How John Hammond has made the Bucks better

Bill Simmons did a running diary of the Hawks/Bucks and Thunder/Spurs games last night. Here’s what he had to say about Bucks GM John Hammond…

9:30: Johnson posts up Salmons for two, followed by Carlos Delfino (21 points) draining a 3. Bucks GM John Hammond made three great moves in the past year: The Salmons trade; gambling on Brandon Jennings at No. 10; and signing Delfino for nothing last summer. (Not only does Delfino fill up the stat sheet, play both swing spots and give you solid D, but he has a giant tattoo of a lizard on his left shoulder that looks cool in HD. There’s a lot to like.) Meanwhile, Joe Dumars ran the Pistons into the ground in the 18 months after Hammond bolted Detroit for Milwaukee. Were the two events related? Hmmmmmm.

Hammond also signed Ersan Ilyasova, who first played for the Bucks during a rough 2006-07 season when he was just 19. After a couple of years in Spain, Hammond brought him back and he has played well, averaging 10-6, 44% FG%, 35% 3PT, and playing hard-nosed defense. The signing made Richard Jefferson expendable, so Hammond traded him to the Spurs and ended up with Amir Johnson (from Detroit), whom he shipped to Toronto for Delfino, who is averaging 11-5-3 and is shooting 37% from long range, while playing tough defense on opposing wings.

I criticized the Jefferson trade at the time because I didn’t think that the Bucks got enough for him, but it turns out that with Ilyasova and Delfino, they did. Plus they’ll have significant cap space in the summer of 2011 with Jefferson and Michael Redd off the books. At that point, they’ll have six players under contract — Andrew Bogut, Brandon Jennings, Ilyasova, Delfino, Luc Mbah a Moute and Charlie Bell — and $25 million or more to spend. That’s a nice little nucleus, especially if they can keep Salmons at a reasonable price.

I also thought Hammond should have retained Ramon Sessions, but with Ridnour playing pretty well, he was expendable.

Hammond got off to a rough start in his first draft where he took Joe Alexander at #8, passing on Brook Lopez, Anthony Randolph, D.J. Augustin, Jerryd Bayless and Marreese Speights in the process. Passing on Lopez is somewhat understandable if you’re drafting for need (with Bogut already on the roster), but the team’s future would be even brighter if they had a forward like Randolph or Speights on the roster.

Regardless, Hammond bounced back with the Jennings pick and has made a number of savvy moves to get the Bucks to where they are now. Is Milwaukee a threat to make a Finals appearance? No, but the Bradley Center is hosting some good basketball now and to fans in Milwaukee, that’s all that matters. Hammond seems to understand how to manage a small-market team and has put the franchise in a good position for years to come. That’s all you can ask for out of your general manager.

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