Taking a look at the Bucks Complete Roster Overhaul

Did the Bucks upgrade or downgrade?

Just weeks ago, I was laughing at the Bucks roster. Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings were as good as gone and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was foolishly shipped off to Sacramento for peanuts. Add that to the fact they lost out on Jeff Teague and overpaid Zaza Pachulia, that team looked like a mess and a potential laughing stock. Since, the team has made a lot of nice savvy moves. Most notably trading for Brandon Knight. I briefly talked about the trade and displayed the details in one of my most recent articles. Is Knight an upgrade over Jennings short term or long term? No. Is he a skilled scorer with penitential? Yes. But regardless this was a good trade. Jennings was leaving, we all knew that. The fact that they brought in a replacement point guard of the future and other skilled players was a job well done. I talked a lot of Brandon Knight in the other article so I’d like to focus on the other two guys: Khris Middleton and Viacheslav Kravtsov, both were rookies last year. Middleton was a second round pick (39th overall) and flashed a lot of potential and skill throughout the year. He finished the year averaging 6.1 PPG and 1.9 RPG. Not wowing stats, but he showed promise. For those who aren’t familiar, he is a SF/PF from Texas A&M who has a very nice shot with scoring potential. Middleton got better each game, he is talented, athletic and still growing. He needs to work on his defense though.  VV (not typing that) is an unknown. He’s a 25 year old Ukranian center and to quote Joe Dumars, “He’s a young player with good size, rebounding and shot-blocking ability. He will provide us with some quality depth at the center position.” The second sentence is exactly what he’ll do with the Bucks. Last year was his first in the NBA. Prior to that he was a 2x Ukrainian Superleague Domestic Player of the Year. He had a double double last year posting 14 points with 10 boards in a loss to Indy on 2/22/13. He averaged 3 points and 2 boards in 25 games.  Both him and Middleton are projects but the Bucks could fin use out of them, especially Middleton who looks like he could develop into a solid role player or possibly more. Now to look at the bigger names they brought in. OJ Mayo was the first and a signing I liked. I always viewed OJ as a good player throughout his career, attitude problems limited him recently, but he’s matured. He made a lot of noise his first two years but his problems made him a sixth man in  Memphis until last year where he became a starter again in Dallas. He had a good year, averaged 15 points a game but shot 40.9% from deep and 45% overall. Mayo was scoring a lot more before Dirk came back from injury. He even tied his career high with 40 points, his production dropped after the All Star Break because Carlisle preferred to get Dirk involved more. He also averaged 4.4 APG because he stated he wanted to be more of a playmaker. The Bucks signed him to a three year $24M and it looks like they’ll view him as a play maker and their go to scorer. Now they brought in Brandon Knight, another good scorer. The two of them can form an impressive back court. The two players complement each other fairly well. Knight is building a consistent jump shot but both players are capable of creating their own shots witch is nice. Knight and Mayo are not a better scoring tandem than Jennings and Ellis, but I’d say they are more efficient because they are better shooter which benefits the big men and spaces the floor to get points in the paint. This benefits Ersan Ilyasova more than anyone. Ersan was awarded a 5 year $40M extension last offseason. A season which he recorded 29 points and 25 boards in one game. He averaged 13 and 7 last year as the team had him play both SF and PF, he is talented enough to score more but he was playing alongside Ellis and Jennings to guys that prefer to take it to the hoop themselves. At 6’10 I prefer Ilyasova more at PF. He is athletic and has a nice jumper, making him able to play SF, but I think he can create more mismatches playing the 4. The team made a wise decision by signing Carlos Delfino to play the 3. Delfino was already a three year starter in Milwaukee before he signed with Houston last year. His talents on offense were missed. They should have definately kept Mbah a Moute as he was the best perimeter defender, but when Delfino was gone he didn’t have the offensive capability to make an impact. Knight/Mayo/Delfino compared to Jennings/Ellis/Mbah a Moute is an interesting thought. It’s hard to say who has the advantage on offense and even ditto for defense. The first one looks more efficient but the second looks more electrifying. The only way we can find out is my waiting and seeing I suppose. It’s important to note Delfino is coming off a great year. He averaged 10.6 points in just 25 minutes a game. The best move they’ve made is signing Gary Neal to a two year deal worth LESS THAN $6M. Yep this means the Spurss think Marco Belinelli is worth more. Neal is a good player and the Spurs made a terrible decision not to resign him. He had so many key games down the stretch and he’s proved to be a solid and consistent scorer. He will be a great sixth man option and I think the team will be scarier with him on the court. Approximately 15.3 points per 36 minutes. The team signed him to a three year deal worth $10M. Moving on to the front court, the team made a rather idiotic move and signed Zaza Pachulia to a three year deal worth $15.6M. Zaza has had his good days about 7 years ago but other than a fluke season two years ago he appears to get worse and worse. The reason he put up decent numbers (8 points and 8 rebounds avg in 44 starts averaging 28 MPG) that year is because the team was desperate to play Al Horford at PF, his natural position so they did everything in their power to mold Zaza into a capable starting center, it didn’t work well enough. He is nothing more than a career backup and not worth the $$$ they gave him. Luckily they have Larry Sanders starting. The team’s best defender, Sanders played great last year and took a great leap forward. Averaging around 10 points and 10 boards a game and a very impressive 3 blocks, he emerged as a force inside and a great rim protector. I expect him to get better next year. He did all this in just 27 MPG. Adding depth, the team signed Miroslav Raduljica, a seven foot center from Serbia. He averaged 14 points and six boards (21 MPG) last year playing in Ukraine. He led the team to the finals and he is just 25 years old. He’s been a successful European player winning numerous awards along the way. He’ll have to battle for a roster spot because the team has a lot of nice depth at the PF and C positions. To list them all: Ekpe Udoh, John Henson, and Gustavo Ayon are the remaining ones I’ve yet to speak of. Ekpe Udoh was the 6th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. He hasn’t lived up to expectations with career averages of 4.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and 1.1 BPG in 195 career games (just 38 starts) averaging 18.6 MPG. What he has done is show himself to be a good shot blocker/rim protector and a good post defender, high energy guy off the bench. John Henson has shown more promise so far however,and is expected to have a bigger role next season. He was the 14th pick of the 2012 draft, as a rookie he averaged 6 points and about 5 boards in just 13 MPG. The UNC product is big, athletic, and defensive minded. He can defend the post, protect the rim, and even guard the perimeter. His game is most often compared to Anthony Davis’. He is raw but talented and a good rebounder. His per 36 minutes stats are an impressive 16.6 PPG, 13.8 RPG and 2 BPG. He had a PER rating of 18.30 which is also impressive. He’s 6’10 and has a wingspan of 7’4. The first thing he needs to do is bulk up, he can be a solid PF and possibly overtake Ersan’s spot sooner than later. Gustavo Ayon had to be waived by the Bucks because of the logjam at PF/C. This was a bad move. Ayon has potential and has shown promise. He’s a good rebounder, averaging 5 a game in 13 MPG last year. He once had 17 boards in a game. He is 28, but he had just started his NBA career three years ago and was just learning the game. He could have been a solid role player. The team decided to take a chance on the younger unproven guys instead of him. A good move by the bucks was sneaking into the Kevin Martin sign and trade.  To allow the Wolves to get him, Bucks were needed to make it financially work. All they did was give up the draft rights to Szymon Szewczyk, a 30 year old polish basketball player who was a second round pick (35th overall) in 2003 who’s never played in the NBA, and in return got Luke Ridnour and a 2014 second round pick. Luke was a starting point guard last year for the Wolves and he was a sixth man for the Bucks before.  32 years old he’s been a solid player for years and a great option off the bench filling in at point guard. The last piece is first round pick Giannis Antetokounmpo, the pride of Greece. Just 18 years old, the Bucks selected him 15th overall in this years draft. He can play SG, SF, and PF (very versatile). He’s 6’9 with a 7’3 wingspan. What he lacks in strength he brings in quickness, mobility, and agility. He’s very comparable to Nic Batum of the Trail Blazers. He is very good at finishing around the rim to to his athleticism. Once he develops a solid jump shot he could be a nice scoring weapon down the road. His youth helps and most likely means he’ll have a long, nice career. I like this pick by the Bucks, it was a safe one. His athleticism and offensive skill set gives him little bust potential. At worst he’ll be a decent role player. At best, he can be a dynamic weapon in the NBA. Taking a look at the starters: (backups are next to them)

PG: Brandon Knight, Luke Ridnour, Ish Smith, Nate Wolters

SG: OJ Mayo, Gary Neal, Giannis Antetokounmpo

SF: Carlos Delfino, Khris Middleton

PF: Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson, Ekpe Udoh

C: Larry Sanders, Zaza Pachulia, Viacheslav Kravtsov, Miroslav Raduljica

This lineup is pretty balanced but I think their best would be:

PG: Brandon Knight

SG: Gary Neal

SF: OJ Mayo

PF: Ersan Ilyasova

C: Larry Sanders

in most situations. This team is fairly deep and nearly every player can play multiple positions, giving this team a lot of versatility. This team would be a lot better if they had Luc Richard Mbah a Moute still, as it lacks a good perimeter defender. I’m not sold if Knight/Mayo is an upgrade over Jennings/Ellis. I do think this team is a lot deeper for the most part. As I say, you can never have too many big men. This is a complete roster over haul. The only returning players are Ersan, Henson, Sanders, Udoh, and Ish Smith. To breifly introduce Smith, he is a backup PG with career averages 2.4 PPG and 1.7 APG for his career in 10 MPG. He provides depth and energy off the bench. He has 6 years of NBA experience. This team was a mess a few weeks ago but they have done a great job turning thins around. They’ve spurned by a lot of players but have stuck through and refuse to tank like some assumed they would.

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