Shirley, you’ve noticed the additional writers brought onto the Bucksketball staff lately … haven’t you? ANSWER ME SHIRLEY!
Airplane. Nailed it.
Ahem. We thought it would be fun to kick around a couple of late July questions to get kind of a pre-post free agency analysis of where things stand for the Bucks right now. Five Bucks questions, five Bucks writers, one Bucks website.
1. What’s the Milwaukee Bucks ceiling for this season?
Eric Buenning: The sixth seed, maybe the fifth seed if some other team has one of those injury-plagued seasons. You figure Miami, Boston, Chicago, and Indiana are the safe bets for the top-four seeds. Brooklyn and New York are talented, but who knows what to expect from them.
Tony Atkins: The Bucks are a team stockpiled with talent. With players like Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, Sam Dalembert and Ersan Ilyasova, I can totally see the Bucks making the playoffs with this group. Questions about the small forward position will surface as they face elite competition, but Mike Dunleavy should hold his own. At best, I see the Bucks making the second round of the playoffs as the fifth seed in the East.
Jon Hartzell: 47 wins and the fifth seed. BJennings will need to play like a top 10 point guard. Ellis will need to play like 2007-08 Ellis. Tobias Harris and John Henson will need to play like they did in Las Vegas. Everyone else will need to play close to their highest possible levels, and Drew Gooden will need to stay off the court.
Ian Segovia: Seventh seed
Jeremy Schmidt: Sixth seed. The Heat/Celtics/Knicks/Nets/Pacers all seem like very good bets to be better than the Bucks. After that, it’s chaos. Some teams could rise (Wizards/Raptors), some could fall (Magic/Hawks).
2. What’s the floor for this season?
EB: The obvious answer is last place, but that won’t happen unless catastrophic circumstances occur. I’d say tenth place is the floor. This will happen if none of the summer league stars pan out or one or both of the backcourt battery gets injured or Ersan takes a massive step backwards or (gulp) Drew Gooden decides to start playing hero ball.
TA: With the talent that this team has ON PAPER, the floor for the Bucks this season ideally has to be missing the playoffs as the ninth or tenth seed in the East. Any worse than that, you can put a fork in the Skiles-Jennings era in Milwaukee.
JH: 24 wins and no playoffs. You get an injury! You get an injury! You get an injury! Udrih/Dunleavy/Mbah a Moute/Ersan/Gooden starting lineup in February. Street Life begins to play on weeknights, too.
IS: Seventh pick
Actually, they’ll probably be the tenth pick at worst. I just wanted a nice symmetry between my first and second answers.
JS: Barring catastrophe, it’s difficult to envision the Bucks being outside of the top 10 teams in the East. Too good to fail, not good enough to succeed. I think I just titled Herb Kohl’s biography.
3. Who was more impressive in Vegas Tobias Harris or John Henson?
EB: This is a really close call, but I’m giving the slight edge to Henson. For one, he was a rookie doing what he did. Also, fans were hoping that Harris would make this leap. With Henson, we were just hoping he didn’t make himself look silly on offense. Harris was tremendous, but he didn’t exactly drop jaws. Harris exceeded expectations, Henson blew them away.
TA: Allow me to clarify; both guys balled their hearts out in the Mojave this year. With that said, I’d have to say Harris. Averaging 21 points and 7 boards during the NBA Summer League, Harris seemed decisive attacking the basket and confident shooting the ball. Remember, Harris is only 20 still, about two years younger than the rookie Henson.
JH: Henson looked great and he showed offensive skills, footwork, and hands that many hadn’t been expecting to see so soon. But Harris showed a nastiness and quickness while attacking the basket that seems like it will transfer much more easily to the regular season than Henson’s underhand-lefty-hooks.
IS: I didn’t get to watch any Summer League, but I assume Tobias Harris looked like a man amongst boys.
JS: Everything about Harris seemed imminently transferable to the regular season, even if it isn’t at the same volume. If he were a little quicker, he’d be a prototype small forward thanks to his burly frame that can dish out and take out quite a bit of punishment. Harris seems so ready right now.
4. Will Doron Lamb be ready for minutes this season?
EB: I sure hope so. He showed that he was capable of getting his points from inside the arc, coming off screens well and hitting the floater that Jennings could never make look smooth. The threes will also come too, despite Lamb going 0-for-7 in Summer League.
TA: Yes. A gifted three-point shooter, I don’t see why Lamb wouldn’t see minutes this year off the bench. Even if he isn’t ready, he will learn from experience due to the fact that he is the only real guard coming off the bench not named Beno Udrih.
JH: He’s ready for minutes and he’ll get some. He’s sure to make a lot of mistakes and his defense will be rough for awhile, but his offense is polished and would fit well in the fastbreak, draw-and-kick system that the team is trying to establish. The Bucks also seem to really like him (three-year contract) and the fact that he’s one of the few good shooters on this team makes it seem like he will be getting some burn.
IS: He’s a heady defender and he played on an elite college defense. Plus, he’s an elite shooter. So he won’t be completely worthless on either side of the floor. And that is good enough for me.
JS: I’ve heard nary a bad word about the rookie. I suspect he’ll be ready for minutes and I suspect he’ll need to so long as free agent guards keep considering the Bucks as leverage on the open market and nothing more.
5. Where are the Bucks weaker: backup center or backup wing?
EB: Samuel Dalembert averaged 22.2 minutes a game. Although the Bucks are thin at backup wing spots, I think the backup center position is much more worrisome. We saw what happened last year when Gooden tries to man the spot for extended minutes. Perhaps players like Larry Sanders and Udoh can wreak a little more havoc with another Skiles training camp under their belts, but the thought of piecing together a backup rim protector frightens me.
TA: Without a doubt, the Bucks are significantly weaker at the wing. Last season, players like Gooden stood their ground at center when asked. With so much depth at the four-spot, the Bucks should have no problem having someone step in for Dalembert from time to time.
JH: I’m probably way too high on Harris right now and probably way to low on Sanders, so I’ll say backup center is weaker. But backup wing is weak, too. And so is backup shooting guard. And backup point guard could be better. And don’t even get me started on backup power forward …
IS: The champs don’t even have a serviceable starting center. The Buck without a backup center isn’t much of an issue. In today’s NBA, the lack of a real center can be made up with length and a wing that operates in the post. Their gaggle of power forwards can provide the length and Tobias Harris has got some moves down low. That’s enough to fill time for a backup center.
As for the backup wing, here are the Bucks best three-point shooters in order: Dunleavy, Lamb, Ilyasova, Jennings, DREW GOODEN????????
JS: The Bucks have been chasing combo guards, which tells me they think their weakness rests in the back court, not on the wing or at the five. They don’t mind going small, but that would be much easier with bigger guards and wings that could defend pick and rolls with more versatility. I don’t get anything they do, but I know I’d love to see a backup center and one less power forward on this team myself.