Last year, I picked the Milwaukee Bucks to finish in last place in the Eastern Conference. Whoops. Instead, Scott Skiles did one of the best coaching jobs in the league, Brandon Jennings was ten times better than anyone imagined, and the Bucks were one of the surprise teams in the NBA.
In the process, basketball was rejuvenated in Milwaukee. With a few off-season acquisitions, the Bucks are hoping they can keep the momentum going and that the league will once again Fear the Deer.
By: David Kay
Milwaukee Bucks (46-36 in 2009-2010)
2010-11 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Andrew Bogut/Larry Sanders
PF: Drew Gooden/ Ersan Ilyasova/Luc Richard Mbah a Moute/Jon Brockman
SF: Corey Maggette/Carlos Delfino/Darington Hobson
SG: John Salmons/Chris Douglas-Roberts/Michael Redd
PG: Brandon Jennings/Keyon Dooling/Earl Boykins
2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $68.8 million
-Bucks sign PG Earl Boykins to 1-year, league minimum deal
-Bucks acquire PF Jon Brockman from Kings for PF Darnell Jackson and future second round pick
-Bucks sign PG Keyon Dooling to 2-year deal
-Bucks re-sign SG John Salmons to 5-year, $39 million deal
-Bucks sign PF Drew Gooden to 5-year, $32 million deal
-Bucks acquire SF Corey Maggette and 44th pick in NBA Draft from Warriors for C Dan Gadzuric and SG Charlie Bell
-Bucks acquire SG Chris Douglas-Roberts from Nets for 2012 second round pick.
-Bucks trade C Jerome Jordan (44th pick) to Knicks for cash considerations
Off-Season Grade: A-
Credit John Hammond for what he has done with this Bucks team during his short tenure as general manager. I respect his aggressiveness in adding players via trade and not being afraid to deal expiring contracts for experienced players because let’s be honest; Milwaukee is not exactly a hot spot for marquee free agents so cap space would not be a major asset.
This theory was demonstrated when the Bucks dealt Charlie Bell and Dan Gadzuric’s expiring contract for Corey Maggette. Yes, Milwaukee takes on Maggette’s remaining three years, $30-plus million but the add a physical wing player who is a proven scorer and it barely cost them anything. The same could be said of adding CD-R for the bargain price of a second round pick.
The Bucks also entered the off-season needing to add some physicality, rebounding, and defensive presence inside. Mission accomplished. They used their entire mid-level exception on Drew Gooden; a deal that some people criticized but I really like because he should fit perfectly into Milwaukee’s style of play. They also drafted Larry Sanders and acquired Jon Brockman.
Re-signing John Salmons was also a must and it did not break the bank. Salmons came up huge for the Bucks after being acquired from Chicago with the hopes of replacing Michael Redd’s productivity. All in all, it was an active but productive summer for the Bucks.
Heading into the season, a major storyline will be the health of Andrew Bogut. He suffered a nasty looking elbow injury near the end of last season and has been slowly getting back into the basketball groove this pre-season. If the Big Aussie can stay healthy, the Bucks will be even more dangerous this season.
In signing Gooden, Milwaukee added a solid complimentary frontcourt player who can help take some of the beating off Bogut. Ersan Ilyasova brings his versatility and jump shot to the frontcourt while Luc Richard Mbah a Moute moves to a more suitable role as an energy player off the bench. Brockman is a low post banging while Sanders was known as a rebounder and shot blocker more than a scorer at VCU. Both players will compete for minutes in a crowded frontcourt, which is a good problem for Scott Skiles to have.
Brandon Jennings stepped onto the NBA scene like a bat out of hell as a rookie, making a huge impact from the get-go. His productivity tailed off near the end of the season, but he will the quarterback of the Bucks offense especially since Luke Ridnour left this off-season. If Jennings can become a more consistent outside shooter, that will make him even more dangerous with his already lightning quick first step and ability to create for his teammates.
Salmons reassumes his role at the two and will provide a perimeter scorer alongside Jennings. Carlos Delfino was extremely productive in his first season in Milwaukee and will begin the year as the starting small forward. Maggette will push Delfino for minutes and will be a major contributor as well. CD-R adds more scoring off the bench. The wing players need so stay healthy with Michael Redd expecting to miss most of the season and rookie Darington Hobson recently undergoing hip surgery that could potentially sideline him for the entire year.
On paper, this is a much more complete Bucks roster. They added the necessary pieces to become well-rounded and further emphasize the hard-nosed style that Skiles implores. I cannot see them finishing lower than sixth in the Eastern Conference and would not be shocked if they won the Central Division and earned the fourth seed in the playoffs.
Looking Ahead to Next Summer:
Michael Redd’s $18.3 million contract comes off the books which has to be a relief for the Bucks since Redd has not been able to stay healthy. Even with that huge chunk of change being erased from Milwaukee’s salary, there will not be a lot of cap flexibility. But Hammond has been successful in swinging trades and finding cheap bargains in the open market to improve the roster. Do not rule out the possibility of Hammond trying to shop Redd’s expiring deal around the trade deadline.
NBA Power Ranking: 10th
Other NBA season previews/power rankings:
#2 Miami Heat
#3 Boston Celtics
#11 Atlanta Hawks
#12 Houston Rockets
#13 Utah Jazz
#14 Denver Nuggets
#15 Phoenix Suns
#16 Charlotte Bobcats
#17 New Orleans Hornets
#18 Memphis Grizzlies
#19 Philadelphia 76ers
#20 New York Knicks
#21 Los Angeles Clippers
#22 Indiana Pacers
#23 Golden State Warriors
#24 Washington Wizards
#25 Detroit Pistons
#26 New Jersey Nets
#27 Sacramento Kings
#28 Cleveland Cavaliers
#29 Toronto Raptors
#30 Minnesota Timberwolves
Check out David’s Fantasy Basketball Rankings
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