Not every team is following the start-from-scratch method as they build towards the future. The Milwaukee Bucks have signed a few relatively young players to moderate contracts, in hopes that they can position the right complementary guys around them.
With the off-season bringing big changes to their roster, here's my prediction for the upcoming year in Milwaukee.
Prediction: O.J. Mayo will be a top-5 scorer in the NBA
These young Bucks will look a lot different than last year's squad, and after parting with their two most famous faces, some people might expect that to be reflected negatively in their win-loss column. I don't see Milwaukee being that bad, both thanks to the improvement of young bigs Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova and John Henson, as well as the arrival of a new scorer in the backcourt. Just imagine if they'd held onto Tobias Harris...
Over the summer, guards Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings left via free agency and sign-and-trade, respectively, leaving behind a glaring hole in the starting backcourt that will be filled by O.J. Mayo and former Pistons point guard Brandon Knight. Despite losing their two leading scorers (and four of their top five, with the departures of Mike Dunleavy and J.J. Redick), the Bucks shouldn't experience that big a drop-off this year, and that largely has to do with how inefficient those two players were.
Monta Ellis has long been considered one of the least practical scorers in the league, settling for two-point jumpers more often than not. Last year he also took four three-pointers per game, of which he made only 28.7%. Last year he averaged a team-high 19.2 points a game, but did so on 17.5 shots, with a field-goal percentage of 41.6%. Ellis may be missed for his highlight plays,
Jennings wasn't any better, shooting at a clip of less than 40% from the field. Jennings is a better three-point shooter than Ellis, but was dreadful inside the three-point line.
Someone on this team needs to make up for the combined 33 shots Ellis and Jennings took last year, and Mayo will have no problem assuming that role, likely doing so in a much more efficient manner than his predecessors. In Dallas last year, Mayo had a similar role while Dirk Nowitzki was coming back from injury, and he put up big numbers. In the end, his scoring average dropped to 15.3 points per game, but on a team with no other true scoring threat, he should be expected to step right in once again.
Most people will expect Mayo to be this team's top scorer, but what'll shoot him to the league's top five has much to do with the changes in the NBA landscape, with injuries and roster acquisitions affecting many of the best offensive threats.
Here are your top ten scorers from last year: Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Dwyane Wade, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Brook Lopez.
Of those, Melo, Durant, LeBron and probably Harden are your best bets for sticking around. The first three are almost sure things, with the arrival of Howard turning Harden into a slightly less volume-scorer. As for the other six: Kobe and Westbrook will be coming back from serious injuries; Curry will be sharing the ball with Andre Iguodala, as well as his improving supporting cast; Wade can be expected to regress again, especially as he saves up for another title run, and Aldridge and Lopez will both have more help around them than last year.
Of course new guys always step into the picture, and players like Paul George and Derrick Rose will also be among the league's elite in terms of putting points on the board. It would've been easy to put Mayo in the top ten, but I think he has a good a chance as any to really make a name for himself this year.
Other Bucks predictions:
- Larry Sanders will lead the league in blocked shots
- Rookie Giannis Antetokoumpo will soon just be called G.A. or 'Giannis', before commentators bother learning to pronounce his name
- Brandon Knight will find a home in Milwaukee
More from Pounding The Rock:
- 30 preseason predictions: Indiana Pacers
- Stampler's NBA Predictions Part 6: The Pistons & Bucks
- The Spurs should hope for a slow trade season
- Spurs exercise options on Cory Joseph & Kawhi Leonard
- Stampler's NBA Predictions Part 5: The Pacers and Cavaliers