ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — Once the dust settles and Jason Kidd is officially introduced as the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, he’ll inherit a roster filled with frontcourt players and lacking in guards.
While the Bucks aren’t expected to be major players in free agency with new owners Marc Lasry and Wes Edens preaching a three-to-five year rebuilding process, general manager John Hammond does have some roster tweaking to do before training camp begins.
As of Monday, the Bucks have 12 players signed for next season, not including draft picks Jabari Parker, Damien Inglis and Johnny O’Bryant. Included in the 12 is forward Chris Wright, who does not have a guaranteed contract for 2014-15.
With Wright and the draft picks in the mix, Milwaukee has 12 forwards or centers and just three true guards — Brandon Knight, O.J. Mayo and Nate Wolters. When asked about the lack of backcourt players on his roster, Hammond said Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Inglis — all 6-foot-8 or taller — may have to play at guard.
Ramon Sessions is an unrestricted free agent, but the Bucks could pursue bringing back the veteran guard to add depth to the backcourt.
"We’ll see what happens as we move forward throughout the summer," Hammond said last Friday. "We have a lot of time left before the season starts. We have a considerable amount of cap room. We’ll see how we address that. There are going to be some opportunities for us, but there’s a chance we start the season as we are in the backcourt."
If the Bucks decide to go status quo in the backcourt — which seems unlikely — they would be relying heavily on Mayo returning to form. Mayo’s first season with the Bucks was nothing short of a disaster, as he played in just 52 games due to conditioning and injury issues, averaging just 11.7 points per game.
Mayo is still owed $16 million over the next two seasons and certainly could be a candidate to be traded if Hammond found a team willing to take him.
"You hope it is kind of an anomaly with him," Hammond said of Mayo. "You look at O.J.’s career the five previous years leading up to this past year, he missed (nine games) in his career. I expect him back and to have a great year."
While the Bucks have to figure out how to add depth in the backcourt, Kidd and Hammond will have to sort out the team’s crowded frontcourt. Milwaukee is unlikely to extend a $5.96 million qualifying offer to Ekpe Udoh, which would make the former first-round pick an unrestricted free agent. He would be an unrestricted free agent if the Bucks make the qualifying offer, but Udoh could accept a one year deal at $5.96 million.
Parker and Antetokounmpo will need to play major minutes, while Middleton, Ersan Ilyasova and John Henson also would have the expectation of seeing the floor at the small forward and power forward spots.
Said to be 100-percent healthy by Hammond, Larry Sanders will provide Kidd with a major challenge right off the bat. Whether or not Kidd can help Sanders get back on track is another question that will need to be answered. Sanders and Zaza Pachulia are the two centers currently on the roster, as Henson has struggled to play the five spot due to his lack of strength.
"Larry is having a good summer," Hammond said of Sanders. "He’s doing everything he can to put himself in position to be successful. All Larry has to do is be on the floor. Everything else comes very easy to him once he’s out there, and he knows that. Having him on the floor is a huge attribute to our team."
It is too early to know exactly where O’Bryant and Inglis fit in. Hammond feels the 6-foot-8 O’Bryant can play a bit at center because of his strength, but he’s a power forward by trade. Inglis is also 6-foot-8, but he is thought of as a small forward and is an unknown at 19 years old.
As free agency opens Tuesday, Hammond stressed the Bucks are sticking to the plan of rebuilding the franchise through the draft.
"We’ll evaluate what is best for us," Hammond said. "The one thing Marc (Lasry) and Wes (Edens) have talked about is, ‘Let’s try to build this team through the draft and let’s not get over-impatient.’
"I don’t think it is the right thing for us to think about adding a player to our roster today who will help us win three to five more games next year. That’s not what it is about. It is about building this team somewhat organically and with some patience along the way."