Monday, October 29, 2012

2012-13 NBA Season Preview: Milwaukee Bucks

With the NBA season fast approaching, I figured I'd throw my two cents in on how I see things playing out.  These projections were created using Wins Produced (WP) from the Wages of Wins Journal and The NBA Geek.  To gauge how rookies and incoming international players perform, I used the amazing projections of Arturo Galletti.  If you haven't read any of that stuff, you should.  I march on with the intriguing Milwaukee Bucks.  Enjoy.

Milwaukee Bucks 47-35 (2nd Central)

TOP NINE PRODUCTION (numbers listed are 2011-12 WP)
PG Brandon Jennings 4.1
SG Monta Ellis 1.1
SF Mike Dunleavy 5.7
PF Drew Gooden 1.3
C Samuel Dalembert 5.4
F Ersan Ilyasova 8.7
F Luc Richard Mbah a Moute 2.7
G Beno Udrih 1.9
F/C John Henson* 2.4

Can a team win with a tiny backcourt, one legitimate center, and seemingly 47 power forwards?  The Milwaukee Bucks are going to try and find out this season.  Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis will team up to form the smallest backcourt in the league (although I suppose that would be true of any team that starts Ellis at the 2).  Both are inefficient shooters, and one (probably Jennings) will have to sacrifice shots and become more of a playmaker for this crazy experiment to work.  Beno Udrih and rookie Doron Lamb are the only other two guards on the roster, so expect Ellis and Jennings to pile up big minute totals.

Mike Dunleavy proved a sneaky good signing last season, making nearly 53% of his two-point shots and nearly 40% of his threes.  His floor game suffered, though, and his drooping steal, block, and foul rates all point to inactivity on the defensive end of the floor.  Drew Gooden continues to have terrible hair and be a serviceable four, but he should see his minutes eaten into by Ersan Ilyasova and rookie John Henson.  Ilyasova is coming off a monster year, and at only 25 years old, there's reason to believe it wasn't just a contract push.  Henson will help Samuel Dalembert protect the rim, as will Epke Udoh.  Larry Sanders actually had a ridiculous 5.7 blocks per 48 minutes last season, but Sanders finds himself buried even further on Scott Skiles's bench, and his time in Milwaukee may be drawing to a close, as his recent suspension alludes to.  Similarly, Tobias Harris had a tough time finding the floor last season, but the departure of Carlos Delfino may open up some minutes for the former Tennessee Vol.  Luc Richard Mbah a Moute rounds out the endless stream of forwards, and he should provide his usual top-notch defense when he's healthy enough to play.

Looking this roster over, it seems the idea is to have the starting line-up run up big point totals, and then have the subs come in and hold those leads.  With the exception of Dalembert, none of the Bucks' starters are even average defenders (although Jennings does generate an above-average amount of steals), so first quarters may often be ending with 39-36 scores in Milwaukee.  Other than Ilyasova, though, no one off the bench is much of a scorer (although Harris, Henson, or Lamb have potential to put up decent point totals), instead garnering their value from defense and rebounding.  One has to think if Scott Skiles had his druthers, the bench unit would be seeing the heavy minutes while his free-wheeling starters came in for clean-up duty.  Considering the investment made in Ellis and the likely investment about to be made in Jennings, though, it seems Skiles is stuck with the current setup.  Which--assuming Jennings becomes more of a playmaker, Ilyasova gets more minutes than Gooden, and Henson, Udoh, Mbah a Moute, and Dalembert provide enough defense to keep things within striking distance for the Bucks' scorers--should result in a return trip to the playoffs for the first time since 2010.      

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