Can new coach Scott Skiles get this team to play at the defensive end? Absolutely. Will it happen overnight? Probably not. His first season with the Bulls [when he took over 16 games into the season], they were awful. It took awhile for him to teach how he wanted them to play, and also for them to bring in the types of players who could do what he wanted them to do, and then they had to come together. I expect the same kind of process for Milwaukee. We may not see it come together this year. If he has them defending better by the middle of the year as a team that will compete and hang in there and not revert to their old ways, he will have set the tone and put them in the right direction.
I either see this working out very well and being exactly what the team needed, or else turning into a really bad marriage. In saying that, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Scott as a coach. He can wear on guys because of his high expectations, but his teaching and the basis of what he believes in are sound. The bottom line is that I think they need to keep changing this roster to give him the kinds of players he needs because I don't believe this team is built to win.
A key player for them is center Andrew Bogut, who made some strides last season after a disappointing second year. He isn't the dominant player you would hope for as a No. 1 pick, but there are only a few talented 7-footers in the league. They're going to be OK with him. I see him as a guy who will work and do anything Scott asks. He won't be a great defender, but he will block shots and hold his own and work at it. Despite the losing in Milwaukee, he has remained fairly positive, he's shown some leadership qualities and he's one of the few guys who appears to talk on the floor and communicate with his teammates. Because of that, he will endear himself to Scott. He'll be in the right place and know what he's supposed to do. Offensively, he shoots it OK for a big man and he's skilled enough around the basket. He should be a 15-and-10 guy, and he passes it pretty well. He'll be good in a number of areas.
I could see Michael Redd making the kind of transformation Ray Allen had in Boston. Redd is a knockdown jump shooter who doesn't have to be the be-all, end-all. He can get his 15 to 20 points per night and be part of a winning situation. His problem in Milwaukee is that he shouldn't be the No. 1 player. As dynamic as Redd is as a shooter and scorer, he has shown he is not good enough to lead this team. The bottom line is that he plays on one end of the floor.
They traded for Richard Jefferson, and while he'll help take some heat off Redd, Jefferson has shown he isn't a No. 1 player either. First of all, you have to question his desire to play in Milwaukee. He didn't want to go there, and they're going to have to contend with his motivation. Jefferson has been a secondary star his whole career, a good but not great player. And let's face it, Jason Kidd buttered his bread in New Jersey, where Jefferson got so many easy points running in transition. In the half court, he doesn't get to show his abilities athletically. He is not a low-post scorer, he isn't a big off-the-dribble guy and he isn't necessarily a knockdown shooter. He is a slashing scorer who brings a physical presence to the defensive end -- not an All-Defensive-team guy, but he will bring effort.
Who is the starter at point guard? I have a feeling Skiles is not going to be a Luke Ridnour fan. Ridnour has never been known for his ability to defend, and that's going to hurt him with Skiles. Tyronn Lue can't play starter minutes and stay healthy. Charlie Bell had a poor season last year coming off a contract disagreement, but I don't consider him a point guard. The other guy in the mix would be Ramon Sessions, who played well at the end of the year. But that was a short window, and in the best-case scenario, you still wouldn't rate him among the top half of NBA starting point guards this season.
Charlie Villanueva is a frustrating power forward because he doesn't defend anyone. He can score and he has some versatility offensively, but he doesn't do anything really well -- a decent perimeter shooter for his size, and an ability to score around the basket, but not great at any of those things. He has some potential, but the worry is that he has never shown desire or ability to defend.
Let's say we're looking three years down the road, and who from the roster are reliable guys for Skiles? They would hope that Joe Alexander is part of that future, but for this season you don't expect your rookie to improve you defensively. Jefferson will either be on his way out or gone already. You would hope that Redd is part of that, but I'm not convinced he will be. A few other guys like Sessions may play their way into the mix, but right now Bogut is the only lock.
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.