Published June 28, 2013
MILWAUKEE – OK, John Hammond: Giannis Antetokounmpo is in the fold. What next?
The Milwaukee Bucks' general manager introduced his team's first-round draft pick Friday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. The 6-foot-9 forward is known as the "Greek Freak," and much time was spent trying to properly pronounce and spell his name.
More troublesome are the questions facing the Bucks as the start of free agency approaches.
First, what is Hammond's plan for the backcourt, which was anchored by Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis last season. Ellis has already declined an $11 million player option and will become a free agent while Jennings will be a restricted free agent.
Milwaukee also must figure out what to do with J.J. Redick and Mike Dunleavy Jr. Redick was obtained in a deadline deal with Orlando. Dunleavy played a key role off the bench for a Bucks squad that went 38-44 and was swept in the first round of the playoffs by Miami.
Both are set to become unrestricted free agents and will be part of an extensive decision-making process for Hammond and new coach Larry Drew
"That's the next step," Hammond said. "We've had our eye on both targets over the last few weeks, trying to figure out this draft and looking to see what would be the right fit for us on the free agent market."
The process will begin with Hammond's own players, and Jennings is at the top of the list. Milwaukee's first-round pick in 2009, Jennings has struggled with his shot but was second on the team with 17.5 points per game and first with 6.5 assists.
Jennings has expressed interest in playing in a larger market, but the Bucks have remained steadfast in their desire to keep him.
After not offering Jennings an extension to his original rookie deal last summer, Hammond confirmed Friday that Milwaukee made a $4.3 million qualifying offer, giving the team the right to match any other offers.
"We can negotiate with him and if we can't come to an agreement, we can match, and that's what we intend to do," Hammond said.
With just a few weeks on the job, Drew has been studying draft prep, researching free agents and getting to know his own players. The draft has taken up the bulk of his time, but he expects the Bucks to be working the phones when free agency kicks in.
"As soon as the period starts, we're coming out of the blocks," Drew said.
Whatever course the Bucks take, they'll have plenty of room to operate under the cap this summer.
"John and I, we've tossed some names around just to get a feel of who I like and who he likes," Drew said. "These next couple days, we'll use them to really lock in on a player or players we feel will be the best fit for this team."
The Bucks are hoping they addressed some of their backcourt questions in the draft's second round. Milwaukee was part of a trade that included Philadelphia and Washington and ultimately landed 6-foot-4 Nate Wolters.
Projected by some as a possible first-round selection, Wolters carried a South Dakota State team that went 25-10 and won the Summit League with a 13-3 record before losing to fourth-seeded Michigan in a second-round NCAA tournament game.
Wolters averaged 22.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists as a senior, capping a career in which he set school records for points, assists and free throws made.
"He's a very tough kid and he knows how to play," Hammond said. "He's a big point guard and can score but he's a distributor also. That excited me. The more guys you have that are unselfish players and willing passers, the better your team will be."
The Bucks plan to have Wolters on their summer-league roster. They view him as a player who can contribute immediately when training camp starts.
Antetokounmpo will miss the summer league because of commitments to the Greek national team. Hammond said the Bucks were aware of that when he was drafted.