The Milwaukee Bucks’ top free agent targets


Milwaukee Bucks Fear the Deer

Update: Drew Gooden signed a 5 year, $32 million contract Thursday morning with the Milwaukee Bucks

Be sure to read post-draft profiles of the Milwaukee Bucks first and second round picks.

If you were unfortunate enough to pay attention to the ESPN commentary last Thursday during the NBA Draft, you’d swear that Lebron James is the only free agent that matters. For the Worldwide Leader that may be true, but for the 29 teams that don’t get Lebron, the remaining free agents that don’t grab national headlines could still make or break a season. Just ask the Milwaukee Bucks and GM John Hammond.

By Jake McCormick

Brandon JenningsFor teams with a moderate amount of cap space, a contingency of second tier free agents and trade acquisitions can still have a significant impact on a season. The 2009-10 Milwaukee Bucks would not have made their run to seven games in the Eastern Conference playoffs without the help of these type of role players.

Carlos Delfino, Kurt Thomas, John Salmons, Jerry Stackhouse, and Luke Ridnour were not in Bucks uniforms the season before, yet were integral parts in the rise of the Fear the Deer movement. Now Hammond is left with the task of filling those roles coming off the team’s first playoff berth since 2005, and he’ll be looking to free agency once again to complete the puzzle.

As of today, the Bucks starting five and bench look something like this:

PG – Brandon Jennings
SG – Chris Douglas-Roberts
SF – Corey Maggette
PF – Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
C – Andrew Bogut

PG/SG/SF Darington Hobson
PF – Ersan Ilyasova
PF – Larry Sanders
PF/C – Tiny Gallon
SG/SF – Carlos Delfino

Assuming these 10 players begin the year on the team’s active roster, the Bucks have a wealth of inexperience and a lot more finesse than physicality in the paint. Ilyasova, Sanders, and Gallon will obviously see decent minutes (roughly 15-20 per game depending on the summer league and training camp developments), but the Turkish Terror prefers the perimeter and the other two are somewhat project rookies.

The Prince has been a defensive diamond in the rough, but cannot be defined by his position because of his constant task of defending the best player on the floor in positions one through four. Delfino will give Maggette and Douglas-Roberts a run for their wing spots, and his versatility and range will get him on the court despite his known streakiness.

By process of elimination and the simple evaluation of team needs, the last two active spots on the bench will most likely be filled by a veteran point guard and power forward/center. This could come by way of a trade, but the only players I could see the Bucks placing on the block would be Ilyasova and Michael Redd, and it’s pretty unlikely that Redd will bring in anything significantly useful.

Below is a short list of the best (and most reasonably price) options to fill those final two spots:

Point guards:

Luke RidnourLuke Ridnour
This is the most obvious (and best) target for GM John Hammond, as Ridnour experienced a career resurrection in Milwaukee last year as a spark plug off the bench. The seven year veteran is a very humble guy and embraced his role as a backup to a rookie better than anyone expected, and the city and team would be more than happy to welcome him back for an encore, plus a year or two.

Chris Duhon
Duhon doesn’t have the scoring ability of Ridnour, but he takes care of the ball, defends his position well and is an unselfish passer. All three of those traits mesh perfectly with the Scott Skiles recipe for success at the point, and it’s not hard to envision Duhon’s leadership abilities benefiting the Bucks with Jennings on the bench. Duhon might even be more appealing than Ridnour, given the Bucks’ recent acquisition of slash scorers Maggette and CDR that may require a bigger pass-first mentality from the point guard position.

Power forward/center:

Drew Gooden
Gooden’s name was loosely connected to the Bucks at the February trading deadline, and there’s no doubt he’ll come back in up discussions when the market opens on July 1. Gooden is good for around 12 points and eight rebounds a night, and would provide a good veteran presence for the young Buck bigs. He can play the four and five equally as well, thanks to a physical defensive presence and respectable collection of low post moves.

Kurt Thomas
Thomas is one of those consummate (cliched, I know) veterans that will not put up big numbers, but will grab that extra rebound, score that extra basket, or take a charge just enough so you know he’s still relevant. The injury to Bogut during the Bucks’ playoff run actually helped Thomas’ free agent stock, as he collected 10 or more rebounds in four out of eight April games (after grabbing 10 once in the first five months of the season) in a more featured role.

Follow Jake on Twitter.


  1. David K. says

    Gooden would be a great fit for a relatively cheap price…

    you think CDR would start at the two over Delfino?

  2. jmccormick says

    As it stands they have quite a few options. The Bucks could decide to go with Maggette off the bench, which would put Delfino or the Prince at the three. But if he starts, it could be a pretty healthy competition between DelTHREEno and CDR for the other wing spot. It’s probably way too early to tell, but it’ll be pretty competitive. CDR has spent roughly the last week dedicating around 90% of his tweets to being a Buck, so he’s definitely looking forward to just playing here. Quite a switch from a couple of years ago.

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