Last season was a breakthrough year for the Milwaukee Bucks (46-36) as they finished second in the Central Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks were knocked out of the playoffs in round one, losing to the Hawks four games to three. It was quite a year, partly thanks to breakthrough performances by Andrew Bogut and Luke Ridnour. The Bucks were a major surprise last year. What will they do for an encore?
The frontcourt features center Andrew Bogut (.520 FG%, .000 3PT%, .629 FT%, 10.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 15,9 PPG). Bogut had a massive season last year. His numbers in the paint were prolific and his shot blocking ability was dominant as he made 2.54 blocks per game.
The power forward and small forward spots are both deep. Drew Gooden (.478 FG%, .125 3PT%, .861 FT%, 7.7 RPG, 10.9 PPG), who played with the Mavericks and Clippers last season, comes to the team in a five-year deal. He’s a solid, mature forward who can also give minutes at center. Quality backups at the spot include Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (.480 FG%, .353 3PT%, .699 FT%, 5.5 RPG, 1.1 APG, 6.2 PPG) and Ersan Ilyasova (.443 FG%, .336 3PT%, .715 FT%, 6.4 RPG, 1.0 APG, 10.4 PPG). This is a very deep group with fine point scoring and rebounding skills.
At small forward, Corey Maggette (.516 FG%, .260 3PT%, .835 FT%, 5.3 RPG, 2.5 APG, 19.8 PPG) comes from the Warriors. Maggette, who starts his 12thyear in the league, is a pure inside point scorer. However, he is recovering from surgery for torn peroneal tendons and will miss the preseason. Carlos Delfino (.409 FG%, .367 3PT%, .782 FT%, 5.3 RPG, 2.7 APG, 11.0 PPG) is an excellent replacement and backup. Unlike Maggette, Delfino can hit from the outside and he’s a better-than-average defender. Last season he had 1.07 SPG.
After a fine rookie season, Brandon Jennings (.371 FG%, .374 3PT%, .817 FT%, 3.4 RPG, 5.7 PG, 15.5 PPG) is back and a lot is expected from the young man who proved that he could do just about everything. Jennings is fast, smart and creative. He’s also a fine defender, averaging 1.28 SPG. For both sides of the backcourt, there’s solid, point scoring and depth coming off the bench.
The Bucks did not earn their wins through their offense. They were 23rd in Offensive Efficiency (102.0) and 21st when it came to the Pace Factor (94.0). Milwaukee had a huge problem when it came to free throws. They rarely got to the charity stripe and when they did, they didn’t convert as much as was needed. They were also the second worst shooting team in the NBA. They hit just 46.4% of their twos and 43.6% of their shots overall.
The defense was tough and tenacious as the Bucks allowed the least number of shots per 100 attempts (94.05). Although the team was third in the NBA in Defensive Efficiency (100.9), they hacked away a lot and sent opponents to the free throw line too often. Opponents were at the charity stripe a lot, averaging .348 free throws for every field goal attempt.
The Bucks have a frontcourt that demands attention but they lack long-range missile launchers. The guy who has the best chance of stepping up is Jennings. He was good on 37% of his threes. Delfino also has a decent three-point touch, as he knocked down 37% too. The team will have to clean up its act in the foul department too.
Buck’s GM John Hammond was the NBA’s executive of the year after managing to jettison the right players and make some solid signings. His biggest moves involved getting rid of Charlie Villaneuva and contracting Ilyasova to replace him. Many thought that Milwaukee head coach Scott Skiles (361-335), who got the team to 20 more wins than expected, deserved coach of the year award. Skiles now heads into his third season with the Bucks. He’s a solid motivator.
There’s good news for this franchise and their fans. With a deep bench, some quality players and a fine defense, it’s hard to imagine this club not making it back into the postseason. It also helps that LeBron James is out of the division. The Bucks look to fight for the top spot and we predict that they will take the Central Division and third or fourth in the Eastern Conference.
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