Season preview: Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks' extreme makeover will take some time to come together
Milwaukee has weapons in Richard Jefferson, Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut
The defense has to improve, and Redd needs to become more of a leader
SI.com will analyze each of the NBA's 30 teams as regular-season tip-off approaches. For a complete list of team-by-team breakdowns, click here. The information in the "Go figure" category below is provided by Roland Beech of 82games.com.
Bucks at a glance
Last season: 26-56
Notable additions: Richard Jefferson (trade with Nets), Joe Alexander (R), Luke Ridnour and Adrian Griffin (trade with Thunder/Cavaliers), Francisco Elson (FA) Tyronn Lue (FA), F Malik Allen (FA), Luc Mbah a Moute (R)
Notable losses: Mo Williams and Desmond Mason (trade with Thunder/Cavs), Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons (trade with Nets), Royal Ivey (signed with 76ers)
Coach: Scott Skiles (first season with Bucks; 281-251 overall in seven-plus seasons as NBA coach)
Reasons for hope
1. Regime change. Seeking to shake up the franchise from top to bottom, Bucks owner Sen. Herb Kohl lured Pistons assistant general manager John Hammond from Detroit to take over his team's basketball operations. Hammond then went out and hired veteran coach Scott Skiles, who has turned around teams quickly in Phoenix and Chicago. Hammond and Skiles have been aggressive in trying to change the culture and make defense a priority. They also have overhauled the roster with big trades for Jefferson and Ridnour.
2. RJ has arrived. Jefferson, a 6-foot-8 small forward, is a proven scorer who averaged 22.6 points last season, ninth in the NBA. He should join with Michael Redd (22.7, eighth in the NBA) to give Milwaukee one of the league's top offensive perimeter tandems. Equally important, Jefferson brings playoff experience from his days with the Nets, and is an excellent defender who should instantly improve the Bucks' woeful perimeter defense.
3. They're strong at center. Andrew Bogut has not lived up to all the lofty expectations that greeted him as the No. 1 pick in 2005, but the 7-footer has been pretty good -- and steadily improving. He averaged career highs in scoring (14.3), rebounding (9.8) and blocked shots (1.7) last season while further establishing himself as one of the NBA's best passing big men. With so few dominant centers these days, Bogut gives Milwaukee an edge at the position most nights. That's why the Bucks rewarded him during the summer with a five-year, $60 million contract extension that could be worth $72 million with incentives.
Reasons for worry
1. Depth up front. Other than Bogut, the Bucks are thin in the frontcourt, with Charlie Villanueva, Malik Allen, Francisco Elson and Dan Gadzuric the best remaining big men. Villanueva is a gifted scorer who finished the season strong a year ago at power forward, but the former UConn star has struggled defensively in the past and has been known to lose focus. The Bucks might be able to go small at times, with Jefferson or rookie Alexander at power forward, but the lack of depth overall is a concern -- especially if injuries come into play.
2. No established point guard. The loss of Williams relieved the Bucks of a big contract, but it also left them with a question mark at the point. Ridnour is a solid distributor, but he is coming off two disappointing seasons in Seattle. Ramon Sessions, a 6-3 second-year pro out of Nevada, is an intriguing talent who dazzled at the end of last season (he dished out a franchise-high 24 assists in one game), but his shooting is suspect and he lacks NBA experience. Lue is solid, but has never been more than a top reserve. Milwaukee's point guard play figures to be especially important since Redd and Jefferson generally don't create shots for others.
3. Defensive concerns. Even with the addition of Jefferson, the Bucks' defense still has more holes than a block of the Dairy State's finest swiss. Ridnour gets overpowered at the point. Redd has never been known as a stopper. Villanueva seems to coast at that end of the court. Skiles can choose to use more defensive-oriented players, but then he loses offense. It is going to be a challenge for Skiles to mix and match players and rotations so that the Bucks can truly make defense more than just something to talk about in training camp.
Keep an eye on ...
Redd's performance and leadership. Redd is a superb shooter, but he has rubbed many Bucks fans the wrong way with his penchant for dominating the ball and not being more involved on defense. After two straight seasons out of the playoffs, some in Brew Town are wondering if he is the type of leader worthy of his maximum contract. Redd needs to take charge of the team this season or he'll hear about from Milwaukee fans.
The Bucks last season converted only 54.9 percent of their inside shots (6 feet and closer), second worst in the NBA behind the Bulls' 53.6 percent.
With an overhauled roster, and a new front office and coaching staff, it's going to take time to develop chemistry on and off the court. But Milwaukee has some firepower, and if Skiles can improve the defense enough, the Bucks could find themselves back in the playoffs after a two-year hiatus.
Sports Illustrated's NBA preview issue will be on newsstands Wednesday, Oct. 22.