Last Season: 15-67 for last place in the division; Leading scorer—Brandon Knight (17.0), Leading Rebounds—Jeff Adrien 7.8, Leading Assists—Brandon Knight 4.9
Changes: Added—Damien Inglis (draft, overseas player), Jabari Parker (draft), Jared Dudley (trade), Jerryd Bayless (signed), Johnny O’Bryant (draft) Kendall Marshall (waiver claim); Lost— Carlos Delfino (trade), Jeff Adrien (free agency), Miroslav Raduljica (trade), Ramon Sessions (free agency)
Point Guard: Brandon Knight, Nate Wolters, Kendall Marshall
Knight can score, and is a quality starter in general. He is probably never going to be an All Star as a point guard, but he can be depended on for 17 points/ five assists and is young so as the rest of this roster matures he will remain a quality third option. Wolters was a capable backup last year, but not bringing quite the production you would want for him to stay at the 22 minutes/game that he did last year.
Kendall Marshall is going from starting on the Lakers a year ago, to third in the depth chart at the start of the year this year. That’s a huge dropoff from a visibility standpoint, but by the numbers he was bringing the same production Wolters brought in 22 minutes off the bench in 29 as a starter, so he will likely not see many opportunities unless he outplays Wolters in camp/practice and in limited minutes and makes improvements in his game.
Shooting Guard: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jerryd Bayless, O.J. Mayo
Giannis is an absolute freak athletically, and as long as he develops as projected this should be a position of strength for the Bucks. He still needs to grow into his game however, and will definitely need to show a lot larger propensity for scoring— but he was young and raw coming in and still has the high ceiling that we can expect him to grow into an All Star. Getting a lot of minutes this year should speed that up.
Bayless brings about the same production as Giannis at this point, however he has reached his cap in his 6th year. He will be fine as a capable backup but since the Bucks are going to be in development mode his future with the team is uncertain.
Mayo’s best year in the league was his first. He had a second spike in efficiency while at Dallas in 1213, but after coming to Milwaukee last year his fieldgoal and 3 point percentages both dropped half a point and his scoring dipped by four. He has never gotten close to the 18.5 and 17.5 he had his first two years in the league, and I would say there are a lot of questions about which direction his career is heading. That said, by this point Mayo may be a little undervalued—he can definitely push Bayless for the backup position if he returns to form a bit, but it is a clogged roster spot for the Bucks and they realistically want their future star (Giannis) to play as many minutes as possible, especially in crunch time and important situations.
Small Forward: Jabari Parker, Khris Middleton, Jared Dudley, Damien Inglis, Chris Wright
Second overall pick Parker should start here– none of the other players in this log jam have the kind of upside, or the kind of investment that Parker does. He should get as many minutes as possible, and as one of the more polished lottery picks in recent memory the Chicago native should be in contention for the rookie of the year.
Middleton is young, and averaged 12 a game last year, but is generally unremarkable. Dudley has fallen off from his peak in Phoenix which looked a lot like Middleton’s last year. Both have good three point strokes, so its clear that in the backup minutes this will be a catch and shoot position.
Second round pick Inglis doesn’t project to play. Wright’s played 32 games in two years, the rest lost to DNP coaches decisions and I don’t expect that trend to reverse if he sticks on the roster– with two draft picks and two more established vets ahead of him I don’t see how the Bucks can justify keeping five small forwards.
Power Forward: Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson, Johnny O’Bryant III
Illyasova is a league average starter. Henson projects a little better, but he’s slightly out of position playing down and doesn’t really work alongside Larry Sanders, which puts him coming off the bench rather than starting. Regardless this position is solid but not really stellar production– which should work out as long as the young wing players pull their weight and reach close to their ceilings.
Center: Larry Sanders, Zaza Pachulia
Sanders was a darling of the advanced stats community 18 months ago, and if he can manage to avoid bar fights this year he will be a plus defender and rim protector. Pachulia is another of our typical backup centers not bringing much in the way of offense.
Outlook: The Bucks should be better than last year. Not sniffing the playoffs better, but they were nearly as bad as the intentionally bad 76ers and the Bucks initially put together that roster with hopes of snagging an 8 seed. It will all depend on three factors– how good Jabari is, how much Giannis’s game can grow, and if Larry Sanders can return to his form. The other positions (point and power forward) are helmed by pedestrian NBA starters. I expect this year to net them another top 10 pick, leaving with a possible 8 seed next year and looking to actually compete in 2-4 years from now.
That brings us through two thirds of the Eastern Conference and one third of the league. Next up the Southeast so Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, Orlando, Washington, then onto the West.