Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Milwaukee Bucks 2009-2010 Season Preview

I am sure that everyone has read at least one or two previews of the upcoming season for the Milwaukee Bucks. To put it bluntly, things do not look promising according to the "experts". Sports Illustrated picked the Bucks to finish last in the Eastern Conference. InsideHoops.com ranked the Bucks the 29th best team in the NBA narrowly edging out the Minnesota Timberwolves. ESPN.com's season opening power rankings have the Bucks listed 27th team in the NBA ahead of only the Memphis Grizllies, Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings. The silver lining is that the Bucks will have a hard time moving down on any of those lists. That means the only place the Bucks can go is up.

All Milwaukee Bucks fans know the questions coming into the season:
- Will Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd rebound from injuries?
- How will all of the players mesh with each other (seven players on the roster that did not play for the Bucks last season)?
- Will Brandon Jennings become a legitimate starting point guard?
- How many players will Scott Skiles use in his rotation?
- Will the Bucks move one of their expiring contracts (Ridnous, Thomas or Elson)?

All of these questions have been dissected by a number of publications. Instead I am going to rank the players on the Milwaukee Bucks current roster from 15 to 1. There are a number of factors that determine each player's value: short term expectations, long term expectations, salary, relative strength at each position and swagger. I know that some of those factors are subjective but it is my list. I will update this list throughout the season but without further ado, here is the initial list:

#15 - Dan Gadzuric (Center): his hustle earned him a six-year, $36 million contract. That contract will go down as the second worst contract in Bucks history behind the Anthony Mason debacle. There are two season remaining on the contract at $6.75 million for 2009 and $7.25 million for 2010. Gadzuric would not be worth $1.4 million over the next two seasons let alone $14 million.

#14 - Joe Alexander (Forward): Bucks GM John Hammond made a number of shrewd trades to rid the Bucks of bloated contracts since he took over for Larry Harris in 2008 but his first draft pick as Bucks GM has been a bust. Hammond choose Joe Alexander #8 overall in the 2008 NBA Draft. Alexander played sparingly as a rookie and is out 8 to 12 weeks with a hamstring injury to start the 2009-2010 campaign. He has a relatively cheap contract but is in danger of have his team option declined for next season (a VERY rare move in the NBA) meaning the Bucks would give up on him after only two seasons.

#13 - Charlie Bell (Guard): speaking of bloated contracts, the Bucks have Bell under contract for the next three season for an average of a little less than $4 million a year. That makes Bell the 6th highest paid player on the Bucks roster when he is not even a lock to make their rotation.

#12 - Francisco Elson (Center): old back-up centers are a dime a dozen in the NBA. Elson should get limited minutes and is really not effective as Gadzuric but ranks ahead of him because he costs the bucks $5 million less than Gadzuric this season.

#11 - Roko Ukic (Guard): he was "the other guy" in the Carlos Delfino/Amir Johnson trade with the Toronto Raptors. Ukic could be a good point guard down the road but is a raw talent at this point. Ukic holds a player option for 2010/11 for $1.45 million which might be good value since the Bucks only point guard locked up long-term is 2009 first round pick Brandon Jennings. Former point guard and current Bucks coach Scott Skiles is going to have a hard time finishing minutes for Ukic though with an already crowded backcourt.

#10 - Jodie Meeks (Guard): the Bucks choose Meeks in the second-round of the 2009 NBA Draft. The Bucks hope that Meeks will follow in the footsteps of Michael Redd. Meeks has a chance to make the biggest move this season of anyone not named Brandon Jennings. Meeks scored a University of Kentucky record 54-points last season against Tennessee. If Meeks broke the Kentucky scoring record against an inferior opponent it might not mean as much but he did it against a formidable opponent. Whether that firepower translates to the NBA remains to be seen.

#9 - Luke Ridnour (Guard): the writing is on the wall, the Bucks are trying to move him to make way for rookie point guard Brandon Jennings. Ridnour has one season remaining on his contract for $6.5 million. Look for the Bucks to move Ridnour if they can.

#8 - Ersan Ilyasova (Forward): after playing in Europe for a few seasons he rejoins the Bucks at a very reasonable price three-years, roughly $9 million. The Bucks opted to bring back Ilyasova at 20% the cost of Charlie V and thus far that looks to be the right move. Ilyasova will get a lot of minutes off the bench at both forward positions.

#7 - Kurt Thomas (forward): looks to be the starting power forward for the Bucks this season but at the age of 37 he is not their long-term answer at that position. He has a palatable contract at $3.8 million this season but as the season draws on look for Warrick and Ilyasova to take over at power forward.

#6 - Brandon Jennings (Guard): he is the first player to forgo college and opt to play in Europe for a season to satisfy the NBA rule of being out of high school for one season before entering the NBA. The Bucks selected Jennings #10 overall in the 2009 NBA Draft. Most experts consider the 2009 NBA Draft Class one of the weakest in a number of years (besides Blake Griffin) and outside of Ricky Rubio, Jennings might be the biggest boom/bust pick the draft. Luckily the Bucks have a former point guard as their head coach, look for Skiles to be the perfect mentor for Jennings.

#5 - Carlos Delfino (Guard/Forward): GM John Hammond got his former player back. While in the front office at Detroit, in the same draft that Detroit passed on Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade for Darko, Hammond was part of the brain trust that selected Delfino #25 in the 2003 NBA Draft.

#4 - Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (Forward): for how much of a bust Joe Alexander has been, the Bucks looked to have struck gold in the second round of that draft with Mbah a Moute. Bucks coach Scott Skiles preaches defense and that is what Mbah a Moute provides. The versatility that Mbah a Moute provides at both forward positions makes him quite an asset at his paltry salary of $750,000.

#3 - Andrew Bogut (Center): in a recent article Forbes claimed Bogut is one of the NBA's most over paid players. The Bucks have Bogut under contract for five years for roughly $60 million. If Bogut provides double digits points and rebounds on a consistent basis he will prove Forbes wrong. If Bogut continues to struggle with back issues then he will "earn" the title of over paid.

#2 - Michael Redd (Guard): he has gone from a second-round pick in the 2000 NBA Draft (43rd overall) to the face of the Bucks franchise. Redd spurned the Cleveland Cavs (and the chance to play with Lebron) to sign a max contract with the Bucks in 2005. Although he is coming off knee surgery that limited Redd to only 33 games last season, he looked like his old self in the preseason. The Bucks are on the hook for $17 million this year and Redd holds a player option for $18.3 for 2010/11 that he should exercise ASAP since there is no way he would get paid anywhere close to that next season. Many people claim Redd cannot lead a team, that he a quality "second banana". This season Redd has a chance to prove all those people wrong.

#1 - Hakim Warrick (Forward): the Memphis Grizzlies decided not to offer the talented former first-round pick a contract in the offseaon. The Bucks jumped at the chance to get Warrick because he is one of the most athletic players in the NBA. Warrick is playing for a long-term contract after signing a one-year contract with the Bucks worth roughly $3.5 million, which always translates into a motivated and productive player in the NBA.

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