Sep 27, 2013, 9:19 AM EST
Last season: The Bucks went 38-44, reaching the playoffs despite a mid-season firing of Scott Skiles. Their high-scoring and high-shooting backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis defined the team, but it was really as a team without a strong identity. Before the playoffs began, Jennings predicted the Bucks would beat the Heat in six games. Miami swept the series.
Signature highlight from last season: The terrible shot selection of Milwaukee’s starting backcourt finally paid off in the closing seconds of a February game in Houston. Brandon Jennings dribbled on the perimeter and off balance into a shot that even he realized was too bad to take. So, he passed to Monta Ellis, a bad-shot aficionado himself. Relying on all his bad-shot experience, Ellis delivered.
Key player changes: The Bucks were nothing if not busy this summer. Here’s the synopsis:
- In: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nate Wolters, Carlos Delfino, O.J. Mayo, Gary Neal, Zaza Pachulia, Caron Butler, Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton, Viacheslav Kravtsov, Luke Ridnour
- Out: Samuel Dalembert, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, Viacheslav Kravtsov, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, J.J. Redick, Ish Smith, Gustavo Ayon, Drew Gooden
Yes, Kravtsov appears on both lists. Milwaukee was just wheeling and dealing like that.
Keys to the Bucks’ season:
1) How good do the Bucks want to be/how good can their point guards let them be? Third-year point guard Brandon Knight frequently struggled with turnovers in Detroit the last two years, so extremely that it had a big negative effect on the Pistons’ offense. If Knight makes a jump in ability, the Bucks have no problem. Their top point guard will also be their point guard with the most potential, and that’s easy.
If not, Milwaukee must decide between Knight (the sometimes erratic point guard who needs experience to get better, but would mean more losses this season) and Luke Ridnour (the steady veteran who has nowhere to go but down, but will mean a little more short-term success). It could be a direction-defining decision.
2) Are any recently signed free agents underpaid? Why did the Bucks sign O.J. Mayo ($8 million per year), Zaza Pachulia ($5.2 million per year), Carlos Delfino ($3.25 million per year) and Gary Neal ($3.25 million per year)? I can’t pretend to know the exact answer to that question, because it doesn’t’ make the most sense, but I’m guessing Milwaukee didn’t want to pass on available value. Those four players might not generate a playoff berth, but if they’re underpaid, it’s easier for the Bucks to trade them or upgrade the team elsewhere next summer.
3) Can Larry Sanders be a good team’s best player? Second best? Sanders’ four-year, $44 million extension makes him, barring other moves, Milwaukee’s highest-paid player in 2014-15 and beyond. He’s a defensive force, but not quite in the discussion as one the NBA’s very best defenders. Offensively, he’s more limited. He’s a very nice player to have, and the Bucks definitely paid enough to ensure they have him. As he grows from his breakout season, we’ll get a better sense of just how good Sanders can be.
Why you should watch the Bucks: You won’t understand Larry Sanders’ value by looking at just his common statistics. Watch Milwaukee, and you’ll get a better sense of how he impacts the game defensively. Otherwise, this is a blah bad team, and I don’t have much here.
Prediction: Bucks in six. 33-49. The Bucks will be OK. Probably not OK enough to make the playoffs, but they have at least an outside chance. Probably not bad enough to land a premier draft pick, either, but they have at least an outside chance.
The Bucks are very different from last season. Yet, they’re very much the same.
Dec 11, 2013, 1:30 PM EST
In case you needed a good laugh today — Jason Kidd says he is reading the “reports” that reassigned assistant coach Lawrence Frank is writing. That’s what he told the New York Post. “I’ve been reading the reports [Frank is filing], and that’s as far as it’s going.” Riiiight. Now, if it the reports read…
Dec 11, 2013, 12:41 PM EST
That’s bloody brilliant. It’s my new favorite NBA Christmas video. The Bulls had kept the band together to make one more run at a title with Derrick Rose leading them, but when Rose went down that dream was dashed and it was time to talk retooling the roster. You can bet Luol Deng will be…
Dec 11, 2013, 12:08 PM EST
Boston fans felt jilted by Doc Rivers — they thought he would stay with them through the pain of rebuilding, instead he took off for the hot young thing in Los Angeles. Outside Boston few blamed him, in Boston fans felt dumped. Rivers kept saying it was mutual, Celtics fans were having none of it.…
Dec 11, 2013, 11:44 AM EST
.@Paul_George24 and @jtimberlake playing H-O-R-S-E now. Notice coach Vogel and Burke watching in the corner. http://t.co/fThtkA6AXb— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) December 11, 2013 If you watched the Pacers come-from-behind win over the Heat Tuesday night you probably saw the shots of Justin Timberlake in the crowd. Somehow he was able to swing court side seats, hope…
Dec 11, 2013, 10:49 AM EST
Kyrie Irving just hasn’t been himself this season — his shot has been off and with that the entire Cavaliers offense has been easier to defend. But nothing can help a guy out of a slump like facing the Knicks “defense.” Irving was able to get the rim but the key is he finished —…
Dec 11, 2013, 10:04 AM EST
Paul Pierce returned to the Nets lineup on Tuesday after missing the last four games with a broken bone in his hand. But he wasn’t in his usual spot in the team’s starting lineup. Facing his former Boston Celtics, Pierce came off the bench for just the fourth time in his storied career. And his head…
Dec 11, 2013, 9:31 AM EST
Indiana got the win over Miami on Tuesday, in a game the Pacers talked up a lot more beforehand than the defending champs cared to in advance of an early-December contest. LeBron James brought the intensity early by shutting down Paul George for the game’s first 12 minutes, and scored his first basket of the…
Dec 11, 2013, 8:44 AM EST
Kobe Bryant is back on the court for the Lakers — and with a huge contract that will keep him the highest paid player in the NBA for two more seasons after this one. In the latest edition of the PBT podcast myself and Eyton Shander of NBC Sports Radio welcome in Kevin Ding of…
Dec 11, 2013, 8:00 AM EST
After watching two of the league’s best starting lineups duke it out in Indiana, let’s check in on the best and worst lineups around the league so far this season. Best Net Efficiency Rating (minimum 150 minutes) Houston: Patrick Beverley-James Harden-Chandler Parsons-Terrence Jones-Dwight Howard Net efficiency is the difference between a team’s offensive rating and…
Dec 11, 2013, 2:51 AM EST
Here is our nightly look at some of the noteworthy things around the NBA, the things you missed while freaking out that there are now cockroaches which can survive a freezing winter just fine… Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers. He looked better. Kobe was more fluid and in part because (as he noted after the…
Dec 11, 2013, 12:24 AM EST
Kobe Bryant can dunk again. It’s not going to be remembered as one of his most thunderous throw downs, but he got around P.J. Tucker with the spin, got to the rim, took off with both feet and dunked. It’s about steps with Kobe on his return. His turnovers were down, he got a dunk…
Dec 10, 2013, 11:59 PM EST
Amir Johnson has had a couple strong games — 32 points against the Lakers Sunday, then another 19 points and 9 boards against the Spurs Tuesday. Plus this awesome block of Kawhi Leonard at the rim. Leonard is athletic, has a freakish wingspan and goes up strong. Johnson was stronger. That is what rim protection…
Dec 10, 2013, 10:09 PM EST
The Pacers wanted their Dec. 10 game vs. the Heat a whole heck of a lot more than Miami did, after falling to the eventual back-to-back champs in the Conference Finals a season ago and being very open with their goals heading into this year’s campaign. Indiana hasn’t been shy about declaring its desire to…
Dec 10, 2013, 7:40 PM EST
Jeremy Lin was playing his best basketball — at least since a couple weeks in New York a couple years ago — to start the season, having shown off a new-and-improved jumper (39 percent from three). He was a great spark plug sixth man. But he tweaked his knee back on Nov. 27 and has…
Dec 10, 2013, 7:01 PM EST
The Charlotte basketball organization will revert from the Bobcats to the Hornets next season, in a move that has hopes of re-engaging the local fan base with what has been a historically terrible basketball franchise. Winning solves any team’s problems in terms of ticket or merchandise sales, of course, but in absence of that, an…
Dec 10, 2013, 5:52 PM EST
NBA coaches comprise a fraternity. Many coaches like each other after years of working in the same field. Even the ones who dislike each other share an understanding of the responsibilities and pressures of this incredibly demanding job. That’s why it’s incredibly rare for a coach to publically criticize one of his peers, even if…
Dec 10, 2013, 5:40 PM EST
Danny Granger was a key reason the Pacers were supposed to be better this season — whether starting or coming off the bench, this is a former All-Star who can score the rock and add another offensive weapon to a team with the best defense in the league. However, a calf injury has sidelined him…
Dec 10, 2013, 4:44 PM EST
The Denver Nuggets have been outscored in every first quarter they’ve played this month. They’ve scored a little and fallen behind (22-18 to the Wizards on Monday night), scored a lot and still fallen behind (29-27 to the Nets on Dec. 3) and have just been plain routed (39-15 by the Celtics on Friday). Yet,…
Dec 10, 2013, 4:00 PM EST
Tuesday night we are getting an Eastern Conference Finals preview — Indiana vs. Miami. Please let it be an Eastern Conference Finals preview, because if one of these teams stumbles due to injury or whatever else the other one can start planning what to wear to NBA Finals press conferences. It’s a two-team East this…
Dec 10, 2013, 3:23 PM EST
The Clipper locker room is not like others — Chris Paul‘s son has the run of the place and some other team members regularly bring their children in. It’s different, but it works for the Clips, who have pretty good team chemistry. Now ‘Lil Chris is showing up in the latest Foot Locker ad. And…
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