How Will the Milwaukee Bucks Do in the 2013-2014 Season?
Disappointment and Turmoil in 2012-2013
The Milwaukee Bucks 2012-2013 season was vey disappointing and filled with constant turmoil. Thanks to playing in a very weak Eastern Division, the Bucks made the playoffs as an eight seed, but they were swept by the Miami Heat in a four game series which wasn't very competitive. During the first half of the season, Coach Scott Skiles lost control of players leading to his resignation in January of 2013. Things didn't improve under interim Coach Jim Boylan. By the end of the season, the three primary guards and soon free agents to be, J.J. Redick, Monta Ellis, and Brandon Jennings were bickering over playing time and their roles on the team.
In June of 2013, Coach Boylan was not retained, and Larry Drew, recently not rehired by the Atlanta Hawks, was hired as the Bucks new head coach. Shortly later, Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick left the team, and then restricted free agent Brandon Jennings was traded to the Detroit Pistons. Within the past month, lesser known free agents and former Milwaukee players were added to the team as well as an 18 year old unknown NBA draftee. With the pieces now probably all gathered for the team, what lies ahead for the Bucks? This article will analyze the 2012-2013 season, and then suggest whether the Milwaukee Bucks will be competitive in the 2013-2014 season.
Recap of 2012-2013 Season
The 2012-2013 season can be divided into three parts: the November 2012 - January 2013 period under Coach Scott Skiles; the January - April 2013 period under interim coach Jim Boylan; and the 2013 first round playoff series against the Miami Heat.
Coach Scott Skiles
The November 2012 - January 2013 Period Under Scott Skiles
The 2012-2013 season began with a lot of optimism under Coach Skiles. The dynamic duo of guards Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis were expected to play well together and score points. Center Samuel Dalembert and forward Tobias Harris were also expected to play well based on pre-season action. With Mike Dunleavy and Larry Sanders doing well as energy off the bench, the Bucks won their opening game against the Boston Celtics and had a winning record throughout much of November and December of 2012. The Bucks beat Boston three out of four times, Indiana twice, Chicago, and even the Miami Heat once. Things, however, were starting to unravel. Dalembert turned out to be a problem and was suspended for a few games. By the end of November, Larry Sanders was starting as center. Tobias Harris also got into Coach Skiles' doghouse and was replaced by Luc Mbah a Bute and others at forward. In addition, Jennings was often pulled during the fourth quarter and didn't finish games that were on the line. Backup point guard Beno Udrih was also upset with his playing minutes. It was probably the open resentment of all of these players which caused Skiles to feel he had lost control of the team and led to his resignation.
Interim Coach Jim Boylan
The January - April 2013 Period Under Jim Boylan
After Skiles resigned, assistant and interim coach Jim Boylan was thrown into a bad situation. Boylan tried new things by using Monta Ellis more as a point guard and by establishing Ersan Ilyasova as the power forward. This briefly worked as Milwaukee got to four games over .500. Jennings, however, was starting to openly complain about his playing time and role on the team. Sensing that the acquisition of J.J. Redick from Orlando could improve the team, Milwaukee dealt Tobias Harris, Doreon Lamb, and Udrih to the Magic for Redick and two lesser players. After arriving in Milwaukee, Redick generally played well with Ellis, but often awful alongside Jennings. By the end of the season, Boylan was still struggling how to use Ellis, Jennings, and Redick effectively together in games. Jennings' playing time decreased and he more openly complained. When Boylan played Ellis and Jennings more, Redick started to complain about his playing time and role on the team. By the end of the season, Milwaukee was losing most of its games and finished the regular season with a 38-44 record.
The Playoffs Against the Miami Heat
During the first round playoffs against the Miami Heat, Boylan really lost control of the team. Jennings was still complaining about his playing time, and Redick openly complained that he and Boylan were not on speaking terms. There was also almost a fight between Larry Sanders and Monta Ellis in the locker room following one of the losses in the playoffs. During the altercation which was broken up by teammates, Sanders accused Ellis of being selfish and not playing for the interests and needs of the team. Mercifully, Milwaukee's season finally ended after the game four loss to Miami.
Bucks Coaching and Roster Changes May - July 2013
During June and July of 2013, Milwaukee changed coaches again, saw many players leave through trades, cuts, and free agency, and added more players by way of trades, free agency, and the NBA draft.
Head Coaching Changes
During the early part of May of 2013, Jim Boylan, as expected, was not retained by the Milwaukee Bucks. All of his assistant coaches were also let go.
After a month of searching, the Bucks finally hired Larry Drew as their new head coach. Although Atlanta had recently decided not to rehire Drew, Milwaukee took him due to Drew's good track record in Atlanta and his skills in interacting well with and developing young NBA players.
During June and July, the Bucks lost their three primary guards and scorers in Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, and J.J. Redick. As unrestricted free agents, Ellis signed with the Dallas Mavericks and Redick with the L.A. Clippers. Brandon Jennings as a restricted free agent was first signed by the Milwaukee and then traded to the Detroit Pistons. All three of these players openly felt very negative about playing for the Bucks in the future.
Milwaukee also lost two key players in free agent Mike Dunleavy who signed with the Chicago Bulls and Luc Mbah A Bute who was traded to the Sacramento Kings. Dunleavy was Milwaukee's sixth man or first player off of the bench, while Mbah A Bute was the Bucks best defender. Luc, however, has been suffering from bad knees for the past two years.
Other players not returning include free agent Samuel Dalembert. Center Joel Pryzbilla, power forwards Drew Gooden and Gustavo Ayon, and forward Marquis Daniels were all released.
As free agents, Milwaukee signed shooting guard O.J. Mayo from Dallas, point guard Luke Ridnour from Minnesota, center Zaza Pachulia from Atlanta, small forward Carlos Delfino from Houston, shooting guard Gary Neal from San Antonio, and center Miroslav Raduljika from Europe. In trades, Milwaukee obtained point guard Brandon Knight, small forward Khris Middleton, and center Viacheslav Kravtsov from Detroit in exchange for Brandon Jennings. In the 2013 NBA draft, the Bucks number one draft choice was 18 year old small forward Giannis Antetokounmp from Greece and the number two draft choice was point guard Nate Wotters from South Dakota.
Holdovers From 2012-2013 Team
Milwaukee Bucks holdovers from the 2012-2013 team include center Larry Sanders, power forwards John Henson, Ersan Ilyasova, and Ekpe Udoh as well as point guard Ish Smith. Since Smith doesn't have a contract yet, he will probably be cut.
Bucks Prospects for the 2013-2014 Season
With almost a complete overhaul of the 2012-2013 roster, a new head coach, and no "big name" stars returning, most sports writers aren't expecting much from the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2013-2014 season. The competitiveness and ultimate success of the Bucks will hinge on the following:
1. Who will be the point guard?
Most people expect 21 year old Brandon Knight obtained in the trade for Brandon Jennings to be Milwaukee's starting point guard. This is based on Knights' experience running the point for Detroit in the 2012-2013 season. If Knight should falter, the Bucks could call on an experienced Luke Ridnour who previously played point guard for both Milwaukee and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Draft choice Nate Wotters could stick with the team, but he will probably be assigned to a developmental league team.
2. Will the new shooting guard compensate for Monta Ellis' scoring?
Monta Ellis led the Bucks in scoring in 2012-2013 averaging just under 20 points per game. Milwaukee is hoping that new free agent O.J. Mayo will score almost as much as Ellis and play better defense. As a reserve and role player, the Bucks signed Gary Neal who did well with the San Antonio Spurs.
3. Who will start as the small forward?
The small forward is probably the weakest link on the Milwaukee Bucks. Carlos Delfino has previously played small forward, but he is best used in reserve as a role player. The Bucks will probably try Khris Midddleton obtained from Detroit, but he is quite raw. There is also the number one draft choice Giannis Antetokounmp. Realistically, he can't be counted on to contribute much due to his inexperience.
4. Who will be the starting power forward?
John Henson, Ersan Ilyasova, and Ekpe Udoh will all compete for the starting power forward position. None of the three is a complete player with both good offensive and defensive skills. Ilyasova is good offensively, but struggles defending. Henson and Udoh are excellent defenders, but struggle playing well away from the basket. My guess is that Ilyasova will start and Henson will be the primary backup.
5. Can center Larry Sanders play more meaningful minutes and stay out of foul trouble?
Larry Sanders played great defensively blocking shots and scoring around the basket when he was on the floor. The problem is that Sanders often got into foul trouble and also was ejected from games due to technical fouls caused by his hot temper. The Bucks are hoping that free agents Zaza Pachulia and Miroslav Raduljika will be good backups to Sanders.
6. Will the team play better defense?
After Coach Skiles resigned, Milwaukee's defense went south in a hurry. A big problem was that the guards, Jennings and Ellis, were small and not very good defenders. Milwaukee is hoping that Brandon Knight and O.J. Mayo will play better defense.
7. Will there be better team chemistry?
A total lack of team chemistry killed the Bucks last year. It first led to Scott Skiles resignation, and then derailed Milwaukee's season when it was hoping to have at least a .500 record and get better than an eight seed for the playoffs. Will the new head coach Larry Drew be able to orchestrate good team chemistry among the holdovers and numerous new players on the team?
8. Will the many young players be able to develop their skills?
The Milwaukee Bucks are clearly in a rebuilding mode for the 2013-2014 season. If Milwaukee is to be competitive in the future, young players like Brandon Knight, John Henson, Giannis, and even Larry Sanders must take the next step in developing their basketball talents for the good of the team. Will Coach Drew be able to help these young players develop?
This will be an exciting season for Bucks fans and players because much isn't expected from the team. Lots of young players will be trying to establish themselves. Success will hinge on team chemistry and the development of players. Will all players be able to play well together and accept their roles on the team?