Milwaukee Bucks: Prediction: 12th in the Eastern Conference
2014 Record: 15-67
Coach: Jason Kidd
Significant Additions: F Jabari Parker (draft), F Jared Dudley (trade), G Jerryd Bayless (free agent), G Kendall Marshall (waiver claim), F Damien Inglis (draft)
Significant Subtractions: C Ekpe Udoh (free agent), G Ramon Sessions (free agent), G Carlos Delfino (trade)
Projected Starters: G Brandon Knight, G Giannis Antetokounmpo, F Jabari Parker, F Ersan Ilyasova, C Larry Sanders (4/10): This is another one of those crummy Eastern teams where the starting lineup is just a guess. Knight is one of four serviceable points on the roster, but former Laker Kendall Marshall is the best pure point guard of anyone they have. The developing Antetokounmpo started 23 games last year but he's being pushed to the two to accommodate Jabari Parker, which is reminiscent of Kevin Durant's early days in Seattle when P.J. Carlesimo had him at shooting guard. It's quite possible that they'll go small and play Parker at the four, opening up a spot for O.J. Mayo, provided he stays in shape this time. Ilyasova was shoved to the bench the second half of the season after playing so poorly so it's not out of the question for him to go back there. Sanders, of course, is a volatile situation in his own right. The only sure things for the lineup seem to be Parker and "The Greek Freak," and if indeed Knight and Sanders start alongside them, it'll be the first time the Bucks have fielded an above-average lineup in terms of athleticism that I can ever recall. They're going to create a lot of size and speed mismatches against whoever they play, but whether anyone here can shoot will be the question.
Projected Reserves (6.5/10): As mentioned above there is Marshall to back up or possibly supplant Knight. Nate Wolters showed some things as a rookie, but he was more of a scorer in college and might be encouraged to revert back to that mentality as a backup two. Jerryd Bayless is another one who can play the point and while he's shown flashes everywhere he's been. He's already on his sixth team in seven years and has to be running out of chances in this league. He's also more of a two, and he shot 39.5 percent from downtown in his stint with the Celtics but only 41.8 percent overall. Jared Dudley will bring some defense and sorely-needed shooting and should be even more valuable for his professionalism in a locker room full of young pups. Khris Middleton came from nowhere to provide one of the few bright spots for the team last season, and you wonder what his role will be with Parker and Dudley on board. The situation is probably less complicated for Damien Inglis, a 6'8" 19-year-old from France whom the Bucks drafted with the first pick of the second round. He's got a broken foot and will miss the first month of the season anyway. I see the D-League in his future. John Henson isn't quite as explosive as Sanders, but he's a pretty good shot-blocker too and offers similar skills. Zaza Pachulia returns from injury and he's another banger inside but has more offensive tools in his belt than Henson or Sanders.
Coach/Front Office (4.5/10): General Manager John Hammond must be wondering if his job is worth it. He's been forced to do it with one hand tied behind his back for some time because former owner Herb Kohl demanded the empty mediocrity of low-seed playoff trips just so the franchise could be first-round fodder for actual contenders. It's been clear for sometime that a complete tear-down was in order, so in that respect Hammond should've won the Executive of the Year Award last year for convincing Kohl that the 2013-14 had 45-win potential when it actually bottomed out to the worst record in the league and allowed them to draft Parker. Sure, he needed a few people like Sanders, Ilyasova and Mayo to disappoint in a few unplanned ways, but it all worked out in the end. Rewarding Hammond for that bit of deception would've made more sense than giving it to him after 2010 for taking Milwaukee from 34 wins to 46. That's just a handful of coin-flips from the year prior regressing toward the mean.
But Kohl sold the team and one of the new co-owners, Marc Lasry, went over Hammond's head to fire incumbent coach Larry Drew and snatch Jason Kidd from the Brooklyn Nets. It doesn't take a genius to figure that Kidd, who knew Larry from a prior business relationship, was promised more control and personnel authority to make that kind of move, so where does that leave Hammond? Kidd's rookie season in New Jersey began controversially as possible on and off the floor, but he deserves credit for switching gears on the fly once injuries to Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett forced him to go a switching, small-ball scheme and to rely on youngsters like Mason Plumlee and Mirza Teletovic. He also got a lot of mileage from playing point guards Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston together. Kidd will have considerably more team-wide athleticism and many versatile pieces to move around the chess board in Milwaukee, but no veteran stars to lean on.
Team Rating: 48.5 (2.5x Starters Rating + 1.5x Reserves Rating + Coach Rating) x 2) = 48.5 out of 100
Did You Know: A lot of people call Antetokounmpo "The Greek Freak," but he's hardly the only one on the Bucks roster with an insensitive, perhaps even hurtful, rhyming nickname having to do with his roots. Apparently it's something of a theme for Milwaukee fans.
For example, they've taken to calling Jabari Parker "The Duke Kook." Okay...
They've Christened Ersan Ilyasova "The Turk Jerk," which, as a Turkish person, I just find rude. Maybe it's an inside joke?
Larry Sanders' little-known alias is "The VCU PU" which scores the terrible nickname hat trick of being mean, not particularly clever and lazy. Yes, Sanders went to VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University), but you're just rhyming one abbreviation for another, and more to the point just rhyming "U" with "U." That's one's just awful, Bucks fans, and I expect more from you.
They've dubbed O.J. Mayo "Southern Cal's Low Morale," which I think is plainly crossing the line. I know that Mayo has had somewhat of a disappointing career in the NBA, but to pin all the program's self-confidence issues on him specifically is totally unfair and a cheap shot. What the -- ?
Brandon Knight is "The Floridian Obsidian" really? Really? I mean, I get that he was born in Miami so he's a Floridian, and sure you can say his game is so smooth that it reminds you of obsidian glass, but this sure seems like a reference to skin color to me and that's just incredibly inappropriate. The Washington football team is receiving severe criticism for just this sort of thing and it's just shameful for Bucks fans to be treading into these waters.
I swear these are getting more and more offensive. If I read one more awful nickname, I'm gonna stop looking. So let's see what they call Zaza Pachulia.
"The Tbilisi Greasy." OH COME ON.