Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Milwaukee Bucks (Last Year: 38-44)
2012-13 Season Summary:
For the past decade, the Milwaukee Bucks have been skating by as an average NBA franchise. The team has remade itself several times during that span, but has failed to become anything more than a borderline playoff team and that was once again the case during the 2012-13 campaign
The backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis was erratic throughout most of the season; showing moments of offensive brilliance one night and then playing completely out of control the next evening. Though the team had some decent other pieces, it was ultimately the backcourt that would make or break each game with its shot selection and decision-making.
Perhaps the biggest development of this past season was the emergence of Larry Sanders as one of the top shot blockers in the league. The former VCU Ram was nothing more than a marginal role player his first two years in the NBA, but earned a starting spot and became the defensive presence in the middle who the Bucks were sorely lacking.
In a feeble attempt to make a playoff push, Milwaukee traded former first-round pick Tobias Harris to Orlando in exchange for sharpshooter J.J. Redick. While Redick played his role well off the bench, Harris played awesome for the Magic down the stretch. Redick will be a free agent this summer while Harris has plenty of room for growth, so that should likely be a deal which will haunt Milwaukee fans in the next couple of years if Harris continues that type of production moving forward.
2013-14 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Larry Sanders/Ekpe Udoh/Drew Gooden
PF: Ersan Ilyasova/John Henson/#Gustavo Ayon
SF: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
SG: *Monta Ellis
PG: ^Brandon Jennings/Ish Smith
NBA Free Agents:
^PG-Brandon Jennings (RFA)
*G-Monta Ellis (PO)
#PF-Gustavo Ayon (TO)
SG-J.J. Redick (UFA)
SF-Mike Dunleavy (UFA)
C-Samuel Dalembert (UFA)
G/F-Marquis Daniels (UFA)
C-Joel Przybilla (UFA)
2013-14 Team Salary: Approximately $28.9 million
NBA Offseason Team Needs:
1. Changing of the Guard:
With Brandon Jennings a restricted free agent this summer, the Bucks must make a decision on about his future with the organization. While he been a spark plug since arriving in Milwaukee, I am not sure he is worth a long-term extension that could pay him in excess of $10-million per year. If some team is willing to offer Jennings that sort of deal, the Bucks do have the option to match the contract and might be handcuffed into doing so rather than letting him walk and get nothing in return. Even if Jennings does return, the team should still look to add another backup guard.
Another decision must be made about Monta Ellis. He has a player option on the final year of his contract and will more than likely opt out and test the free agency waters. It is highly unlikely Milwaukee will be able to keep both guys (not that the organization should want to since that duo is not going to get the team out of mediocrity), and Ellis is the more likely of the two to leave town. Whatever the case, Milwaukee needs to have a Plan B at both positions.
2. Shooting Wing:
With both J.J. Redick and Mike Dunleavy free agents, Milwaukee will likely lose its top two bench snipers. Assuming both guys find new homes this summer, the Bucks must find a perimeter scorer who can provide some offensive firepower off the bench and consistently knock down open shots.
3. Physical Big Man:
With Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson, and Ekpe Udoh; Milwaukee has decent depth up front, but with Samuel Dalembert a free agent and Drew Gooden being nothing more than a benchwarmer, the Bucks don't have a true banger down low. Sanders and Henson are long and athletic while Ilyasova is a face-up four, so adding a big body to replace Dalembert will be an important free agency move to make.
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