Milwaukee Bucks (Scott Skiles) 0-0
Inactive: Michael Redd, Darington Hobson, Chris Douglas-Roberts
New Orleans Hornets (Monty Williams) 0-0
Inactives: Joe Alexander (of course), DJ Mbenga, Quincy Pondexter (but maybe not, can’t tell yet, it’s still early, I’ll know more when teams start playing.)
Game Time: 7:00 PM (CST)
TV: FS Wisconsin
The Other Guys: Hornets247.com
Paul had kind of a down year last year, only averaging 18.7/10.7/4.2. If Jennings ever has a year like that, let alone a down year like that, it would be awfully difficult to put into words how happy I’d be. There was a lot of talk of Paul moving, possibly to New York to join Carmelo Anthony or possibly to Portland to join Brandon Roy. That’s what the off season is for though, talk. The league’s best point guard will probably be looking to regain his firm grasp on that title this season and he’ll be doing it in New Orleans. His dribble control and strength inside are two things that Jennings certainly could emulate with enough hard work and time. It’ll be interesting to see if Paul is still the 41% 3-point shooter he was last season or if he’ll return to his lesser form (35-37%) of season’s past. Regardless, he’ll be handful and then some for Jennings.
After journey-manning though three seasons in Golden State and Toronto, Belinelli has earned a spot next to Chris Paul. Belinelli can do a lot of thing well, include shoot the three, but doesn’t do anything well enough to separate himself from the tag of role player. In a way, he’s the Hornets version of Delfino, but with a little better shot from three, a little more athleticism, not as good defensively and not as good a rebounder. Playing next to Paul could do wonders for him though, as it has for so many others. John Salmons will be playing his first live game all season after sitting out the pre-season, but Coach Scott Skiles says he looked very good in practice Monday. Salmons was a key to the Bucks offense last season, but his ability to defend opposing wings wasn’t talked about much. His ability to prevent penetration is very important to this team.
The night before the trade deadline last season, the Rockets came into Milwaukee and lit up the Bucks 127-99. Ariza played a big part in that, hitting 6-7 of his 3-point shots. Milwaukee knows he can shoot it and he’s made it as far in the league as he has because of his combination of defense and athleticism. Ariza was probably asked to do a little too much in Houston last season: he’s a complementary player not a feature one. Playing third wheel in this lineup with Paul and David West should suit him very well. I’m assuming Delfino gets the call with the starters over Corey Maggette, but I could be wrong. Delfino had a very good pre-season, even if his shot abandoned him at times. He’ll get plenty of open looks from deep with Andrew Bogut and Drew Gooden in the middle and he has a lot more options as his disposal when he creates off the dribble. Expect a career high this season in 3-point attempts and assists from the Bucks small forward. Ariza’s athleticism could keep Delfino in check this evening though, so long as Maggette doesn’t come in and wear him out.
West was a handful for the Bucks undersized power forwards last season, dropping 27/10 in their first meeting and 19/9 in the second. I expected his numbers to drop off the table with Chris Paul out, but he actually maintained his high scoring average and raised his shooting percentage up over 50%. His rebounding continues to lag behind though. West’s total rebound percentage was just 12% last season, down amongst the likes of Charlie Villanueva, Hakim Warrick and Yi Jianlian. You remember what those guys were like as rebounders, right Bucks fans? Drew Gooden could really expose him on the glass this evening and his size may prevent the lofty games West had last season against the Bucks.
Bogut gets his first real test in Okafor. His minutes weren’t very heavy in the pre-season and neither were his shot attempts. I’d like to see a significant increase in both of those areas Wednesday evening. Okafor is a little bit undersized for the center spot and Bogut took advantage of that last season, dropping 26/13 in a February win for the Bucks. The Bucks biggest advantage over the Hornets will be at the five. Given the way the pre-season worked out, I’m not so certain that they’ll expose it, but hopefully I’m wrong.
Maggette, Ersan Ilyasova, Keyon Dooling and Larry Sanders
Jerryd Bayless, Peja Stojakovic, Marcus Thornton and Willie Green
New Orleans bench is short on size. Candidates for playing time up front would be Aaron Gray, DJ Mbenga, Jason Smith and Pops Mesah-Bonsu, not exactly a who’s who of backup big men. The Bucks have their own issues at the backup center position and they’ll be even worse off until Jon Brockman returns. New Orleans packs some scoring punch in the back court off the bench with the newly acquired Bayless and second year man Thornton. Milwaukee can’t allow those two to get hot together. Maggette had 20 free throws in 20 seconds (or something like that) in his only pre-season game and will surely be looking for some more chances to get to the line Wednesday night. It’s what he does.
Prediction: Bucks 97 – Hornets 87
The road was a tricky place for Milwaukee last season, but with a load of additional veterans and talent, they should have an easier time navigating the way away from home this year. New Orleans added a few pieces that makes them more explosive, but they are paper thin up front after Okafor and West. The Bucks front court depth could really expose them tonight. This could be a good opportunity for Ilyasova to erase the struggles he had shooting in the pre-season and get his season started off right.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan of Bucksketball on Facebook ( to the right).