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2007-08 Record: 36-46
Cool 2007 Stat: Andrew Bogut has quietly become a very well-rounded player. Since 2000, the only players to average 14 pts, 9.5 rebs, 2.5 asts and 1.7 blks in a season are Shaq, Duncan, Garnett, Brand, Webber, Gasol and Bogut.
Anticipated Starting Five
PG- Luke Ridnour
SG- Michael Redd
SF- Richard Jefferson
PF- Charlie Villaneuva
C- Andrew Bogut
Bench: Tyronn Lue, Ramon Sessions, Joe Alexander, Charlie Bell, Dan Gadzuric
Biggest Strength – Wing Scoring
This is obvious. With Jefferson and Redd on the team you know where at least 40% of the scoring is going to come from. Add both Charlie Bell and Joe Alexander off the bench who are decent scorers in their own right, and it’s clear this team will be perimeter-oriented on offense. In order for them to be successful, they can’t forget they have a 51% field goal shooter in the post.
Biggest Weakness – Defense
This was an easy one. Opponents shot 48% from the field (worst in the league) against the Bucks and 38.4% (4th worst) from the three-point line. They didn’t win the turnover battle either. Their defense is horrendous to say the least. That is exactly why they went out and hired defensive-minded Scott Skiles as their head coach. Will he be able to get this collection of players to buy in on the defensive end? I think so – to a degree. Villaneuva had defensive potential if he wakes up and realizes he has the tools to be a solid player. Bogut has shown improvement and is tough. I think Michael Redd will have benefited from playing on the U.S. team and be motivated to take advantage of the time he has alongside Richard Jefferson. He certainly isn’t great on defense, but I think his effort level on that side of the ball will be better this year. Richard Jefferson used to be very strong defensively when he first entered the league. He has progressively gotten worse as he focuses almost exclusively on scoring. The Bucks will need him to get back to his defensive ways.
Key Player in ’08 – Charlie Villaneuva
Last season was Villaneuva’s best on a per minute basis in scoring and rebounding. He has to be the catalyst on defense. That’s only going to happen if Skiles can light a fire under his ass and he pulls out maximum effort on that end of the floor. Maybe the fact that he is in a contract year will help as well. He has the body and athleticism to be good on defense. On offense he simply needs to be more efficient. Hopefully Scott Skiles will drill into his head that he isn’t a three-point shooter. There is absolutely no reason why he has taken over 2 three-point attempts per game in his three seasons. In order for the Bucks to get out of the basement in the Central division, he needs to continue his improvement.
Their Thaddeus (exciting player 22 or under) – Joe Alexander, 21
Alexander is an interesting guy. He grew up in China, is fluent in Mandarin and struggled once moving to the states, saying, “It’s like America’s youth has this great inside joke, and if you don’t grow up here, you don’t get it.” His basketball life has been equally interesting. Playing as a guard his first 2 years at WVU, he showed athleticism and a decent shot but not much else. After Bob Huggins got his hands on him and turned him into a post-player, he became an all-Big East talent and a lottery pick. The key to his career will be whether or not he can continue to be a quick learner. He certainly has the athleticism for the job.
Pete’s 2008 Outlook: 5th place, Central division / 15th place, Eastern conference /29th place, NBA
The Bucks decided to emulate the Hawks fool-proof team building plan and stocked up on small forwards. First, they traded Yi Jianlian to the Nets for Richard Jefferson, then they used their 1st round pick on SF Joe Alexander, and their 2nd rounder on SF Luc Richard M’bah a Moute. Other than that, here’s why I don’t like this team this year: They downgraded significantly at point with Mo Williams out and Ridnour in. Jefferson doesn’t want to be there. Villaneuva is a worse version of Derrick Coleman, and their best player, Michael Redd, is very one-dimensional. Reasons they could be good? New coach Scott Skiles gets the defense going and Andrew Bogut breaks out. I’m not betting on it.
Dannie’s 2008 Outlook: 3rd place, Central division / 9th place, Eastern conference /18th place, NBA
I’m not as down on the Bucks as Pete is. I think they upgraded their team as a whole with Richard Jefferson. I like the addition of Joe Alexander and a solid role player in Francisco Elson. As well as some defense and three-point shooting at the point with Tyronn Lue. I think Richard Jefferson will pick up a lot of Mo Williams scoring. The key will be Michael Redd and Richard Jefferson’s ability to not only create shots for themselves but also for the shooters that will be surrounding them (Lue & Jones). Which is why I wouldn’t be surprised if Ramon Sessions, a proven distributor, ends up playing heavy minutes. One major issue I can see is the lack of production behind Bogut and Villaneuva in the front court. Whether Skiles can motivate and get buy in from his two best players on defense will decide whether my outlook or Pete’s will become reality.
Philly Connection Tyronn Lue
Could have gone with Nova’s Malik Allen here, but instead I went with the player who I will always remember as the villain in my favorite Philly sport’s moment to date, the Sixers’ Game 1 win over the Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals. Iverson was unstoppable in this game, and the Lakers answered by putting the hand-checking Lue on him. Lue was able to slow down and frustrate Iverson for a bit, but Iverson destroyed him in overtime, puntuating it by hitting a 3, and then famously stepping over Lue’s sprawled out body (note: this shot almost killed Sixers’ radio guy Tom McCarthy). The Sixers won 107-101, and as I remember it, there were no more games played in that series.