Next up, a Milwaukee Bucks team without much of an identity and a whole lot of new faces.
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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.