By John Frascella
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
Coming off an embarrassing 26-56 season in which they finished third-to-last in the weak Eastern Conference, the Bucks made some interesting moves this offseason. Unfortunately for Milwaukee's fans and their general manager John Hammond, "interesting" doesn't necessarily equal "smart" or "savvy."
The trade that sent wild card Yi Jianlian
and underachiever Bobby Simmons
to the Nets for small forward Richard Jefferson
, was a safe one. But the three-way deal that sent underrated floor general Mo Williams to the Cavs, and brought Luke Ridnour
, Damon Jones
and Adrian Griffin
to Milwaukee, was a real head-scratcher. Williams is one of the most productive offensive point guards in the league, and alongside Michael Redd
, Jefferson, Charlie Villanueva
, and Andrew Bogut
, the Bucks had a very promising starting lineup in place. That lineup looks less explosive with Ridnour or Ramon Sessions
in Williams' stead.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Redd and Jefferson will lead the team in minutes at around 38 per game. Bogut should hold steady around 34, while Villanueva and Sessions will be Milwaukee's greatest gainers. With Jianlian and Mo-Will out of the picture, Villanueva will jump from 24 to 30 minutes per contest, and Sessions will go from 26 to 29. Ridnour will likely open the year as the starting point guard, but over the course of the season will only average 24-25 minutes a night.
Veteran Tyronn Lue
will steal a few minutes away from both Sessions and Ridnour, and swingman Charlie Bell
should be in the backcourt mix as well. Rookie small forward Joe Alexander
will contribute as a useful reserve. Expect Francisco Elson
and Dan Gadzuric
to nullify one another as Bogut's backups.
Coming off a solid year with 14 points and 10 rebounds per game, Bogut may finally play up to his No. 1 pick potential this season. Replacing Williams with Ridnour suggests Milwaukee's organizational desire to get more offense from its frontcourt, including both Jefferson and Bogut. Bogut is a poor free-throw shooter (should be around 60 percent) but will get around 17.5 points and 11 rebounds per night. The Aussie should be good for about two blocks a game, too.
The lanky, athletic free agent signee is one of the league's premier shotblockers. The Bucks' reserve frontcourt is sub-par, and Elson may be the best of the bunch. However, considering his length and explosiveness, he's not as strong a rebounder as he should be.
There isn't much to differentiate him from Elson. Both are tall, skinny, and athletic, though Elson is the more reliable defender while Gadzuric is the better finisher. The latter is good for a spotless field goal percentage, but won't log enough minutes to amass stats elsewhere.
Jefferson is a solid player, but is not quite the scorer that last year's numbers led the public to believe. Jefferson jumped a little over six points, from 16.3 to 22.6 per game, but is likely to see a dropoff this season. Nets head coach Lawrence Frank ran an unreasonably high number of plays for him, something Bucks brain Larry Krystkowiak
won't do. Jefferson's athleticism isn't what it once was, and he has a tendency to miss chip-shots around the rim. Jefferson will battle Bogut to be Milwaukee's second-leading scorer.
A talented offensive performer that has attracted the "lazy" label, Villanueva leaves much to be desired on the defensive end of the court. But pay his team defensive skills (or lack thereof) no mind; Villanueva should improve upon his point, rebound, assist and block totals this year. Backup Malik Allen
shouldn't steal too much of his sunshine. Villanueva is a rare breed: a power forward that can extend beyond the three-point arc.
Though a freshman, Alexander has much to offer. The versatile small forward features an excellent mid-range game, and plays with great passion and intensity. As a rookie, he may struggle for consistency behind the deeper three-point stripe, but Alexander will compensate statistically with some steals off the pine. He'll likely be Milwaukee's No. 3 forward.
Often thought to be two-dimensional (points and threes), Redd is actually a fine all-around fantasy player. He'll shoot over 80 percent from the foul line, while averaging one steal and a little over three assists per night.
This unimposing point guard fell out of favor in Seattle over the course of the past two seasons. GM John Hammond sees hope, however, and Ridnour should be a decent second-tier source of assists with the playing time he'll be handed. Ridnour is a fantastic foul shooter and fair three-point stroker.
Toward the end of last year, Sessions had over 20 assists in a single game. A quick decision-maker and crafty ballhandler, he should eventually overtake Ridnour as the Bucks' starting point man. Sessions has already established an on-court rapport with Redd, Bogut, and Villanueva.
Thought to be a bit of a sleeper heading into last season, Bell disappointed those who took a shot on him. He displayed his versatility by recording a triple-double during the 2006-07 season, but showed few flashes last year. Bell can pass and hit triples, but is stuck in a logjam with Ridnour, Sessions, and Lue.
Valuable from a leadership and experience standpoint, but not so much from a fantasy perspective. Lue is a little man and big-shot maker, but will clearly be the No. 3 point guard behind Ridnour and Sessions.
Though many are now aware of his 24-assist outburst, "Ramon Sessions
" isn't exactly a household name. He'll continue to surprise people with gaudy assist totals, a few steals and even about four rebounds a night.
Owners expecting RJ's production from last season simply won't get it. Redd, Villanueva, Bogut, and Ridnour will all get shots, and the deterioration of Jefferson's hops will also hurt his scoring. The disappearing explosiveness will negatively affect his steals and blocks, as well.
Article first appeared on 10/1/08