Join us on a tour around the league, exploring each NBA Franchise in terms of their roster, management, salary cap and analyse the best way for them to succeed in the future. Today Hoop Diary’s Ryan Baker explores the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks just missed the Playoffs in 2010/11, pipped by Indiana despite a strong push in the final few games. Making the Playoffs is always nice, but the fact that they nearly made the second season hides the truth that the Bucks were a pretty bad team last year, ending the season 27 games behind the conference leading Chicago Bulls.
Even with this self-evident fact, the Bucks are quite well positioned to make some quick improvements in the coming seasons. They have one of the better defences in the Association, anchored by stalwart big Andrew Bogut, and just need someone to put the ball the in basket at the other end, one of the easier areas to correct through free agency.
Long tenured owner Herb Kohl is dedicated to his Bucks but the financial crisis has apparently hit him pretty hard and the pennies are being pinched in small market Milwaukee. He has shown he is willing to spend money when required however, even if it’s not for the greatest moves such as signing John Salmons to a huge contract or trading for a washed up Corey Maggette.
GM John Hammond has made some good moves however, as bringing in John Salmons was a fantastic move (it was just signing him to the huge contract that was stupid) and the Stephen Jackson move looks fantastic on paper, if he buys into his role in the team. He provides everything the organisation needs in terms of offensive firepower.
Coach Scott Skiles has proven to be useful, but like many defensive minded disciplinarians, he has a short shelf-life as his barking wears on the players after a while and they chafe at the lack of freedom. It happened in Chicago and it’s likely happening again in Milwaukee, so it might be time for a change here. Keeping a lot of that defensive focus that Skiles has developed would be the right move for the organisation though, so the pipedream coach would be Jeff Van Gundy.
The big news for Milwaukee fans is that Michael Redd and his albatross of a deal is finally done. Hidden behind this gem is that quite a few useful players require extending (or trading) including Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Earl Boykins. Okay calling Boykins useful might be a stretch.
The work to be done aside, the Bucks have really already built their roster and just need to let it settle, so I wouldn’t expect any major new additions even though they are under the cap and look to be more so with Redd unlikely to be re-signed. That 10 million in cap room (potentially much more depending on what the Bucks do with Redd’s contract) could be very useful as the new season rolls around. There is a strong opportunity for a team like the Bucks to use their cap space to pry away a good to great player from a team who gets slugged by a lowered salary cap.
As mentioned above, the Bucks have quite the solid roster for defensive work but lack an offensive spark. Andrew Bogut is a multi-dimensional star who can be the cog in an effective team. Not only is he a top 5 centre, he may be the best passing pivot in the game but he is miscast if forced to be a primary option who creates points. That concern was addressed just before the lockout occurred by trading two bad contracts for Stephen Jackson, a man who can score points in a hurry.
Beyond the Bucks scoring issues, they have a well-rounded roster with depth at most positions and some young players on the verge of making major improvements to their games. Talented point guard Brandon Jennings still has the ability to make the jump to superstardom, and not having to be the primary focus on offense will see him grow in leaps and bounds this year. Mbah a Moute has the potential to be the best defensive stopper in all of Basketball, and if he finds a niche on offense he could really impact games. Ersan Ilyasova is the prototypical stretch big and a nice compliment to Andrew Bogut, but he also has a mean streak about him that sees him get physical cleaning the glass. Memphis product Chris Douglas-Roberts has come on since his rookie season in New Jersey, turning himself into an asset, albeit one who is probably best suited for a bench role.
Even the secondary players or deeper bench guys are solid, with players including Carlos Delfino, Jon Brockman, Beno Udrih and raw big man Larry Sanders. Drew Gooden’s best days are probably behind him, but he could embrace a solid role off the bench and fill a role for this team as well, even if he never earns the big dollars he is due to be paid (4yrs/25m remaining).
As mentioned previously, the Bucks are in serious need of developing some flow at the offensive end, as they have secondary players (Jennings/Bogut) being cast as primary play makers. The acquisition of Stephen Jackson should fix those issues, but the worry is always with Jackson that he doesn’t cause more problems than he fixes. The Bucks appear to have a strong and cohesive locker room lead by Andrew Bogut, so hopefully this will be less of a concern. Jackson tends to be on his best behaviour if the team is winning too, so getting out of the blocks at a good pace in 2011/12 will help a lot.
There is also the possibility that Geoff Hammond may not be done dealing as the new salary cap will likely open a few opportunities for a savvy team with cap space to pick up a valuable contributor, and resigning key’s like Mbah a Moute and Douglas-Roberts is important.
The Bucks are one of the better placed small market teams in the Association and have almost everything in place to take major strides next season. If not for injury and Corey Maggette being less effective than advertised, they likely would have made noise last season, so it’s full steam ahead for Andrew Bogut and his Milwaukee Bucks. There is some concern over the rumblings that Stephen Jackson didn’t want to be traded to the Bucks, but that’s mitigated by the strong locker room, a forceful coach and a strong team culture.
We take a look at another team and assess their fortunes in the coming seasons every few days so check back regularly.