2013-2014 NBA Preview: Central Division

5 of 5

Oct 21, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Zaza Pachulia (27) and Chicago Bulls point guard Mike James (8) battle for the ball during the first half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Milwaukee Bucks (33-49)

From an Atlanta perspective, this one is incredibly interesting as the Bucks are now led by former Hawks head coach Larry Drew and former fan favorite, Zaza Pachulia, who is wearing a Milwaukee uniform these days. However, the team itself isn’t exciting (at all), and thus, they land here.

This is an entirely different team since last year, mostly because the starting (and maddening) backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis is no more. They’ve been replaced by former Pistons guard Brandon Knight and former Mavs/Grizzlies guard OJ Mayo, and that is certainly a downgrade in talent. I actually like both players’ games for the most part, but Knight is woefully miscast as a pure point guard (career 3.9 assists per game), and OJ Mayo is even more miscast as a #1 scoring option. Unfortunately for Milwaukee, that’s where they both are needed on this team, and that’s not a good recipe, especially with our old pal Larry Drew calling the offense.

The rest of the perimeter is simply “okay” with Luke Ridnour (awesome backup PG, nothing more), Gary Neal (heat check guy), journeyman Carlos Delfino (a jacker and nothing more) and Caron Butler (aging but solid swingman) as the only options. You could unequivocally do worse than that five-some in the NBA, but with the way the frontcourt is designed, they’ll simply need more offensive punch than this crew can provide.

Speaking of that frontcourt, I absolutely love LARRY SANDERS! (copyright Grantland’s Zach Lowe) as a player. He’s already become an elite rebounder/defender at the center spot, and he’ll almost single-handedly make the Milwaukee defense passable at worst. The offense isn’t there for Sanders just yet (9.8 points per game last season), but he’s a plus-player. Next to him, Milwaukee will be deploying long-time Buck Ersan Ilyasova, former UNC forward John Henson, and the aforementioned Zaza Pachulia.

Ilyasova is the only prayer for offense on the front line, and he did put up more than 13 points per game last season in just 27 minutes. Unfortunately, he’s wildly inconsistent, and it’s tough to predict him matching last season’s 44% production from 3-point distance. Henson is an uber-long, uber-athletic defender/rebounder, but he has no offensive skills at all, while Pachulia (as we know) is a pure banger who won’t kill you anywhere, but you can’t rely on for offense.

Finally, Milwaukee drafted the ultra-exciting forward Giannis Antetokounmpo in the 1st round, and he’s drawing rave reviews. “The Alphabet” is extremely long with a 7-foot-3 wingspan from a swingman position, but Giannis is incredibly raw. Many people referred to him as a “point guard” when playing in Europe, but his ceiling is a ball-handling forward type who can do a ton of things well. I’d keep expectations down for this season (he may not crack the rotation), but the future is bright.

In a vacuum, Milwaukee literally has twelve reasonable NBA players. That is a trait that most teams don’t have, but it’s also a curse. This is a team that was constructed poorly by creating logjams in the frontcourt and at the shooting guard spot, and there is almost no projection that could place the Bucks as anything but a subpar offensive team. If they defend at a top-5 level, they could win 40 games, but I don’t see it.


Stay tuned for the next installment, as we head to the Eastern Conference!