NBA 2014-15 Power Rankings Preview: #29 Milwaukee Bucks
This NBA offseason has been very eventful and we’re only a few short weeks away from the start of team training camps. To help bridge that gap for hoops junkies, we here at numberFire will be rolling out our projections for next season in the form of team previews, starting at 30 and going all the way to number one. We continue today with the 29th-ranked Milwaukee Bucks!
The Philadelphia 76ers tied the NBA record for consecutive losses last season, dropping 26 in a row, and they still weren't the worst team in the league. That dishonor went to the Milwaukee Bucks, who finished the season an atrocious 15-67. Everything that could've gone wrong did and then did again. O.J. Mayo, Ersan Ilyasova, and Larry Sanders all simultaneously had the worst seasons of their respective careers, while Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton - both castoffs from the Detroit Pistons - ended up being the team's most reliable scorers. That tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the 2013-14 Milwaukee Bucks right there.
This season's Bucks might have a bit more promise though, with two future franchise players like Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo in tow, a high profile coach in Jason Kidd on board, a roster with slightly more depth, and the chance for some bounce-back campaigns in play. They're still far from being a playoff team, but now there's at least a slight beam of hope breaking through on the future in Milwaukee.
Projected Record: 27-55
Eastern Conference Rank: 14th
NBA Rank: 29th
Playoff Chances: 5.00%
Championship Chances: 0.00%
Our algorithms have the Bucks jumping to a 27-55 record, a full 12 games better than last season. As mentioned in the Philadelphia 76ers preview, our numbers might seem a bit too generous to the lower teams, but you have to consider how much the Eastern Conference has evened out since LeBron left Miami and Paul George suffered a season-ending leg injury. Besides, when teams like the Bucks, Sixers, Orlando Magic, and Boston Celtics face each other roughly four times each throughout the season, someone has to win those games.
Don't worry though, the Bucks still sit at an indisputable 0.00% chance of winning the title this year - something which I'm sure we can all agree on.
Jabari Parker and the few inches that Giannis Antetokounmpo grew this summer represent the biggest acquisitions for the Bucks this offseason, but Bayless, Dudley, and Marshall were underrated additions to bolster their bench depth as well (assuming Dudley has anything resembling his days with the Suns left in him). Jeff Adrien showed signs of being a decent big man last season, but with John Henson continuing to grow and Larry Sanders coming back, the loss of him and Udoh shouldn't be that significant.
Three Burning Questions
Just how "NBA-ready" is Jabari Parker?
Second overall pick Jabari Parker has had the term "NBA-ready" used to describe him so much, that it might as well be his middle name. Soon enough we'll know just how true that is. He put up decent averages of 15.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per contest in five Summer League games this offseason, but shot a pretty poor 41.9% from the floor and 18.2% from deep in the process, while turning the ball over 5.0 times per match. We all know that Summer League stats aren't worth a whole lot, but the signs of a struggle to get accurate shots off and control the ball could make things tough when transitioning from college and Summer League competition to real NBA bodies. He's probably still the most likely Rookie of the Year candidate, but it might not be as smooth a ride as most people seem to think.
What will the Bucks get out of O.J. Mayo, Ersan Ilyasova, and Larry Sanders?
Mayo was overweight, Ilyasova was constantly hurt and tentative, and Sanders turned off-court issues into full subscriptions. All three showed signs of being highly effective players at times the season before last, so this coming campaign will be all about seeing which version of each guy will show up and prove to be the real one. If two to three can get their old form back, the Bucks could start seeming like a team with viable options at each position.
What can we expect out of Giannis in year two?
Giannis "The Greek Freak" Antetokounmpo is one of the most interesting prospects from the 2013-14 NBA Draft and one that many basketball nerds drool over. He's all wingspan, athleticism, and monster hands and is still growing at a mere 19 years of age (the same as Parker), hitting 6'11" as of the most recent reports. The Bucks experimented with Giannis at the point guard position a bit in Summer League, but without much success. Regardless, the idea of having a teenager that profiles as a future elite defender capable of guarding every position on the floor to team with Jabari Parker should give Bucks fans plenty to get excited about going forward. Especially if you consider who one of Giannis' best comparables is at this juncture in his development.
Fantasy Hoops Stock Watch
SF Jabari Parker (Yahoo O-Rank: 52)
Drafting rookies has a tendency to make fantasy managers squeamish, particularly in the early- to middle-rounds. The transition to the pros is far from an exact science and every player needs some kind of adjustment period before they're effective. LeBron James was ranked 47th by the end of his rookie season in 9-category leagues. Kevin Durant was 84th by the end of his. If you're dead set on taking the plunge on someone from this year's draft class, however, Parker is the way to go. He'll start the season as the Bucks' number one option on offence and should have plenty of opportunities to work through the kinks. He should bring good scoring and rebounding from the thin small forward position, while sprinkling in some steals, blocks, and threes along the way. Brace yourself for some low weeks in turnovers and field goal percentage while he figures it out, but this kid is going to be special sooner rather than later. He's a no-brainer in dynasty leagues.
PF/C Larry Sanders (Yahoo O-Rank: 74)
If you can get Larry Sanders near the end of the middle rounds of your fantasy draft as he's currently projected, you might come away with one of the best draft day steals out there. Yes, last year was an utterly terrible down year for the guy, but don't forget just how great he was the season before. In 2012-13, Larry's first year as a regular starter for the Bucks, he was second in the entire league in blocks per game at 2.8. There are so few specialists in swats in the NBA, that someone like Sanders is a major commodity. Throw in the upside in rebounding (9.5), field goal percentage (50.6%), and low turnovers (1.2) that he displayed that season and the potential for a return to form might be too juicy to pass up.
SF/PF Ersan Ilyasova (Yahoo O-Rank: 105)
PG/SG Brandon Knight (Yahoo O-Rank: 107)
SG/SF Giannis Antetokounmpo (Yahoo O-Rank: 111)
PG/SG O.J. Majo (Yahoo O-Rank: 120)
PF/C Kendall Marshall (Yahoo O-Rank: 137)
PF/C John Henson (Yahoo O-Rank: 177)
Any of these six guys could be decent, terrible, or anywhere in between. The Bucks had a messy and unpredictable rotation under Larry Drew last season and there's no telling how Jason Kidd will handle this slew of good-but-not-great players. Some of them might break out or get back to previously attained heights, but then again, they might not. I believe you'll find better value elsewhere in the late rounds.