Power ranking the Milwaukee Bucks new roster: 4-9

Yesterday I began ranking the Milwaukee Bucks current roster in order of power. Not literal power, but some sort of figurative power that isn’t very clearly defined. Head back and read yesterday’s thrilling part one and then enjoy today’s equally mesmerizing part two.

9. Zaza Pachulia

Zaza has already been a hit in Milwaukee as far as I’m concerned. Look at these photos he’s tweeted:



I never even knew about Zaza’s Steak and Lemonade on 4th and Center. He’s opening up whole new world’s within my own city. And how about that adorable picture of him and his son? Kid’s got Toy Story gloves on, so you know he has the same interest in fashion that his father has.

Seriously though, if we just look past a contract that may be slightly overpaying him when you only factor in on court production, I’m sure there will be a point where we’re all very excited about Zaza this season. A game will be getting chippy and Zaza will be right in the center of it all. He’ll be deflecting some of the heat off Larry Sanders and then counseling Milwaukee’s young building block after the game on how to annoy without getting tossed and when to back off of the refs.

Pachulia has been a perpetual shit-stirrer as long as he’s been in the league, but he’s only been ejected from a game twice. He knows the line. Hopefully he can show it to Sanders.

8. Luke Ridnour

There were rumors last week that the Bucks were showing interest in Royal Ivey, which reminds me what a great influence Luke Ridnour can be.

No, I don’t suspect he’s pushing the Bucks to pick up a no longer very useful Ivey. But I do remember when the Bucks got back Ivey at the 2010 trade deadline. Ridnour had a habit of heading back onto the court after games to get up more shots and work out, which I thought was just about the coolest, hard workingest thing I had ever seen when he was doing it. After a few games in Milwaukee, eventually Ivey started taking to the court with him, which is as clear an illustration of a player being a positive influence as I’ve ever seen.

That’s the kind of thing Ridnour offers. That and a fantastically tough right hand if anyone thinks they have an easy breakaway layup when he’s around. Ridnour is such a good hard fouler for a small point guard. All these years I watched Brandon Jennings bump into a guy on a break, giving him a free throw to go along with a made layup. I never had to worry about the made layup when Ridnour was around, I just waited for the outcome of the two free throws.

Having Ridnour back will be okay. If he shoots as well as he did for the Bucks in 2009-10, it’ll be more than okay, but given his performance the past couple seasons, I’m skeptical. Perhaps a return to exclusive point guard duties will help him – he spent A LOT of time at the two in Minnesota – but that one last year in Milwaukee looks an awful lot like the exception to the rule of his career.

7. Carlos Delfino

I long thought Delfino was overrated and bemoaned his propensity for bringing the ball up the court rather than finding a point guard. But I missed him some last season. He could be counted on for a very good month and a productive 3-point shot all year in the seasons in which he didn’t have life altering concussions. It’s always fun to say DEL-3-NO too. And I’m looking forward to hearing about his sneaky athleticism when he blocks a shot or dunks the ball at some point, so long as he can still do those things after another year of wear and a foot injury.

Ultimately, he’s a productive stop-gap type of player. Ideally he wouldn’t be relied upon as a starter or a moderately featured part of an offense, but the Bucks could again force him into a less than ideal role this season. Getting Butler should help shield him against too many minutes and too much spotlight though, which could end up being very positive for Delfino’s second go-round with the Bucks.

I do love what Delfino represents. He’s a pretty good 3-point shooter. The Bucks really focused on getting guys who shot threes well this off-season and hopefully that’ll be apart of Milwaukee’s modus operandi going forward.

6. Caron Butler

Even a cold-hearted skeptic like me can appreciate Butler’s return. I don’t suspect he’ll make a huge impact, but I think his time in Milwaukee will be more memorable than previous homecomers like Joe Wolf, Tony Smith and Reece Gaines.


With Delfino likely out the first part of the season, Butler should start from day one with the Bucks. I don’t see why he can’t score 13-15 ppg and grab a few rebounds while he’s out there too. Sanders has pretty much been penciled in as the team’s star, but I see Butler taking on a role that sort of combines the recent Mike Dunleavy/Kurt Thomas roles. He’ll be the guy the reporters flock to the in locker room for wise ponderances on the night’s events and how it will affect future games, but he’ll also be a productive player.

He’ll likely be a happy face all season and a big part of the community. I suspect after Sanders and Henson, Butler will be the Buck you most hear from in 2013-14. Plus he adds some more of that toughness that Pachuila brings. The Bucks will quietly be a team other teams would be wise not to try and intimidate.

Also, one more time, look at how happy this guy is!:

(AP Photo/The Journal Times, Scott Anderson)
(AP Photo/The Journal Times, Scott Anderson)

5. Ersan Ilyasova

I don’t know why I have so much trouble getting on board with Ilyasova. Consistency has been my beef with him, but when he got minutes last season he pretty much produced every night. At the end of the season, his number looked a lot like the numbers from the season before, the season that earned him what most feel was a very fair contract extension.

Ersan has hit threes at a fantastic clip over the past two seasons, better than 44% of the time. Look at last season’s shot chart:

Ersan's game: Pick and pop back. It works.
Ersan’s game: Pick and pop back. It works.

Yet I’m still not sold. So much of what he does relies on someone else setting it up for him. He fell back a bit last season as a rebounder too. I just don’t ever see Ilyasova being a featured part of a really good Bucks team, despite the skills that he brings. He has a lot of value, but it would be best served on a much better team than Milwaukee. I’d much rather watch John Henson and Larry Sanders attempt to develop into contributors on offense that can create for themselves out of the post rather than watch people hit Ilyasova for one open three every night.

In this scenario, I am everything that I hate. I’m hypnotized by the athleticism of those two young Milwauke bigs and overlooking the efficiency that Ilyasova already brings to the table. I’m like a scout in Moneyball.

But I don’t care. I don’t care at all.

4. Brandon Knight

Before last season, I insisted to two VERY PROMINENT Bucks blogger types that I would much rather have Brandon Knight than Brandon Jennings on the Bucks. So when the Bucks traded for Knight I was … pretty indifferent.

I guess that’s the penalty I assigned to Knight after a mediocre second season. But he’s still just 21-years-old and he has a physique that theoretically should allow him to be a better player than Jennings. He should be able to finish at the rim and battle through screens without getting lost. So much should rests with Knight from where I stand.

But I haven’t seen him be very creative as a passer, which worries me. I like point guards that are willing to take chances and can see things that the rest of us aren’t seeing. I’m not sure Knight is that guy. Maybe he’ll be a very good defender and 3-point shooter who can occasionally be responsibility for a win, but his ceiling certainly seems a lot lower than it did a year ago. He just doesn’t seem like a guy bursting with talent that only needs to be honed.

All that said, there’s a lot more mystery than fact when it comes to Knight, which is always fun. We don’t know how he’ll develop, we only know that he’ll develop somehow over the next couple seasons. That alone still makes him a more intriguing starting point guard for the Milwaukee Bucks than Jennings.



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  1. Brandon Knight does seem to be the most exciting question mark for the Bucks this season. I just hope that management doesn’t force him into a role for which he isn’t suited, that is point guard. Try him out there, perhaps, but don’t push it too hard if it doesn’t seem likely to go anywhere. I’m still hoping that somehow, at some position, he will be a star for the Bucks.
    Otherwise, my hunch is that Zaza is the most important of the middle batch of players. It seems like we need an energy guy in general, and a banger under the boards. Plus, my impression of Zaza is that he is surprisingly skillful at shooting the 15-footer, or driving a couple of dribbles to the hoop, or passing to teammates.
    Finally, it’ll be interesting to see how coach Drew blends in the younger guys with the veterans. I hope the emphasis is on developing young guys like Larry, John, Brandon, O.J., Khris and Ekpe — and then fitting in the veterans around them as complementary players.

  2. Ilyasova #5 on the Bucks in terms of importance?

    Based on knowns rather than potential Ilyasova is #2.

  3. Jeremy I pretty much agree with these rankings, and I can pretty much imagine the top 3. What do you think about Ersan as a 6th man though??? It seems like he would flourish at that position, he can slide between the 3 and 4 where ever he sees fit and have the green light to shoot and rebound..

    • I really can’t envision a scenario in which Ilyasova plays the three. He can’t defend that position. His lateral quickness is that of a four, so it would be a mess defensively.

      When Ilyasova first returned I floated the idea of him playing the three to Scott Skiles and Skiles was almost angry with me for even considering it. He ruled it out from day one and Ilyasova has literally not played a second of small forward since he returned from Europe.

      Obviously Larry Drew is a different guy than Skiles, but I still think he believes that a player’s position is based on what positions that player can defend.

  4. Illaysova is a great face up 4, yes I’d rather go the Henson and Sanders starting lineup, but I think with time that will happen and no need to rush or take away a veteran starters role. Bringing a shooter off the bench is always a plus.

    I watched Brandon Knight in high school at a couple tournaments and was very impressed(competition aside), very good shooter, stood up a little for my liking. Never had to pass ever, so I get the shortcomings on his passing. He developed a little more at Kentucky, but I don’t think he’s a natural PG. I like anyone who doesn’t hate Milwaukee(see Brandon Jennings), so that’s a start. Great contract to see if he develops, since he is only 21 and most young players really don’t hit there stride until that 3rd or 4th year, so that’s a good thing for the Bucks.

    He was considered a top 5 high school player coming out, so you know the talent is there. He reminds me of Tyreke Evans with a jump shot instead of driving ability and Tyreke also is not a natural PG. Knight is not going to be the franchise, but a 3rd scorer I think is the right role and hopefully he grows into more of a passer from learning from Ridnour.

  5. Don’t think Knight has had enough experience in the NBA yet to conclude that he is or is not able to play PG.

    This new environment could really turn things around for him We will soon find out, but I’m not ready to write off his PG skills just yet. Either way, he’s a very talented player and he will be liked here.

    Ersan played better as a starter last year, so I don’t agree that he’s a perfect 6th man based on history. Perhaps that’s because he played better with starting PG able to create looks for him. However, new team, new coach, new environment he may find that as his niche.

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