied up on players who didn’t produce much of anything after receiving those contracts. Last season they were our third, fourth, and fifth highest payed players. Henson is a player who has his stretches but isn’t worth what he got, and Delly and Telly were dreadful additions to the team last season. We should all be thankful that Miles Plumlee is off of the books as well. The Bucks have an unfortunate history of paying role players that have nice seasons too much money and they have never performed to their expectations. It’s not as if the Bucks are the only team that does this, but it’s far too frequent for a small market team.
This isn’t necessarily fair to Tony Snell, but could he be next? Snell is only 25 years old and he looks to be improving. As stated before he improved on three major statistics for the kind of player he is. He’s a blossoming young talent and could be a really nice player for a team who needs his shot and defense, and the Bucks absolutely do. Snell was fourth on the Bucks in three point percentage, behind Middleton, Jet, and Beasley. With Middleton and Beasley missing the time they did and Snell playing 10 more minutes a game than Jet, one could say he was the most consistent option they had all season. One question about Snell though, was he as good as we remember? For someone that started 80 games and played nearly 30 minutes a game, isn’t it a little odd he’s so highly praised after only averaging eight points, three rebounds, and one assist? What he did this season was very serviceable, but this is where analytics and the eye test conflict. We all watched Tony Snell last season, and we all liked what we saw, but was it all a mirage or just someone outperforming very low expectations? Take a look at this.
This is a reference for where a player’s PER (Player Efficiency Rating) stacks him up as a player. PER is, in short, a single number that gives a rating to a player’s overall game. It takes in positives, negatives, and many different factors of a performance. It was created by John Hollinger and can be read about in more detail here: http://www.espn.com/nba/columns/story?columnist=hollinger_john&id=2850240
Advanced statistics and analytics can divide fans; some don’t like them because how can a number really tell someone what they’re seeing? That’s a fair point, but this is a rating that holds a lot of weight. Russell Westbrook finished just over 30, sounds like a “runaway MVP candidate”, no? James Harden had a 27.3 definitely a “strong MVP candidate.” Giannis finished with a 26.1, and it’s undeniable that if there weren’t so many phenomenal performances this season, he could have been an MVP candidate with what he did for Milwaukee. The point of this is to get to Tony Snell’s PER this season. Based on what we saw, one would guess he is a 15-18, right? Nope. Tony Snell finished the season with a 9.7. How can this be possible? What didn’t we see? Is PER absolutely worthless? Keep in mind PER is a stat that is minute based so if someone plays 5 minutes but they get 4 points and 2 boards in that short time their PER will be through the roof, same if they played 5 minutes and went 0-2 with 2 turnovers, it would be very poor. In Snell’s case though, he played 80 games and averaged just less than 30 minutes a game. There’s plenty of data to provide a fair rating, from an offensive perspective. PER is not a perfect stat and does not take lockdown defense into account. It can take blocks and steals into account, but if a defender like Snell is shutting down a player and they have to pass out of everything there is no stat being recorded. That’s something that Bucks’ fans saw in the playoff series versus Toronto. For a good chunk of that series DeRozan was haunted by Tony Snell, as were many other players over the course of the season. Defensive stoppers are hard to come by in the NBA and that alone is why the Bucks would want to keep him, and any improvement offensively would be icing on the cake.
Monroe is very different than Tony Snell. I don’t mean in stature or the positions they play, I mean with Greg Monroe you almost always know what you’re going to get on the court. You get an old-school offensive minded center that as a starter routinely averaged 15 and 9 and this season coming off the bench averaged around 12 and 6. Monroe was always knocked for his defense, and for good reason, but last year was some sort of revelation. He went from looking like a near extinct dinosaur of a center, to today’s center that needs to be able to cover all over the court. Of course there were lapses at times, and Giannis also often served as the rim protector but there was no denying Monroe’s improvement. People forget that Monroe is only 26, soon to be 27, and he can improve as well.
The hardest part about all of this is that a lot of it isn’t in the Bucks hands. If Monroe wants to come back, he has to make the decision to. If the Bucks want Snell back, they first have to wait and see what other team’s offer him and then they can match. John Hammond has already stated that the Bucks’ plan to have Snell on the team next season. (http://www.foxsports.com/nba/story/milwaukee-bucks-eager-to-keep-snell-await-monroe-decision-050417) So it will be interesting to see how they approach these decisions. If Monroe returns, will the Bucks have a number for Snell that they won’t match? Or will they match Snell’s contract no matter what? The Bucks know what he provides defensively and losing that and his three point shot would really hurt Milwaukee. One could make assumptions on what will happen, but it will likely end up being fruitless. It’s safe to say that losing Monroe would put a serious hole in that bench and Milwaukee would love to see his return. Matching Snell’s contract seems inevitable at this point, and as long as the money makes sense it would be well deserved.
It’s a difficult position the Bucks find themselves in this offseason. There are many directions that this can go. Bucks’ fans are going to have to be patient with this one because Monroe is notoriously secretive about his decisions and he has until June 22nd to decide, and Snell has to let his offers come in. This is going to be a long process and we won’t know how it’s going to play out for a while.