The economic downturn is affecting every team in the NBA, but none more than the Milwaukee Bucks, who spent the offseason shedding salaries and bringing back very little in return. Coach Scott Skiles will have some interesting young players, but expect major growing pains for what might be the worst team in the league.
What Went Right:
- Fifth in Central Division
- Tied, Tenth in Eastern Conference
The Bucks' final record was actually better than expected, considering they lost Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut to injury for the bulk of the season. Richard Jefferson, acquired for disappointing forward Yi Jianlian, played in all 82 games and averaged a hair under 20 points per game. Several young players showed significant improvement, including Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions -- though that would prove to be a mixed blessing. Second-rounder Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was one of the steals of the draft and a significant contributor.
What Went Wrong: Redd (knee) and Bogut (back) suffered severe injuries. Lottery pick Joe Alexander -- a workout wonder at the pre-draft events -- may have been a reach at eighth overall. He's super-athletic but very raw and, at this stage of his career, doesn't have a clear NBA position.
Brandon Jennings, Jodie Meeks (draft), Hakim Warrick (free agent), Ersan Ilyasova (Europe), Carlos Delfino, Roko Ukic (trade - Raptors), Kurt Thomas (trade - Spurs), Walter Sharpe (trade - Pistons)
Charlie Villanueva, Ramon Sessions (free agents), Richard Jefferson (trade - Spurs)
The Bucks made no attempt to re-sign either Villanueva or Sessions, who ended up in Detroit and Minnesota, respectively. Jefferson was dealt for expiring contracts and spare parts... Bruce Bowen was bought out of his deal, and Fabricio Oberto dealt for Amir Johnson, who was then dealt for Roko Ukic -- in other words, dealing Jefferson leaves the Bucks with a veteran big man (and buyout candidate) and a third-string point guard.
Warrick is an athletic but undersized forward -- built like Villanueva, but without as good a jump shot -- who could win the starting job at power forward. Ilyasova was drafed by the Bucks in 2006 and played one season for the team before returning to Europe -- is back this year and could also be in the mix at both forward spots. Jennings will compete with Luke Ridnour at the point.
The Bucks' most important acquisitions are internal -- Redd and Bogut, who are expected to be fully-recovered and ready to compete when the season begins.
The top five scorers on the 2008-09 Bucks were Redd, Jefferson, Villanueva, Sessions and Bogut. Three of the five are gone. In their place will be a rookie who played -- sporadically - in Italy last season, a journeyman power forward who wasn't able to hang on to a starting job while playing for one of the league's worst teams, and an undersized power forward who played in Spain for the last two years. If Milwaukee management can find a couple of dollars, best to spend 'em on college scouting -- the Bucks are a lock to return to the lottery in 2010.
The Bucks don't have a ton to offer fantasy owners. Redd is one of the league's best shooters, but is something of an "empty" scorer -- he contributes little else. Bogut is good, not great, and his back troubles have to be considered a red flag. If Jennings wins the point guard job, downgrade all Milwaukee players, as rookie point guards often have trouble getting the offense going. And Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles is notorious in fantasy circles for having a quick hook -- pulling players after an early foul -- and difficult-to-figure rotations and substitution patterns.