Tonight's Opponent: Milwaukee Bucks
It has to be Monta Ellis. Some would debate this, as Brandon Jennings is probably the face of the franchise, but Ellis is a much more distinguished player who has been consistent throughout his career.
Ellis is unquestionably one of the top pure scorers in the NBA. He has scored at least 19.0 PPG in five consecutive seasons, maxing out at 25.5 PPG during the 2009-10 season with the Warriors. He has also dramatically improved his passing over the course of his career, recording at least 5.3 APG over the past three seasons.
While Jennings is a big name, Ellis is Milwaukee’s best player. He can beat you by putting the ball through the basket and he has learned to beat opponents with his passing, too.
At this point, it’s pretty good. The only player on Milwaukee’s roster who is definitely out for tonight’s game is Luc Mbah a Moute, who is recovering from surgery on his right knee. John Henson, the Bucks’ first-round pick, is questionable with a left knee sprain, and Joel Przybilla is probable with a left ankle sprain. Milwaukee has had a week off since its last preseason game, so one would think that Scott Skiles will have everyone available tonight with the exception of Mbah a Moute.
To be honest, the Bucks don’t really have one. Ever since they lost Andrew Bogut to injuries and then traded him to Golden State, the Bucks have been searching for an identity. Are they a defensive-minded team, like Skiles wants them to be? Or are they an offensive-minded team that has two speedy scoring guards in their starting lineup?
At this point, your guess is as good as ours. There’s a reason why the Bucks have been underwhelming since the 2009-10 season, when they went 47-35. They aren’t known for anything.
Milwaukee hasn’t played a game yet this season. It opens up tonight on the road with a clean slate, hoping that this is the season in which it will return to the playoffs.
That hope is probably slim. Judging a team based off of preseason results is dangerous, but the Bucks did lose five of their final six preseason games, the last of which was a 24-point defeat at the hands of the star-less Minnesota Timberwolves on Oct. 26. Ellis shot 1-for-11 in that game and none of the 15 Bucks players who appeared in the contest finished with a positive plus/minus rating. That can’t leave a good taste in your mouth.
Their Achilles’ Heel
Interestingly enough, Milwaukee’s Achilles’ heel may also result in its greatest strength.
The Bucks do not have an interior presence at either end of the floor, as journeyman Samuel Dalembert, Henson and Przybilla are expected to share time at the center position. None of those players are scorers and none of them are great defenders.
With these known facts, Milwaukee is expected to play small ball more often than not. The Bucks already start a very small lineup with the 6-foot-3 Ellis at shooting guard. They could decide to play Ersan Ilyasova at center and slide a couple of wing players, most notably Mike Dunleavy, in at the other two positions.
A move like that would expose the Bucks’ interior at both ends of the court. Boston would be able to pound the ball inside to guys like Kevin Garnett, Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass. Those players would also have the advantage on the defensive glass against a smaller Milwaukee lineup.