The Trade Deadline – Our Thoughts

Ramon Sessions, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA, Save Our Bucks

Ramon looking pleased during his first stint as a Buck; wearing #7, before Ersan wore #7, but after Ersan wore #19. Now Ramon wears #13, after Luke Ridnour had been #13 for the Bucks, twice. Confused?

Immediately after last week’s trade deadline we sent out a couple tweets regarding the Bucks trade of Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour to Charlotte for Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien. On the surface, it was a good deal. The team dealt two players that didn’t fit, for two players that might fit better, and in the process saved $3.5 million in contract liabilities.  Additionally, neither Sessions nor Adrien have guaranteed contracts for next season, so it may open up another roster spot for a new rookie moving forward.

Had this trade been made by a brand new Bucks front office we probably would have applauded it as a nice minor move, and not had much further to say. However when you put the trade into a larger multi-year context, we were struck by how the trade fit a revolving-door pattern that has been going on with the Bucks front office for many years now.

Giving an opinion on Twitter, while using only 140 characters, can be a challenging task, and a few of you let us know that you didn’t think this was our best work. The issue with our tweets was that we didn’t do a good job of laying the foundation for our thoughts on the trade as part of a larger, overall dysfunctional pattern of player asset management.

In today’s Part I we’ll look at how the Bucks roster under John Hammond has been a high-speed, revolving door of players who never seem to work out. In next week’s Part II, we will examine how much autonomy John Hammond or any Bucks General Manager has under the front office structure employed by Senator Kohl.

Monarch Butterflies and Player Shelf Life in Milwaukee – Which lasts longer?

Depending on the generation, most Monarch Butterflies live from a few weeks to eight-months. Unfortunately, that seems to be the life-span for many of the Milwaukee Bucks primary player acquisitions made during the John Hammond era, either via trade or contract signing. While we are engaging in a bit of hyperbole to make our point, the facts do bear this out. We’ve listed below a number of the more prominent player moves made since John Hammond took over as General Manager in April of 2008.  For purposes of calculating their “days with the team”, we’ve used either their acquisition date via trade or the day the Bucks elected to “double down” on a player by coming to terms with them on a significant new contract (Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova and John Salmons).

Player Name Date Acquired or New Contract Signed w/Bucks Date Traded from Bucks or left team Actual Bucks Tenure (days) Commentary
Richard Jefferson 6/26/08 6/23/09 362 *Tried to deal him six-months later for payroll relief.
Joe Alexander 6/26/08 2/18/10 602 **Tried to deal him six-months later for payroll relief.
Luke Ridnour (part I) 8/13/08 7/21/10 707 **Tried to deal him six-months later for payroll relief.
Amir Johnson 6/23/09 8/18/09 56 Amir's still a valuable player in the league but Bucks soured on him quickly.
Kurt Thomas 6/23/09 7/26/10 398 Huge part of the Fear the Deer season. Perhaps should have been retained.
Hakim Warrick 7/31/09 2/18/10 202 Bucks didn't like Amir in summer league so they signed Warrick. Soon after; they didn't like Warrick.
Corey Maggette 6/23/10 6/23/11 365 Player didn't work & became locker-room problem. $31m on contract when acquired.
John Salmons 7/8/10 6/23/11 350 Play dropped off cliff after Bucks signed to $34m guaranteed contract.
Stephen Jackson 6/23/11 3/13/12 264 Immediately agitated for contract extension after Bucks acquired him & destroyed locker-room. Sent home on full pay before being traded.
Monta Ellis 3/13/12 7/10/13 484 Did not appear to fit w/Bucks nor did he want to be here.
J.J. Redick 2/21/13 7/10/13 139 Redick didn’t fit nor did he want to stay here.
Gary Neal 7/30/13 2/20/14 205 Neal didn't fit and got in locker-room scuffles w/Larry Sanders.
Luke Ridnour (Part II) 7/11/13 2/20/14 224 Ridnour was no longer an effective player his second go-around.
Average Tenure 335 days
Players still with team but for how long?
Player Name Date Acquired or New Contract Signed w/Bucks Date Traded from Bucks or left team Actual Bucks Tenure (days) Commentary
Ersan Ilyasova 7/12/12 Still w/Team 593 Play dropped off a cliff this season after one good year under $32m guaranteed contract.  Trades explored.
Carlos Delfino (Part II) 7/17/13 Still w/Team 223 Delfino untradeable due to serious pre-existing injury when signed by Bucks.
ZaZa Pachulia (Part II) 7/17/13 Still w/Team 223 Great character guy. Signed when injured not played much.
Caron Butler 8/29/13 Still w/Team 180 Ineffective and floated idea of trade with various reporters – may soon be bought out.
Larry Sanders 8/20/13 Still w/Team 189 We all know this story. Bar fight; injuries; ineffective play months after new contract.
Average current tenure at 2/25/14 321 days

Notes to the tables above

*We could calculate Richard Jefferson’s tenure at only 238 days, since the Bucks were seriously entertaining offers to deal him at the 2009 trade deadline to enable the team to offer or match a large contract for Ramon Sessions that coming summer while still remaining under the luxury tax. The Bucks declined however to trade Jefferson to the Cavaliers for the expiring contract of Wally Szcerbiak, as John Hammond told WSSP at the time that it would have “turned his stomach to trade Jefferson to a division rival like the Cavaliers” for only an expiring contract. A few months later he dealt Jefferson to the Spurs for Kurt Thomas, Fabricio Oberto and the partially guaranteed contract of Bruce Bowen, a package that lowered the Bucks payroll commitment, freeing up money for Sessions.

**We also could classify the tenure of Luke Ridnour (part I) at 190 days and Joe Alexander at 238 days, since the Bucks tried to trade them both at the trade deadline in 2009, again to free up money under the luxury tax, to retain Sessions that following summer. Further, Alexander was also almost traded in January 2009, at the five-month point, along with Ramon Sessions for Mike Conley, Jr.  Are we seeing the irony here with the Bucks re-acquiring Sessions last week? They won’t trade him for Mike Conley Jr., make numerous forays into the trade market to create payroll flexibility to retain him, then they immediately sour on him after drafting Brandon Jennings, allowing Ramon to walk for nothing to the Timberwolves that August. All within a seven-month stretch in 2009.

***Some might wonder why we don’t feature the tenures of other players on the roster who lasted longer, such as Andrew Bogut, Brandon Jennings and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. We plead guilty to focusing on the many players Hammond has brought in that had a very short life-spans.  That said, while Bogut, Moute and Jennings were all here a few years, they too have now been dealt. Further, we didn’t include many other players Hammond acquired or signed to multi-year deals who had short tenures such as Tyronn Lue (203 days), Malik Allen (369 days), Jodie Meeks (238 days), Keyon Dooling (508 days), Shaun Livingston (370 days), or Gustavo Ayon (155 days) among others.

**** In the second table, we listed players still with the team but unlikely to have a long-tenure. Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova might not fit on that list, but most sources around the league indicated that the Bucks were at least heavily shopping both players the past few months.

Though our tables above aren’t terribly scientific, it’s difficult for anyone to dispute that the team consistently makes mistakes on players every off-season and trade deadline.

Is the Problem Fixed if a New Problem is Created?

We hope this discussion illustrates why we had a sense of deja vu as it relates to front office dysfunction when the Neal/Ridnour/Sessions/Adrien trade was announced last week.  After our series of tweets on the subject, one of our Twitter followers replied:


At first glance the response sounds logical.  Good GM’s are able to quickly admit their mistakes and move on, rather than hanging onto to an ineffective player for years and years, weighing down the performance of the team. However, that axiom doesn’t apply to Hammond. He consistently creates new problems with the players he brings in to replace the players he is sending out – who were the problem in the first place.

We are not against player turnover at all.  Some fans believe that teams need to keep rosters together for years and years in the hope that players will grow together, and gel into a contender. We think success in the NBA is more about talent, and finding talent, than simply keeping together a roster of average players hoping that over time they will turn into something more. So we don’t begrudge the Bucks from quickly moving on from mistakes.

However, given the fact the team has performed so poorly under John Hammond and sits at this writing with the worst record in the NBA, we think there needs to be more scrutiny on the revolving door on the Bucks roster that has been spinning for several years with no signs of slowing down. It is not a defensible track record, and in April we will be entering the seventh year of the Hammond regime.

Some of you reading the above paragraph may feel that perhaps this isn’t all Hammond’s fault. We agree that Hammond doesn’t deserve all the blame for what has transpired the past six-seasons. That’s why next week in Part II we will take a look at what role Senator Kohl and his long-time aides may play in the player acquisition process, and explore the story making the rounds last week, that Kohl set the asking price high for Ilyasova, because he believes Ersan can be a star in this league.  We’ll also talk about whether the Sessions trade was to open up roster spots next year for new draftees, or to get a veteran point guard in place to help the team win more games this season and next, as John Hammond hinted in an interview from last week.

As a primer for the next installment, we strongly encourage you to listen to this 40-minute podcast of the WSSP 1250AM “Big Show” from last week, where Bucks play-by-play announcer Ted Davis along with hosts Steve “Sparky” Fifer and Ramie Makhlouf have a spirited discussion of the Bucks front office, the dysfunction therein, and who may be calling the shots.


7 thoughts on “The Trade Deadline – Our Thoughts


    Thanks for the interesting analysis. I think there’s a critical piece missing — there is no data or analysis on what the typical tenure is within the NBA. For example, if you were to examine the moves made under a well respected GM like Daryl Morey, would you also see a revolving door pattern? I don’t know the answer to that offhand, but anecdotally, I feel like Aaron Brooks, Jeremy Lin, Chase Buddinger, Omar Asik, etc. are examples of guys that have moved in and out of the Rockets plans in recent years. But because Morey is a solid GM in so many other ways, it’s not really a big deal.

    That’s not to defend Hammond…I think he’s been an awful GM, but mainly because he’s given out bad contracts that were pretty obviously bad at the time (Mayo, Gooden, Delfino, Magette, etc.) and he’s been especially poor at getting a return on the assets we do/did have (expiring deals, Bogut, Harris, etc.). That’s really all that needs to be said about his tenure…getting into average tenures is interesting and all, but I’m not sure it proves anything without more comparison points. The Bucks are bad because his primary moves have stunk.

    1. SOB Editor Post author

      We think you raise a valid point. We did not have the time to invest to do a six-year study of the player movement on all the other teams. The main point that we wanted to highlight, however, is how quickly many of the moves the team has made turn sour. These are moves that appear to be bad, or not well thought-out within months after the Bucks make them. Given the fact the team’s has had such poor performance the past decade, there obviously is a serious problem with the front office’s ability to evaluate talent. Now whether that all falls on Hammond or other factors contribute, such as too much input from Senator Kohl, is what we will discuss in Part II next week.


        Interestingly, the trade deadline is now two weeks old. AND, some interesting things have happened as a result. Suddenly, the Bucks are playing watchable basketball. This is a major step. We have blown out two of the league’s lesser teams. We played hard and showed well @ Indiana. AND, lo and behold, we bought out Caron’s contract and we are actually using the D-League. What’s going on @ Bucks headquarters. Now, I don’t necessarily agree with who we’re calling up BUT it is last year’s D-League ROY winner. And, I’ll wait and see what Tony Mitchell does at the big show. Is it actually possible our FO is evolving now that Herb is looking to sell part-ownership and David Morway is Asst. GM?

        What I am most intrigued by at present is the following:

        If we do indeed resign Adrien and Sessions, a notion I find highly probable, what does that mean for the rest of the Bucks roster?

        It’s a fairly intriguing exercise, actually. Did we actually find a diamond in the rough in Jeff Adrien? A poster @ Real GM has me thinking about this. Adrien has an immense wingspan, he’s an incredible rebounder, he rebounds at a Ben Wallace rate, he’s demonstrating he’s a relatively heady player, and he’s 27. Is he the type of player we could round our bench with on a Jon Brockman deal? If he is, what do we plan to do with John Henson who has regressed? What do we really plan to do with Ersan? What do we really plan to do with our currently held 4 draft picks? Would we target a player via a trade up?

        Anyhow, I count my lucky stars we built such a large lead on the rest of the bottom-dwellers. At this rate, though I lament the loss of our first position to Philly, I’m tickled pink we could still hold on to the 2nd lotto seed.

        Go Bucks!

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    This revolving-door strategy the Bucks continually implement is a direct result of Team Kohl’s (Herb and his entourage of newly promoted and previously entrenched VP’s) misguided aspirations to be a ‘playoff-caliber’ team. In other words, it’s the direct result of their quest for irrelevance. We saw the corresponding quotes in Beck’s interview this past year where the Bucks brass proclaimed their best strategy was aimed at getting to the playoffs and getting lucky. Forget the fact they’d inevitably face a team stacked with LeBron, D-Wade, Bosh…Paul George, Lance Stephenson, David West etc.

    Herb loves that ‘Honorable Mention’ ribbon. It’s really that simple. And, it isn’t easy to teach the proverbial old dog new tricks. In terms of leaving a mark on the NBA game, we all know It’s a loser strategy. But, it’s all they know. It is well-documented prime-time players don’t want to play in Milwaukee for numerous reasons – location (i.e. players don’t like winter), franchise reputation, facilities (no wi-fi on team plane; small locker rooms; old arena etc.). Hence, in the quest to make moves for the 8th seed – at all costs – the Bucks played musical chairs with pedestrian NBA talent. Oftentimes, especially lately, players return for second runs with the franchise (injuries be damned!).

    The real questions the Bucks brass need to answer, are centered on their new proclaimed direction of a ‘Rebuild’. Given their track record, much of it exposed in the above article, what does this “rebuild” mean to the current Bucks brass? What should fans come to expect?
    Let me offer up some softballs I’d like the media to ask of John Hammond or any other Bucks official:

    (1) How do the acquisitions of journeymen players at the trade deadline impact the rebuilding process in the upcoming off-season?

    (2) Recently, players acquired at the deadline OR determined unsuited for long-term rebuild programs (Philadelphia and Danny Granger…Glen Davis and Orlando) were bought out creating roster space for a multitude of options. Considering Caron Butler is still a Buck; considering Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien are receiving significant rotation minutes…what can fans expect of these players once the season ends?

    (3) Depending on the answer to question #2, what does this mean in terms of the 2014 draft where the Bucks have an opportunity to add 4 young basketball talents?

    (4) Why do the Bucks seem so reluctant to use young unproven FA’s or D-League options?

    (5) Teams like the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trailblazers, and OKC Thunder have their own D-League teams. They use these teams as a means of building their brand of basketball from the ground up. Routinely, players are called up and sent down. Why can’t the Milwaukee Bucks espouse this strategy? What is preventing the Milwaukee Bucks from owning their own D-League team?

    1. SOB Editor Post author

      We think you pose some good questions. We enjoyed the WSSP interview with John Hammond, where Steve “Sparky” Fifer asked Hammond if the team would buy out Sessions and Adrien, presumably to free up minutes for players like Henson, Giannis and Wolters. Hammond seemed to amazed that anyone would even think the Bucks would do that, and went on to talk about how valuable Sessions would be this year, and perhaps next year. So much for trading Gary Neal to free up cash and a roster spot for a new rookie.


        Obviously, a team needs a 3rd PG. But, here again, is the Milwaukee Bucks doing what they do best: Minimizing Impact. They claim they want a Rebuild BUT they seem caught in an inevitable Buck Re-tread cycle. It’s tantamount to a child holding on to their favorite blanket because it gives them a sense of security. A Rebuild is built on young talent and a calculated mix of mid-level middle-aged players.

        Here’s a novel idea: Make Giannis your 2nd/3rd PG. Now that Mayo is in better shape and appears healthy, you have an in-roster guard rotation of Knight; Wolters; Giannis; and Mayo. Middleton is your swing 2. Wow. Rocket Science.

        What does this do? It gives Giannis ball-handling exposure. It keeps the roster younger and, most importantly, flexible. It allows us the opportunity to sign some 10-day contracts. Manny Harris comes to mind. Jimmer Fredette is rumored to be approaching a Buy-Out.

        And, while we’re at it…the only Bucks Retread that makes an ounce of sense at present is Tiny Gallon. He’s playing very well in the (gasp) D-League.

        Any combination of Manny Harris; Tiny Gallon; Jimmer Fredette makes infinitely more sense than disturbing a team barely holding onto the #1 lotto seed with the likes of Jeff Adrien and Ramon Sessions.

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