MILWAUKEE BUCKS PREVIEW 2011
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
After posting a surprising 46-36 record and coming within a game of reaching the second round of the playoffs two seasons ago, the Bucks went just 35-47 in 2010-11 and failed to reach the postseason. The Bucks were among the best defensive teams in the league again, but they finished dead last in both points per game and field goal percentage. The lack of a consistent scorer hurt the offense, but injury issues – nearly every key player missed significant time or often played injured – kept the team from finding a regular rotation. In an effort to improve the offense, the Bucks acquired Stephen Jackson from the Bobcats in a draft-day deal. Jackson brings a certain amount of baggage, but he could be the 20-ppg scorer the Bucks have been looking for. Additionally, with Andrew Bogut finally over the arm issues that plagued him last season, and Brandon Jennings poised to make a leap in his third season, there is room to believe the Bucks will be much better on the offensive end. If the Bucks can score more often and more efficiently, and stay healthy, their product should improve. While they lack the star power to make a deep postseason run, don’t be surprised to see them playing in late April again in 2012.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Assuming the Bucks stay healthy this season, they should have a fairly regular rotation. Andrew Bogut will see around 35 minutes per game in the pivot, but he could log heavier minutes in close games due to the Bucks’ lack of size. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will open the season as the starting power forward and could see an increase to about 30 minutes per game this season. Drew Gooden will be the top backup at both of the post positions and see around 25 minutes per night. The Bucks could go a couple ways at the starting small forward spot, but Carlos Delfino figures to get the first crack at the job. That should earn him around 30 minutes per game, with Mike Dunleavy seeing most of the remaining time at that spot. Stephen Jackson will be the best perimeter scorer on the team and thus play 35 minutes most nights. Brandon Jennings figures to see around the same number of minutes as the starting point guard. Beno Udrih should play a steady 25 minutes off the bench between the two guard spots, Ersan Ilyasova will also see about 25 per. Larry Sanders will have an opportunity to earn minutes, but the rest of the players on the roster will have a hard time breaking into the rotation unless injury opens up an expanded opportunity.
Andrew Bogut: Bogut is coming off a fine all-around season, but he struggled offensively due to the lingering effects of a gruesome arm/elbow injury he suffered during the 2009-10 campaign. Both Bogut’s 49.5 field goal percentage and 44.2 free throw percentage were career lows, which resulted in a drop of nearly three points per game from the year before. Despite the struggles on the offensive end of the floor, Bogut averaged a double-double for the third consecutive season and led the league in blocks per game. Now fully healthy, Bogut should regain his shooting touch this season. With better offensive numbers, in addition to his premium production in rebounds and blocks, Bogut should see a bump in fantasy value this season.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: Mbah a Moute is slated to open the season as the Bucks’ starting power forward. The Nuggets signed the restricted free agent to a four-year, $18.7 million offer sheet in December, but the Bucks’ decision to match the deal indicates they think he will be a key player for them in the coming seasons, including this one. Despite his value to the team, especially on the defensive end, Mbah a Moute will probably only average around 30 minutes per game in the Bucks’ crowded frontcourt; and though he is improving offensively, he has averaged just 6.7 ppg in his career. Mbah a Moute is an intriguing player, but he’s only average in the fantasy world.
Carlos Delfino: Delfino started 106 of the 124 games he played in for the Bucks over the last two seasons. While that percentage is good news for his fantasy value, the fact he also missed 40 games over the same span is not. The signing of Mike Dunleavy could allow the Bucks to give Delfino more rest throughout the season, which would likely result in a decrease in minutes to around 30 per night instead of the 32 and a half he averaged last year. Delfino has averaged 1.3 steals and nearly two three-pointers per game over the last two seasons, so even if he loses a few minutes on a per-night basis, a full season could make him a nice mid-to-late-round addition, especially for those in rotisserie formats.
Mike Dunleavy: After spending the last five seasons with the Pacers, Dunleavy signed a two-year contract with the Bucks in December. Dunleavy’s 11.2 ppg average last season was his second lowest since his rookie season, but he shot a respectable 46.2 percent from the field and made 102 three-pointers. Carlos Delfino will likely open the season as the starting small forward, but he and Dunleavy should share the minutes. Still, given that Dunleavy will not play much more than the 27 minutes per game he averaged last season, he is unlikely to help much outside of long-range shooting.
Drew Gooden: The Bucks signed Gooden to a five-year deal a year ago only to watch him play in 35 games in his debut season with the team. In the games he did play in, Gooden was mainly ineffective, averaging just 6.8 rebounds while shooting a dreadful 43.1 percent from the field. A healthy Gooden should get back on track a bit this season, but he’ll likely have to do it from the bench, at least at the beginning.
Ersan Ilyasova: Ilyasova is a versatile forward who rebounds hard and can shoot from the perimeter, but with a lot of forwards on the Bucks’ roster deserving of playing time, his minutes will likely be capped at around 25 per game. As such, he’s more of a guy to keep an eye on than a guy to consider late in drafts.
Larry Sanders: Sanders’ rare athleticism at 6-11 helped him average over a block per game in his rookie season despite playing only 14 minutes per game. He should play a bit more in his second year, but he is still raw offensively and doesn’t provide much beyond blocks. However, if he makes some strides in his game and earns a bigger role, he could have some value for his swat totals alone.
Tobias Harris: Harris was selected 19th overall in this year’s draft after playing just one season, albeit a very good one, at Tennessee. He has good size and can get to the free throw line, but as the youngest player in the league, he’ll likely be more of a project than a contributor in his rookie year.
Jon Leuer: Leuer was the Bucks’ second-round selection in this year’s draft. He’ll struggle to find minutes in the Bucks’ frontcourt this season, but he could see a few minutes per game based on his ability to both stretch the floor and play down low.
Jon Brockman: Brockman is strong on the glass, but he doesn’t do much else and was often miscast as a center last season. If Drew Gooden serves as the backup center off the bench, and Larry Sanders plays more of a role this season, Brockman’s role could shrink to almost zilch.
Brandon Jennings: While Jennings’ scoring average increased to 16.2 ppg last season, a broken foot limited him to just 63 games and played a key role in preventing him from improving upon a quality rookie season. Jennings’ career field goal percentage of 37.9 percent needs to go up significantly for him to become a more efficient scoring point guard, but his already-strong career averages of 1.7 threes and 1.5 steals per game, to go along with an 81.3 percent free throw percentage, make him plenty valuable to fantasy owners. If Jennings can make a few more shots this season, both he and the Bucks could surprise.
Stephen Jackson: Jackson joins the Bucks after spending the last two campaigns with the Bobcats. There have been questions about his desire to play for Milwaukee, but that’s where he’ll be Opening Night. At age 33, and dealing with a bad back, Jackson will likely play around the 35 minutes per game he averaged last season instead of the 39 he received the season before. Still, he’ll be the Bucks’ primary perimeter scorer, and thus will probably average somewhere around 20 points per game. Jackson will hurt your fantasy team’s field goal percentage due to the volume of shots he takes and his career 41.8 percentage from the field, but if he stays healthy – and happy – he should make 100 three-pointers and be a useful starter in most fantasy formats.
Beno Udrih: Despite Udrih putting up the best numbers of his career a season ago, the Kings decided to send him to the Bucks in a draft-day deal. Udrih started 64 games for Sacramento last season, but he’ll come off the bench in Milwaukee behind Brandon Jennings. The Bucks had a lot of success two seasons ago splitting the point guard duties between Jennings and Luke Ridnour, so they could opt for a similar situation this season if Jennings struggles. However, they'll likely give Jennings a chance to assert himself in his third season and play consistent minutes. At the same time, Udrih and Jennings should be able to play together, so Udrih will likely see some minutes at shooting guard as well. He'll play about 25 minutes per night and provide efficient production off the bench, but don’t expect him to approach last year’s numbers in a backup role.
Darington Hobson: Taken by the Bucks in the second round of the 2010 draft, Hobson missed his entire rookie season after undergoing surgery on both hips. Now healthy, Hobson will have a spot on the Bucks’ roster this season. He probably won’t play much right away, but Harrington is an interesting prospect who has good size for a guard at 6-7 and averaged 9.3 rebounds in his lone season at New Mexico.
Shaun Livingston: Livingston played in a career-high 73 games with the Bobcats last season before being sent to the Bucks in the Stephen Jackson trade. With both Brandon Jennings and Beno Udrih ahead of him on the depth chart, his playing time will be minimal.
Brandon Jennings: With career averages of 15.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.7 three-pointers made, and 1.5 steals per game, Jennings already is a multi-category producer. While his 37.9 career field goal percentage must improve for him to become a more efficient player, his fantasy value could see a nice boost this season simply by playing a few more minutes per game. More playing time means more shots and more opportunities to rack up statistics, so don’t be surprised to see Jennings’ averages rise a bit above his career marks. If Jennings can average closer to 20 ppg than 15, he could establish himself as a viable starting point guard option in nearly all fantasy formats.
Beno Udrih: While selecting Udrih for this spot is admittedly a bit of a cop-out given that he is not generally expected to be a fantasy contributor this season, Udrih is the most likely player on the Bucks’ roster to not match last season’s production. Of the true fantasy options on the Bucks’ roster, Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut should both improve this season, and Carlos Delfino and Stephen Jackson should provide what they usually do. Back to Udrih - he was a solid contributor in several categories last season, including the shooting percentages and steals, and put up career bests across the board, but as Jennings’ production should go up with more minutes, Udrih’s will decrease with a drop in playing time. Udrih will be a more than capable backup as the Bucks’ top reserve guard; just don’t expect him to match last season’s production.