I noted in a post last week that it was my season preview. That was kind of a lie. It wasn’t a total lie, it was more of a partial lie. That was my philosophical preview of where the Bucks sit as a franchise right now. I’ve actually been crafting my season preview with a certain set of guidelines. The guidelines follow and this is my ACTUAL season preview that will appear in the TrueHoop Network’s NBA Preview.
Bucksketball”s favorite designer, and probably the coolest graphic artist in the Milwaukee area, Allison Beilke, took the idea I had of Brandon Jennings in front of the Milwaukee skyline with a nice piece of Wisconsin bling on and ran with it. I love this picture and it’s by far the best part of my preview. She also is responsible for that cool looking banner on top of the site and once convinced me Glenn Robinson is the most under appreciated Buck in the franchise’s history because of that missed bunny against the Sixers. Okay, that last part isn’t true, but the rest is. If you have any graphic needs contact Allison at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Here’s a guide)
*CROWD SAYS/BLOGGER SAYS*
The consensus win total prediction of the TrueHoop Network bloggers … and
the best hopes of the blogger who covers the team.
*YES WE CAN!*
The sun is out. The seas have parted. The basketball gods are shining upon
*NO YOU WON’T*
A rousing dissent from a rival blogger.
A 140-character insight into the soul of the team.
*ON THE RECORD*
Single best quote concerning the team during the last 12 months.
*THE 2008-09 ALMANAC*
Some key stats from the 2008-09 season.
Down a single point with 9.2 seconds to play in a must-win game. What’s the
*THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE*
The fan favorite the crowd will be chanting for to see some action.
*IF YOU’RE WATCHING THE BOTTOM LINE, YOU’RE WATCHING THIS*
The single biggest spreadsheet issue hanging over the team.
(End of guide.)
Crowd Says: 29-53
Blogger Says: 37-45
Yes We Will: By the end of the year last year the Bucks defense was back to poor and the offensive had found a way to be even worse. Sure injuries played a large role, but it still didn’t look good to outside observers. That’s why people are going to throw out a lot of different reasons why the Bucks:
A. Won’t make the playoffs
B. Won’t win thirty games
C. Won’t make it out of the cellar in the Central
But I can give you one big reason why they will contend for a playoff spot and blow away the other two projections: Andrew Bogut.
Before being shelved with a back injury in January, Bogut was quietly blossoming as an important cog in the Bucks commitment to defense last season. I’d dub it a re-commitment, but to be honest the Bucks hadn’t played much defense since before Don Nelson was manning the throne in the 80’s. Assuming last season’s rookie steal Luc Richard Mbah a Moute continues to develop as a shutdown wing defender and Bogut is able to come back healthy (he had just started contact workouts as of the beginning of September) the Bucks could have two integral pieces to having a bonafide playoff-level defense. With those two holding down the fort in the paint and outside, shot blocker Hakim Warrick should be freed to fly around and make plays, rather than muscle up against power forwards twice his size and electric rookie Brandon Jennings will be enabled to play passing lanes like a young Allen Iverson.
And about that offense? Well, it will still be a work in progress. Michael Redd will be returning after an ACL tear suffered in late January and has been the subject of trade rumors since last year. Oh, and Redd turned 30 in August. He can still be a 20 point a night scorer, but Milwaukee has seen in the past that he cannot carry the offense by himself every night.
As good as Mbah a Moute was last year, fellow rookie Joe Alexander was as disappointing. Alexander will miss the first three months after a hamstring tear and the Bucks will need to get as much offense out of newly acquired Carlos Delfino as they will get defense from Mbah a Moute in order to support Redd and keep teams honest when defending Bogut.
If the Bucks get anything out of their three combo, if they can keep Bogut and Redd healthy and if they get a season worthy of the number ten selection out of Brandon Jennings at the point, the playoffs will be within reach.
But that’s a lot of if’s.
No You Won’t
All ten Bucks fans nationwide are very excited about the Andrew Bogut era. Which should start any day now. – Matt Moore (HardwoodParoxysm.com)
The Bucks had the tweet heard ‘round the world last year when Charlie Villanueva tweeted during half time in a tie game against the Celtics: “In da locker room, snuck to post my twitt. We’re playing the Celtics, tie ball game at da half. Coach wants more toughness. I gotta step up.” Villanueva is long gone, and while current Bucks Charlie Bell and Andrew Bogut are active Tweeters, the Bucks (and thanks largely to this very Tweet, the NBA) made it clear last season that there was to be no more in game Tweeting in their locker room.
“Yeah, I think I’m a better player think he is, I can shoot the ball better than he can, you know the only time I have seen him do something is when he has a homerun pass or something like that. I think the dude is just all hype. I can’t even front you know, I’m just going to be real with you guys.” – Brandon Jennings on Ricky Rubio
Jennings pre-draft quote on Ricky Rubio is an indication of what he brings to the Bucks that they’ve been lacking in recent years: swagger. The Bucks have too often been the nice guys finishing in last over the past decade. They’ve quietly won and quietly lost, but rarely does anyone take notice. The opportunity is there for Brandon Jennings to change all that and get attention focused squarely on the Bucks.
The 2008-09 Almanac
Team Factor Strength(s): Turnovers Forced (1st), Offensive Rebounds (9th)
Team Factor Weakness(es): Free Throws Allowed (30th), Shooting (27th)
Simply put, when Andrew Bogut was healthy the Bucks were a good defensive team and even better rebounding team last year. When Bogut was out? Not so much, the Bucks were 11 points worse per 48 minutes defensively with Bogut off the court according to 82games.com last year. Overall the Bucks defense appears to be finally patching up some of the holes that have plagued it for years. In Scott Skiles’ first year at the helm the Bucks improved from 30th to 15th in defensive rating. The offense suffered last season after the Bogut and Michael Redd injuries and appears to be slightly weaker this year after the loss of Richard Jefferson. The Bucks are relying on a strong NBA return from Ersan Ilyasova, a strong rookie effort from Brandon Jennings, Hakim Warrick’s second unit firepower and the health of their stars to get their offense up to par with their defense — a novel concept in Milwaukee.
Botching last second plays seemed to be a rite of passage in Scott Skiles’ first season as Bucks head coach last year, so hopefully he’ll have this figured out by October 30. After lacking a go-to scorer when Michael Redd went down last year the Bucks will likely be anxious to draw up plays for him the second the season starts. Redd will likely be coming off a screen from Andrew Bogut to catch an inbound pass from Carlos Delfino. If Redd’s covered? Delfino will be looking for either Hakim Warrick on the wing or Brandon Jennings near the top. In either case, the goal will be for them to use their athleticism to get to the basket, for a dunk in Warrick’s case and (hopefully) a finished lay up in Jennings.
The People’s Choice
Jodie Meeks looked like he’d be in line as a key backup for Redd after a strong summer league performance and a lack of depth in the Bucks back court. But then the Bucks traded for swingman Carlos Delfino and point guard Roko Ukic. Now Meeks is going to be battling for playing time with six other guards. The rookie is caught in a numbers game and looks like he’ll follow Redd in a different fashion: a rookie season spent primarily on the bench.
IF YOU’RE WATCHING THE BOTTOM LINE, YOU’RE WATCHING THIS
A running subplot for the Bucks this year will be the contract of Michael Redd. It’s likely that the early season play of the Bucks will dictate just how aggressively the Bucks shop Redd who has a player option for just over $17 million in 2010-11. Bucks GM John Hammond spent the past off-season in phase one of his plan to get the Bucks financial house in order, shipping out Redd and building around Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings could be part two.