Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Once again back is the incredible ... Ball Don't Lie's NBA previews, outlining offseason moves, projecting win totals, spinning tracks and much, much more. It's a fun, hot mess. Today, the Milwaukee Bucks.

2008-09 Record: 34-48, fifth place in Central Division
Head Coach/Facial Hair: Scott Skiles/None
Key Additions: Brandon Jennings(notes), Hakim Warrick(notes), Ersan Ilyasova(notes), Carlos Delfino(notes), Kurt Thomas(notes), Jodie Meeks(notes), Roko Ukic(notes)
Key Losses: Ramon Sessions(notes), Richard Jefferson(notes), Charlie Villanueva(notes), Keith Bogans(notes)

I think Milwaukee is rebuilding.

I think they are. Not entirely sure, but I think they are. And that's a good thing, because the model (as presented to us before 2008-09) was flawed. The front office was essentially banking on a huge, coaching staff-led batch of overachievement just to possibly take a game or two in the first round.

So the Bucks traded Richard Jefferson in the offseason for straight up payroll and luxury-tax relief. Good start. Andrew Bogut(notes) and Michael Redd(notes) are the two other well-paid guys, but Bogut has a higher upside and his position is tougher to fill than Redd's, so the better player in Redd might be due for a trade sometime soon.

Why all the tinkering then? Why add someone like Carlos Delfino at this point? Sure, in a vacuum he comes cheap and his production is solid across the board. But when every hundred thousand counts as you're trying to stave off the luxury tax, why add him to the ledger?

Why pass on offering Charlie Villanueva the qualifying offer? Why not wait the summer out and see what trade possibilities pop up? Even if he's stuck in the RFA-limbo that we've seen time and again since the new rookie contract rules popped up? Why wash your hands of that situation, that early?

And why not match Ramon Sessions $4 million-a-year deal with Minnesota? How does that make any sense? Would it put you slightly over the luxury tax? Sure. But you've a few months to trim a couple hundred thousand off your payroll. Why not enjoy the production of a starter-quality young point man in the months until then?

I don't understand what the front office is thinking. Just don't get it. Seems like a lot of hedging, if I'm honest.

The play should be good. Though the team has a massive hole at point guard, the rest of the lineup and rotation is quite solid. There's no real potential here. This team doesn't have the makings of anything that would resemble the start of a championship run, and that's a commitment to mediocrity that I'll just never understand.

I mean, CV and Sessions are very good players. Underrated, but not great players. So retaining them or considering them would be a commitment to the pretty good. But you at least try for these huge payoffs. You just keep working to see if something massive comes about, and not hope to, I dunno, just come out of this with Erick Dampier(notes) next February.

So while I realize that keeping or considering these pretty good players represents a commitment to the above-average out of context, the reality is this team is just floating, and I'll never get, nor appreciate that. You have to make bold strides. You shouldn't be in this business to keep your job. You should be in it to bring a championship to the city your team represents.

Now, pairing Brandon Jennings with Scott Skiles is a bold stride. I can appreciate that. And Redd's ability to lure talent and/or relief in a trade and Bogut's all-around abilities — these are things that can lead to renewal. Maybe, with all these expiring, unguaranteed, and potentially tradeable contracts, they're just nine months removed from massive moves and shakeups.

And, as stated, the on-court play should be pretty solid.

My main issue is the point guard position. In 2009, it's far and away the most important position in basketball, and while the Bucks have depth there, it's still a worry. Luke Ridnour(notes) is one of the worst defenders at a position that, again, is your most important defensively. This league all starts with how you guard the pick-and-roll and how you try to deny penetration. And Ridnour is a huge millstone on that end while providing so-so production on the other.

Jennings will honestly look like one of the worst players in the NBA in one game and a burgeoning All-Star in the next. Right now, though, for his age? He's going to be a net negative. Doesn't mean he won't be fantastic one day. It just means that it's early. Here's hoping I'm wrong and he consistently blows minds from the outset. Starting him in the preseason is a good sign.

Redd can score, he never turns it over, Bogut can really change the game if he's given the damn ball, and mock all you want, but the Bucks have good center depth with Kurt Thomas and, yes, Dan Gadzuric(notes).

The forward situation really intrigues me. What you essentially have are four different 3/4 tweeners who bring a different skill set. These just aren't 3s or 4s with tweener tendencies. These are straight up, split down the middle, tweeners. Joe Alexander's(notes) the athlete, Ersan Ilyasova (great re-acquisition, by the way) is a scorer, Luc Mbah a Moute is already one of the league's best defenders, and Hakim Warrick (one of the league's worst defenders) can score in bunches without needing the ball too much.

Together, they're either the biggest mess of a forward rotation Scott Skiles has ever seen, or something clicks and they goof their way into the playoffs.

Yes, the playoffs are a strong possibility, especially with Skiles on hand and everyone healthy. I just worry to bits about the point guard situation right now, and the overall philosophy moving forward beyond 2009-10.

Prediction: 35-47

Kelly Dwyer

Do salary concerns make the 2009-10 Bucks a rental outfit?

It looks that way. Beyond this season, the Bucks owe money to only eight players with half of them working on rookie contracts. With the ownership situation unsettled, figure the Bucks to try and trade or move any number of the team's five expiring contracts, if not Michael Redd himself. Because the team's payroll is so top-heavy, Milwaukee is scheduled to pay about $47 million this season to just eight guys.

— KD, Yahoo! Sports 2009-10 NBA Preview magazine

Brew Hoop: "... After five straight last-place finishes in the Central, escaping the division basement would provide a long overdue baby step in the right direction and toward respectability. If that doesn't happen, well, don't count the national media among those surprised: They have lower expectations for Milwaukee this year than their usual, remarkably low expectations. Most who follow the team closely however probably peg the Bucks as a similarly capable side to last year. The offseason headlines naturally tilt toward the big names lost or dealt away, but if the team's two most important chips (Redd and Bogut) return to health, the Bucks should be a mildly competitive team. So, what should Redd and Bogut aim for, realistically? They are mainstays on these last-place finishers, but the last time either played 80 games, they both did — and the Bucks won 40 games and made the playoffs (2005-06). The chances the Bucks do the same this year are probably the same as the odds Redd and Bogut both stay on the floor without a scrape. Likely? No. Possible? Possible. [more]

The Baseline: "On some day, at some point, Andrew Bogut will put up 30, 20, six assists and four blocks against a big man of note. The roto world will shudder. The Bucks will rally for two games. Then he'll return back to producing slightly notable double-doubles and blocking a few shots, in between injuries. You know, guys, you also could've had Chris Paul(notes) or Deron Williams(notes). Not sure why that particular hex never comes this way. It's always Atlanta." [more]

HOOPSWORLD: "The Bucks took a step back this offseason by trading Richard Jefferson away for financial purposes. While the move provides long-term flexibility, it puts the Bucks in a minor rebuilding mode. They'll be depending heavily on their young players and the health of Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd. Too many things have to go right for the Bucks to have the kind of season they're hoping for, which is why another last place finish in the Central is ahead." [more]

Wavves, "So Bored"

Between the Christmas uniforms and the atrocious League Pass feed, the Milwaukee Bucks are basically unwatchable. Yeah, it's probably unfair to write them off purely for superficial reasons, but I can't help being an aesthete. The additions of Brandon Jennings and Hakim Warrick help, but the stifling nature of coach Scott Skiles may be too much for even these guys to overcome. Defense wins, but it doesn't always entertain.

— Trey Kerby, The Blowtorch

Fantasy expectations surrounding the Bucks are roughly on the same level as their real-life counterpart (read: very low). Michael Redd's offensive skills have never been in doubt, but he played 33 games last season (ACL/MCL) and has averaged 53 games over the past three seasons. Reports have been good in the preseason thus far, and he's a fairly solid calculated risk in the sixth round if your team is a bit short on offense — just don't expect miracles and there's less of a chance you will be disappointed. Andrew Bogut's back limited him to 36 games last season and he regressed in a number of areas statistically. The former No.1 overall pick has accumulated middling career averages of 11.9 points, 8.7 boards and 1.1 blocks in 262 career games, and his career 59 percent foul shooting and above-average turnovers means that a wonky back isn't the only thing holding back his fantasy line. He's one of the first people I scratch off my cheat sheet as I prepare for an upcoming draft.

Luke Ridnour will be Scott Skiles' placeholder at point guard until he relents and allows Brandon Jennings to take over. Jennings is the most dynamic player on the roster and should be given starters' minutes sooner than later, but Skiles can be tough to guage. At worst, Jennings is a rosterable in deep leagues while the situation plays out. There are four players competing for the minutes at the forward spots — Luc Richard Mbah a Moute(notes), Hakim Warrick, Carlos Delfino and Ersan Ilyasova — none figures to be of much use for standard league owners because of a combination of the talent levels and what figures to be a fluid depth chart. If Bogut were to be sidelined for a significant stretch, Kurt Thomas would warrant fantasy consideration.

— Matt Buser, Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Basketball / BuserSports.com

Sign up now for Fantasy Basketball '09.

BrettF: I really believe this team has a lot of potential — whether it's this year or in years to come, I don't know. #Bucks
7:59 PM Oct 17th from TweetGenius

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