2012 NBA Off Season Preview: Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee Bucks

2011-2012 Record: 31-35, 3rd in Central
Stat Leaders: Brandon Jennings, 19.1 ppg, 5.5 apg. Ersan Ilyasova, 8.8 rpg. Andrew Bogut, 2.0 bpg

Depth Chart

C - Drew Gooden, Larry Sanders, Jon Leuer (TO)
PF - Ekpe Udoh, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Jon Brockman
SF - Mike Dunleavy, Tobias Harris
SG - Monta Ellis, Shaun Livingston (TO)
PG - Brandon Jennings, Beno Udrih

Unrestricted Free Agents: GF Carlos Delfino, C Kwame Brown, F Ersan Ilyasova

The Good: The Bucks were one of the better scoring teams this past season, finishing fifth in the NBA in points per game. The back court of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis can both get you 20 points per night (on about 870 shot attempts). Even though I am not sure that is the type of back court that can get you to the playoffs, at least Bucks fans have an exciting product to watch for once. Ersan Ilyasova turned into a beast once Andrew Bogut went down with injury once again. He was a double double machine. Unfortunately for the Bucks, that came just in time for him to cash in with a big free agent contract. I also like the trade of Bogut for Ellis. Ellis is a very talented scorer and the Bucks did good to get something from Bogut, who seems like he will just never be able to stay healthy.

With a Monta Ellis / Brandon Jennings back court,
the team might want to change it's name to the
Milwaukee Bricks.
The Bad: Scott Skiles teams are known for their defense, but the Bucks were pretty bad this past year. That is to be expected with an undersized back court and no Andrew Bogut blocking shots in the middle. If Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh can develop into players who you can play 25 minutes per night each, Milwaukee's interior defense will be much improved. Sanders blocked a shot and a half in only 12 minutes per game, and Udoh did the same in 20. The Bucks would like to be able to rely on rookie Tobias Harris next season. He might be the team's second best on the ball defender after Luc Richard Mbah a Moute if Carlos Delfino leaves as a free agent. The Bucks have a pretty deep rotation of average players at the small forward through center position but will struggle until they can land an impact player there.

Key Free Agents: Ersan Ilyasova and Carlos Delfino were both key contributors for the Bucks last season, and the team would love to have both of those players back. The problem is Ilyasova had a career year at the right time and could be in line for as much as 10 million dollars from idiot GM's like Billy King. I can't see the Bucks committing that type of cap space to a guy like Ilyasova. Delfino won't cost as much to retain but a strong wing player who can shoot and play defense will have no shortage of suitors this off season.

Projected Cap Space: $8,483,000. The Bucks can clear up another 11 million or so by declining Shaun Livingston's option and using the amnesty on Beno Udrih. The team is in very good shape contract wise, without any terrible long term deals. They will have to extend Jennings in a couple years. He has already talked about wanting to go play in a large market, but restricted free agents rarely leave. He should be a Buck for the next 5 years or so.

Amnesty Possibilities: If the Bucks are serious about bidding high on a restricted free agent big man like Roy Hibbert, JaVale McGee or Brook Lopez, they will need more then 8 million dollars in cap space. Beno Udrih only has one more year left on his deal but that extra 7 million dollars would go a long way towards improving the team immediately. If they are thinking long term Drew Gooden would be a good candidate, but he is not terribly overpaid and the only sure thing in the front court for the Bucks. No way can they afford to let him go.

Free Agent Possibilities: The Bucks have the money to go after one of the good free agent big men. The problem is they are all restricted free agents and their teams will probably match unless Milwaukee grossly overpays. The Bucks have been burned by contracts in the past and might be reluctant to spend the 13 million dollars a year it will take to land a Roy Hibbert. Remember how much the Warriors signed DeAndre Jordan to last year before the Clippers matched. As far as unrestricted free agent big men, Kris Humphries could be a good fit. He is looking for a long term contract and a starting spot, and the Bucks could offer him both. Chris Kaman would be a nice option in the middle and will provide much needed front court offense. The problem for Milwaukee is that a lot of teams are going to go after those guys because they are two of only a handful of starting options as far as unrestricted free agents go. Even though the Bucks can bid with the best of them, the city of Milwaukee is not a very attractive option if you can go to somewhere like Phoenix or Brooklyn.

Draft Possibilities: The Bucks might have to find their front court help in the draft. This is a tremendous draft if you are looking for big men, and the Bucks should be able to find a starter even if they are picking at 12. If they want to go safe, they could look at Tyler Zeller. He does not have superstar potential but is a pretty safe bet to be a solid starting center in this league for the next ten years. If they want to aim higher, Meyers Leonard might be the way to go. He has good potential but is very raw and not strong enough to handle the rigors of being an NBA center right now. If the team wants to say "screw it" and go with the best front court player available, they could opt for Perry Jones or Terrence Jones. Personally, I think that is the way to go. It worked when they took a gamble on Brandon Jennings. That is the only way a team like the Bucks is going to land talent.

Rebuilding, Contending or Status Quo?: Status Quo. This team is stuck in NBA limbo. Good enough to miss out on top NBA draft picks but not good enough to make a playoff push. Trading Bogut for Ellis changes the team dynamic, but I do not think it makes them that much better or worse. Unless they can greatly improve their back court defense and find a big man who can score and slow the game down when need be, the Bucks will once again finish around .500 and either pick 10-14 or get run off the court in the first round of the playoffs.

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Jonathan Carrano

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