As the 2017 NBA playoffs unfold, I’m paying close attention to two franchises that appear to be headed in different directions. These are two teams that are near and dear to my heart – the Milwaukee Bucks (my hometown) and the Atlanta Hawks (my home for the last 20 years).
The Hawks finished the season (43-39) and the Bucks (42-40). On the surface they seem to be pretty even right? However, if these teams were on the New York Stock Exchange, brokerage firms would be screaming to sell the Hawks and buy the Bucks.
Let’s start with the basics. Age of these rosters. The Milwaukee Bucks started the youngest five-person squad in the NBA with the average starter age of 23.6 years old.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo 22 years old
- Malcom Brogdon 24 years old
- Thon Maker 20 years old (or so he tells the ladies)
- Throw in Tony Snell and Khris Middleton who are 25 and 24 respectively.
- Let’s not forget about 22 year old Jabari Parker (albeit the kid has had some really bad luck with injuries)
The average age of the Atlanta Hawks starters is right around 27 years old. I won’t bore you with their ages, but at times Dennis Schroder plays like he’s 12 and Dwight Howard plays like he’s 65.
What about the financial investment these teams have committed to their core players? Bad contracts or good contracts? Let’s start with the worst contract between these two franchises – hello Kent Bazemore! Baze made $15MM this year and that bumps up to $16MM, $18MM, and hold your breath, $19MM in 2019. I’ve thrown better money at Mayweather fights. For all this money, Bazemore was certainly the worst starting 2-guard in the NBA this season averaging 11points per game. Coach Bud has since placed Baze on the bench in favor of Tim Hardaway Jr. It kind of feels like the Hawks spent $100,000 on a Honda Civic and are just keeping it in the garage.
The Hawks also signed the unsteady point guard Dennis Schroeder to a new deal that pays him $15MM per year through 2021. Throw in $23MM to the Tin Man, Dwight Howard (no heart), and the Hawks appear to have a giant albatross around their neck for the foreseeable future. They cannot max out Paul Millsap this summer. I would not pay $30MM to a guy that can’t even drag a team to a playoff win anymore. There is no, “give me the ball I’m going to take over this game” chromosome in Millsap.
Conversely, the Milwaukee Bucks just signed Giannis Antetokounmpo to a max $100MM contract, and you won’t find one GM around the NBA that doesn’t believe in that investment. The kid is only 22 and still getting better. Greg Monroe makes $17MM for one more season and then his contract is off the books. Khris Middleton, one of the more underrated players in the NBA makes $15MM this season and then it scales down each year to $14MM and $13MM. Very solid investment for a guy that is coming off injury averaging 15ppg along with 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Thon Maker makes $2.5MM, Jabari Parker makes $5MM. The two bad contracts for the Bucks are probably Matthew Dellavedova at $9MM and John Henson at $12MM.
Overall, if I’m underwriting an insurance policy on one of these franchises and stack up the two roster’s salaries, I feel a lot more comfortable with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Final point – let’s look at how these teams market themselves. The Atlanta Hawks marketing slogan has been “True To Atlanta.” Sadly this fits because what’s True to Atlanta is disappointment of its pro sports teams. True to Atlanta is making the playoffs every year, yet not competing for a championship. True to Atlanta is always have the All Star player that isn’t a superstar (Joe Johnson, Paul Millsap).
The Milwaukee Bucks campaign over the last few years was “Own The Future”. Never have truer words been spoken. If I was still living in Milwaukee, I would definitely want to own a piece of this product. The future is so bright with a roster that gives fans something to hang their hat on. Young players, reasonable contracts, and a coach that is respected and getting better every season. Who can the Atlanta Hawks point to as their future? I’ll wait……
I feel like I’ve been writing this same column on the Hawks for 10 years. Maybe it’s just Atlanta’s lot in life – an average NBA town. The Hawks plan to renovate Philips Arena over the next few seasons. Perhaps they should start with the roster first…