STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
Andrew Bogut was the face of the Bucks since being taken first overall in 2005, but the team is now led by a pair of diminutive, yet talented guards that are looking to get the Bucks back to the postseason for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
Bogut had a fine career in Milwaukee, but he had trouble staying healthy, missing at least 10 games in all but his first season. Looking to shake things up, the Bucks shipped Bogut to the Warriors in March in a multi-player deal that landed them Monta Ellis. Besides adding an explosive player to a thin backcourt, the trade also signaled a shift from the Bucks’ defense-first approach to a more up-tempo attack.
Alongside Ellis will be Brandon Jennings, who is coming off his best year as a pro and still has room to grow as a player. They will be joined in the lineup by the ever-improving Ersan Ilyasova, last year’s first-round pick Tobias Harris, and offseason acquisition Samuel Dalembert. The Bucks lack star power, but they have a deep roster that will allow them to compete for one of the final playoff spots in the East.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis figure to see a lot of action in the backcourt, but the rest of the roster will compete for minutes, and head coach Scott Skiles will likely shuffle the lineup quite often. Ersan Ilyasova figures to be at least a 30-minute player this season after signing a five-year deal this offseason. While Tobias Harris and Samuel Dalembert will both start, they will likely be capped at around 20-25 minutes per night thanks to the Bucks’ depth. Mike Dunleavy figures to be the top reserve on the wing, and Beno Udrih will serve as the backup point guard. Both players should see around 20 minutes per night. The remaining minutes in the backcourt will be split between Doron Lamb and Marquis Daniels. A number of players will see minutes down low, with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Drew Gooden being the main contributors off the bench. Besides those players, Joel Przybilla, Larry Sanders, Ekpe Udoh, and John Henson could earn minutes in the post, but it remains to be seen if any of them will play regularly.
Samuel Dalembert: Seeking a true center, the Bucks acquired Dalembert from the Rockets during the offseason. Dalembert played in 65 of a possible 66 games last season, but he averaged just 22 minutes per game, his lowest mark since his rookie season. Dalembert figures to start at center for the Bucks, but it’s likely that his minutes will be limited again. He should help in the blocked shot category - and put up better percentages than expected - but be aware, his playing time could be somewhat limited.
Larry Sanders: Sanders appeared to be the odd man out in the Bucks’ frontcourt, but the team used him as a starter during the preseason, so it seems the Bucks may have more in store for him than anticipated. Sanders will share the center duties with Dalembert and Przybilla, but there is an outside shot that he opens the year in the starting lineup to help monitor the minutes of his two veteran counterparts.
Joel Przybilla: The Bucks had interest in signing Przybilla last season to provide some depth down low, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that the team went after him again this offseason. This time around, Przybilla, who resides in Milwaukee, chose to re-sign with the Bucks, the team he began his professional career with. Przybilla will not see many minutes, but he will counted on to beef up the Bucks’ interior defense.
Ersan Ilyasova: After making steady improvements over the two seasons prior, Ilyasova broke out in a big way last season. The Bucks recognized that he had become one of the better players on the team and inked him to a five-year deal this offseason. A lanky forward who can both hit the three and grab double-digit rebounds in a game, Ilyasova provides a rare skill set that is valuable to both the Bucks and fantasy owners alike. Ilyasova averaged 14.2 points and 8.9 rebounds as a starter last season, so if minutes increase again - as they have each of his last three NBA seasons - don’t be surprised to see a double-double average from him at the end of the campaign.
Tobias Harris: He did not make much of an impact during his rookie season, but the Bucks have more in store for Harris during the 2012-13 season. Harris improved so much during the offseason that he will enter the current campaign as the Bucks’ starting small forward. Harris will compete for minutes with several players, but averaged about 20 minutes per game during the preseason and figures to play a similar number when the real games start. Harris shouldn’t be counted on for a big fantasy impact, but the 20-year-old is a player on the rise.
Drew Gooden: While his shot selection and decision-making were questioned at times, Gooden was one of the Bucks’ more productive players a year ago. He averaged 13.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, numbers that jumped to 15.5 and 7.1, respectively, in the 46 games he started. Gooden is looking at a reduced role this year with Ersan Ilyasova locked in as the starting power forward, but he should be one of the team’s better scorers off the bench. Gooden is a fringe player in standard leagues, but his value would increase if he finds himself in the starting lineup for a stretch.
Mike Dunleavy: Dunleavy does not do much besides shoot from the perimeter these days, but that did not prevent him from shooting 47.4 percent from the field last season - the second best mark of his career. Dunleavy will come off the bench this season, but he still figures to see regular minutes on a Bucks team that lacks many consistent scorers. He averaged 1.5 three-pointers per game last season and should be good for a similar mark if he can shoot as well as he did last season.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: The Bucks’ best perimeter defender, Mbah a Moute will often be counted on to guard the opponent’s top scorer. Unfortunately for Mbah a Moute and the Bucks, it’s looking like he will miss the beginning of the season due to a knee injury. Mbah a Moute is primarily counted on for his defense, so don’t expect much from him on the offensive end. However, he could see a bump in value at some point during the season if he is able to snag the starting small forward role when healthy.
Ekpe Udoh: Having failed to secure a regular rotation spot after being the sixth pick in the 2010 draft, Udoh was shipped to the Bucks last season as part of the deal that sent Andrew Bogut to Golden State. Udoh can protect the rim, but it’s likely that his minutes will remain inconsistent on a Bucks squad that is deep in the frontcourt.
John Henson: The Bucks’ first-round pick in this year’s draft, Henson brings rare athleticism for a player his size. He figures to play a role off the bench, but he may miss the beginning of the season due to a knee injury and probably won’t be guaranteed minutes right away. Henson’s talent is apparent, so don’t be surprised if his playing time picks up over the course of the season.
Brandon Jennings: Following the Andrew Bogut trade, Jennings assumed the role of top dog in Milwaukee. He played like it too, leading the team with 19.1 ppg and increasing his numbers from the year before nearly across the board. Questions about Jennings’ shooting percentage remain, but he was a top-25 fantasy player last year and figures to further improve this season. If he can be more efficient with his shot, Jennings should be able to reach the elusive 20-point per game average for the first time in his career.
Monta Ellis: The key piece in the Andrew Bogut trade, Ellis played 21 games with the Bucks last season. He remained the same player he was in Golden State, but he took three fewer shots per game, which contributed to a 4.3-point drop in his scoring average. Ellis does not have as much freedom in Milwaukee as he did in Golden State, so while he will remain an option in standard leagues, it’s more likely that his scoring average will be below 20 points than above.
Beno Udrih: Udrih played over 30 minutes per game and averaged double figures in scoring each of his four seasons in Sacramento, but his numbers took a big dive last season, his first in Milwaukee. Udrih suffered a shoulder injury near the beginning of the season and never found his niche, averaging just 5.9 points in just over 18 minutes per contest. Udrih will be the Bucks’ backup point guard, but it’s likely that his role will remain minimal with Monta Ellis able to handle the point guard duties when Brandon Jennings needs a rest.
Marquis Daniels: Daniels joined the Bucks this offseason after spending the last three campaigns with the Celtics. He gives the Bucks some size in what is an otherwise height-challenged backcourt, but it’s unlikely that he will see regular minutes off the bench.
Doron Lamb: Lamb was the Bucks’ second-round pick in this year’s draft. His ability to hit the three will mesh well with the Bucks’ style, but an elbow injury suffered during training camp cost him a couple of weeks and hurt his chances of earning a spot in the rotation. Lamb is an intriguing player, but any impact he makes in his rookie year will likely come later in the season.
Ersan Ilyasova: Though not a sleeper in the truest sense of the word, Ilyasova is a player who could join the cusp of the fantasy elite this season. If his minutes increase as expected, Ilyasova could easily average a double-double - something an average of just eight players have done over the last three years. Ilyasova’s length should allow him to average a block and a steal per night, and he should also average around one make from downtown per contest. Put it all together and Ilyasova could wind up as a top-25 player by the end of the season.
Samuel Dalembert: Dalembert may appear to be a natural replacement for Andrew Bogut thanks to his ability to rebound and block shots, but he may not play enough to make the impact some expect. Dalembert’s minutes have dropped each of the last two years, all the way down to 22 last season. He is still the likely starter at center, but on a Bucks squad with a lot of frontcourt options, he is unlikely to see starter’s minutes.