(Photo by Shem Roose/NBAE via Getty Images)
Milwaukee’s rookies check in in the bottom third of this edition of the power rankings. (Photo by Shem Roose/NBAE via Getty Images)


People like power rankings, right? So many sites do them, so people must be reading them. I’ve toyed with the idea before but could never figure out how I wanted to do it … until now.

With a brand new roster and pretty similar direction, now seemed like a great time to rank this new Milwaukee roster in order of figurative power.

Criteria? I didn’t really have much of a criteria. I suppose the criteria is who I’m most excited about on the roster. That could mean that the future factors in, but it could mean next season factors in heavily as well. For example: I’m much more excited about Giannis Antetokounmpo’s future than I am about O.J. Mayo’s future, but I’m realistic and understand we probably won’t be seeing much from Giannis next season. But I’m still more excited about anything he does next season than anything Gary Neal does.

Hopefully that provides the absolute minimum amount of clarity possible and results in people writing angry comments about how low I’ve ranked Nate Wolters.

15. Miroslav Raduljica

I should admit I probably know less about Raduljica than I’ve known about any Bucks player ever. I know he owns at least one Harley Davidson shirt or at least has at one time borrowed one from someone. I know he’s a big guy. I know he previously played in Europe.

I also know that I’ll have more trouble spelling his name than I will spelling Giannis Antetokounmpo’s name. The latter will be newsworthy, whether he’s playing or not this season and has generally been seen as important to Milwaukee since he was drafted. Repetition alone will make his name easier. Aside from that, the J and I that are next to each other in Raduljica’s name are already giving me problems.

14. Nate Wolters

Summer league didn’t give Bucks fans much of a reason to be excited about Wolters. He’s not the spot-up shooter guy who is going to make 40% of his threes by any means. He’s more of a creator than that, but he didn’t look very quick in Las Vegas. He showed some stop and start ability and if he can get his guy off balance a bit he should be able to create space for himself, but it’s hard to get legitimate NBA guards off balance without a lot of speed. Hopefully he’ll make great decisions and excel at using screens in just the right way.

If he can’t do those things, I’m not sure he’s long for the league if he can’t be a lights out shooter.

13. Khris Middleton

As a second round pick last season on the end of the Detroit bench, he didn’t get much of an opportunity to distinguish himself over the course of the season. But in the last month of the year, Middleton averaged 24 minutes-per-game and shot better than 52% from the field and made 40% of his (limited) 3-point attempts. He has okay size and Pistons coaches seemed to be complimentary over his overall offensive arsenal. Young players often have to work on gaining strength and being better one-on-one defenders, two things that Middleton will no doubt continue to work on this season.

But the track record for second round picks isn’t great. If he can’t develop one standout skill, whether that’s drawing fouls or defending really well or hitting threes, it seems like it’ll be difficult for him to make much of a lasting impact in Milwaukee. His contract is not guaranteed beyond this season and he’s got at least three small forwards ahead of him on the depth chart.

To say the least, his work is cut out for him.

12. Gary Neal

In the grand scheme of things, it’s hard to envision Gary Neal meaning any more to the Bucks franchise than a guy like Charlie Bell meant to the Bucks. Bell might actually be a good comp for Neal. Undersized two guards who don’t offer much in terms of passing or rebounding. Neal’s a  better shooter and more aggressive as a scorer, while Bell was a little better as a passer. Both essentially kicked off their NBA careers at age 26 after bouncing around overseas for a while (though Bell played a little in the NBA before that).

Bell was a limited, but willing defender thanks to his size and Neal faces some of those same size limitations, but seems to be less willing to make up for them. I expect a couple of 15-20 minutes-per-game for Neal, a few games that he makes a big impact in and ultimately a forgettable role in the franchise’s history. Nothing wrong with that from an end of the bench guy. The good thing about Neal is that he’ll probably never be vaulted into a prime time role the way Bell was.

Chuck Bell once played 34 mpg over a whole season! In related news, the Bucks were 28-54.

11. Ekpe Udoh

Thanks to Ekpe’s Book Club, his propensity for Hanging Out with fans on Google+ and general goofiness, Ekpe has become something of an underground fan favorite in Milwaukee, despite pedestrian scoring numbers and a bizarre inability to grab rebounds. Udoh’s rebounding difficulties are one of the strangest things I’ve seen in all my years as a Bucks fan.

Milwaukee has had a lot of bad defensive bigs come through Milwaukee and many of them were terrible rebounders. But Udoh is universally regarded as a very good defender. He blocked 2.3 shots per-36 minutes last year and often earned praise from his coaches for his rotations and awareness on that end of the floor after games. His defensive rating was tied for fifth among Bucks who played rotation minutes last season too.

But his rebound rate was just 10.3. Worse than Luc Mbah a Moute. Far worse than Larry Sanders or Ersan Ilyasova or Sam Dalembert. As a rebounder, it’s as if he’s playing on the perimeter and crashing in rather than playing inside and boxing out.

His time on the court has generally correlated with his team playing better defensively, but few people ever offer concrete explanations as to what he does that’s so good. I think he’s fine, but I also think his rebounding and offensive deficiencies are going to catch up to him this year and cost him minutes in a deep Milwaukee front court.

10. Giannis Antetokounmpo

He is the future. He is also most certainly not the present. Seems like we’re heading for a long, unproductive year for Giannis with a few highlights and a very positive attitude about it all sprinkled in. But I’m still excited for year one.

Part 2 comes tomorrow.