Who's New?: F Greg Monroe (free agent), G Rashad Vaughn (draft), G Greivis Vasquez (trade), F Chris Copeland (free agent)
Who's Gone?: F Ersan Ilyasova (trade), C Zaza Pachulia (trade), F Jared Dudley (trade)
Off-season Grade: B. Monroe and Vaughn are both talent upgrades, but I'm not sure either one makes sense given the talent that was already on the roster. The Bucks are absolutely loaded now two through four.
2015-16 Slogan: "Who needs shooting when we can just bludgeon you to death?"
What Else Is New?: The Bucks have new uniforms, including really dope alternates (mostly approve, I never cared for the red and green ones), a snazzy new court design (more of a Zach Lowe fetish than mine), and they got a new arena plan approved, with $250 million in public funds promised by the state for the project in a rare display of agreement between Republicans and Democrats in the "purple" state.
Everything's go so well for the Bucks that Jason Kidd isn't even openly conspiring against his general manager! There were reports circulating that Kidd was angling for the dual role with GM John Hammond in the lame duck year of his contract, but ownership quietly extended him another year two weeks ago. Why wouldn't they? His track record has been great. Everything is looking up for Milwaukee and I really think they're gonna make it!
Your Likely Starters:
C John Henson
PF Greg Monroe
SF Giannis Antetokounmpo
SG Khris Middleton
PG Michael Carter-Williams
There was concern that the Bucks would be adrift in the middle when they finally gave up on Larry Sanders last season for a myriad of reasons, but Henson filled the void capably and was just reportedly rewarded with a lavish new extension. Henson's overall efficiency numbers have been remarkably consistent since turning pro, but his per-minute scoring and rebounding numbers have decreased each season since his rookie year. This will be the first time he'll be trusted as a full-time starter, with the minutes that implies, but Monroe will likely play quite a bit at the five as well.
Monroe spurned the Knicks and other suitors to sign with small-market Milwaukee, an indicator of their growing reputation in the league. He's one of the league's best young post-up monsters, strong on the business end of the pick-and-roll and a strong rebounder. He's limited defensively, but had shown some improvement there late in his time with Detroit. His responsibilities in that end will be difficult because his duties will be split between the four spot and being the rim protector when Jabari Parker is out there with him.
The Greek Freak, still 20, continues to develop his game and improved in almost every area in his second season except, bizarrely, three-pointers. After shooting a surprisingly solid 34.7 percent as a rook from downtown, he hardly took any threes in his second season, making 7 of 44 on the year. He shot way more perimeter jumpers and had solid percentages there, so maybe it was just a case of the coaching staff rebuilding his shot from scratch and extending him out incrementally. I'm curious if he'll reverse the trend or turn into a rich man's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Middleton, a former second-round pick out of Texas A&M, came out of nowhere to be their best player last season and earned himself a five-year, $70 mil contract, which almost feels like a bargain in the new salary cap climate. He's not quite in Danny Green's class as a pure shooter, but can on occasion create his own offense. He's not as physically talented as some of his teammates, but really the one indispensable guy on the squad. He has to be on the floor for good things to happen.
I'm not a fan of Carter-Williams at all, but I still endorsed the Bucks dealing for him. As well as Brandon Knight played last year, he has a ceiling and you've got to have a veritable super team around him to win a title with a point guard like that in the modern game. MCW was more of a lottery ticket. There's a 90 percent chance he won't ever turn into anything, but he has ideal size and athleticism. With so many talented young guys on the roster already you've already hit on, Hammond could afford to gamble here. If Carter-Williams falters this season too, it'll be time to move on and they'll have plenty of trade assets to find another point guard.
Your Likely Bench:
G Greivis Vasquez
F Jabari Parker
G O.J. Mayo
C Miles Plumlee
F Chris Copeland
G Rashad Vaughn
G Jerryd Bayless
F Damien Inglis
Pretty well put together bench, I gotta say. No 6MOY candidates or anything, but virtually everyone here can be useful. Parker, the second overall pick last year is the big name here of course, and he's on track to return on time from an ACL tear suffered midway through his rookie season. Parker's a bit of a 3-4 'tweener, and it makes you wonder why they spent all that money on Monroe when they already have him and Antetokounmpo at the forward spots. I doubt the plan is to keep Parker as a reserve for long, so either he's gonna be traded for a point guard or Monroe will wind up being mostly a center, Henson's extension be damned.
Vaughn's another interesting case. I guess at pick #17 in the draft you just take whoever's the best guy on your board, and since the kid is just 19 you don't have to worry about the roster fit immediately, but they just extended Middleton for five years. The Bucks need shooting, for sure, but my hunch is Vaughn's gonna spend the year in the D-League.
Vasquez was a smart pickup. He's one of the better backup points in the league and that's necessary with such a shaky starter. He doesn't get into the paint much, but he knows how to get the ball to the right people and can knock down open shots. Bayless can shuffle between the guard spots and he too can be useful in an emergency, though I wonder if he'll be happy in that role.
Mayo is the biggest candidate to be disgruntled though, right? He's not very good, but he's a bit too talented to be the fourth wing on an Eastern Conference team. They've got to flip him for front court depth, draft picks, anything. Plumlee is the only banger they have besides the two starters, but I wonder how he'll get into games too. You'd think Kidd would mostly stagger the minutes at center between Henson and Monroe. I guess it depends on how committed the coaching staff will be to playing with a stretch four. Copeland is strictly a three-point specialist, which the Bucks desperately need, while Inglis is yet another springy 20-year-old wing vying for time.
Your Coach: Jason Kidd
He's come a long way since his early days in Brooklyn where he had players intentionally run into him to steal an extra time out. Kidd's been a big advocate of small-ball and using stretch fours, and he's got ideal personnel for that in Milwaukee. I'm just curious how he'll handle the rotation with Henson, Monroe, Parker and Antetokounmpo, as well as what he does with Mayo.
Bottom Line: Not too many teams have a brighter future than the Bucks, that's for certain. It wouldn't be a shock to see them grab a top-four seed if everything breaks right, but 46 wins and somewhere in the 5th or 6th seed neighborhood seems more realistic. The big question is where is the shooting going to come from?
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