Website: 5 Point Bucks
Author: Sam Kirchner
Last Year’s record:40-42
Key Additions: Charlie Villanueva, Ruben Patterson, Steve Blake, Brian Skinner
Key Losses: T.J. Ford, Jamaal Magloire, Joe Smith, Toni Kukoc
(retired), Andrew Bogut (out 6-8 weeks)
What significant moves were made during the offseason?
Obviously the trade of Charlie Villanueva was the biggest move of the
offseason for Milwaukee. Toronto just got plain fleeced. Villanueva
was 2nd in Rookie of the Year balloting last year (ahead of Bogut) and
brings an inside-utside game to the post positions lacking last year
with Magloire, Smith, Bogut, and Dan Gadzuric. TJ Ford was far too
inconsistent and just not a very good playmaker on anything other than
a fast break. The Bucks also unloaded lethargic Jamaal Magloire on
the Blazers for soild point man Steve Blake and big men Brian Skinner
and Ha Seung-Jin. Blake is in the last year of his contract and will
probably be looking to maximize his value for the offseason, but where
he will get minutes is unclear. If Charlie Bell is the backup
shooting guard like last year, Blake will likely get minutes backing
up ostensible starter Mo Williams. However, if Bell takes Williams’
job (please lord!) Blake will almost certainly back up the 1 spot and
Williams will back up the 2. Bucks fans know Skinner as the starting
center on the Bucks’ surprising playoff squad from 03-04, and here’s
to hoping he can recapture some of that magic from his career year.
With the injury of Andrew Bogut, Seung-Jin will have a brief window to
show that he’s an NBA player, and if he can’t, will likely be cut.
An unheralded move that might have significant implications is the
acquisition of Ruben Patterson for Joe Smith. The Bucks had no sizable
backup at the 2 or 3 spots last year and would often go with lineups
featuring Bell (6-2) at shooting guard and Michael Redd at 3.
Patterson brings size, defensive intensity, and a little bit of
scoring to the Bucks most glaring roster weakness last year. The
bench defense could be much improved with him on board.
The Bucks also abandoned the purple in their color schemes, going with
a retro red-and-green look. Add a little brown and it would be perfect.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
Offense. Michael Redd had a career year last year with the additions
of T.J. Ford, Andrew Bogut, and Bobby Simmons, and the development of
Mo Williams asa scorer to lessen his offensive load, paradoxically
allowing him to take on more of it. Villanueva is a far better
all-around offensive weapon than T.J. Ford, and with Mo Williams
entering the starting lineup, the Bucks will be able to play 5-on-5 on
offense, whereas last year, it was stand around and watch Redd, or
T.J. taking an ill-advised jumper. I’m of the opinion that losing
T.J. is addition by subtraction, and that Williams will actually be a
step up from Ford, despite being his backup last year. The Bucks will
get major offensive contributions from all of their regulars,
presuming Dan Gadzuric gets lots of offensive rebounds and outbacks,
which he should. The team has great balance.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Defense. Notice above how the biggest strength was offense.
Therefore you will notice how the Bucks struggle once again to a
ceiling of perhaps 45 wins and a low seed in the playoffs. Redd was
actually much better last year on defense for the same reasons he was
better on offense-more players to take the load off. Bobby Simmons is
well known as a good defender4, but the Bucks best defender last year
was Charlie Bell, who couls lock down almost any 1 or 2 in the league
on a nightly basis. What this team lacks is toughness, desire, and
intensity. Ultimately, the Bucks aren’t going to get anywhere under
Terry Stots because he just lacks the credibility to get in a guy’s
face and inspire him to play harder. A Paul Silas type is what the
Bucks need-a real hard-ass. There are no stubborn egos on this team
and it is capable of playing good defense, they just need someone to
keep riding them on it.
4. What are the goals for this team?
Improvement. Maybe it won’t show up in the win column this year, but
Milwaukee needs to know now whether Mo Williams is a point guard to
bank on for the future, whether Bogut and Villanueva will fit
together, whether Stotts is the guy to take the franchise forward
after this year, and if the team can get to elite status in the East
at some point in the future with the current core of players. Look to
see how Milwaukee plays against its division rivals, all of whom are
incredibly tough and are the cream of the Eastern crop. If we can’t
make progress against the Ben Wallace-led Bulls, the LeBron James-led
Cavs, the always tough Pistons, and the grinders in Indiana, look for
the team to be blown up, with maybe only Bogut, Villanueva and Redd
Predicted record: 44-38.
The defense is a big enough question mark to
make a team with a 52 win offense still remain at the bottom of its
division. Look for Bell to replace Williams at the point early in the
season and for a deal at the trading deadline involving Williams and
possibly Bobby Simmons.