Over the next month, Blazer's Edge will be rolling out season previews for all 30 NBA teams. To kick off this feature, we discuss the Milwaukee Bucks with Brew Hoop editor Eric Buenning.
Milwaukee Bucks 2014-15 Season Preview
2013-14 Record: 15-67, No. 5 in Central Division, No. 15 in Eastern Conference
Roster additions: Jerryd Bayless, Jared Dudley, Damien Inglis (rookie, No. 31), Kendall Marshall, Johnny O'Bryant III (rookie, No. 36), Jabari Parker (rookie, No. 2)
Roster subtractions: Jeff Adrien, Miroslav Raduljica, Ramon Sessions, Ekpe Udoh
SB Nation affiliate: Brew Hoop
Blazer's Edge: With a starting lineup of Brandon Knight, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders, from an outsider's perspective it appears Parker will get plenty of opportunities to shoot with the Bucks. How do you see him fitting in Milwaukee's offense, and what are your initial expectations for the rookie?
Eric Buenning: It's hard to say how Parker will fit into the offense, because nobody really knows what the offense is going to look like under Jason Kidd...yet. That being said, Parker was used a lot in the pinch post during Summer League, so it wouldn't be surprising to see more of that kind of action once the season starts. Parker showed in college that he can score in a multitude of ways, so expect the coaching staff to try him out all over the court, at least to start the season.
The expectations will be high for Parker in Milwaukee because he was the #2 pick and you can't really fly under the radar when you come in with that high of a profile. It is important, however, that the world isn't expected of him. I mean, he's only 19 years old. It'd be really unfair to expect him to come out and start dominating immediately. A more fair expectation could be somewhere around 15-18 ppg on a respectable true-shooting percentage (low 50s). Parker will be relied on for a consistent scoring punch, but I think it'd be more encouraging--at least initially--if he could have an impact on more than one area of the game. Dropping 20+ points a night would be great, but if it came in a high volume of shots with low efficiency, it wouldn't be as fulfilling.
BE: Where are the primary position battles that need to be settled in training camp and preseason? With the presumed health of Larry Sanders, there figures to be a logjam in the frontcourt with Khris Middleton, Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson and Zaza Pachulia all worthy of minutes.
EB: It all kind of feels like a logjam right now. Coach Jason Kidd said earlier this week that nobody has really been penciled in as a starter yet, and it makes sense because there's a lot of versatility on the roster that can be used to create (hopefully) advantageous match-ups. There are several players that can play multiple positions, and it may take Kidd all of training camp to figure who works best at what position. I think the better approach as the season gets closer is to find out which five-man units give the team the best chance of succeeding, rather than establish some sort of depth chart.
BE: Antetokounmpo seems to get more hype on a national level than any other Buck, with the possible exception of Parker. The Greek Freak's numbers from last year certainly weren't bad for an unpolished rookie, but they don't pop off the page, either. What is it about Antetokounmpo that has fans in Milwaukee excited, and what would you consider a solid season for the sophomore?
EB: I think what makes Giannis such an exciting prospect is that he is just so physically ridiculous. He's still very raw, but the skillset he's shown mind-boggling flashes of has Bucks fans high in the clouds thinking about what he can eventually become. You don't come around 6-foot-11 players that can handle the ball like a guard or be as athletic as a wing very often. Combine that with his magnetic personality, and Bucks fans feel like they have a real gem on their team. How can you not be excited about that?
As far as expectations go, I think seeing legitimate improvements in every area of his game would be highly encouraging. I don't want to put any statistical projections on him yet because I don't think anyone really knows where he'll impact the game the most. He's worked on a lot this summer--ball handling, shooting, strength, etc., so I think everyone is just eager to see how much he's grown in those areas more than anything.
BE: What on earth happened to OJ Mayo?! He was never an All-Star, but was a serviceable shooter his first five years in the league before signing a three-year, $24 million deal with the Bucks last offseason and then having his worst season as a pro. Can Mayo salvage his game in Milwaukee? What would that take and how realistic is it?
EB: It's hard to gauge where things went wrong with O.J. last season. His grandmother passed earlier in the season, the flu knocked him out for a long time a bit later, and his conditioning was a bit suspect. I won't pretend to know how those things affected him, but it wouldn't be surprising if they played a big part in last year's disaster.
If Mayo can find any sort of rhythm in any part of his game, he'll have a better year than last year. I don't know where that's going to come from, though. We haven't heard or seen much of Mayo since last season, so I honestly can't tell you what to expect. We'll find out a lot more once training camp starts.
BE: Many Blazer fans are going to want me to ask about Larry Sanders ... what do you make of his off-the-court struggles? Is his character as flawed as it's sometimes presented to be? Do you expect a bounce-back season from Sanders and, lastly, what would you see as equal value for him on the trade market?
EB: I don't think Larry is that bad of a guy, but he does let his emotions get him into trouble more often than some would like. Those off-the-court incidents were ugly, but I don't think it's fair to let those define him, either. It will be up to him to change the perception of him around a little bit, and I think that being on the court with all the promising youngsters should help keep him a little bit more focused this season. Sanders is one of the few players on the roster that can make a definitively positive impact on the game, so the hope is he can return to form. I think he'll be able to do that if he can keep his focus on basketball.
As far as trade value is concerned, I think he could be quite valuable if he plays at the level he did two years ago. Individually, I don't think you could flip him for a big haul because he's mostly one-dimensional, but he would work as a prized part of a package if the Bucks were looking to make a big splash down the road.
BE: Jason Kidd certainly had an interesting path on his way to coaching the Bucks. What do you make of Kidd, and what are your expectations for him in his first season with the team? What would you consider a successful 2014-15 season in Milwaukee?
EB: Though the process of him coming to Milwaukee was confusing and kind of ugly, I actually think Kidd can make things work in Milwaukee. He's young, can relate to the players, and has shown the ability--albeit a small sample size of it--to get creative and adapt to different situations.
I think my only real expectation for Kidd is for him to figure out what these players are best at doing and put them in positions where they can succeed at doing those things. That may take a while to take shape, but it's important for the pieces to get in place before you can take this team in any real direction. I think a successful first year for Kidd would consist of recognizing where the talent is, putting it in the right spot, and developing it so that the Bucks can start building on the future that seems so promising.
Special thanks to Brew Hoop editor Eric Buenning for taking the time discuss the Milwaukee Bucks' upcoming season with Blazer's Edge. He can be found on twitter @EricBuenning. Brew Hoop has you covered for Bucks news and analysis.
-- Chris Lucia | email@example.com | Twitter