As many readers have begun discussing in the comments, the Bucks refused to extend a qualifying offer to Charlie Villanueva on Monday, losing the right to match any offer he receives in free agency.
I have a lot of respect for John Hammond's ability to evaluate talent, so I'm going to assume he had his reasons -- even if I can't guess what they may be. I mean, what's the worst that would have happened? The Q.O. was worth a mere $4.6 million, meaning a worst-case scenario would've entailed being "stuck" with a guy who averaged nearly 17 points and seven boards in fewer than 27 minutes a game, all the while earning less than the league average.
Of course, when you take a step back and look at the big picture, the Bucks are so close to the luxury tax that even a bargain-basement scoring forward might throw a wrench in their long-term plans. Brew Hoop's Frank Madden explains:
Not extending a QO to Villanueva could also help the Bucks' efforts in re-signing Sessions--we've talked a bit about the importance of scaring off potential suitors for Sessions, and the Bucks suddenly look a lot more serious about bringing back Sessions now that they've officially cut bait on CV. What we haven't heard is a forceful statement by the Bucks that they will match offers for Sessions. One positive is that a bunch of teams that might have been interested in Sessions just drafted young PGs--notably Minnesota, Atlanta, and Philadelphia. That still leaves the Knicks and Portland as potential threats, though the availability of unrestricted free agents like Jason Kidd, Mike Bibby, and Andre Miller might be more immediate targets. The Knicks might also still be in the hunt for Ricky Rubio.
Rookie point guard Brandon Jennings oozes potential but signing Sessions is a must if the Bucks want to compete in the near future. If/when Jennings is ready to take the reins, Sessions can be dealt, especially if the Bucks' spending power this summer scares off teams from extending competing offers. But I digress ...
Should the Pistons go after Villanueva? He's not as "sexy" as Carlos Boozer and certainly not as tenacious on the boards as Paul Millsap, but the guy can flat-out score. Plus, he fits the "underrated and oft-discarded" profile that Detroit has had so much success with in the past: a former lottery pick who's bounced between multiple teams. He's averaged 18.2 points and 8.6 boards per 36 minutes for his career but has yet to establish himself as a regular starter.
If he can be had for the equivalent of the mid-level exception, I think he's worth the risk -- with Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess likely gone, the Pistons need a bit of scoring punch in their front court. I'm not 100% convinced he's starter material on a championship squad, but then again, I probably would have said the same thing about Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace in 2002. Either way, he can likely be had on the cheap, meaning he can easily slide to the bench if the need comes. What do you think?
While we're talking about the Bucks, I can't resist pointing to this article from Sunday's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about Amir Johnson, who figures to get a lot more playing time if Villanueva leaves:
"He has the length to guard the big guys," Hammond said, "but he doesn't have the strength yet. He is getting stronger; he's got a good body. But you give him a chance to play that power forward position and you put a legitimate center next to him like Andrew Bogut, I think it will give him a chance to really excel and show his true strengths."
Johnson often had to guard opposing centers when he was with Detroit, because the Pistons were well-stocked at the power forward spot with Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess and Jason Maxiell.
[...] Hammond has touted Johnson's shot-blocking skills and ability to rebound above the rim and finish above the rim. Foul trouble has been a serious issue for Johnson, but he still thinks he can be an intimidator in the lane.
"I can block shots with both hands; it kind of comes natural," Johnson said. "I've got to work on my foul trouble. This summer I'm going to work a lot on my defense, moving my feet."