2012-13 Record: 38-44; lost to Heat in Eastern Conference first round
Coach: Larry Drew (first season with Bucks)
AN OPPOSING TEAM'S SCOUT ANALYZES THE BUCKS
What is their direction? What are they trying to do? I'm trying to make sense of their changes. They picked up a lot of pieces that were unimportant to other teams, so they just have a collection of parts right now. I don't know if they're in the Andrew Wiggins contest for the No. 1 pick in the draft or what.
They have a new backcourt after the departures of Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick. One of the replacements, O.J. Mayo, is not a point guard, but he needs the ball a lot. Mayo is a good player for 20, 25 minutes a game. In Memphis, he was good as a third guard. But to win games, is he your starting 2-guard or starting point guard? I don't think he's consistent enough. He's an up-and-down player. When people have depended on him, he hasn't come through. He's pretty much the same player he was when he entered the draft [in 2008].
Brandon Knight is a guy without a position in the backcourt. The word is that he expects too much out of himself. He expects to be a perfect player, and he's not. He's one of those guys who is just on the edge of being good. If he's a scorer, you want him to be somebody who can score every night. If he's a point guard, you want to know he can lead the team every night. I don't know if he has proved that he has either of those traits. He's an in-between guy.
Center Larry Sanders got numbers on a bad team last year. Scott Skiles is a pretty good coach and there was a reason why he wasn't playing Sanders as much. After the coaching change [when Jim Boylan replaced Skiles in January], they played him more and let him make mistakes. When an interim coach comes in, a player like Sanders gets a lot more leeway. And when he got a little bit of freedom that's when he had some issues and got kicked out of games [Sanders was ejected three times in a six-game span in March].
After he has had a training camp with Larry Drew, and he's been given responsibilities, it will be interesting to see what Sanders really is. Everything changes with an established coach who has a definite plan. He intrigues me, but I don't see a lot of offensive potential. I wonder if he could be a DeAndre Jordan-type guy, where he had a year of good numbers that betrayed what he really is.
The Bucks have invested in forwards John Henson and Ersan Ilyasova. It will be interesting to see which one starts [at power forward] and which one comes off the bench. Ilyasova [who has missed most of the preseason with an ankle injury] can shoot threes and Henson can't, but Henson can make 18-footers. Henson relies on his length and can rebound better than Ilyasova. Either one of them can play off Sanders.
If Caron Butler is healthy, he can be a good example for the young guys they're relying on for down the road. He's a tough guy, he plays both ends of the floor and he's been on winning teams. If Butler isn't healthy, I don't know who will provide leadership. I like Ridnour, but I haven't seen him be a vocal leader. I haven't seen Mayo do that. Knight tries, but he doesn't have the résumé to get it done.
I don't think Gary Neal is going to be as good now that he's not with the Spurs. He has always been around great players until now. On a bad team, is he going to be one of those guys who tries to show people what he can finally be? He was a scorer in Europe and a scorer in college, so is he now going to sacrifice efficiency in order to get more shots up? At the same time, they need someone to stretch the floor. Carlos Delfino can help in that area, too.
Zaza Pachulia will help as a backup big man. He's always in the right spots defensively.
Drew is a better coach than he's given credit for. He had a difficult job in Atlanta, especially last year, when he was a lame-duck coach with little chance to keep his job. I don't think he's ever going to win a championship, but he's a good, playoff-level coach. If he coaches this group to the playoffs, he's the Coach of the Year.
The best hope for the Bucks is 35 wins. More likely, they'll be in the high 20s. And if they have injuries, the bottom could fall out, in which case they'd be competing for the No. 1 pick.