|An opposing team's scout sizes up the Bucks|
The Bucks overachieved last year because Scott Skiles did a great job of putting everybody in the right roles, and they did it without Michael Redd. This year could be another big step up. They were able to add talent to a team that was pretty good already because Skiles is comfortable coaching guys a lot of coaches wouldn't want to deal with -- Corey Maggette, Drew Gooden and Chris Douglas-Roberts. He's like the next Larry Brown.
I worry about a dip from Brandon Jennings in his second year. It'll be interesting to see if he's improved his shot. Of course, even when he wasn't shooting it well last season, he still managed to find a way to get inside the defense and dominate the game. He's so fast at getting the ball up the court for easy points, and when they pull it back into the half-court, they execute better than just about any team. Skiles was very good about not being harsh on him. A lot of people wondered if Skiles could coach him, but he was excellent with Jennings. Ultimately, Jennings is going to become a good shooter because he's a gym rat.
Jennings is good in the pick-and-roll and at breaking his guy down. The whole thing in the NBA is to get your point guard breaking down the defense and forcing the defense to help, which leaves guys open. Defensively, Jennings can get better, but the important thing is that he tries. If he didn't make that effort, Skiles would have him on the bench. Teams try to take advantage of his size, but he's so fiery. And he'll get better as he figures out how to hide his weaknesses.
Andrew Bogut became a better post-up player last year. If you could shut down Bogut, they were a different team because they didn't have anybody else to go -- but this year they have more options. The Bucks also take advantage of Bogut's passing by throwing it to him on the block and then running a high pick-and-roll and some dribble-handoff stuff. He can make a play out top.
Bogut is a great team defender and he's long. He's not the quickest guy, but he's stronger than he looks. He's an excellent rebounder and he blocks a ton of shots. I used to think he wasn't a good No. 1 pick -- even though that wasn't a good draft [in 2005] -- but now he makes that pick look better.
If not for their midseason trade for John Salmons, the Bucks probably wouldn't have made the playoffs. He's a great guy to have on your team and he works his butt off. His biggest problem is he constantly wants to drive. He loves to play one-on-one. He isn't selfish; it's just that a lot of times he gets caught with the ball at the end of the shot clock, and he won't make a pass and force a bad show on his teammate.
Carlos Delfino had a hell of a year at small forward, so what are they going to do with Maggette? I think Maggette could be better as a sixth man even though he's making almost $10 million a year, and I do think he could handle that role. Maggette will be a problem if he isn't getting the ball. If Bogut has the ball in the post and they start doubling him, Maggette is good at diving inside and finding the hole in the defense, and Bogut will get the ball to him. On top of that, I'm sure they'll run plays for Maggette. He gets to the foul line like nobody in the league, and that was a weakness of Milwaukee last year. If he's taking on the sixth-man role that Jerry Stackhouse had last year, they'll be fine because Maggette is an upgrade. I'm pretty sure it's going to work out for him in Milwaukee.
I wasn't always a Delfino fan, but last year he was making more shots than he used to. He's still not the answer at that position -- he's not great defender -- but I don't know if you can bring him off the bench because he's never done that successfully in the past.
Gooden has been in the league long enough, and I've come to appreciate what he does. He's been on a different team almost every season and he has continued to do what he does. That consistency has been impressive. He'll give you rebounding, he's a decent defender and he's another option to throw the ball to. Plus, he tries every night. I think he can play with Bogut, but if it doesn't work, they'll be able to move Gooden because his contract, worth $32 million over five years, is manageable.
Milwaukee started Luc Richard Mbah a Moute at the 4 a lot last year. With Gooden on board, Luc, who's a really good defender and very strong despite being undersized, gets to play where he should: with the second unit. He'll move guys off the block and he's incredible at moving his feet. He plays so hard that he gets a lot of loose balls and offensive rebounds.
Another thing the Bucks had going for them last year was that Luke Ridnour had the most consistent year of his career. He came off the bench behind Jennings for all 82 games; having two point guards playing every game is one reason why the Bucks were able to do well with what they had.
I don't know if their new backup point guard, Keyon Dooling, can be so reliable. Dooling will drive Skiles crazy with his decision-making, but he plays so hard that he'll be a good fit, assuming he stays healthy. He can defend and he's a wild point guard, but he'll turn the corner on the pick-and-roll and he'll be good at pushing the ball up the floor. Sometimes he'll throw it away, but he's there for his high energy. Earl Boykins is their third point guard, and he won't play much unless Jennings or Dooling is hurt.
I wouldn't be surprised if they experiment with starting Ersan Ilyasova at power forward and bringing Gooden off the bench, too. Ilyasova can stretch the defense with his shooting.