A year ago, the NBA was starting to Fear the Deer. The Milwaukee Bucks experienced a resurgence and started to build some momentum in the Eastern Conference. However, injuries combined with some off-season moves that backfired leave the Bucks searching for answers this off-season.
By: David Kay
Milwaukee Bucks (34-48 last season)
’10-’11 Season in Review:
A year after earning the six seed in the Eastern Conference, the Bucks felt they were a couple of pieces away from being one of the top four teams out East. So general manager John Hammond inked John Salmons and Drew Gooden to long-term deals and traded for Corey Maggette and his hefty contract. Rather than taking a step to the next level, the Bucks disappointed last season and missed out on the playoffs. So what went wrong?
Injuries are a great place to start. Coming off a terrific rookie season, Brandon Jennings missed nineteen games forcing Milwaukee to rely on Keyon Dooling and Earl Boykins to run the point. When Jennings got healthy, it took him a while to return to his old self and his production was sporadic.
Three other expected starters missed lengthy periods as well. Andrew Bogut was sidelined for seventeen games, Carlos Delfino for 33 games, and Gooden for 47 games. The Bogut and Gooden injuries were especially damaging to the team when they crossed over because it left Milwaukee incredibly thin up-front and relying on the likes of Larry Sanders, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Ersan Ilyasova. Maggette was also banged up during the year and Michael Redd was never a factor as he continued to recover from a second torn ACL.
Salmons was healthy for most of the season but really struggled with his shot, hitting just 41.5% from the field. Chris Douglas-Roberts showed flashes at times but failed to find a consistent spot in Scott Skiles’ rotation.
Now the Bucks enter the off-season in need of some up-grades but have little cap flexibility due to the moves Hammond made last off-season.
2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Andrew Bogut/Larry Sanders
PF: Drew Gooden/Ersan Ilyasova/Jon Brockman
SF: Carlos Delfino/Corey Maggette
SG: John Salmons/#Chris Douglas-Roberts
PG: Brandon Jennings/Keyon Dooling
SG-Michael Redd (UFA)
F-Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (UFA)
PG-Earl Boykins (UFA)
SG-#Chris Douglas-Roberts (RFA)
’11-’12 Team Salary: Approximately $50.6 million
Fun fact: the Bucks were 33-11 this past season when they scored more than 90 points in a game. You know that a Scott Skiles coached team is going to get after it on the defensive end, but the numbers speak for themselves about what happens when the Bucks combined their defensive effort with scoring the basketball.
An easy solution for Milwaukee upping their offensive production next season would be getting healthy and having Salmons return to the level he played when the Bucks acquired him for the stretch run of the 2009-2010 season. However, it certainly would not hurt to have some more scoring punch especially off the bench.
2. Athletic Wing:
Of the returning Bucks players, Jennings is really the only one who can use his quickness to get to create off the bounce on a regular basis. Salmons and Delfino are more jump shooters while Maggette relies on his strength to overpower opponents and get to the free throw line. Milwaukee could use an athletic wing who can slash to the basket especially with a hole at the two guard since Michael Redd and CD-R are free agents.
3. Back-up Center:
Andrew Bogut has been injury-prone the past few seasons and the Bucks do not have a true back-up center. Gooden could play spurts in the middle as could Larry Sanders, but Milwaukee should look to add a true big man. Addressing this need will likely have to come via free agency since the 2011 NBA Draft is very thin of true center prospects.
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David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.