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NBA Season Preview: #18 Milwaukee Bucks

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#18 Milwaukee Bucks

This team is in-it-to-win-it. What the it is, nobody is quite sure. Now it’s easy for all of us question why this team reloads on admirable, but not franchise-type players, instead of bottoming out to rebuild. The Bucks are a small market team in a city which is basketball indifferent, so kudos to them for staying competitive for the faithful-yet-few fans. The Bucks gave defensive revelation Larry Sanders a max-level-adjacent deal at four years, $44 million. The starting bigs for the Bucks are peculiar and sturdy. Dirk Nowitzki-lite–64 calorie macro-brew lite on ice we’re talking here–Ersan Ilyasova is a stretch-four (55 percent True Shooting percentage in ’12-’13) who isn’t afraid to fight for rebounds (seven per game), but it seems like he won’t have to fight as hard, as he’ll be playing along side Sanders and the high-ceiling second-year power forward (Per 36 averages of 16 points and 12 rebounds in his rookie year) Jon Henson.

OJ Mayo never realized his potential that was assigned to him when he became the 3rd pick in the 2008 Draft, but the 25 year old will provide 15 points a night for a Bucks team that saw 36 points a night (Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis) leave for new homes this Summer. A trio of quasi-impactful guards like Brandon Knight (13 points, 4 assists per last year) Gary Neal (15 points Per 36), and Luke Ridnour (11 points, 3.8 assists), add to this makeshift roster of former misits. New coach, Larry Drew will bring his trap defense and defensive zone sets to a roster that has malleable team-players who are ready for a fresh start after a few years of dysfunction. A season ago the Bucks were third in the league in Pace (estimate of possessions by a team per 48 minutes). Drew’s previous team, the Atlanta Hawks (12th in Pace) were comprised of low volume scoring guards and a front court that scored in bunches. Needless to say this coach has been typecast. The high Pace number for the Bucks was due in large part to the run-creating skills and the ability to kill forced shots from Ellis or Jennings. Expect the same tempo but with more efficiency.

The Bucks look good on internet paper, but here’s whats going to hurt they’re playoff chances; they’re in the deepest division in basketball which means a good chunk of meaningful games down the stretch will be played against the  Central Division.

 

STATS STUDS

Sanders is clutch. Sanders had the highest clutch-time stats ( five minutes left in the fourth quarter of overtime and neither team is head by five points) among the Bucks according to 82games.com. He was a plus 75 in the net points department, which was twenty-plus points better than former team “captain” Brandon Jennings.

 

PLAYOFF CHANCES

It wouldn’t be surprising if they missed the playoffs, but it would if they fell into the top five of the lottery. Are the mediocre Bucks good enough to be one of the best 16 teams in the NBA? Are their team colors boring? Yes.  Fringe playoff teams in the East will Fear the Deer come April, and for the top seeded teams it will be hunting season as the Bucks will be knocked out in the first round of the playoffs for the second year in a row.

OUTLOOK FOR THE FUTURE

No top-tier free agent will be drawn to Milwaukee’s sports bar night life and half-empty arenas (25th out of 30 in attendance, and they haven’t been ranked higher than 20th since 2003). Drafting in the 10-15 slots year after year, as they’ve down for the last four years, leaves a low margin for error in building a championship contender from the front office. As mentioned in this piece’s tip-off, their front-court is promising, and so is buzzworthy rookie, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Getting rid of last years shot-hogging guards was a good first step for a team which lacks a superstar. Their only real shot at title contention is to keep this core intact and develop an unbeatable team chemistry with a first-rate team-first mentality. The 2004 Detroit Pistons happened, why can’t the 2015 Milwaukee Bucks happen? Oh yeah, because the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Derrick Rose are still going to be a thing. Blow up the Bucks!

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Donny Rodriguez

Twitter's @DonnyRad is a rational Chicago sports fan, so he doesn't ignore the fact that Da Bears haven't won a Super Bowl in 28 years. He is a comedy writer by day, starving by brunch, asked to leave by dusk and moonlights as a basketball junkie. He is the founding member of the filmmaking-sketch group Wood Sugars.

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