Bucks Diary

Sunday, September 30, 2007

What's the Bucks plan anyway?

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.


At September 30, 2007 at 6:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you honestly think Bogut is a low purple? And Villanueva too? They both have potential to be in your BLUE zone, no question. I'm not sure I like this post too much...

At September 30, 2007 at 9:21 AM, Blogger Blogmaster said...

Remember, a blue player is an All-Star or borderline All-Star. What has either of those two done to convince you they can reach that level? (Although I believe Villanueva could if he got a personality transplant.) I've held out hope for Bogut, but the fact is his production in his first two years has been amongst the low end for centers in the NBA.

At September 30, 2007 at 9:50 AM, Blogger Blogmaster said...

Btw, I take absolutely zero offense if anyone disagrees with me. In fact, I welcome it.

This site isn't meant for me to show how knowledgable I am about the Bucks. I'm not; I'm just a guy who loves Bucks basketball. Any post I do is just a means to stimulate debate.

In fact, on this point, I wouldn't mind being shot down. I wouldn't mind someone convincing me that Larry Harris has a long term plan to get us to the championship, so that the Bucks can have a Club 2009 or Club 2010.

Right now, I'm afraid we are going to have Club 1971 (which I want to visit) in perpetuity.

At September 30, 2007 at 11:09 PM, Anonymous paulpressey25 said...

Your post was massive and has a number of points to discuss. Let me hit the easy one. Charlie Bell. I'm not thrilled with that contract or the length. But in my opinion Bell can be a pretty good 3rd guard/utility man. The ease of replacing him or finding a guy off the scrap heap is not as easy as we think. The Cavs or Heat would love Bell....if Bell was a dime a dozen, he wouldn't have gotten that offer sheet. Bell's contract isn't what will sink us. It's blowing 1st round picks for a decade that has killed us.

Now onto the McGinn color codes. I like the idea you are going for in equating the codes, I'm not sure it works though. I think Bogut and CV for example are still in the high potential category. There is hope one might go blue.

But while I disagree on a number of the fine points in this post, there is one brilliant line that I agree with 100%, and that relates to the fact that NBA teams don't "build" like we see in baseball or football. The bottom line is you need to keep blowing up your roster every year until you can find a blue player or draft a rookie with the potential to be a blue player. And Harris has done that....he's traded Ford for a shot at a blue (CV) and he's purposely and blatantly tanked two of the last three years to try and get a blue and ended up with the Bogut and Yi picks.

This year, I'd see if any of these three big-men looks like they will go blue. If not, I'd trade one or more fast, for a shot at another potential blue or an actual blue (Gasol) that could come on the market if the Grizzlies continue to bleed money.

At October 3, 2007 at 1:07 AM, Blogger Trigorin said...

First off I like the fact that we can agree to disagree. Now about those colors stop already my head is hurting. Bogut and Charlie V. can both go up and may. Remember Redd when Dallas gave him an offer sheet? Bell is a player on both ends of the court and there is nothing mediocur about him. I will grant you Mason although he can play D. and that is supposedly Coach K,s strength. Simmons can play and is definently not a liability when on the court. Also I think you have bought into the celtic hype. First Ray is not the player he was as he is close to one dimensional at this stage of his career. Garnett is definently overrated he can bound and play D. but his offense is limited and he is not the man like say Duncan to go to in the clutch. Now I will take Charlie and Yi and Andrew and Redd and Williams and Bell and even Gadz (if somebody could teach him how to dee up with his legs and not his arms)and meet the Celtics in the east any time. Keep up the interesting posts.

At October 6, 2007 at 11:07 AM, Blogger Jeffrey said...

Bogut was 1st or 2nd in the East in rebounding AND scoring amongst ALL CENTERS

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