With the release of Herija’s examination of the Bucks, that pretty well wraps up the 2008-09 RotoRob NBA Draft Kit. Perfect timing, with the season beginning tonight. We can’t wait for those games to count, and hope you’ve enjoyed our draft kit. Special thanks to all the writers who assisted in the creation of this, including Alex, Andy, Daniel, Derek, Herija, James, Jordan and Steven. In fact, almost the whole team kicked in for this effort. Kudos to you all!
The Bucks endured yet another miserable season in 2007-08, pushing out to a 7-4 start – including wins over the Cavs, Lakers and Mavericks – before the wheels came off. They lost four straight and their record never got over .500 again. They decided to rebuild (again) during the offseason, firing their coach (Larry Krystkowiak) and general manager (Larry Harris), and bringing on highly respected John Hammond to replace Harris and hard-nosed Scott Skiles to guide the team on the court. Unfortunately, it remains to be seen if owner Herb Kohl gives them the leeway to do the things necessary to put a sustainable winner on the court. If their seemingly all-in grab for a low playoff seed is any indication, Buck fans might not want to know the answer.
Hammond did do an admirable job of ridding the team of a locker room cancer (Mo Williams), a horrendous contract (Bobby Simmons) and a guy that never wanted to play there in the first place (Yi Jianlian), but I’m not convinced the overall talent level has greatly improved. There’s no question the transition from Williams to Luke Ridnour is a downgrade on the court, but Williams and Michael Redd had zero on-court chemistry, so this may be a case of addition by subtraction. The team will also have to hope that Charlie Bell didn’t spend his offseason doing 12-ounce curls again after reporting to the team woefully out of the shape last season. He sulked over the team’s handling of his contract and wasn’t the same player. With Williams gone, they’ll need more from Bell. Ramon Sessions had some huge games down the stretch, but we’ll see how he holds up over a full season. If what we glimpsed was the real deal, the Williams trade would suddenly look infinitely better.
The frontcourt makeover is a big one as well. Gone are Simmons and Desmond Mason, in is former All-Star Richard Jefferson. The Bucks got Jefferson in the Yi/Simmons salary dump, and he should give them their best perimeter defender and another player that can create his own shot. The departure of Yi also frees up power forward for Charlie Villanueva, who averaged 15-8 as a starter last year. Behind those two, the Bucks will try to get away with rookie Joe Alexander and veterans Malik Allen and Adrian Griffin. Villanueva is the key, however, and with the chance to be a restricted free-agent next season he should have plenty of motivation, not to mention opportunity, to put up big numbers.
Many casual fans bristled at the contract extension given to Andrew Bogut, but the big Aussie has elevated his game over the years and is already one of the game’s better centres. He racked up double-doubles after the All-Star break, is an excellent passer at the high post – maybe someone will actually try running some offense through him – and a great help defender. Bogut takes a ton of charges, has improved exponentially as a shot blocker and wants to win. The worst thing Bogut has ever done in his career is not be Chris Paul or Deron Williams, which isn’t his fault. Behind Bogut, big-money bust Dan Gadzuric and former Spur centre Francisco Elson will hold down the fort.
Milwaukee was brutal in the preseason, but it’s a work in progress, and Skiles is demanding more accountability at the defensive end than anyone in recent memory. A stumble out of the gates followed by a push to the .500 level wouldn’t be surprising, and in this conference that could be good enough to land one of the lower playoff seeds.
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Luke Ridnour
SG: Michael Redd
SF: Richard Jefferson
PF: Charlie Villanueva
C: Andrew Bogut
Key Bench Players: Charlie Bell, Ramon Sessions, Joe Alexander, Malik Allen.
The starters are pretty much settled, though I expect the Ridnour/Sessions battle to continue throughout the season. About the only job up for grabs entering the final days of the preseason was back-up centre between Elson and Gadzuric. The latter has never come close to living up to his huge deal, but the team might give him some run in the futile hope he’ll show enough to generate some trade interest down the road.
Stud: Bogut averaged 16.3 points and 11.6 rebounds per game after the All-Star break last season. He also shoots a high percentage, blocks a lot of shots and is an adept passer. He’ll hurt you at the foul line, but Bogut – still only 23 years of age – appears poised for a real breakthrough season.
Dud: Yes, Redd is a lights out shooter. He needs almost no time or room to launch his pretty J and has developed a solid game off the dribble as well. However, Redd has long expended nearly no energy on defense, something Skiles is unlikely to tolerate. Therefore, I look for Redd to either (a) continue playing no defense and earn fewer minutes; or (b) expend more energy defensively and have less left to give on offense. Either way, I’m expecting his numbers to slip.
Sleeper: Ridnour is going to start over Sessions, but we’ll see if that lasts. As a rookie, Sessions authored some truly memorable performances, and it’s not like he was chopped liver in the D-League (20.9 points, 7.6 assists, 6.6 rebounds) either. I like Sessions as a late-round pick with big upside, but then again, so does everyone else. Better to take him a round too early, he has too much potential.
It’s against my principles to go with two sleepers, but in Charlie V’s case we’re making an exception. The guy has double-double potential and can bury three-pointers. Focus and intensity have been his shortcomings, but if Skiles (and a fat contract) can motivate him, watch out.
Rookies to Watch: Everyone loves Alexander’s physical tools, but the consensus seems to be he has a ways to go to really contribute at this level. I don’t expect more than 15 to 20 minutes a night for Alexander behind Jefferson and Charlie V. Defense is the name of the game with second-round pick Luc Mbah a Moute, which could earn him sporadic minutes when a defensive stopper is called for.
Fantasy Stories to Watch
There’s recent talk that Skiles may be considering starting Mbah a Moute over Villanueva at PF, which would definitely boost the rookie’s stock. However, the fact that Charlie V can handle both the three and four should guarantee him plenty of minutes.
Ridnour’s back may keep him out of Tuesday’s season opener, and give Sessions an opportunity to make an early-season statement. In this scenario, Bell will also earn extra minutes.