A reason to expect one more Bucks roster move

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LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony may have a shot at guarding each other, even if no Bucks can guard them. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

If there was one opponent that flummoxed the Bucks the most last season, it was the Memphis Grizzlies.  They beat the Bucks by double-digits in November, then repeated the feat in December.  Even in the preseason, a piecemeal squad of Memphis backups beat the Bucks starters.  The personnel matchups could not have paired more poorly for Milwaukee.

Tony Allen and Mike Conley hounded the now-departed Swag Twins into poor shooting nights.  Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph neutralized the Bucks best advantage — their interior athleticism and defense — with burly rebounding and clever interior passing.  Everything that should have gone against Memphis wrong did, but fortunately for the Bucks, they only had to face the Grizz twice in games that actually counted.

The additions of Zaza Pachulia and O.J. Mayo this year should act as fairly potent antidotes to their Memphis problems, but the new roster has its own set of issues.

There are two All-Star combo forwards in the Eastern Conference who shift seamlessly between the two forward spots on their respective teams. Their coaches slide them to and fro based on advantages and mismatches. Against the Bucks, that usually means that they play the power forward spot because Ersan Ilyasova cannot guard either of them (or for that matter, any other small forward) and it takes him and his 40+% three-point shooting off the floor for extended stretches.

So who will the Bucks use this year to guard them?  Let’s call it the CarBron Ames Problem.  Or the LeMelo J’Anthony Problem.  Who will guard LeMelo J’Anthony?  Now you might answer, ‘O.J. Mayo’, because J’Anthony is his middle name.  (No, really. It’s literally his middle name.)  But Mayo is a shooting guard and even if he’s quick enough, he’s too small to pester their shots regularly.  The Bucks need another option.

Going into last season, the Bucks had three options to deal with it: Luc Mbah a Moute, Marquis Daniels, and the Promising Young Orlando Combo Forward Who Shall Not Be Named (PYOCFWSNBN).  While it’s obvious that no one was going to completely shut down the talented twosome, these were three palatable choices to counter with. The Bucks may have a new trio of options this season, but in its current form, the roster offers far scarier choices. And instead of getting two games against their Kryptonite, like they did last season, the Bucks play seven total games against the Heat and Knicks (though an encore #1 vs. #8 playoff tilt would net them even more.)

So who will guard LeBron and Carmelo this season?  The minuses outweigh the plusses.

Carlos Delfino

  • Strength:  Played some power forward for Houston last season.
  • Weaknesses:  He’s too short, he gambles for steals, he’s not actually good at defense anymore and his broken foot is still in the process of healing.

Khris Middleton

  • Strength: His Synergy numbers look promising
  • Weaknesses: The Synergy numbers come from a very small sample tainted with a chunk of late-game minutes in blowouts.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

  • Strength: WINGSPAN!
  • Weaknesses: Weighs 75 lbs. less than LeBron and lacks NBA-level experience at team defense/rotations/defending pick-and-rolls.

So the early answer among the small forwards is likely Middleton, but it’s not much of an answer.  The other option is to go bigger, a move that brings us into John Henson/Larry Sanders/Ekpe Udoh territory.  Could the Bucks shuffle their deck of bigs and pluck one out who can “guard smalls”, as former coach Scott Skiles would have termed it?

Henson has huge reach but limited quickness, and he wouldn’t be effective when lured out to the perimeter.  He’s too slow to keep up with James, which invites dunks on his head. Sanders could do the deed, but he would need more than six fouls to function in that role.  That leaves Udoh, who is probably the best option among the bigs.  But you’ve got to give something to get something, and Udoh is the most desirable target among opponents who are shopping the Bucks’ tradable players.  If Udoh stays, it’s likely because of his effectiveness guarding James and Anthony, but if the Bucks want more of a traditional small forward, Udoh may be part of the package sent out in exchange.

Also, as Eric Buenning of Brew Hoop pointed out on Twitter, Udoh was curiously absent from John Hammond’s enthusiastic youth rant at the Brandon Knight press conference.  Hammond noted the young core, including the ages of Knight (21), Henson (22), Sanders (24), Antetokounmpo (18), and even Ilyasova (26), but he failed to mention Udoh (also 26) even once through the duration of the presser.

Of course the other option here would be for the Bucks to stick with what they have, give Khris and Giannis extended minutes at forward and let the losses fall where they may.  But in the same press conference, Hammond adamantly denied being in tank mode, and I believe him.

In other words, expect a move.

Categories: The Off Season

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14 Comments

  1. It seems a bit silly to pick up another player for the sole purposes of defending “LeMelo J’Anthony” when your team isn’t in a position to compete with the Miami Heats of the world in the first place. But as a typical Bucks “win now” move, it wouldn’t surprise me. Personally, I’d rather throw the kids out there and see what they can do.

  2. As I’ve said in a previous comment under a different topic I’d actually like to see the Bucks offer up a trade for someone who could assist in guarding Melo/James from the 3 spot and is young enough that they may be able to be a nice rotation piece for the future.

    Honestly, the main players I’d like to see them consider are:

    01. Jeff Green (highly unlikely)
    02. Martell Webster (pretty unlikely)
    03. Wilson Chandler (a possibility?)
    04. Evan Turner (maybe unlikely)
    05. Al-Faroug Aminu (maybe unlikely)
    06. Marvin Williams (a possibility?)
    08. Jae Crowder (a possibility?)
    08. Austin Daye (a possibility?)
    09. Jimmy Butler (probably unlikely)
    10. Chris Copeland (a possibility?)
    11. Trevor Ariza (a possibility)
    12. Thabo Sefolosha (probably unlikely)

    • I like Ridnour or Udoh as the main trade piece. Maybe they alone could be enough, but perhaps they would need to be packaged together or a 2nd round draft pick could be included somehow to get one of the guys I listed. Heck if Ridnour and Udoh were paired together to get one of the younger less proven guys maybe a 2nd rounder in return could be possible too.

    • I think Aminu or Crowder are probably the best options. The Bucks won’t give up big players so if they will make a trade I think those will be the guys. Ariza will cost too much and I doubt Green, Chandler, Butler will be given up easily.

      • Yeah, I agree that Green is pretty much unattainable and Chandler plus Butler would be quite difficult in that they would probably require giving up too much. I’d also add Webster, Turner and Sefolosha into that quite difficult group. The fact that Daye and Copeland were signed by new teams this offseason means that acquiring them would be a little more difficult too. This leaves Aminu, Williams, Crowder, and Ariza. Ariza can cover SG along with SF, Crowder is pretty much only going to cover the SF position, Williams and Aminu can both slide over to also play the PF position if needed to.

        While Aminu hasn’t demonstrate that he has the ability to find any consistency in his game his age and physical measurables continue to make him someone with high potential; nearly all defensive potential.

        I really like what Crowder could bring to the SF position in Milwaukee. He’s a really smart player who has the size to play against many of the stronger SFs in the league. His offensive efficiency should improve and he does posses the ability to be a “3 & D” player.

        Williams certainly didn’t fulfill the expectations many might have had for him as a #2 draft pick, but he’s still been a very serviceable player and one who I think could surprise a lot of people if put into a better situation then he’s been in at Atlanta and Utah.

        I don’t think Ariza would command all that much to acquire, but maybe I’m wrong. I like the fact that he’s a huge upgrade over Delfino defensively and considering that they would essentially play the same role with Delfino being the better 3pt shooter.

  3. Am I the only one on this site who is concerned about our situation at point guard?
    As for Carmelo, let him shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot, and then let him shoot some more. Let him get 30 or 40 points. Let his teammates stand around frustrated and bored until they yawn and fall asleep. Then put Khris Middleton or Gary Neal or a double-team on Carmelo in the fourth quarter and see if his teammates are able to shake off their grogginess.
    For LeBron, don’t even guard him outside of the foul line. Stop his drives. Same with Dwayne Wade. Maybe mix things up a little, but down the stretch take your chances with LeBron and Dwayne as outside shooters.
    By the way, are we going to get a true point guard? — besides Ish, who I really like, but is better as a back-up at least for now.
    Oh yeah, and about our lack of a standout point guard…

    • I think the team is going to try to mold Knight into more of a true PG and since I want the Bucks to be a lottery team for the draft next year I think it’s an excellent time to experiment with that idea given a new coaching staff will be behind his development.

      Like you said Ish should make for a fine backup PG and I’d like to see him given that role this year, though that means that Ridnour needs to be moved (I’d love to see him the main trade piece, but it’s unlikely given Hammond’s recent comments on this team).

  4. Do i have poo poo in my ears??? I could swear John Hammond made it clear at press conference ” Brandon Knight is a starter in this league”
    Larry Drew will be putting Knight on the court as our point guard-Ridnour backup? Ish Smith backup?
    The Bucks are not in TANK mode-they want to win, and I LOVE them for it!

    Knight will be serviceable, it will be fine. If another move is made to improve defensive position against TOP-TIER players, im OK with it!!!!

    GO BUCKS GO

  5. Hey, if Brandon Knight is enthusiastic about playing point, and if he seems to have the skills for it, then sounds like a good thing to me. As I understand it, Knight hasn’t shown much aptitude for the position thus far, but he is only 21, so maybe…. I think one of our Bucksketball guys said he was fairly far behind Brandon Jennings as a point guard — at this point, anyway.
    In any case, I’m not sure why I would have much confidence in John Hammond based on his first few years as GM of the Bucks. I genuinely hope he comes through with a winner, but would I bet the title of my only car on it — even a 2001 Honda Accord?

  6. If Hammond is gonna do any more trading, I agree it will be for a SF-D presence. And Udoh/Ridnour/2nd rnd pick would be the tradebait. I don’t have a lot of confidence that a trade will occur though, I’m getting the feeling they are gonna dance with the date they took to the prom. Trial by fire and all, as was mentioned earlier. Hammond is giving lip service to the “no tanking” thing – behind the scenes though I bet they will be planning to look long term, give the young guys tons of minutes and what happens, happens this year. If they have a poor record by end of year, they’ll still be fun to watch and should keep fanbase interest up due to their style of energetic play. Besides, the ’14 draft is chock full of combo forward talent

  7. ? would be how many more times will we beat Melo or James with the guys you might want guarding them, if the starting point is 0-7, where is the ending point with a guy like Moute playing, who was not without his own set of flaws when he took the floor? 1-6? 2-5? 3-4? or still 0-7? Plus, its not for sure we’ll lose all 7 anyhow is it?