Power ranking the Milwaukee Bucks new roster: 3-1

Henson was a summer league darling. Now he has to be more. (Photo by Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images)
Henson was a summer league darling. Now he has to be more. (Photo by Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images)

Louis CK came to the Pabst Theatre last October. It was a hilarious show rife with social comedy and jokes about old people falling down. He did a solid 50 minutes or so on stage and everyone in the audience would have left very satisfied if he stopped there. But he didn’t. He came back for a finale and it was far grander than any I’ve seen at a firework show in my entire life.

Today is my finale. It won’t be as funny as Louis CK’s. It won’t be as colorful as one you may see on the 4th of July. But I can assure you I won’t write anything for a while again after it because I’m a grouch and I hate preseason predictiony type things.

For the first two parts of the Bucksketball Bucks Player Power Rankings, head back in time here for part one and here for part two.


And one more note: A friend of mine is raising money for tomorrow’s JDRF Walk at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Please click through and donate a few bucks if you can spare it. Kids don’t deserve to be inflicted with things they can’t control. Let’s toss some money into more research and see if science can take care of this thing. Thanks.


3. Ovinton J’Anthony Mayo

For a career role player forced into a big role, this may be a little high. If we’re factoring in future, it seems like Brandon Knight or even Giannis Antetokounmpo should be ranked higher. But I’m a bit fascinated by O.J. Mayo on the Bucks next season.

He spent most of his basketball playing life expected to be the leading scorer and centerpiece of his team’s offense. All that changed when he got into the NBA though. He was immediately the number two option behind Rudy Gay in Memphis. Then he was the third guy after Zach Randolph came to town. Then Marc Gasol took a bigger role. Eventually, Mayo was a sixth man for the Grizzlies. This was probably the first time in Mayo’s life he had to come off the bench.

He thrived early last season as the lead threat on Dallas, but struggled after Dirk Nowitzki returned.

Mayo isn’t really good enough to be a number one scorer on a really good team in the NBA. But maybe he could be on an okay team. It’s possible he’ll really thrive in the role as the Bucks top option this coming season. Role is so important in the NBA and maybe Mayo will finally fall into the role he’s been most comfortable in for the majority of his life.

At the very least, I expect Mayo will be an improvement on Monta Ellis from a sanity standpoint. He’ll make more shots and probably take fewer bad ones. But he won’t be as explosive or get to the rim or make as many nice passes. It’s probably a net even from a production standpoint, but again, sanity, whew.

2. John Henson

What can John Henson be? The possibilities seem so limitless. He can use his left hand incredibly well, but he’s right handed. He’s all arms and legs, but he’s very coordinated too. He came into the NBA already renowned for his defense and flashed some offensive potential as well. He had games of 28 points and 16 rebounds and 18 points and 17 rebounds. He dominated summer league and earned tons of praise this past July. Everyone is excited about John Henson.

Realistically, he seems like he’s Milwaukee’s best bet as a self creator of offense in the forward/center positions, which is what has me most intrigued about him this season. I respect that post-ups are probably a less efficient scoring system, but Henson seems like he could even catch, face-up and make a quick move to get past many centers or forwards in the league. At the very least, he should be able to jab and get an open short shot thanks to his length.

Defensively, I’m ready for Henson to explode this year and be a Sanders level impactor, which makes the idea of those two on the court together very cool. But one of them has to be more than just a finisher offensively for that to really work.

Be that guy, John Henson.

1. Larry Sanders

Can Larry build on a season that led him into the Team USA program this past summer? (Photo by Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images)
Can Larry build on a season that led him into the Team USA program this past summer? (Photo by Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images)


Larry’s conquering of the hearts and minds of Bucks fans really began in training camp last year. At least that’s when we all started to notice it. After a rough summer, Bucks coaches were effusively praising his play early in camp. Then he started playing very well in pre-season games. Suddenly it was the regular season and he was tossing up double-doubles while dominating on the defensive end.

Then he spent the summer championing the cause of Milwaukee as a great city. Pictures of him on the lake, at his apartment downtown, signing a contract to stay in the city for a bunch more years, tweeting about heading out on the town. He was all about it. And Milwaukee falls easily for that sort of thing.

Now Sanders enters the season with enormous expectations. He’s going to be someone’s defensive player of the year pick, probably. He’s likely to grace the cover of the media guide. He’ll be the target of teams during a game and reporters after. Can he hold up to that pressure? Can he do more offensively? Can he sustain those great levels he produced at defensively last year with more minutes?

Pressure is on Larry and the Bucks know it. They’re trying to put him in a position to be successful and they committed to him long term so he wouldn’t have to worry about his future this year. Will this be the beginning of something beautiful or another sad reminder that contract extensions for non-stars are a dicey proposition? Larry’s going to spend the season answering that question, which makes him the most interesting Buck to me.

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  1. The last time John Henson was the focal point of an offense and a post-up presence was at Sickles High School in Tampa, Florida, five years ago. He is, simply put, not a creator. At all.

    At Carolina, he was a release valve 10-15 feet from the basket along the baseline. When Zeller, Barnes, and others were double-teamed or thwarted, Henson was the floater who often shot (then rebounded a miss) from that area. In both starting seasons, he was the team’s third-leading scorer.

    If he’s going to be that guy for the Bucks, he’s going to have to learn a new role.

    Milwaukee’s power rankings, considering both now and later, should be closer to:
    1. SANDERS!
    Easy pick due to defense, motor
    2. Mayo
    Will be The Guy and will respond with 20-ish PPG and decent shooting levels.
    3. Ilyasova
    Great shooter, poor year. Bet on the bounce-back.
    4. Knight
    Young. Very young. Experienced, too. Good bet to improve under Drew.
    5. Giannis A.
    Youth and upside at a position that will give him some minutes.
    6. Henson
    Upside of a great defender and rotational power forward
    7. Butler
    Might be team’s leading scorer. Will start this year. Solid pro.
    8. Neal
    Might be the team’s PG starter if Knight continues underwhelming start to career. If nothing else, a great shooting 3 and D guy.
    9. Ridnour
    Combo guard a couple year’s too long in the tooth to be a true difference-maker.
    10. Pachulia
    A pro’s pro, he’ll work hard. That’s about it. Contract is crazy
    11. Delfino
    3 and D guy who could play three spots. Old, though. And no D at all.
    12. Wolters
    Young– might be part of the future.
    13. Middleton
    See Wolters. Add one unconvincing pro year.
    14. Udoh
    Unproven is the best thing you can say about him.
    15. Raduljica

    • Giannis way too high, has potential for sure but will play little this year

      Ilyasova had a solid season overall last year, not needing to ‘bounce back’

    • It would be great if John could develop a consistent jumper from about 15 feet, as well a baby hook and other offensive skills. It does seem like he has a long way to go on offense — much further than Larry, for example — and what I’m hoping is that both make gradual improvements on offense over the next few years. I like the idea of these two plus Ersan and Zaza rotating at the center and power forward positions. Keep ’em fresh and active for the end of games and the end of the season.
      In Larry and John, especially, plus Brandon and O.J., and maybe Khris and Ekpe and Giannis and Nate, we have some young guys to hope in for excitement and production. Let’s hope they come together as a cohesive and winning team for the good of each one of them, not to mention us long-suffering but loyal fans.

    • I don’t know why but I think Middleton will prove more valuable this season than your or Schmidt’s power ranking expectations, but being stuck behind both Butler, Delfino, and possibly Giannis certainly doesn’t help. Hopefully, Delfino sees more playing time at the 2 this year than at the 3.

      1. Sanders
      – (starter) is the face of the franchise; continued defensive dominance and improvement in his offensive game should be expected.
      2. Mayo
      – (starter) I think he’ll be the go-to scorer; can he create his own shot though and if not can anyone else create an open shot?
      3. Knight
      – (starter) will be given every opportunity to improve and develop at PG; how well he develops at PG will probably go a long, long way toward the results of this upcoming season.
      4. Ilyasova
      – (starter) expected to bring his usual consistent game; having his ability to stretch the floor and open up lanes could prove very important.
      5. Henson
      – should prove to be an excellent rotational player in the frontcourt; hopefully his potential upside materializes this season into a necessity to keep him on the court more than Ilyasova.
      6. Butler
      – (starter) expected to bring quality veteran leadership to the starters; should be a solid go-to option on offense and bring a decent defensive presence.
      7. Delfino
      – will probably provide big rotational minutes at the SF position, but hopefully more so at the SG spot when size is needed there.
      8. Ridnour
      – another big rotational player; might be the primary backup at both guard positions, but probably more so at PG.
      9. Neal
      – might prove to be the better rotational guard than Ridnour; will likely see more minutes backing up SG than PG, but if Ridnour appears ineffective due to diminishing skills than look for Neal to take his place as the primary backup at both guard positions.
      10. Pachulia
      – will be that bruiser the Bucks need to matchup with certain bigs and will also provide a veteran presence to the frontcourt group; his opportunities will probably be quite selective depending on matchups.
      11. Middleton
      – if Delfino isn’t capable of contributing early on I think Middleton will have an opportunity to demonstrate just how valuable he could be to the Bucks at the SF position which might regulate Delfino to more of a backup SG and occasional SF when making 3’s is a priority when he’s healthy.
      12. Udoh
      – another situational depth player who will probably find his minutes and assignments coming at both frontcourt positions when the team needs him to defend some of the more strong athletic players that Pachulia would have difficulty staying with at the center position and Ilyasova and/or Henson may have difficulty staying with at the power forward position.
      13. Giannis A.
      – Indeed he’s the future, but I don’t believe he’ll be rushed into playing time by any means. He’ll receive plenty of garbage time minutes and maybe some meaningful in-game time on occasions. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sent to the D-league at some point for development purposes.
      14. Wolters
      – probably won’t see any meaningful playing time unless injuries occur. Will probably get sent down to the D-league.
      15. Raduljica
      – a big body for depth. Foul trouble or injuries is probably the only way he sees any meaningful playing time. Why wasn’t G.Ayon kept over him?

  2. Nice series, Jeremy! — and great for fan discussions!
    When all is said and done, going into this season, are the Bucks a well-crafted team or more like selections for pick-up basketball? If the Hammond/Kohl control center has a master plan, have they shared it with anyone else? Is it a good idea to bring in 11 new guys? Have I ever mentioned that we don’t have a top point guard, or even a true point guard, to direct all of these new guys on the court and get them the ball?
    My hope is that we trade any three of our players not named Larry or John for that point guard we are lacking. Preferably, we’d trade veterans like Ersan, Gary, Carlos and/or Luke, and then go with a youth movement. As a comparison, I really like watching the Brewers these days (after what has been mostly a dismal season) with young guys like Segura, Davis, Gennett, Bianchi, Gindl and Halton providing some hope and excitement for the future. In the case of the Bucks, it would be Larry, John, Brandon, O.J., Khris, Ekpe and Giannis getting major minutes, complemented by a veteran here and there, and led by a top point guard to be named later, but in the next few weeks.
    In any case, here’s the obligatory — but also truly, genuinely sincere (really!) — Go Bucks!!!

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