Posting a record of just 26-56, the Milwaukee Bucks were a dreadful team during the 07-08 NBA season, but after all the changes this summer, there is no question they will be a better team. Michael Redd has been one of the top scorers in the league each and every year, but has been without a teammate who could take a share of the offensive load. That problem was answered when the Bucks traded for Richard Jefferson, a proven scorer, who alongside Michael Redd will create one of the most prolific perimeter duos in the game. The Bucks did trade away their starting point guard Mo Williams, but were able to acquire Luke Ridnour, and still have Ramon Sessions, so his loss has been accounted for.
The team has also improved in that they now have a new coach, Scott Skiles, who was successful in Chicago. Scott Skiles is known for holding his players accountable on both the defensive and offensive ends of the floor, so he may have trouble getting through to this team right away, considering every starter is under the age of 30. Skiles was able to gain the trust of his players on the Bulls, but things really fell apart last season before his firing, though that was mainly due to the Kobe trade rumors. Skiles should fit in well with this team, but until they hit the floor, there will be plenty of questions about him, and this team.
Offense: The offense will run through Michael Redd and Richard Jefferson for the most part, but Andrew Bogut will have a big impact as well. With Skiles as coach, this will be a passing team from every position, which will benefit Bogut as he is one of the best at creating for his teammates from the post. Bogut will be the team’s primary force on the inside, but this is a perimeter oriented team, with Redd and Jefferson seeing most of the touches. Charlie Villanueva is an interesting piece as he can score from the outside just as well as in the inside. Villanueva had a solid rookie year in 2006, but has struggled with injuries and a trouble to adapt to new systems. If Villanueva is able to return to his previous form, he will be a very valuable asset, and a great fit with Bogut in the post. The Bucks still have a lot to work on, but they will be much stronger than they were last year.
Defense: The Bucks gave up nearly 104 points every night last season, and their lack of defense was a huge factor in their terrible year. Richard Jefferson is a good addition to the defense, and Andrew Bogut is this team’s best overall defender, but the improvement of this team will lie squarely upon the shoulders of Scott Skiles. If Skiles can get everyone to focus on a full-scale team defense, much like with his Chicago teams, the Bucks should be vastly improved on the defensive end. The Bucks won’t be able to outscore every team every night, even with Richard Jefferson, so their defense will have to step up.
Strengths: Scoring could be Milwaukee’s greatest strength. Great perimeter scorers in Michael Redd and Richard Jefferson paired with a few solid post players will give the Bucks a lot more leverage when taking on some of the better defensive squads around the league. The Bucks won’t be one of the top scoring teams, but their well-rounded offense will be fun to watch throughout the season.
Weaknesses: Until this team can prove they have improved defensively, this is still their biggest weakness. They cannot expect to give up over 100 points on a consistent basis and be a .500 team; it just doesn’t work that way. There is a lot of hope for the defense to improve, but it is still a big question mark.
Five Players to Watch:
Andrew Bogut - Bogut was signed to a five year contract extension over the summer, and is now a rich man. Bogut has continued to develop since entering the league, and is now a reliable defensive stopper in the post. Bogut is quickly becoming one of the best centers in the league, but you have to wonder if he can handle the full grind of an NBA season after playing all summer for Australia. If Bogut can stay healthy, and continue to improve, he will be a force in the NBA, and the best player on this team.
Michael Redd - Even with the addition of Richard Jefferson, Michael Redd is still the leader of the Milwaukee Bucks. Richard Jefferson will have just as big a role in the offense, but in the clutch, the team will likely continue turning to Michael Redd. Redd, though, along with Jefferson, may need to have a career year if the Bucks want to make the Playoffs.
Richard Jefferson - Jefferson was able to have a great year for New Jersey this past season after going through some troubles the previous year. Jefferson would like to show that he can lead a team to the Playoffs, and with the Bucks, he may no better opportunity.
Joe Alexander - Alexander is an absolute freak athletically, and can do just about anything on the floor. Alexander will benefit from coming off of the bench, and learning from the veterans on this team, but if he gets time, he will be very impressive. Do not be surprised if Alexander is an early favorite to win the Slam Dunk Contest.
Charlie Villanueva - After having two very unimpressive seasons in Milwaukee, Villanueva needs to prove once again that he was worth being taken in the lottery back in 2005, and worth acquiring in exchange for guard T.J. Ford. Villanueva has size, a nice touch under the basket, and a sweet stroke from the perimeter. Villanueva is full of potential, but unless he can stay away from injuries, and continually work on the fundamentals of his game, he will be another talented burn-out.
Playoff Hopes: The Bucks could be one of the most improved teams in the league, and assuming Scott Skiles can take control of this team, Milwaukee will be challenging for one of the final two Payoff spots back East. Although, the Bucks could just as easily fall apart, and have yet another mediocre season, but that doesn’t seem as likely anymore.
Prediction: 3rd Place, Central Division