Team Preview: Milwaukee Bucks
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The Bucks began last season with some optimism, but that quickly died out, and they stumbled to a 28–54 record, third worst in the NBA. It was also the team’s third consecutive losing season and fourth non-winning season in a row. Injuries to Michael Redd, Charlie Villanueva, Andrew Bogut, Bobby Simmons and Maurice Williams led to a 10-24 record after the All-Star break and didn’t allow for any momentum heading into the 2007-08 season.
The one positive that came out of all of that losing was getting the sixth pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. The Bucks rolled the dice and selected Yi Jianlian, a player with a tremendous ceiling, but also a player who had told the Bucks he didn’t want to play for them. It took over two months, but the Bucks were eventually able to get their man and Jianlian will be in camp and ready for the season opener in November. The Bucks are hoping that he can provide them with a true power forward and allow Andrew Bogut to move to center.
The Bucks are a team that could contend for a playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference, but they’ll need to be much healthier than last season. The expectations for the upcoming season are fairly low. Making the Playoffs, while seeing improvement from Bogut and Jianlian, would be something to build on for the future.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Playing time distribution for the upcoming season will likely be drastically different from last season, mainly due to the multitude of injuries that the Bucks sustained. Small forward Bobby Simmons hurt his foot before the season and never played in a regular season game for the Bucks. He’ll likely rotate with newly acquired Desmond Mason at the small forward position, and it’s still unclear who will get more of the playing time.
Charlie Villanueva was playing well at power forward until a shoulder injury derailed his season and eventually ended it early. The Bucks would love to get rookie Yi Jianlian as much playing time as possible (and rumor has it they promised him 20 minutes a game in his contract), but he may not be completely ready physically for the NBA. If that’s the case, then Villanueva will see the majority of the time at power forward with Yi coming off of the bench. David Noel and Dan Gadzuric will see limited roles at power forward unless injuries by other players push them onto the floor.
Michael Redd will start at shooting guard and get the majority of the playing time while Maurice Williams will start at point guard. The Bucks brought back Charlie Bell to backup both guard positions.
* Andrew Bogut – MIL [C]: Bogut improved upon his rookie season, but he still hasn’t shown the dominance of a number one overall selection. Part of the problem is that he doesn’t get many looks in the Bucks offense, attempting only 5.3 field goals per game. Michael Redd will always be the number one option for the Bucks, but they need Bogut to be a bit more aggressive with the ball on offense. Bogut only shot 57.7 percent from the free throw line last season, which is the biggest hole in his game.
Jake Voskuhl – MIL [C]: Voskuhl was a backup center for the Bobcats last season, and he’ll fill the same role this year for the Bucks. He’s big and takes up space, but doesn’t do a whole lot of anything else.
Dan Gadzuric – MIL [C]: Gadzuric is probably better suited for power forward than for center, but he’ll be called upon to play center as well. Defense has never been his strong suit, though he blocks a fair number of shots for the amount of playing time he gets. Gadzuric is a high-energy guy who didn’t see much playing time until the end of the season.
* Charlie Villanueva – MIL [PF]: Villanueva hurt his shoulder in late December and never fully recovered. He eventually opted for surgery and missed the final month of the season. The shoulder appears to be completely healed now and Villanueva is ready to go for the start of the season. He’ll compete with rookie Yi Jianlian for playing time at the power forward position, but odds are that Villanueva will get the bulk of the time while Yi learns the ropes.
David Noel – MIL [SF,PF]: Noel played in 68 games for the Bucks last season, mainly due to injuries to other players. His playing time will likely drop this year with the addition of Yi Jianlian and a healthy Charlie Villanueva.
* Desmond Mason – MIL [SF]: Mason saw an increase in playing time last season and responded with a solid year. The Bucks would like to use Mason as a sixth man off of the bench, and they love his defense. He does have a chance to beat out Bobby Simmons and start at small forward, but it’s more likely that he’ll come off of the bench and average around 20-25 minutes per game at both small forward and shooting guard.
* Michael Redd – MIL [SG,SF]: Last season was the first time that Redd dealt with any kind of injury, and he ended up missing 29 games due to tendinitis in his right knee. He played for Team USA this summer and appears to be healthy. Redd is one of the best three-point shooters in the league and averaged a career best 26.7 ppg in 2006-07. The Bucks would like to have some other players help carry the offensive load so he may not score quite so much this year.
* Maurice Williams – MIL [PG,SG]: Williams played exceptionally well for the Bucks last season, averaging 17.3 ppg and 6.1 apg. The problem is that Williams has a hard time staying on the court due to a variety of injuries. He played in just 68 games in 2006-07 after playing in just 58 games the previous season. Williams can provide a decent amount of offense from the point guard position, but be ready to have a backup ready when the inevitable injury occurs.
Charlie Bell - MIL [SG,SF]: Bell became a surprise starter for the Bucks last season after injuries decimated most of the team’s perimeter players. Bell took advantage to post the best numbers of his career, including 13.5 points and 1.5 treys per game. Bell resigned with the Bucks, but with everyone healthy and Bobby Simmons and Yi Jianlian now in the mix, he is unlikely to replicate those kinds of numbers.
Awvee Storey – MIL [SG,SF]: The Bucks liked what they saw out of Storey on their summer league team and signed him to a contract. It’s doubtful that Storey will get much if any playing time during the season.