It looks like a lot of people think I'm completely out to lunch on opposing the Charlie Bell signing. The comments indicate the consensus is that it was a pretty solid move. I respect that.
Its just that to me, the move smacks of "settling". This move doesn't advance the Bucks championship cause one iota. And you could argue that the length of the commitment to the subpar Bell actually sets us back.
We know what Bell is and always will be -- barely adequate. Yet we are now devoting extra resources to him and all he will give us, probably, is less of the same. Makes zero economic sense. Why not simply cut ties with him and just go out and find another Charlie Bell who will play at Bell's old salary? Believe me, the world is full of scrappy, undersized guards who can't shoot.
And putting aside Bell's marginal talent and usefulness, you have the fact that he has publicly come out and bashed the organization and openly threatened to sow insurrection in the ranks. Why would the Bucks want to associate themselves with someone like that? Why would you take that from a fringe player? I could see putting up with such boorishness if Bell had some unique talent, but he does not. He's just a "guy" -- someone filling out a uniform. Which brings me to my broader point.
What exactly is Harris' plan to get the Bucks to the NBA Finals?
Let's say you divided the NBA talent pool as Bob McGinn does the NFL talent pool: into Blue chips (All-stars or borderline All-Stars), Purple chips (productive starters or backups who will probably never make an All-Star team but whom you can live with), Red chips (inadequate players, players with marginal skills whom you would replace as soon as the opportunity presents), and Yellow chips (young players with potential on whom the jury is still out).
In my opinion, you cannot win an NBA title without at least 2 Blues and a bunch of high Purples. Ideally you would have 3 Blues (as the Bucks did early this decade) and then a bunch of purples. Then you fill out the rest of your roster with Yellows. There is no room for Reds. Reds get you nowhere. As such, your goal should always be to discard all but the most necessary few Reds.
And obviously, you should never, never commit long-term to any Red. That implies you are building your team around them. That's a horrible idea. All Reds do are trap you in a spiral of never ending mediocrity -- first round casualties or high lottery losers. Reds just eat up resources that should be directed at either landing talent, signing proven productivity (Purples) or nurturing potential (Yellows).
If that means you suck for a while, that means you suck for a while. Its better than getting stuck in the blackhole that is the fringe of the playoffs. That's what happens when you stock pile your team with Reds. The teams that do that are teams with GMs in the last year of their contracts. Teams with GMs who want to show that they are "competitive", which is a euphemism for "mediocre but not awful".
That should never be a GMs aim. The goal is an NBA championship, not a "competitive team". If you can't sign productive free agents, then you play "Go Fish" with your roster, trading what you can in order to try to accumulate what you need. And if you can't get what you need through those means, you stock pile young talent and then resign yourself to a couple trips to the draft lottery, and you get talent that way. You never settle for "competitive".
A Sea of Red on the Bucks roster
But that's what Larry Harris has done (with the exception of his drafting of Yi Jianlian -- he rolled the dice there beautifully. When you are in Milwaukee's position, you have to take the risky pick with the Blue potential over the safe pick with a Purple ceiling). Against the clear dicta of NBA history, he thinks he can advance this franchise by building a core of Red players (Dan Gadzuric, Bobby Simmons, Desmond Mason, Charlie Bell, Lyn Greer, Jake Voskuhl). He's delusional.
Just keep reshuffling the deck
He used to have the right idea. Everyone was always bitching when he would constantly turn over the roster with trades every year. But that actually made sense. Some of the trades didn't work out, but who cares? At least he was operating on a sound philosophy. He was operating on the realization that there is really no such thing as a "rebuilding plan" in the NBA. Teams don't "get better" over time. You're either talented enough or you're not. And if you're not, you better do whatever you can to get players who will get you there. All but your Bluest players should be considered tradeable commodities in the quest for talent.
Look at the 80s Pistons
Lets look at the Pistons in the 1980s. They began the decade a nowhere team. They got a high pick and turned it into a Blue-chip player (Isiah Thomas) and a High Yellow (Kelly Tripucka). Then they drafted (Joe Dumars), or picked off the scrap heap (Laimbeer, Mahorn) or traded for (Vinnie Johnson) a bunch of other less heralded, but nevertheless promising Yellows, all of whom would become either Blue or solid Purple.
Initially they got better. They made the playoffs. But then they plateaued at 49 wins and the second round. To break through the ceiling they knew they had to reshuffle their deck. They were too weighed down by Yellows who had become either Red or Low Purple (Kelly Tripucka, Kent Benson, Earl Cureton). But Low Purples are great (that's Bogut and Villanueva). Those are the kind of players you can sucker others into taking off your hands in package deals for better talent.
To get them over the top, they parlayed that bit of lesser talent into the Purple-Blue Adrian Dantley and then into the slightly Bluer Mark Aguirre. All the while they kept adding smart Yellows (John Salley, Dennis Rodman) through the draft, and then they filled out the roster with an aging Purple center they got on the cheap (John Edwards).
The rest is history.
Ainge has the idea
Another case on point. The two old Celtic GMs, headed in opposite directions. Danny Ainge has the right idea and has moved his proud franchise forward. Kevin McHale hasn't got a clue and has wasted his franchise's best hope.
What did Ainge do right? At the beginning of the summer, he had one of the worst teams in the NBA, a team headed nowhere. But he had a Blue to build around, and some Purples and Yellows to lure better talent. And boy, did he.
McHale has had in his hands the highest of Blue players, but he insisted on surrounding him with Reds, hoping that would get him a championship. Never had a chance. So he gave up and put his precious commodity, a commodity franchises wait decades for, on the market.
As a result, Danny Ainge was somehow able to roll one High Purple (Jefferson) and a whole bunch of Reddish Yellows (Green, Telfair, et. al.) and a High Yellow who looks to have a middle Purple ceiling (Jeff Green), and turned them into 2 Blue Chips, one of them High Blue (Garnett). Now he has 3 Blues and suddenly he has a real look at a 17th championship for the Celtic franchise.
Will he win the championship? Maybe, maybe not. Who cares? He was headed nowhere on his "stockpile high school players" plan. So he had nothing to lose. And even if he doesn't, he's acheived what every NBA GM ought to have as their singular goal -- he's given his team a championship window.
By contrast, the Bucks aren't even near the house.