Sunday, July 15, 2007

Ersan to Barcelona?

With Mo Williams on the verge of re-signing, Larry Harris and company are turning their attentions to the team's two restricted free agents, Charlie Bell and Ersan Ilyasova. As I mentioned last week I don't think there's much chance another NBA team steals either player away, as the Bucks would have the right to match any offer and it could not be for more than the MLE. However, European clubs have been chasing Ersan and one Turkish site is reporting that FC Barcelona have agreed to a two year, 5 million Euro deal (net of taxes, about $7 million). No one seems to be able to find anything in the American or Spanish press about this, which means it could be just an offer or speculation, but the paper even quotes Ersan talking about playing in Spain next year.

Barcelona is losing Juan Carlos Navarro to the NBA, so they likely want to add a big name forward to their roster, but as of now nothing is on their website nor is the story being picked up by the Barcelona-based sports tabloid El Mundo Deportivo. The Bucks would have a hard time making Ersan an offer of the same magnitude--they would need something on the order of $5 million per season to match Barca's offer in net of tax terms. That's likely not a justifiable number for a youngster who's sill not a lock to crack the top eight of the rotation, and the Bucks will retain the right to match any offer for Ersan up to the MLE if/when he decides to return to the NBA. I am a little skeptical of the story given it hasn't been picked up here or in Spain, so I won't give up hope of Ersan being a Buck next season quite yet.

As for the Bucks' other free agent options, the Charlie Bell discussions will likely heat up this week now that his agent Mark Bartelstein is done negotiating Mo's deal with the Bucks. I suspect Bartelstein will try to find some other team willing to offer Charlie more than $4 million per season in order to get some leverage against the Bucks, but we'll see. That type of offer would likely come from a team like the Lakers or Cavs which could use CB as a defensive PG. As of now it's not exactly clear who is in the market for him, though.

As far as outside free agents, Desmond Mason looks like the most probable option, which is something of a disappointment when you consider how much cap space the Bucks had entering the offseason. Still, you can never expect to be able to lure a guy like Gerald Wallace, and after him and Andres Nocioni it drops off quickly. Mason was last seen comically overvaluing his services with the Hornets, reportedly demanding $8 million per year. Mason is an average NBA player at best who has declined since his days with the Bucks, so it'd be a mistake for anyone to give him the MLE, but it's the NBA so who knows. His shooting from the field and line has mysteriously taken a big hi the past few seasons, which is a bad sign for a 29-year old who relies mainly on his athleticism. Signing with the Bucks is a strong possibility, as the novelty of a returning former fan favorite and all around good guy certainly seems like the kind of move Herb Kohl could get behind, and the bad blood behind Mason's exit from Milwaukee appears to have been smoothed over (for the sake of economics at least).

As a sixth man he can still provide value as well, and if Ilyasova is gone the Bucks' need for depth at the 3 will be even more acute. I think Desmond's more of a natural 2, but don't count on him playing much at Mike Redd's position, especially if Bell is back as well. I guess I'd be OK with a two-year deal for $8 million (total), but I also wouldn't be surprised if the Bucks get suckered into something close to the MLE. If that happens I'll just watch this over and over until I completely forget how atrocious Desmond's jump shot has become.

If you're wondering why Ruben Patterson's name hasn't been mentioned much, the rumor from insiders is that the Bucks have no interest in bringing him back. What's unclear is whether that's a basketball decision (Ruben was one of the Bucks' best players last year but is a somewhat disruptive player offensively and has a rep for ignoring schemes on both ends of the floor) or an off court decision (in spite of his apparent good behavior last year, he's still a convicted felon who has a history of creating problems when he doesn't get enough minutes). My guess is that it's a combination of both, but I have not heard the whole story. And to top things off, his agent is currently the Bucks' biggest off court nemesis, Dan Fegan. Yes, the guy repping Yi Jianlian.

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