Last Season: 38-44 (Finished 8th in the Eastern Conference)
Key Losses: SG J.J. Redick, SF Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, PG Bradon Jennings, SF Mike Dunleavy and PG Monta Ellis
Notable Free Agent Signings: PG Brandon Knight, SG Gary Neal, C Zaza Pachulia, SG Carlos Delfino, SG O.J. Mayo, and PG Luke Ridnour
The Milwaukee Bucks have certainly had one of the busiest and most puzzling off-seasons in the NBA. The completely revised their roster for the upcoming 2013-2014 season, and they’ve put together a rather unimpressive group of players. They lost their two biggest stars, point guards Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, and now don’t have a player on their roster that is worthy of the “franchise player” label. As the only team in the NBA to make the playoffs with a losing record, don’t expect the Bucks to post a winning one this year, or make the play-offs either.
The loss of Ellis and Jennings could have been seen as a blessing by some Bucks fans. While they were Milwaukee’s two highest scorers at 19.2 and 17.5 ppg, respectively, they needed close to 34 shots to get it. It’s never a good sign when you have two players taking more than a third of all your team’s shots. They hogged the ball too much, took too many long two-pointers, and failed to come through in crunch time. Like I said, the loss of Ellis and Jennings wouldn’t have been the end of the world for Bucks fans. However, the loss of Redick and Dunleavy hurts much more. Here, you had two elite three-point shooters who hustled hard and passed the ball. They spaced the floor for Ellis and Jennings to go one-on-one with their defenders and were solid team defenders. By losing four of Milwaukee’s top-five scorers, the Bucks front office took a huge gamble on whether or not the new look Bucks can generate enough chemistry at training camp to sufficiently replace those players. Milwaukee’s defence also took a big hit with the departure of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Once in the conversation for best perimeter defender in the league, Mbah a Moute’s absence will free up opposing players and ultimately increase the amount of points the Bucks concede in a game. Yikes.
So how did the Bucks replace their lost assets? Let’s take a look.
Brandon Knight: A highly touted prospect coming into Detroit from Kentucky, Knight showed a lot of promise during his first year as a Piston, but his shooting numbers across the board took a dip this past season. He has a tendency to turn the ball over (and get viciously dunked on), although his passing has gotten better. He is a 21-year old second year player so it’s too early to predict how Knight’s NBA career will transition over the years. Still, I don’t think the Bucks needed him.
Gary Neal: I thoroughly enjoyed watching Neal play during the 2013 play-offs. But he can only do one thing well, and that’s shoot. If Neal is hot, it doesn’t matter how many hands are in his face, or if he’s blind, he’s going to sink his shot. However, while he was playing on the San Antonio Spurs, his defensive setbacks were easily picked up by the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan. Neal can’t rebound or play defence. While his perimeter shooting rivals the likes of Redick and Dunleavy, both were defensively sound. I’m curious to see how Neal will fit in the rotation of a weakened team on the defensive side.
Zaza Pachulia: Oh, I get it. The Bucks must have been thinking that the other three back-ups they had for Larry Sanders wasn’t enough. They needed four. Why? I don’t get this signing one bit. The Bucks have Viacheslav Kravtsov, Miroslav Raduljica, and Ekpe Udoh (You have to feel sorry for the Bucks public announcer) already slotted in at the center position, why Pachulia? The big man from Atlanta is probably the best out of the four, but to have four centres jousting for playing time behind Sanders, that can’t be productive for Milwaukee. Hopefully one of them can play power forward, because the Bucks are thin in that position. Oh yea, what do you get with Pachulia? Big man who can’t jump, but can play sound defence and should get you 6-7 boards a game.
Carlos Delfino: The 30-year old sharpshooter is certainly reliable behind the arc. The former Buck had some great games for Milwaukee, but is fading fast. Delfino can no longer rebound well and his defense isn’t what it used to be. I do like Delfino’s game though and think this is one of Milwaukee’s best signings. He’ll spread the floor and won’t turn over the ball nearly as much as Jennings and Ellis did.
O.J. Mayo: Mayo has been one of the most curious cases in the league. He was the third overall pick in 2008 and showed potential to be a star. He has a silky shot and can finish around the rim as well. His career never took off when he was the starting shooting guard for the Memphis Grizzlies, but it flourished in a Mavericks uniform when he played in Dallas last year. I haven’t made up my mind whether or not Mayo will play well for the Bucks. He hasn’t shown too much consistency to be anything other than average since he entered the league and he tends to do better in systems that suit his skills, he’s not capable of adapting to systems that aren’t.
Luke Ridnour: Every time I see Ridnour play, I always wonder how the generously listed 6’2, 170 pound guard can compete with the likes of Eric Bledsoe, Deron Williams, and Chris Paul. The guy resembles a string bean. Somehow, he has done more than compete with those other guards and has been an efficient asset for the Minnesota Timberwolves, til’ now. Ridnour is an above-average passer, a decent shooter, and can run the offense calmly. You can count on Ridnour to make the right pass, something Bucks fans could never trust Ellis or Jennings to do, and to nail wide open shots.
The Bucks were busy and made a lot of moves this past summer, but just because you change up your roster and sign a lot of free agents don’t necessarily mean you’re better off. I have the Bucks losing a few more games than they did last year but I wouldn’t be surprised if they lost more.