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Monday, November 3, 2014

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 20. Milwaukee Bucks

Overall Win/Loss Record :  15-67,  fifth place Central Division

2014/2015 Projection: 40-42, third place Central Division, ninth place Eastern Conference

Preseason Rank

Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank
  • Points Scored: 95.5 (28th)
  • Points Allowed: 103.7 (25th)
  • Team FG%: .438 (26th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .468 (25th)
  • Team FT%: .747 (21st)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .353 (20th)
  • Rebounds per game: 41.1 (24th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 43.5 (23rd)
  • Turnovers per game: 14.3 (19th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 13.6 (20th)

Returning Individual Statistical Leaders
  • Scoring (ppg): Brandon Knight (17.9)
  • Rebounds per game:  Larry Sanders (7.2)
  • Minutes per game: Brandon Knight (33.3)
  • Assists per game:  Brandon Knight (4.9)
  • Field Goal Percentage: John Henson (.538)
  • Free Throw Percentage:   O.J Mayo (.860)
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Khris  Middleton (.414)
  • Steals per game: Khris  Middleton (1.0)
  • Blocked Shots per game:  John Henson (1.7)

Projected Opening Day Starters Based on Past Performances and Potential Impact:

Key Reserves Rank Based on Past Performances and Potential Impact:

  1. John Henson (F/C)
  2. Ersan Ilyasova (F)
  3. Jerryd Bayless (G)
  4. Kendall Marshall (G)
  5. Jared Dudley (G/F)

For numerous years, both the city of Milwaukee and its team, the Bucks, have been considered the barren wasteland of the +NBA--a place where old and over the hill players go to die and never be heard from again.  This team is as isolated and ignored as any team in any professional sport has ever been and had it not been for the steadfast loyalty to the city and fans of Milwaukee from former owner, Herb Kohl--a former US Senator who represented the state of Wisconsin--the Bucks would have packed their bags and shipped off to greener pastures years ago.  Nevertheless, despite its rather nondescript location and its inability to even make even the most faint blip on the NBA radar, the Bucks still remain a staple for the city of Milwaukee and its people for better or worst.  Even though their prospects for the future have essentially halted to just moderately mediocre, both the new ownership group and the players have remained steadfast in its commitment to building a contender in spite of the odds.    However, thanks to an impressive offseason that netted the team a potential franchise star as well as a high profile coach to go alongside with a basketball talent of which has never been seen or heard of in a lifetime, the outlook of this onetime bleak and hopeless franchise has suddenly turned far brighter than it has probably ever been before.

In fact, with the way the roster looks with it wealth of youth, size, athleticism and talent, the Bucks can quite possibly the surprise team in the league that the +Phoenix Suns were last season.  Upon closer inspection, it is quite evident that the Bucks might just have one of the largest chests of hidden treasures that will definitely have many heads turning this season and, like the Suns last season, may even be the spoiler that can potentially change the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference altogether.  They will certainly upset a few apple carts in its own Central Division as an aspiring playoff team such as the +Detroit Pistons and a team in the +Indiana Pacers looking to simply keep its head above water may find their hopes dashed by this unlikely upstart.  Other marginal Eastern Conference teams such as the +Atlanta Hawks+New York Knicks, and +Brooklyn Nets may also find themselves on the wrong end of the Eastern Conference Playoff race as the Bucks will virtually come out of the shadows and strike them down without any warning.   Altogether, it looks to be a very exciting season in the Eastern Conference as there will be a new player in the playoff chase opening the field to five teams who will be fighting for the last couple playoff spots in the East as the Milwaukee Bucks will look to be a major fly in their opponents' ointment.

It all starts with the team's new head coach Jason Kidd, who the Bucks had to sacrifice draft picks to the +Brooklyn Nets in order to secure his services as not only the team's coach, but general manager as well.  Upon his arrival, Kidd has brought much needed legitimacy and credentials that the franchise has been long desperately searching for as he is a virtual Hall of Fame inductee with his career as a player and showed plenty perseverance as a head coach last season.  He will certainly have his share of detractors since his coaching debut did not live up to expectations and the conflict that led him to part ways with the Nets and head to Milwaukee.  Many had faulted Kidd for the Nets poor start last season and felt that it was poor form for him to ask for a promotion after his team posted such a poor performance last season; however, much of that was not Kidd's fault. Kidd, like everyone else, was not expecting the veteran laden, playoff hardened lineup to fall apart upon opening tip off and it was because of him that the Nets managed to climb out the huge hole it had dug for themselves and climb their way into playoff contention.

Kidd will most undoubtedly have a huge chip on his shoulder as he will look to silence those who have openly doubted him this upcoming season and he will certainly have the tools to do so as well. His most prized weapons will be a player who his team selected overall in last summer's NBA Draft as well as the most intriguing foreign player that has ever set foot on American soil to play professional basketball.  Many have tabbed incoming rookie Jabari Parker as the defacto face, heart and soul of the franchise, along with being a future NBA All Star for years to come; however he is not even the most anticipated player to watch at opening tip off.  That title belongs to a 19 year old 6'11" basketball prodigy capable of handling the ball like a point guard along with the poise and passing skills to boot as well as the ability to stretch opposing defenses with his ability to put the ball on the floor and shoot from outside.  Defensively, he has the length, speed, athleticism, and quickness to quickly run the floor in transition, guard the perimeter, and protect the rim all at the same time.

He is none other than the Greek Freak himself, Giannis Antetokoumpo, and he has probably the most upside of any NBA prospect has ever had in the league's entire history.  Kidd will have the luxury of not only coaching just one, but also developing two young talents who may not only transcend a generation of future players but may just also redefine the game of basketball itself. Kidd will not have much difficulty in molding Jabari into an NBA star because he already has the NBA ready body, along with the skills, talent and athleticism to make an immediate impact.  His greatest challenge will be to determine what exactly to do with Antetokoumpo because he essentially shatters every single basketball paradigm there is.  Figuring out exactly where to place Giannis in a rotation will certainly be the greatest challenge for Kidd as he does not necessarily have a fixed position as most NBA players and he has to watch out for pigeonholing his prodigy into a certain role as it may limit his potential; however, what coach would complain about such a dilemma?

Having such a long, versatile, talented and athletic weapon such as Antetokoumpo who is capable of possibly playing all five position is what every coach dreams of.  Add the fact that he will be paired by a fundamentally sound player in Parker, Kidd will have access to one of the most intriguing and befuddling young duos to ever play in the NBA.  Surrounding his dynamic duo of teenage titans, Kidd has assembled a solid supporting cast that both have the skills to both complement their strengths while at the same time, compensate for their weakness.  To the untrained eye, the roster consists of primarily rejects, or those who have been considered as either expendable or as abject failures by their former team; however, that perception is far for the truth as rest of the league will soon find out.  Many of their names will not pop out in any stat sheet or scouting report, but brought together, their skills and talents form the perfect blend of blue collar grit mixed with youthful passion and a strong sense of having something to prove.

First there is the rather deep pool of back court players who had been often overlooked and ignored for much of their careers, but have the ability to be potential game changers if given the chance. There is returning starter Brandon Knight, who the Pistons had given up on being their point guard of the future, but led the team in scoring last season proving that though he may not have had the instincts as a facilitators, he certainly had those of a scorer.  Jerryd Bayless is another player had been bouncing from team to team and has yet to find his niche in the league, but has shown flashes of star potential with his ability to light up a score board when given the chance to do so.  Kendall Marshal was callously discarded by both the +Phoenix Suns and +Los Angeles Lakers, but clearly showed how short sighted those decisions were as he led the Lakers in assists, albeit during the team's worst season in franchise history.  Together, those three guards provide a back court of skilled scorers who have not only the talent, but the hunger to prove themselves upon receiving the opportunity.

The Bucks' front court also consists of mainly no name players who have either been overlooked or were unfairly branded as busts because of past indiscretion--the most notable being Larry Sanders, who had signed a big contract extension last year after posting career numbers the season prior.  Signing Sanders seemed a no-brainer for Milwaukee after he had a breakout season averaging a double double in points and rebounds along with leading the league in blocked shots per game; however, last season Sanders was marred by off the court scandal which included breaking his hand during a bar fight.  If Sanders manages to get his head straight and return to producing the number that got him that extension in the first place, he will certainly give the Bucks a strong force on the boards and a great rim protector as well.  John Henson is a player whose name does not ring any bells, but proved quite valuable last season with his plethora of lost post moves to score in the paint while at the same time he showed a strong propensity for crashing the boards while playing in place of Sanders.  Together those two can provide a lethal combination in the paint for any NBA team, let alone the Bucks, and add long range bombing stretch fours in Khris Middleton and Ersan Ilysova, Coach Kidd will have a lineup that can certainly compete with any team in the league and certainly make some noise in the Eastern Conference.

Many do not expect Milwaukee to do much better than the fifteen win season they had finished with last May, but this is not the same Bucks team.  Last season's Bucks team was a hollowed out husk of a franchise that lacked any sense of direction or purpose, but now with new ownership, a new coach and two young cornerstones to build upon, there is a new sense of hope for this once barren wasteland.  So prepared to be amazed basketball fans as there will be a new team that will rise from the shadows and set the NBA on fire that the Phoenix Suns did last season.  Unfortunately, like the Suns, although they will spark the minds and imagination of basketball fans through their inconceivable rise, it will not be enough to bring the Bucks to the post season, but they will make the race quite interesting, howevever.