A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

NBA Franchise Power Rankings – #26: Milwaukee Bucks

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Andrew Bogut going for a rebound.

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Previous rankings:

#30 - Charlotte Bobcats (+ introduction)

#29 - Phoenix Suns

#28 - Denver Nuggets

#27 - Detroit Pistons


#26 – Milwaukee Bucks

Total Trade Value ranking: #25 (Feb. 2011 ranking – #22)
Managerial Grade: C
Financial Grade: D
Estimated Record next year: 45-50 W playoff team

Best assets – C Andrew Bogut (middle age, borderline all-star), PG Brandon Jennings (young, projects as bench player to borderline starter), 2012 Mil 1st, SF/PF Tobias Harris (young, projects as bench player to borderline starter), 2013 Mil 1st, PF/C Larry Sanders (young, projects as bench player to borderline starter), SF/PF Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (borderline starter), PF Ersan Ilyasova (borderline starter), PF/C Jon Leuer (rookie, projects as bench player to borderline starter)

Bad contracts: PF Drew Gooden (4 years, 26 million), PG Beno Udrih (2 years, 15 million), SG/SF Stephen Jackson (2 years, 19.3 million)

Other chips: SG Carlos Delfino, PG Keyon Dooling

Overall synopsis: This is the lowest ranking I have for a team I think will actually be good next year. The Bucks centerpiece the last number of years has been Andrew Bogut, arguably the 2nd most valuable center in the league and the type of player everyone wants. Unfortunately the Bucks are very weak in other starting caliber young assets. Brandon Jennings and Tobias Harris are opposites – Jennings has the athleticism and physical talent but not the head, Harris appears to have a great head for the game but I don’t believe he’s athletic enough to make it in the NBA or fit at either the 3 or 4 position consistently. It’s hard to make it without one or the other. The Bucks are in an unfortunate “middle” position, doomed to be a low level lottery team or playoff knockout without high enough picks to get a real star to go beside Bogut. For this reason I would not be opposed to someone actually putting Milwaukee 30th on this list. But the value of Bogut can’t be denied – If the Bucks wished to follow the path of the 30th team on this list (Charlotte) of losing for high picks, they could deal Bogut for one and then be in a stronger position than the Bobcats. So from a thereotical positional ranking perspective, the Bucks DO have a better hand than the Bobcats and the other 3 teams below them, the question is whether they’ll be using that hand rightly. Since I am ranking their positional strength as of now, I have Milwaukee still ahead. Also, it’s not impossible for the Bucks to build a contender with Bogut on the team and making the playoffs from this point on, it’s just difficult. They’d need a serious star trade in the future.

What to make of the Bucks moving #9 for #19 in the 2011 draft, at the cost of trading John Salmons, Corey Maggette for Stephen Jackson for Beno Udrih. On one hand, I think it makes them far better next year. The Bucks now resemble the 2009-2010 team who moved the ball, shot 3s, committed to defense and had a reliable PG backing up Brandon Jennings. But long term, giving up value in the draft to fix a mistake like the Salmons and Maggette moves is likely going to hurt them. However much Udrih and Jackson make them better, it will be a short term improvement at the cost of long term ability. This puts Milwaukee into a greater hole. To really be in a good long term position, the Bucks needed to create short term hurt for long term value. I would’ve traded Bogut for Minnesota’s #2 2011 pick if they were willing to trade it.

Despite a 2010 spending spree on John Salmons, Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden that was a predictably big disaster, I quite like John Hammond nonetheless. The Bucks also have one of the best coaches in the league for Scott Skiles, at least until he is predictably tuned out. Financially they are in slightly less of a mess with Jackson and Udrih replacing Maggette and Salmons, but are not in a good position nonetheless, and Milwaukee is at the bottom of the list of free agency valued destinations.

Next season: I have the Bucks as a dark horse to make a run at 50 wins and home court advantage in the first round. The defense should be near the best in the league and a few years ago they had an effective offense with 3 pt shooting, Bogut’s interior play and a single perimeter scorer, then John Salmons, now Stephen Jackson. With just an average offense they should be an easy playoff team. At the PG position they have upside if Jennings breaks out, and insurance in Udrih if he doesn’t. Projected DRTG: 1st, projected ORTG: 18th, projected record: 49-33

Projection: Downwards. Not only do the Bucks have depreciating assets, but every other team below them has appreciating assets with younger players and better draft picks. Furthermore, my personal opinion is negative on Jennings’ 3rd year and Tobias Harris’ rookie season. Jennings is exactly the type of player who never gets it and remains an enigma, and I predict Harris fails to find a position and consistent thing to hang his hat on in the NBA. At the same time, as long as they have Bogut they can’t fall too far from the perch they are on at the present moment.  Next season will be like the Bucks spending their paycheque on a bender at the bar, they’ll enjoy the night, but their life and time will be wasted in the long term. At some point they’ll have to realize the answer is getting sober and thinking about long term success.

Written by jr.

September 7, 2011 at 6:25 pm

One Response

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  1. They’re a damn mystery to Bucks fans, that’s for sure.

    Jennings had a bad soph year which can’t be chalked down to injury, but isn’t quite (I hope) the headcase I think you’re painting it as. His broken footwork on his jumper is fixable, and with that I think his game opens up, although his ability to run a team is absolutely at question (which is where Udrih is a quality pickup).

    Salmons and Maggette were gambles that didn’t pay off, absolutely, but the team was absolutely decimated by injuries last season. We started Keyon Dooling and Chris Douglas-Roberts a lot more than anyone should reasonably have to. 😉

    Captain Jack is absolutely a placeholder player in terms of scoring wing, and the Bucks haven’t really had a reliable perimeter scorer (minus half a season from Salmons) since Redd’s injury decline entered the terminal phase. However, the deadweight of Redd’s contract has also lifted from the franchise also gives the Bucks significant financial flexibility which (cannily used) could fill that need in the long term.

    There’s still iffy depth behind Bogut and a logjam of mediocre PFs that will limit the damage this team can do in the postseason, but like you I think they can actually make it there with a smidgen of luck. A pretty fair writeup nonetheless…


    September 10, 2011 at 5:07 pm

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