With the start of the 2013-14 NBA season rapidly approaching, we thought it only fair to share what makes each team so exciting. Ontologically speaking, all 30 teams deserve our eyeballs this season. Even disastrous lineups still present oodles of plays, personalities, highlights and headaches. Here are five things to keep in mind for each team before flipping the channel.
Next up, a Milwaukee Bucks team without much of an identity and a whole lot of new faces.
[5 Reasons To Watch: Kings, Lakers, Knicks, 76ers, Bobcats, Cavs, Magic, Warriors, Timberwolves, Nuggets, Clippers, Clippers, Rockets, Bulls, Pistons, Bucks, Nets, Pacers, Wizards, Thunder, Heat, Mavericks, Celtics, Raptors Hawks, Spurs, Trail Blazers, Grizzlies, Suns, Jazz]
The Milwaukee Bucks have found themselves in the middle of the Eastern Conference for years now. Owner Herb Kohl knew the team had to go in a completely different direction, ultimately ridding themselves of almost every player on last season’s roster. They began by letting go of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, the trigger-happy tandem that combined for 33.1 field goal attempts last season and shot under 42 percent. They also lost frontcourt players Samuel Dalembert, Drew Gooden, Luc Mbah a Moute, Joel Przybilla as well as guards Beno Udrih, Ishmael Smith, J.J. Redick and others.
Now the Bucks have a brand new coaching staff and eleven new players on their roster with not much time in the way of chemistry. Can this revamped Milwaukee team make some noise in the East?
Here are 5 things to look for from the Bucks:
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How Will Milwaukee Score?
For years, the Bucks were known as a team with talented individual players who have struggled to build chemistry with one another, especially on offense. With Jennings and Ellis gone, and sharpshooter J.J. Redick flying West to the Clippers, the floor is as open as it’s ever been for potential scoring. However, even with their offseason acquisitions, do they have enough options to fill the void?
The Bucks signed O.J. Mayo to a three-year, $24 million deal this offseason, which should add some offensive firepower on the perimeter. With an increased role, he’s capable of scoring 18-plus on a consistent basis. Brandon Knight has to show maturation running a team as a point guard, but he’s improved his offensive repertoire, and shot close to 40 percent from distance last season. Ersan Ilyasova, one of the few remaining Bucks from last season’s roster, was phenomenal late last season, averaging over 17 points an outing in March and April. Caron Butler is back in his hometown and I’m convinced he has a few productive years left in the tank. And Gary Neal gives Milwaukee another 3-point stud to stretch the defense. Add in veteran journeymen like Luke Ridnour and Carlos Delfino and you have a squad with less flash and more cohesion.
Larry Drew Defense
The Bucks brought in former Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew to add stability to a Bucks defense that ranked as one of last season’s worst. Jennings and Ellis lacked any defensive prowess in the backcourt, and the entire team was emphatically abysmal on most nights, but their ability to score the rock in bunches overshadowed their ineptitude guarding their man. This season, they don’t have the firepower to go head-to-head with explosive offenses, so they needed a defensive-minded coach who could keep games close with stringent defensive assignments. They have the anchor in center Larry Sanders, whom the Bucks paid $44 million to be a man-child on the glass while continuing to protect the rim as one of the best defensive big men in the game today. He’s lived up to that contract thus far, (barely) averaging a double-double last season, but it was his 2.8 blocks a game in under 30 minutes that resonated with fans and analysts alike.
If the Bucks starting rotation is any indication of signs to come, they’ll need Sanders to be in top form on defense â€“ again. Knight has great athleticism, but he’s shown lapses in judgment on the defensive end and despite his preseason improvements, he’s not invincible as his baptism on an alley-oop to DeAndre Jordan last season shows. Mayo is completely listless on the defense, which resulted in Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle benching the guard for chunks of time during his Mavericks’ stint. If his woes continue, Drew will have no problems giving a portion of his minutes to Ridnour, a more competitive, tenacious defender. The most important piece could be John Henson, whose length next to Sanders could provide some leverage in the paint, just in case a few backcourt lapses continue to arise.
Is Relocation a Threat?
Soon-to-be commissioner Adam Silver has openly stated that the BMO Harris Bradley Center is not fit for an NBA team. The arena is now a quarter-century old, roughly a couple hundred thousand square feet too small, and lacks the amenities and space to compete against other teams. With the clock ticking down on finding a new home for the Bucks, some are wondering if the franchise’s future will have them continuing in Milwaukee.
Herb Kohl is still the owner of the Bucks, who have remained in Milwaukee since they joined the league in 1968. However, with cities like Las Vegas, Kansas City and Seattle in the process of building an NBA-ready arena, whispers of relocation have surfaced and could prove to be a distraction. Milwaukee is a small market, and if they don’t get a new arena, their time in Wisconsin might be over. And for a team that’s going through a complete roster renovation, off-the-court issues are the last thing they can afford.
Caron Butler and the Need for a Power Forward
At age 33, Butler is not the solution at the small forward position. Although he’s a solid player, his expiring contract means the Bucks need to find a replacement soon, either through trade, or in free agency at year’s end. Butler is pretty much a fifth option now, but he’s still solid at everything you need him to be: rebounding and defense.
At worst, the Bucks let go of Butler and bring in DeMar DeRozan, whose iffy contract still has $38 million remaining, which could force the hand of Raptors GM Masai Ujiri. This is a stretch because Butler has virtually no intrigue from other NBA teams. At best, they get a Luol Deng [Ed. note: no way in hell], who’s a versatile scorer and can defend while playing a boatload of minutes. Deng is only 28, so he’s entering his prime and though he battled a few injuries last season, he’s a talented player who can be the cornerstone piece for a Bucks roster capable of becoming a perennial playoff team for years to come. These are all unlikely possibilities, but it all falls on Butler to become a valuable trade piece if he flourishes in 2013. Doesn’t a lineup of Knight, Mayo, Deng, Ilyasova and Sanders sound pretty good?
Can They Snatch the 8 Seed?
With Jennings and Ellis, the Bucks grabbed the eighth seed in the East last season and we’re subsequently swept by the eventual champion Miami Heat in the first round. It was a conclusion as predictable as it was uneventful, since Milwaukee was just outmanned, outclassed and outplayed at every level. Can fans expect an improvement on their 38-44 record for the 2012-13 campaign?
Well, we’re unsure. They lost their top two scorers who both kept them in games with their gunning, and ruined games due to their streakiness and lack of dedication on defense. Mayo isn’t at Ellis’ level from a scoring perspective, but he’s not going to shoot in volume especially with Drew closely monitoring his shot selection. Knight is a slasher who’s also solid from the perimeter, and Ridnour is a quality backup who shot over 56 percent from mid-range last season. However, these guards will be called upon to make better decisions, a trait that’s been lacking for several years. Most likely, their points will arise from half-court sets and they’ll need to limit their turnovers. The Bucks aren’t the Warriors, from an entertainment standpoint, but if they execute, they’ll slither their way into an 8 seed. Crazier things have happened.
What do you think?
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