Blazersedge staff writer Chris Lucia will be writing team-by-team previews over the next month as we count down to the start of the 2013-14 season. All team previews can be found right here.
2012-2013 record: 38-44, No. 3 in Central Division, No. 8 in Eastern Conference
Roster additions: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Rookie, No. 15 overall), Caron Butler, Carlos Delfino, Brandon Knight, O.J. Mayo, Khris Middleton, Gary Neal, Zaza Pachulia, Miroslav Raduljica, Luke Ridnour, Nate Wolters (Rookie, No. 38 overall)
Roster subtractions: Gustavo Ayon, Samuel Dalembert, Marquis Daniels, Mike Dunleavy, Monta Ellis, Drew Gooden, Brandon Jennings, Luc Mbah a Moute, Joel Przybilla, J.J. Redick, Ishmael Smith, Beno Udrih
This Milwaukee Bucks team appears firmly locked into the middle ranks of the Eastern Conference, and its longtime owner, Herb Kohl, is hardly denying that. Bucks GM John Hammond jettisoned Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and their combined 33.1 field-goal attempts per game in favor of point guards Luke Ridnour and Brandon Knight and wings O.J. Mayo, Carlos Delfino, Gary Neal and Caron Butler.
The only holdovers from the 2012-2013 season are forwards Ersan Ilyasova and John Henson and centers Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh. Former Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew was also brought in as the Bucks let go of coach Scott Skiles part way through last season and released the rest of his staff this past summer.
For those keeping score at home, Hammond brought in eleven new players to go along with a brand new coaching staff. Can Bucks fans expect to see much improvement on a team that went 38-44 last year and snuck into the playoffs as the eighth seed?
Honestly, probably not.
There's some good talent on this roster, and the bench may have the least drop off from the starters in the entire league. But that says more about the lack of star power in the starting lineup than it does about the talent in the second unit, most likely. O.J. Mayo is a great piece, but he probably doesn't fit as the crown jewel of a team. Ditto for Larry Sanders. Even still, these guys are now the faces of a Milwaukee Bucks franchise that hasn't climbed out of mediocrity in years.
This team's best outside shooter is starting power forward Ersan Ilysasova, who had a career-year shooting 44.4 percent on threes a season ago. That's a good start, but Ridnour and Knight are both pretty average shooters for the position - in fact, Ridnour is coming off a season in which he shot 31.1 percent from outside - and neither garners as many assists as the "selfish" backcourt of Ellis and Jennings the Bucks featured last year.
Neal, Delfino and Butler will come off the bench for scoring punch, but again, not one of these players is elite at any skill. Second-year big man John Henson showed promise last year as a rookie, but he's backing up the team's only great outside shooter, which could limit his playing time as floor spacing becomes more and more important in the NBA game. Zaza Pachulia is a solid backup center, but he's pretty average.
In short, this Bucks team is stacked with contributing role players, but lacks a centerpiece. Hammond thinks Mayo can be that player, but his career has proven otherwise thus far. If he turns the corner and becomes a consistent, efficient scorer - he's averaged about 16 points a game over five years - this team might be able to build around him in the future, but it is far from a complete roster.
Even though Sanders is a valuable weapon on defense, swatting 2.8 shots a game last year and pulling down almost 10 rebounds in under 30 minutes, the Bucks were not that great defensively last season. This year he will almost certainly see a spike in playing time and could improve even more on those numbers, but the entire team will need to improve on a defense that ranged from mediocre to downright-terrible on most nights.
Don't expect this team to set the league on fire any time soon. They'll have nights when they can ride the hot hand, but they probably won't see a consistent leader on this team unless Mayo blossoms into a star in his sixth year, on his third team. Likely, they'll be able to tread water long enough to compete for the last playoff spot in the East (thanks to several other teams throwing their seasons in the gutter for a shot at a better pick in the 2014 draft) and should finish in the glut of Eastern Conference teams above the tankers but below the elite franchises.
-- Chris Lucia | Twitter
Authors from around SBNation are also doing their own previews, though in a different order than Blazer's Edge. We'll update you on their progress from time to time. Here are the Atlantic and Pacific Division links: