@Dinner Arizona is basically the sweetheart of sports writers and the refs and they don't want to admit it. It's obvious to everyone watching football that they're not better than Carolina, let alone Minnesota or probably even Green Bay. But the media keeps up with this "best team in the NFC" silliness and the refs keep handing them calls they apparently think everyone is too blind to see. Fortunately Carson Palmer will predictably implode when playoff time comes around and either Honey Badger or Patrick Peterson will find a way to get injured again.
SG: John Salmons/Chris Douglas-Roberts/Michael Redd
PG: Brandon Jennings/Keyon Dooling/Earl Boykins
Head Coach: Scott Skiles (3rd season)
2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $68.8 million
Off-Season Grade: A-
Credit John Hammond for what he has done with this Bucks team during his short tenure as general manager. I respect his aggressiveness in adding players via trade and not being afraid to deal expiring contracts for experienced players because let's be honest; Milwaukee is not exactly a hot spot for marquee free agents so cap space would not be a major asset.
This theory was demonstrated when the Bucks dealt Charlie Bell and Dan Gadzuric's expiring contract for Corey Maggette. Yes, Milwaukee takes on Maggette's remaining three years, $30-plus million, but they add a physical wing player who is a proven scorer and it barely cost them anything. The same could be said of adding Chris Douglas-Roberts for the bargain price of a second-round pick.
The Bucks also entered the offseason needing to add some physicality, rebounding, and defensive presence inside. Mission accomplished. They used their entire mid-level exception on Drew Gooden; a deal that some people criticized but I really like because he should fit perfectly into Milwaukee's style of play. They also drafted Larry Sanders and acquired Jon Brockman.
Re-signing John Salmons was also a must and it did not break the bank. Salmons came up huge for the Bucks after being acquired from Chicago with the hopes of replacing Michael Redd's productivity. All in all, it was an active but productive summer for the Bucks.
Heading into the season, a major storyline will be the health of Andrew Bogut. He suffered a nasty-looking elbow injury near the end of last season and has been slowly getting back into the basketball groove this preseason. If the Big Aussie can stay healthy, the Bucks will be even more dangerous this season.
In signing Gooden, Milwaukee added a solid complementary frontcourt player who can help take some of the beating off Bogut. Ersan Ilyasova brings his versatility and jump shot to the frontcourt while Luc Richard Mbah a Moute moves to a more suitable role as an energy player off the bench. Brockman is a low-post banger while Sanders was known as a rebounder and shot blocker more than a scorer at Virginia Commonwealth. Both players will compete for minutes in a crowded frontcourt, which is a good problem for Scott Skiles to have.
Brandon Jennings stepped onto the NBA scene like a bat out of hell as a rookie, making a huge impact from the get-go. His productivity tailed off near the end of the season, but he will be the quarterback of the Bucks offense especially since Luke Ridnour left this offseason. If Jennings can become a more consistent outside shooter, that will make him even more dangerous with his already lightning quick first step and ability to create for his teammates.
Salmons reassumes his role at the two and will provide a perimeter scorer alongside Jennings. Carlos Delfino was extremely productive in his first season in Milwaukee and will begin the year as the starting small forward. Maggette will push Delfino for minutes and will be a major contributor as well. Douglas-Roberts adds more scoring off the bench. The wing players need so stay healthy with Michael Redd expecting to miss most of the season and rookie Darington Hobson recently undergoing hip surgery that could potentially sideline him for the entire year.
On paper, this is a much more complete Bucks roster. They added the necessary pieces to become well-rounded and further emphasize the hard-nosed style that Skiles implores. I cannot see them finishing lower than sixth in the Eastern Conference, and would not be shocked if they won the Central Division and earned the fourth seed in the playoffs.
Looking Ahead to the Summer of 2011:
Michael Redd's $18.3 million contract comes off the books which has to be a relief for the Bucks since Redd has not been able to stay healthy. Even with that huge chunk of change being erased from Milwaukee's salary, there will not be a lot of cap flexibility. But Hammond has been successful in swinging trades and finding cheap bargains in the open market to improve the roster. Do not rule out the possibility of Hammond trying to shop Redd's expiring deal around the trade deadline.