30 Teams, 30 Days
Milwaukee Bucks Season Preview.
We conclude the Central Division previews with the Milwaukee Bucks. You can read past previews here.
The Milwaukee Bucks are an organization with a lot of history and a lot of pride. Since they joined the League in 1968, they’ve won an NBA title, two Eastern Conference titles and thirteen division titles. From 1980 to 1991, they had a streak of 12 consecutive playoff appearances, advancing to the second round six times and making it to the conference finals three times.
But those accomplishments are just that, history. Ancient history when you consider their lone championship came in 1971 when they were led by some guy named Oscar Robertson who was supposed to be pretty good and this cat Lew Alcindor who later changed his name to Kareem something or another.
Ancient history when you think back to their last Central Division title which came in 2001 when George Karl was the coach and Ray Allen and Glen “Big Dog” Robinson were All-Stars.
Ancient history when you realize their last playoff appearance was in 2006 when they went 40-42, the second in their current streak of five consecutive losing seasons. My point is when it comes to professional basketball, there hasn’t been much for the City of Milwaukee to feel proud about lately. This year’s team doesn’t look as if they’re going to bring pride back to Brew Town any time soon either.
I read last year’s Bucks season preview and it was projected that the team would win 45 games. They were close. Last season the Bucks went 34-48 and finished fifth in the Central Division and were tied for 10th in the Eastern Conference. Fourty-five wins and a playoff berth would’ve been easily attainable considering they had Charlie Villanueva and Richard Jefferson to play alongside Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut. Thirty-four wins isn’t bad considering Redd and Bogut were hurt most of the year and played a combined 69 games which left Jefferson and Villanueva to shoulder the load.
In a hotly contested race for the final two spots in the Eastern Conference at the end of last season, the Bucks fizzled and lost 10 of its last 13 games. Gone fishin’, just like that.
Still, there was plenty of reason to be excited at season’s end with the thought of a healthy Michael Redd and a healthy Andrew Bogut coming back to run with RJ, CV and an emerging Ramon Sessions. But team President Herb Kohl and GM John Hammond had other ideas.
So as I’m faced with the unenviable task of writing Milwaukee’s season preview this year, let’s just say that I’m a lot less optimistic than my predecessor.
Instead of trying to keep the core of the team together, the front office decided to get as far under the cap as possible and shed payroll and go into rebuilding mode. The fruits of their labor? They traded Richard Jefferson to the Spurs and got back Kurt Thomas and Bruce Bowen (whom they waived a month later). They then turned around and let Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions walk in free agency and join the Pistons and the Timberwolves respectively.
So when the dust settled and the smoke cleared, Redd and Bogut found themselves as the only two “marquee” guys on the roster and Scott Skiles found himself with a team that will almost assuredly be one of the worst in the Eastern Conference and in the NBA. Again.
The biggest problem facing Skiles this season is his squad’s lack of overall depth and talent across the board. He has an All-Star shooting guard in Redd, a solid center in Bogut, a rookie in Brandon Jennings who’s going to be good but isn’t ready yet, and the rest of his roster is filled with career backups and journeymen. That’s certainly a recipe for disaster in the new and improved Eastern Conference. It’s also a guaranteed ticket to Secaucus in May.
On the flipside, there has been a lot of excitement from bloggers and media people alike who all seem to like the team’s signing of Hakim Warrick who’s played his entire career in Memphis with the Grizzlies. They feel that he can be the X-Factor on this year’s Bucks team.
In his four years in Memphis, he averaged right at 10 points and 4 rebounds per. Not staggering or mind-blowing numbers by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s long, athletic and he brings an element of versatility to the squad that will certainly help. But his contributions alone won’t be enough to help this team make any improvements over last season. Myself, I feel like the key addition to this year’s team is actually Carlos Delfino.
He’s a natural scorer and shooter who if he gets in a groove, can stretch the defense and take some of the pressure off of Michael Redd if Skiles chooses to start him. If not, he can provide quality minutes off the bench which will then allow Skiles to use Charlie Bell as a backup PG behind Ridnour should Jennings and his shooting woes progress beyond the preseason.
Still, worst case scenario if Redd and Bogut happen to go down again due to injury for any considerable amount of time at any point this season, the Bucks are going to have a very hard time putting points on the board in the Bradley Center or anywhere else no matter what combination of players the coach decides to use.
Bucks fans, better days are coming and things will almost assuredly turn around for you guys but the time is not now. Still, there is a bright side to all of this. As you watch your team stink it up for a sixth straight season, there’ll be an endless supply of Miller products in Milwaukee for you to drown your sorrows in. So drink up. You’re going to need it. Trust me.
Predicted ’09-10 record: 27-55
Playoffs?: Don’t even think about it.