Sunday, November 7, 2010

Initial Rankings of 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks

What a difference a year makes? In my 2009-10 Milwaukee Bucks initial player rankings I chronicled how most "experts" picked the Bucks to finish last in the Eastern Conference. Instead the Bucks made the playoffs and were one of the best stories in the NBA last season. I still contend that if Bucks center Andrew Bogut was healthy come playoff time last year, the Bucks would have made a deep run in the playoffs.

Based on how the Bucks finished last year, the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks are not going to sneak up on anyone. As per usual, Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond assembled another impressive team on paper. That said, there are still some questions facing the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks:
- Will Bogut rebound from injury again?
- How will the 8 new players mesh with the 7 holdovers from the 2009-10 team?
- Will Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings become an elite NBA point guard?
- How many players will Bucks head coach Scott Skiles use in his rotation?
- Will the Bucks move Michael Redd's expiring contract?

All of the aforementioned questions have been dissected by a number of publications. Instead, much like last year, 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 half way through the season and at the end of the season. Without further ado, here is the initial list:

#15) Michael Redd (SG): every time I start thinking about how sad the end to Michael Redd's time in Milwaukee is becoming, I remember that he is earning over $18 million this year. Redd is schedule to join the Bucks at the start of 2011 but my bet is that Redd never plays for the Bucks again. The real question is whether John Hammond moves Redd before the NBA trade deadline.

#14) Darington Hobson (SG/SF): as a chronicled in another installment of The Tweet Beat recently, the rookie second-round pick gave a blow-by-blow account of his recent hip surgery. Hopefully this is the last time I will have to say it, but I would much rather have a healthy Jordan Crawford (rookie shooting guard for the Atlanta Hawks) than a hobbled Hobson.

#13) Chris Douglas-Roberts (SG): much like Hobson, CDR is sidelined with an injury. Fortunately for the Bucks, CDR is set to play for the Bucks at some point this season, just no one is sure when that will happen.

#12) Earl Boykins (PG): there is a small place in my heart for Boykins because he is the only current professional athlete that I am taller than. Boykins is starting his second tour of duty with the Milwaukee Bucks. Expectations are low this time around since Boykins is slated to be the third-string point guard for the Bucks this year.

#11) Larry Sanders (PF): in short, Sanders is a long-term project. It is never a good sign when a first-round draft pick is a raw project, especially for a team with playoff aspirations. With how much quality depth the Bucks have at power forward and how injury prone Andrew Bogut is, I would have rather seen the Bucks add depth at center instead of drafting Sanders.

#10) Jon Brockman (PF): nice pick-up, but I wish he was 4 or 5 inches taller. This is going to be a reoccurring theme for the Bucks this year, they need taller players to back-up Bogut at center.

#9) Keyon Dooling (PG): is a much worse version of former back-up point guard Luke Ridnour. Two years in a row the Bucks lost their back-up point guard to the Minnesota Timberwolves. In an even stranger oddity, both lost players signed essentially the same four-year, $16 million contract to leave Milwaukee. Instead the Bucks signed Dooling to a two-year, $4.2 million contract. I guess the Bucks saved money but I think they are going to regret not trying to bring Ridnour back despite the hefty price tag.

#8) Ersan Ilyasova (PF): seems to keep maturing, but I am not too sure how much time he will get with so many power forwards on the roster. Mark my words, Ilyasova is a poor man's Dirk Nowitzki. Translation, give him minute Scott Skiles.

#7) Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (PF): is turning into one of the best defensive stoppers in the entire NBA. Since the Bucks are going to have a trouble getting everyone shots, Mbah a Moute or The Prince as I like to call him, is the perfect player for Scott Skiles. The Prince plays good defense and only takes shots when he is wide open.

#6) Drew Gooden (PF): when John Hammond signed Gooden in the off-season, I said the contract seemed rich for a guy who has played for 10 NBA teams in only 8 NBA seasons. It seems redundant to go over the ground already covered but I just can't get past why Hammond signed Gooden to such an expensive deal, despite Gooden being a borderline NBA starter. I hope I am proven wrong but Gooden's contract feels like the modern Dan Gadzuric deal.

#5) Corey Maggette (SF): it is nice to see the Bucks add salary via trade for once. Much like covering the Gooden deal, I gave my in-depth thoughts on the Maggette for Gaduric/Bell trade so I won't go over it again. Maggette is a slasher that gets to the free thrown line, which makes him a perfect sixth man for the Bucks. Unfortunately Maggette usually puts up number on bad teams and is rumored to be a locker room cancer.

#4) Carlos Delfino (SF): a great outside shooter that feels more like a shooting guard than a small forward. Just based on salary alone, $7 million over two-years, it would be hard to start Delfino ahead of Salmons at shooting guard. As a result, it might make more sense to start Ilyasova or The Prince at small forward and bring Delfino off the bench at shooting guard.

#3) John Salmons (SG): keeping in mind how well Salmons played down the stretch last year, his five-year, $40 million extension still feels a little rich. Don't get me wrong, I believe that Salmons is a talented NBA player. Luckily, there are two things that make the extension palatable as well. One, the contract decelerates in value after next season (2010-11: $8 million, 2011-12: $8.5 million, 2012-13: $8.1 million, 2013-14: $7.6 million, and 2014-15: $7 million) so it is not a back-end loaded deal. Two, the final year of the contract is a team option which means if Salmons struggles for the next few years, at least the Bucks are not obligated to pay the fifth year.

#2) Brandon Jennings (PG): despite being the surprise breakout rookie of last year, it is hard not to put him #1, but Bogut is still the most important player on the current Bucks roster. Here is the simple way to show that. If Jennings were lost for the playoffs last year, the Bucks would have still have had a shot to beat the Atlanta Hawks. With Bogut out against Atlanta in the playoffs, the Bucks were unable to win the playoff series. After last year, sky is the limit for Brandon Jennings. With a big second season, Brandon Jennings has a chance to join the young crop of stud NBA point guards. Quick side note on Jennings, how much do New York Knicks fans wish they drafted Jennings instead of Jordan Hill (who currently plays for the Houston Rockets)? Current Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni runs a point guard centered offense. If guys like LeBron and D-Wade saw Jennings thrive for the Knicks, they might be playing in New York instead of Miami. It might be a stretch, but is is just another example of the comedy of errors that is going on in the Big Apple.

#1) Andrew Bogut (C): another year, another season ending injury for Bogut. Unfortunately this is becoming a pattern for Bogut. At the end of last season, Bogut hurt his right elbow on a gruesome fall. All indications were that Bogut's right elbow would be completely healthy for the start of the season, but it still doesn't look healthy. Bogut is a talented center that runs the floor, passes well, finishes with both hands, takes charges, and blocks shots. Add that all up and you can see why the Bucks need Bogut to be successful.

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