NBA Roundtable

2012 Team Preview: Milwaukee Bucks

In Season Previews on October 13, 2012 at 9:00 am

Milwaukee Bucks

Starters

  • PG – Brandon Jennings
  • OG – Monta Ellis
  • SF – Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
  • PF – Ersan Ilyasova
  • C  – Samuel Dalembert

This is a weak starting unit. A dysfunctional starting backcourt that lacks defensive integrity and a frontcourt that lacks oomph. I would consider their backcourt below average and for each of their frontcourt players to be borderline top 20 players at their respective positions. So a starting unit that is a bit below average across the board.

I’ll start off with the backcourt. Brandon Jennings is a reasonably effective ball-dominant point guard. So long as he is given free rein to do his thing, he is a net positive and good guy to have around. Without that freedom and large role, I feel like he struggles to adapt to the role required by him by his team. Luckily for him, Jennings should have that large role here in Milwaukee once again next season. So I’d expect more of the same from him next season.  A good defender/rebounder who also provides good scoring punch and is a solid playmaker.

I thought Jennings showed good improvement with his scoring efficiency last year getting his TS% above 50% for the first time. The main reason for that was the improvement at finishing around the rim. An oft-seen problem for undersized PGs at the beginning of their careers in the NBA. The next step for Jennings will be improving that three point shot. He shot a good percentage (37%) his rookie year but has been down around 32-33% for the last two years. Getting that three point shot to a good level will be key for Jennings because he doesn’t draw fouls and as a result doesn’t get easy points at the free throw line. Those three balls will enable him to become a more effective scoring threat.

Monta Ellis is his backcourt mate. I am a big fan of Monta in two roles – a score first type PG and a combo guard 6th man. I am, however, not a fan at all of Monta as a starting two guard. He is simply too small (6-3, short arms, good physique for PG but too weak for SG his size) and too much of a liability as a defender and rebounder. Those negative contributions negate nearly all of his positives as the wonder-offensive threat that he actually is. I’d love to see Monta get traded from Milwaukee and find his way onto a team that will use him in his proper role (scoring PG or 6th man).

Ersan Ilyasova is one of the big names in Milwaukee this year after a strong campaign last year and a big payday this summer. Ilyasova still struggles with the physical strength of opposing big forwards defensively and often finds himself in trouble against his own matchup. That inability to defend his check at a reasonable level limits his value as a starting PF. Ilyasova does make up for some of that through his good rebounding and strong perimeter shooting offensively. That ability to both create extra possessions for his team and both space the floor offensively plus provide an effective 15ppg scoring threat as a 3rd-4th option has good value.

Samuel Dalembert is the replacement at center with Andrew Bogut gone to Golden State. Dalembert though has been slowing down for the past 2-3 years. Nowadays, Dalembert is a center with mediocre quickness and agility instead of the very athletic center he once was. The effect of that is most seen on team defense with Dalembert unable to be as active and effective as he once was. That decline has moved Dalembert off the top 15 center list and down to a top 20 or 25 center. Sammy Dalembert is still a good rebounder and solid defensive player so he retains some good value for Milwaukee. Just not quite the difference maker he once was.

Luckily for Milwaukee, the Bucks have a tremendous defensively capable Head Coach in Scott Skiles. He can work wonders with even the most ordinary of tools. So I’d expect him to find a way to turn a player with Dalembert’s size and shot-blocking into a quality defensive team … in a way that Houston’s Kevin McHale was unable to do so last season.

That leaves us to the final starting position and to be honest I have no idea who will be starting there. I just picked Mbah a Moute since he is the best defender because frankly Ilyasova and Monta need all the help they can get on the end of the court. Mbah a Moute is an All-NBA level defensive player and a good rebounder. However, he is also one of the most limited offensive players in the league at the SF position and often finds himself playing as an undersized quick four as a result. Which at times, is a shame because he can be a phenomenally effective defensive stopper on the perimeter.

Bench

  • PG – Beno Udrih, Orien Greene
  • SG – Doron Lamb, (Mike Dunleavy), Marquis Daniels
  • SF – Mike Dunleavy, Tobias Harris, Alando Tucker
  • PF – Drew Gooden, Ekpe Udoh, John Henson, Larry Sanders
  • C  – (Ekpe Udoh), Joel Przybilla

This is a pretty solid bench.

Mike Dunleavy is my favourite player on the Bucks bench. A very effective offensive threat who supplies terrific jump-shooting, very good passing, excellent movement without the basketball (coming off screens and cutting) and overall intelligence to the offensive end of the court. However, Dunleavy is a matchup limited player due to his weak defense so the Bucks can only use him when there is a weak offensive wing on the opposing team to hide him on. So long as Coach Skiles picks his matchups judiciously (as he did last year), Dunleavy will be a very effective bench player for Milwaukee.

Tobias Harris is another good backup SF. A power three with good size/physique. A solid rebounder and good offensive player below 15 feet. A solid rotation player in the making. He should see a larger role this year.

Drew Gooden is a useful power forward but a hugely ineffective option at center. The reason for that is that Gooden is a woeful defensive player. You can hide him enough to be effective against player’s his own size + when playing alongside a proper defensive anchor but when Gooden is asked to be the last line of defense and D-up bigger opposing big men, well, frankly, he is a train wreck. Gooden is a productive rebounder, low level but capable post threat and good jump-shooter.

Ekpe Udoh is another interesting big man for the Bucks. A very good defensive PF but has so far failed to show the mid-range jump-shot and rebounding skills he displayed in college. Udoh ends up playing a fair bit of center due to his limited offensive game but he is less effective there defensively and overall. A player to watch because he real potential defensively and as a role player. I am pulling for him.

John Henson is the rookie big man for the Bucks and is an unknown. Very skinny and doesn’t appear to have the size to battle fellow big men in the NBA but I heard he had a great summer league so maybe he’ll surprise and be a good bench player for the Bucks this year.

Joel Przybilla gives Milwaukee a backup center with legitimate size who can defend opposing power based centers. Those big physical centers that can score a bit in the paint against smaller defenders. Outside of that limited job description, Joel Przybilla is no longer worthy of minutes. He is simply too slow and immobile to be a productive player otherwise. His value as a team defender has decreased dramatically and he is still a very limited offensive threat. He has also seen a drop-off in rebounding due to his increasingly limited physical talent following those knee injuries.

Larry Sanders is a big boy with the size to play the center position but I don’t think he has the smarts. I like him better alongside a fellow big men when he has a defensive shot-blocker alongside him who can help clean up his mistakes + allow him to roam more defensively. Good physical talent and still a solid prospect but I am concerned about the lack of development we have seen from him so far. He is not improving the way he should be.

Beno Udrih is a solid middle of the pack backup point guard. An offensively orientated player with a very good midrange pull up jump shot. An effective scorer. The Bucks will be able to play Jennings/Monta for 48 minutes at PG and go big on the wings or choose to play Beno Udrih behind Jennings and play more small backcourts.

Marquis Daniels is a good defender/rebounder. He stunk up the place offensively last season though. I am hoping that was only a one-year blip as he finds his legs following his serious back/neck injury but it may be a permanent thing. That unanswered question will decide how much playing time he receives next season.

Overall

This looks like a lottery team. One of the better lottery squads. Probably finishing just outside the playoff picture and ending up with a low lottery pick in that 10th to 14th place range.

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