Coming off a
Additions and subtractions
SG Monta Ellis (free agent, signed with the Dallas Mavericks)
PG Brandon Jennings (traded to the Detroit Pistons for Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton and some random big dude)
SG JJ Redick (sign-and-trade with the LA Clippers, received two second-round picks)
G/F Mike Dunleavy (free agent, signed with the Chicago Bulls)
F Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (traded to the Sacramento Kings for two second-round picks)
C Samuel Dalembert (free agent, signed with the Dallas Mavericks)
G/F Marquis Daniels (free agent)
F/C Drew Gooden (amnesty, LOL)
F/C Gustavo Ayon (waived, signed with the Atlanta Hawks)
C Joel Przybilla (free agent)
PG Ish Smith (traded to the Phoenix Suns for Caron Butler)
PG Brandon Knight (trade with Detroit Pistons)
SG OJ Mayo (free agent)
G/F Carlos Delfino (free agent)
SF Caron Butler (trade with Phoenix Suns)
C Zaza Pachulia (free agent)
G Gary Neal (free agent)
F Khris Middleton (free agent)
C Miroslav Raduljica (free agent)
PG Luke Ridnour (trade with Minnesota Timberwolves)
F Giannis Antetokounmpo (first-round pick)
G Nate Wolters (second-round pick)
That's a lot of moves.
|Some dude in front of Ersan has a question|
Probable Starting Lineup
PG Brandon Knight
SG OJ Mayo
SF Caron Butler
PF Ersan Ilyasova
C LARRY SANDERS!
Guards: Gary Neal, Luke Ridnour, Nate Wolters, Carlos Delfino
Forwards: John Henson, Ekpe Udoh, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton
Centers: Zaza Pachulia, Miroslav Raduljica
The Bucks sent their whole 2012-13 backcourt away this offseason, and rightfully so. Brandon Jennings was clearly unhappy in Milwaukee, and wasn't progressing the way the front office expected. Monta Ellis was a no-defense, inefficient ballhog and JJ Redick couldn't fit in. Ish Smith wasn't the champion the Bucks needed.
By trading Jennings for Knight, they essentially swapped disappointing guards with the Pistons. Knight shoots the 3 well, can defend, and has had some moments (not all were good), but overall isn't a natural point guard and isn't a very efficient shooter inside the three-point line.
Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour both fill similar roles as solid backup combo guards that can shoot. Ridnour is an excellent midrange shooter and the better pure point guard while Neal is better behind the three-point line and better defensively. Carlos Delfino is a "three and D" guy who will play both shooting guard and small forward, but will likely miss the first couple months of the season with a foot injury. Nate Wolters probably won't play much but has a skillset similar to Neal.
In the last couple seasons the Bucks seemed to acquire every forward possible, something that CPU teams would constantly do in NBA Live 2010 which would lead to the hilarious result of Zach Randolph or David Lee starting at small forward for opposing teams. Fortunately, the Bucks seemed to have fixed that glitch by trading Mbah a Moute and cutting Drew Gooden and now have a reasonable amount of bigs on the roster.
Ersan Ilyasova is the starter at power forward but is not a traditional player there. He's an excellent shooter and good rebounder who doesn't do much defensively and can't create his own shot. John Henson showed flashes in his rookie year and is the future at the position, but needs to put on some weight and improve his shot selection. Ekpe Udoh is a good defender but is hilariously bad offensively and can't rebound, like, at all. He's also an expiring deal and as such is a likely trade candidate.
And that leads us to Giannis Antetokounmpo, the young rookie from Greece who has every Bucks fan excited. And they should be excited. BEHOLD:
The positives; he's fearless, has good shooting touch, is a willing passer, rebounds well, has a knack for blocking shots, possesses monstrous hands, is long, strong, and down to get the friction on. The negatives; is extremely raw, a little careless with the ball, has poor footwork, occasionally looses his man defensively, and is, like, eight years old or something. There's a ridiculously wide range of outcomes when it comes to Giannis (hashtag Greece Lightning) during his rookie season - he could be overwhelmed by the pro game and end up stuck in the D-League all year, force his way into the starting lineup and emerge as a ROY candidate, or anything in between. Nothing would shock me. But one thing he won't be is boring.
At this point last year, I wasn't even sure if LARRY SANDERS! was on the roster. His first two NBA seasons were eventful but not particularly useful. He blocked shots but fouled constantly and couldn't catch the ball. He was a bit of a hothead. After a brutal showing during summer league in 2012, it looked like he might not even make the team. But somehow, he did make the team, and I can only imagine that a mighty basketball demon possessed his soul and turned him into a defensive anchor and franchise building block. He cut down on the silly fouls while finishing second in the NBA in blocks while shooting over 50% from the field and nearly averaging a double-double. His impact went even beyond the traditional statistics, evidenced by this graph by Kirk Goldsberry that became popular after last year's Sloan Sports and Analytics Conference. It measured the field goal percentage of opposing teams while LARRY SANDERS! was on the court, juxtaposed against defensive sieve (and NBA Live "small forward") David Lee.
|Hint: green is better than red|
Zaza Pachulia was paid too much to be the backup to SANDERS!, but is as reliable as they come and could start for a lot of NBA teams. I know nothing about Miroslav Raduljica, other than he is large and white and his name is an annoyance to spell. As long as he's better than Joel Przybilla, I'll be satisfied.
|"Why do you keep calling me Windu?"|
10 bold predictions
1. LARRY SANDERS! will win the Defensive Player of the Year award
2. Ersan Ilyasova will shoot a career-high 48% from beyond the arc and participate in the three-point contest during All-Star weekend
3. Brandon Knight will lead the team in scoring (17-ish PPG)
4. SANDERS! will lead the league in technical fouls
5. Khris Middleton will start more games at small forward than Caron Butler
6. OJ Mayo will lead the team in assists
7. Ekpe Udoh will rebound a basketball at least once
8. Giannis will have a 5x5 game (at least 5 points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals)
9. John Henson will have at least two 20/20 games
10. The Bucks will trade for Steve Nash at the trade deadline because YOLO
Where they'll finish
The Bucks finished 8th in the East last year, but that said more about the bottom of the East than it did about the Bucks. This is an entirely new roster and it's impossible to tell how the pieces will fit. On the plus side, the Bucks probably have the deepest roster of competent players in the East, and SANDERS! is a difference-maker. On the down side, they have no real superstar, and a handful of teams that finished below them in the standings got a lot better in the offseason while the Celtics are the only team that finished above them to get markedly worse.
Predictions on the Bucks are all over the place. Bill Simmons has them as a playoff team with the possibility of reaching the 6th seed. Marc Stein has them at 26th in his power rankings and NBA.com has them at 24th. I'm somewhere in the middle - I do think the Bucks are a better team talent-wise than they were last season, but I don't think it will show up in the standings. Here's how I see the East shaking out:
1. Miami Heat
2. Chicago Bulls
3. Brooklyn Nets
4. Indiana Pacers
5. New York Knicks
6. Detroit Pistons
7. Atlanta Hawks
8. Washington Wizards
9. Milwaukee Bucks
10. Cleveland Cavaliers
11. Toronto Raptors
12. Orlando Magic
13. Charlotte Bobcats
14. Boston Celtics
15. Philadelphia 76ers
40 wins is a realistic mid-point, and I could see them finishing anywhere between 7th and 12th. The depth is good enough to keep them from completely tanking, but the lack of front-end talent keeps their ceiling low. While continuing to wallow in mediocrity and chasing the #8 seed is no fun, the team should at least be fun to watch on a nightly basis, especially if Greece Lightning is involved. For better or worse, I'm along for the ride.
Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.
- Jerry Eldred (@jheldred)
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