by Marcel Mutoni

The pre-season is underway and the regular season jumps off in less than a month (Oct. 31), so it’s probably time to start previewing the 2006-2007 NBA season. With the help of some of the most prominent hoop writers on the web (bloggers and newspaper columnists), we’ll be taking an in-depth look at each one of the 30 teams.

Sam Kirchner from Five-Point Bucks was kind enough to help us preview his team, the Milwaukee Bucks.

SLAM: Michael Redd has established himself as one of the best scorers
in the Association. How much better can he become?

SK: Not much, really, unless he really commits himself to becoming a physical perimeter defender. You have to recognize him for what he is, which is a superbly efficient scorer and not much else. Of course, we had to overpay to keep him from going to Cleveland, so that inflates expectations, but you also have to realize that this guy is truly unique. He got a max contract and actually improved his performance. How many players can you say that of? His imoprovement last year was due largely to the fact that he had much better help around him, particularly in the post, and therfore defenses couldn’t focus exclusively on him. I have my doubts as to how well Mo Williams will be able to run the offense; the last time he was the starter the Bucks lost 52 games. If he can manage his shoot-first instincts, and yet still be an effecient scoring option, Redd will be much better off than he was with TJ Ford. Redd is by far my favorite player in the NBA and you can’t possibly expect anything better from a 45th pick.

The Bucks lost Magloire to the Blazers this summer. How much is the big man going to be missed?

“Lost”? Try “gave away with immense relief.” Milwaukee drafted David Noel and traded for Ruben Patterson this offseason to get exactly the same type of player that Desmond Mason was-an athletic backup swingman. That tells you all you need to know about whether the Mason trade was a good deal (and we threw in a firt-rounder for bad measure). So the Bucks essentially traded Ray Allen, Flip Murray and a first-round pick for Steve Blake. Wow. On the court, it will remain an eternal mystery to me why Magloire recieved over 1500 more minutes than Dan Gadzuric last season. Gadzuric outperformed him in every major statistical category on a per-minute basis, and when he was given
minutes, out performed him straight-up also. The only thing that Magloire had an advantage in is he has a little more strength in the chest, allowing him to defend post-ups better, and the most freakishly large hands I have ever seen, making him a good rebounder despite his lack of athleticism. I don’t think there’s any doubt, though, that the Bucks will be significantly better off with Charlie Villanueva and Gadzuric taking Magloire’s minutes, and Andrew Bogut increasing his. It will take about 5 minutes for Bucks fans to completely forget about Magloire and fall in love with Villanueva.

Andrew Bogut had an impressive rookie season. How good do you see him becoming in the next few years?

That’s hard to say. He truly stank up the defense all season long to my eternal frustration. But all rookies are terrible at defense, so it really depends on how much he improves there. He impressed the hell out of me on offense, and if Terry Stotts actually starts running plays for him and feeding him the ball regularly, it will trick a lot of people into thiking he has improved, when really he’s almost entirely developed already. He was 5th in FG%, ahead of Elton Brand, Kevin Garnett, Yao Ming, Tim Dincan etc. He needs to get stronger, and I wish he had the same instincts on defense that he has on offense, but he far, far exceeded my expectations last year so I really have no clue how he’s going to do this time around. He seems really self-motivated and self-critical, so he probably knows all of the things I just said and is working on them right now.

Wasn’t more expected from Bobby Simmons last year?

I was a tad disappointed. He was less offensively developed than I thought he would be, and his defense was a little less than I expected. But he actually did have a pretty good season, if you discount the first month. He was getting in all kinds of foul trouble and could not establish any kind of rhythm at all, and that dragged his numbers for the whole season down. He was superb towards the end, though. Now that he’s familiar with everyone and he’s comfortable, his numbers should be back around where they were during his breakout year with the Clippers. That really is the ceiling for him, though. He doesn’t have any sort of dribble moves to create his own shot-just a great physique for posting up and a beautiful shooting stroke. He was overpaid, so of course more was expected of him, but I’m happy with what he gives us. Of course, I don’t have to worry about the salary cap and the luxury tax and all that good stuff. When it comes time to sign up Bogut and Villanueva long-term, Simmons will probably be gone.

Alright, enough foreplay, how will the Bucks fare this season?

The Bucks really need a hard-ass like Paul Silas, because this team is just soft as Charmin. If Milwaukee played good defense, second in the division would not be out of reach with our firepower. The Bucks do not play any kind of defense at all, and with Orlando getting it together, the Bucks could very well be on the outside looking in come playoff time, regardless of talent. Indiana just seems to be cursed as a franchise ever since the giant brawl in Detroit, so we might be able to get 4th or even 3rd if Cleveland can’t live up to expectations or if the Ben Wallace re-allignment curses Detroit. I’ll say 44 wins with Terry Stotts defense, 54 with the Scott Skiles stuff. (I’d put my money on 44.)