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Bucks On Winding Path With Uncertain End

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Among the franchises whose fans can't be all too happy right now, the Bucks might not be at the top of the list, but it's hard to imagine they aren't in the top few.

This team still doesn't seem to have completely picked a direction yet, and it looks once more as though the Bucks are headed into no man's land.

The latest wrinkle comes with the Mo Williams-to-Cleveland trade, rumor of which was discussed in this space early Wednesday from the Cavs' perspective. ESPN reported later that day that the three-way deal was completed, with the Bucks moving Williams to Cleveland and Desmond Mason to Oklahoma City and receiving Luke Ridnour, Damon Jones and Adrian Griffin in return.  The Bucks continue to keep Michael Redd's name as far away from trade talks as possible.

All of this only seems to further demonstrate the depth of the problems in Milwaukee.

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This is a team currently built around a core without a championship-level centerpiece that can't seem to decide which way to go with its pieces.

A year ago, former GM Larry Harris signed Mo Williams to a lucrative six-year extension after a very productive season for the then-fourth-year point guard.  Williams certainly didn't seem to be more problem than solution this past season, going for 17.2 points and 6.3 assists to go with a career-best 56.6 percent true shooting.  The guy had another career year after getting his mega-deal, which means that he certainly did poorly on the aptitude tests for the Mark Blount School of Hustle and Soft Knocks.

While Williams certainly has his flaws as a point guard -- he is decidedly shoot-first, turns the ball over a bit much, hadn't been tremendously efficient prior to this season and simplly isn't an elite floor general -- he performed about as well as anyone on this team a season ago, and the Bucks certainly didn't upgrade at the point with this move.  Luke Ridnour's once-promising career seems to have stagnated as he averages just 12.3 points and 6.8 assists per 36 minutes for his career, and his true shooting is a decidedly disappointing 50.2 percent.  Ramon Sessions showed promise down the stretch last season with a couple of nights of gaudy production as the Bucks played out the string, but the sample size was certainly a bit small, and he remains unproven as a man to permanently lead a squad's offense.  So the belief here remains that new GM John Hammond didn't like Williams enough to uphold the long-term commitment that Harris made and wanted to get out of the monster contract (five years and $43 million remaining) as soon as possible.

But that still seems odd, because the Bucks also made a move to pick up salary this off-season, which was the big draft day trade that brought Richard Jefferson to Milwaukee.  In that move, Hammond also gave up on Harris pick Yi Jianlian after just one season in order to move Bobby Simmons' $20.5 million over the next two seasons and acquire Jefferson and his $42 million over the next three seasons.  The Bucks have also shown no impetus to move Michael Redd (owed $51 million over three more seasons) and have young center Andrew Bogut on the books through 2014 at nearly $67 million.

The problem here would seem to be that this team has a lot of salary locked into its key players, but it isn't going to be going much too far with that group.  Redd has become one of the league's better scorers, but he has never been accused of guarding anybody, and questions have arisen over the past two years in Milwaukee as to whether it benefits this team to keep building around him.  As of yet, there hasn't been a definitive answer in the affirmative.

Jefferson is a second banana at best.  He is a good scorer but not a great one.  He is a palatable rebounder (5.4 per game for his career) but nothing special for a 6-foot-7 swingman.  He is a decent passer, and he is a good defender, but he isn't great in either area.  On a team with a more complete star than Redd, Jefferson would become a player of far greater value as a number two guy.  Andrew Bogut continues to get better, but questions remain about his ceiling.

The handling of the issue of youth remains confusing as well.  On the night Jefferson was acquired to fill the small forward void, the Bucks drafted two more in Joe Alexander and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.  In the meantime, they also made veteran acquisitions this summer such as Tyronn Lue, Malik Allen and Francisco Elson.  The team will have to continue overpaying Dan Gadzuric for the next three seasons as well.  What is left unknown is who exactly the big-time future of this team is.  Alexander is projected to be a solid player but not a star at the NBA level, and he'll be playing behind Jefferson for now .  Charlie Villanueva has been a disappointment since being acquired from Toronto two summers ago.  The hope seems to be then that Bogut will mature into a beast.

The Bucks add salary, and then they drop salary.  They have a three-player core that seems to pale in comparison to most others around the league, and neither the supporting cast nor youth outlook seem like much to write home about at this point.  Certainly appears as though what direction this team is going in is anyone's guess.

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