After three 30-something win seasons in a row, the Bucks have made some dramatic moves this off season, but does acquiring veteran small forward Caron Butler make Milwaukee a playoff contender this year?
According to Paul Coro’s Suns blog on azcentral.com, the Milwaukee Bucks have sent point guard Ish Smith and center Slava Kravtsov to the Suns for the Wisconsin native, eliminating third string logjams at two positions and acquiring a much needed starting small forward.
The Suns get two young players for their rebuilding process and save about $5.6 million this season. The Bucks suddenly look like they are very serious about making the playoffs this year.
Missing from the Bucks roster this year are four of the team’s top five scorers in the previous regular season. Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, Mike Dunleavy and J.J. Redick are gone as is their best defensive forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. In-bound are Brandon Knight at point guard, O.J. Mayo and Gary Neal at shooting guard and small forward Carlos Delfino returns after a season in Houston. Free agent Zaza Pachulia from the Hawks is a proven defensive center that can effectively backup the recently extended Larry Sanders. This rotation isn’t proven as a unit, but the talent is there.
Delfino is recovering from right foot surgery and his return date may be delayed past the start of the season, but a pairing of Delfino and Butler that shares minutes equally at small forward makes a lot of sense. Butler is a proven double-digit scorer in about 24 minutes per game as a starter and Delfino gave the Rockets similar production off the bench last season in similar minutes. Both players can provide a solid defensive effort. Butler’s acquisition also allows Ersan Ilyasova to start at power forward and John Henson to come off the bench strengthening the other forward spot as well.
Miami, Indiana, Brooklyn, Chicago and New York will be fighting it out for the top five spots in the Eastern Conference this season, but 6, 7, and 8 are wide open and available to any team willing to play their best players big minutes and take the risk of finishing ninth. With this move, Milwaukee has declared their intention to own one of those playoff spots. Nothing is guaranteed, however, the Bucks have just as good a chance as any of the other also-rans in the East to claim a spot in the 2014 postseason.
Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre. A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report.
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