Power ranking the Milwaukee Bucks new roster: 10-15

(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.

Categories: Power Rankings

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  1. After Part I, I’m enjoying this evaluation of our Bucks players.
    Apparently, Khris Middleton was considered a possible lottery pick at one time before an injury in college. Given some rays of hope statistically as mentioned above, and his young age, he’s the guy in the bottom third of the roster who might have the most upside.
    One of the options John Hammond/Herb Kohl had going into this season was to play guys like Khris and Ekpe and maybe even our rookies to see what they had to offer. If they excelled, or at least showed signs of promise for the future, then great; if they faltered and looked overmatched, then at least we would know, and also be in a better position for a top draft pick. I think this would have been the preferred way to go.

    • Yeah I really thought Middleton would have been the starter coming out of training camp, not crazy excellent at everything but an all around type of player. Caron gets the start now but it will be nice to see these young guys actually get minutes unlike some previous Bucks coaches who sit all their young guys…Larry Drew likes to give young players a chance.

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  3. 10-15 for the most part seem pretty regular, back of the bench type guys with a couple young bench guys. HOWEVER, good for emphasis right.

    Giannis current chances of playing this year, probably 10-15 minutes early on and the potential to be the face and future of the franchise(It’s all yours Larry Sanders right now, but see Brandon Jennings on the length of that). I would compare him to a former teenage superstar selected just 2 picks before Giannis, Kobe Bryant. Let the shock and appal begin. But here’s some similarities:

    1. Teenage prospect, playing against relatively unknown competition(Lower Merion vs Greece YMCA league not a huge difference)
    2. Very athletic with great upside
    3. Picks 13 and 15, Kobe and Giannis respectively
    4. Kobe averaged 15 minutes, 26 minutes, and then shot up to starting and averaging 38 minutes. I think this is going to be very similar to what we can expect the Bucks to handle the progression.
    5. Kobe was behind Van Exel and Eddie Jones for playing time, very similar to a veteran Caron Butler and OJ Majo combo.

    Based on some of the similarities, future playing time, and current position, I would put Giannis much higher than #10, I would think a more comprable evaluation would be in the 5-7 range. Sanders, Henson, Irylsova, Knight, and then Giannis, Mayo, Butler, Ridnour somewhere in the mix of that 5-7 range.

    • Quite interesting, and gives me some cause for optimism with Giannis. It’ll be interesting to see how well he shoots the ball, among other skills. Anyway, half of Kobe would be pretty good, and 80 percent would be an all-star.

  4. @Donovan

    I don’t understand the rationale. The fock?

    You are literally comparing Apples to Oranges. Lower Merion vs Greece YMCA!? First of all, how does anyone who never heard of this kid before he was drafted know anything about the kind of competition he played against? That’s just making assumptions. Also, American high schools generate a lot more NBA prospects than European schools. That’s just a fact. That’s like comparing the American brand of soccer to something like the Premier league. Not even close. They would own us in that shit.

    What does Giannis being picked 15 have anything to do with Kobe being picked 13 damn near 20 years ago??? Kwame Brown was a number one pick at one point too. Just like Lebron. And wait Kwame started rookie year. Just like Lebron. But wait theres more! Lebron was playing alongside Zydrunas Illgaskys and Eric Snow. Kwame was playing alongside RIP Hamilton and Brendan Haywood. And they both are very athletic!

    See how stupid that shit sounds?

    • @longtimefan

      You are making a lot of assumptions of what I know. Giannis played in a 2nd Tier Greek League, which I heard another analyst report is similar to a D3 College level, but with some European Veteran Players. So comparing that to Lower Merion H.S. Competition is about right. USA to Non-USA prospects are growing and growing rapidly and this will only increase with time.

      The comparison to draft pick selection was to show that not everyone was so sure about a drafting a “kid” that was relatively unknown for his skills, but was a very gifted athlete with a large skill set, that sound pretty familar for my comparison?

      I’m glad it generated a response, I appreciate that. I’m a Bucks fan, I like to talk them up. If comparing “The Greek Freak” to Kobe gets everyone going that’s great.

      • But Kobe wasn’t unknown for his skills. He was recruited by Duke and North Carolina. He was a freshman starting on a varsity high school squad. So thats why I feel like that comparison doesn’t add up. Now if you compare Giannis to somebody like a Dirk Nowitzki that makes sense. Aside from both being European players, they share a commonality in that Dirk was also considered a “project.” If he was more of a sure fire prospect the Bucks would have held on to him. Instead they rolled the dice on Robert Traylor (RIP). We all know how that turned out.

        I think Giannis will pan out but I would caution against making a comparison to Kobe Bryant.

        • I like the comparison with Dirk, but I think the comparison with Kobe is also very good.
          My concern is whether or not the Bucks actually scouted Giannis to any appreciable extent or whether they were caught up in hot rumors. In keeping with what I’ve written before, it would be nice to learn that the Bucks sent a top scout over to Greece for a few months to watch Giannis and to get to know the guy: watch him in practice, eat dinner with his family, pet his dog… that kind of thing.
          People might downplay picks at 15 overall, but I think they’re precious opportunities we can’t afford to be reckless about. The second round of the draft is the place for big risks.

        • I like the Dirk comparison as well, just really want someone to be excited for. Hasn’t really been a franchise player that they can put the franchise on there back since, you know what I hate to bring up Big O and Lew Alcindor, but that’s probably about right. I take that back Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson carried it for a couple years.

          I would send him to work out with Durant and Lebron, play with the best you can only get better.

  5. Gary Neal is axiomatically better than Charlie Bell. I get the comparison, but I think that’s kinda harsh, man…