2012-13 Result: 38-44, 8th in Eastern Conference, lost 0-4 to the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs
Key Additions: Gary Neal, Carlos Delfino, Caron Butler, O.J. Mayo, Brandon Knight, Zaza Pachulia, Nate Wolters, Giannis Antetokounmpo, coach Larry Drew
Key Departures: Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Joel Przybilla, Marquis Daniels, Luc Mbah a Moute, Drew Gooden, Samuel Dalembert, coach Jim Boylan
The Milwaukee Bucks are tired of just making the playoffs. They want to make the next level. With this in mind, the Bucks management embarked on a retooling program that shook the team from the top down. In doing so, they shipped out their two leading scorers in Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, who combined for 36.7 points a game in 2012-13.
The Bucks will not be left with an empty bag, though. Despite the loss of Jennings and Ellis, the backcourt is still pretty loaded. O.J. Mayo, Brandon Knight, Gary Neal and J.J. Redick are all potent scorers. Knight and Mayo are also excellent playmakers, averaging eight assists between them; Mayo's assist numbers have steadily gone up since he entered the league. If Mayo ups his passing to six assists per game, he might have an All-Star chance in a season when the Bucks have no legitimate All-Star.
At the wings are Caron Butler, Carlos Delfino, Khris Middleton and the vastly-improved Ersan Ilyasova. The last has played all five of his NBA seasons in Milwaukee and has improved each year. Butler is a veteran who can provide mentorship to the likes of Middleton, while Delfino is a lights-out shooter. Each of them can score in double digits on any given day, giving the team depth on the offensive end.
The center slot, where the Bucks were most vulnerable in 2012-13, is bound to be a bit more beefier with the addition of veteran Zaza Pachulia, who last played in Milwaukee in 2004-05. He looks to provide stability and veteran smarts to fourth-year player Larry Sanders, who made a huge leap in 2012-13, averaging a near double-double (9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds) and almost three blocks per game. Sanders is poised for a breakout season after the departure of Samuel Dalembert.
Season Prediction: The Bucks have an interesting mix of young and not-so-young players. The first few games should be ugly to watch, but once this team gets more cohesive, they will reduce their turnovers and close the gaps on defense. Larry Sanders has tremendous upside, and his defensive presence will make the opposing center think twice about posting up or penetrating. The Bucks are a long shot to make the playoffs, and if ever they make it there, they could be gone as early as the first round (again). Nevertheless, if no major moves are made in the next two years, they will be a perennial Eastern Conference contender.
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