Hardwood Paroxysm’s Incomplete 2010-2011 NBA Previews: Milwaukee Bucks

Yeah, yeah, we didn’t do one for every team. Not like you all won’t get your fair shake around here, for better or worse. Trust me, if you’re some of the teams out there, you don’t want to hear us talk about you.

But, with a little less than 48 hours to go before the season opener in Miami,we’re going to throw up some stuff discussing the upcoming season. We started with the Magic, and now, to indulge the League Pass junkie in you, move on to the Bucks.

THE MAIN EVENT

Angry deer sign

One year into Scott Skiles’ coaching tenure, four years after Andrew Bogut was selected with the top pick in the 2005 draft, and just months after Brandon Jennings skipped back across the pond, the Milwaukee Bucks became a legitimate cult favorite among NBA die-hards. Jennings’ 55-pointer against the Warriors cemented his status in the underground and the mainstream alike, but it was the rest of the season’s path that slowly converted all serious basketball fans into Bucks followers.

What started with Jennings carried to Bogut, the highly-skilled, two-way big man who unexpectedly made a run at the Defensive Player of the Year Award without notifying the appropriate authorities. We knew of Bogut’s lefty hook and his turnaround jumper, but few players are capable of putting together such an all-encompassing defensive performance. With Bogut quietly leading a charge that many attributed to Jennings, the tremendous impact of Skiles’ coaching became increasingly evident. With Bogut in, the Bucks were among the top defensive teams in the league last season, despite having a roster seemingly held together by putty and packaging tape. With Bogut out, the Bucks still managed to hold their own defensively, their best player sitting sideline, draped in white cloth. The Bucks’ appeal is equal parts Jennings, Bogut, and Skiles (with a dash of Ersan Ilyasova, Luke Ridnour, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Carlos Delfino, to taste), as their combination of flair, consistency, and grit made them one of the most endearing and successful teams in the league.

That doesn’t seem likely to change in the coming year, provided the NBA faithful keep their eyes open. Hit it, Holly.

GUEST LECTURE

Today’s mid-post guest lecture comes from Holly MacKenzie of RaptorBlog, The Basketball Jones, NBA.com, and Twitter (she runs the damn thing) fame. Holly has a degree in Pimpology and thinks the NBA is pretty swell. -Ed.

Viewers are going tune in for the Bucks because they’ll recall being mesmerized by a certain slight-yet-sturdy point guard’s passes, fearless drives to the hoop, and a bold personality that’s even brighter than his game. They’ll tune in because they remember that aforementioned fateful Saturday night, when the rookie went scoreless in the first quarter against the Golden State Warriors, but somehow finished with 55 points. They’ll tune in because they want excitement, and Jennings will give it to them.

What a lot of people don’t realize though, is that while they’ll be rooting for the new face of the Bucks, they’ll be falling for the rest of his teammates all at the same time.

Andrew Bogut is one of the youngest, brightest, and most exciting big men in the league, and though the enduring image of his fall will be remembered for it’s brutality, look for him to come back this season and force us to forget it. Bogut will remind us just how good he is and how great his team can be with him in the middle. Add in a cast of characters with a little bit of something for everyone and you’ve got the Bucks roster. You like hard workers with deep thoughts and gun tattoos on their stomach? See rookie Larry Sanders. How about outgoing, self-appointed social media kings looking for the right situation? Check @cdouglasroberts. Love cheering for the little guy? Boykins! Are blue-collar, college fan favorites your type? Jon Brockman’s in town. Oh, you want some royalty? Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. A fan of pretty boys? Carlos Delfino. Looking for an equally heartwarming/heartbreaking journey? Michael Redd.

I’d say that covers all of the things that the average fan and the fanatic could deem necessary. Actually, we forgot about the fanatics. The insane fans who sit in Squad6 are given free tickets all season courtesy of the Bucks’ jolly Australian giant. Bogut provides the tickets, the fans provide the noise and the Bradley Center is the happy beneficiary.

Add in a coach who is known for his stern and serious demeanor who will have the challenge of being responsible for harnessing all of the personalities and talent on this roster and you’ve got yourself a team to watch. Think about all of that and try to tell yourself you’re only tuning in to see what Jennings is going to do next.

AND NOW BACK TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING:

Holly’s right, but it’s not only the Milwaukee mainstays and the lovable cast-offs that act as extensions of last season’s Bucks allure. Ridnour, scrappy resurgent that he was, has signed with the Timberwolves after playing the year of his life last season for the Bucks. Charlie Bell and Dan Gazuric are gone, but no one weeps. In their stead, Milwaukee has added two understandably polarizing figures: Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden, both scorers tasked with improving the Bucks’ offense.

They are the key to what will become the new and improved — but still infinitely watchable and appealing — Milwaukee Bucks. This isn’t the Heat, a demolition project labeled as a remodel. It’s a series of renovations to emphasize the same familiar themes, to evoke the same feelings with different light and new architectural features. All in all, the Bucks boast everything they had and did a year ago, only with a few new deceptively appealing characters and a subtle shift toward offense’s dark arts. Chalk up Maggette and Gooden’s production as empty stat-hoarding if you must, but they’ll be gorging on points on a team that starved for them last season.

Last season’s Bucks were lovable for their flaws, and while many of those flaws will be hedged in the coming season as Maggette cycles to the free throw line, Gooden and Brockman hit the offensive glass, and Keyon Dooling and CDR generate some extra offense, each of those new additions brings with them their own delightful limitations. The new Bucks won’t be a Broadway performer’s rendition of a penetrating folk song, perfect in its pitch but devoid of all character. They’re still limited. They’re still a step below Miami, Orlando, and Boston. They’re still the ideal selection for League Pass viewing on a Wednesday night, when that nationally televised Nuggets game is the last thing you need. They’re still the Bucks, and they’re still perfect just the way they are.

NECESSARY ADDENDUM:

Even though he’s given a rather cursory treatment here, Brandon Jennings is pretty spectacular. His field goal percentage is painful, but to see his synergy with Bogut on the pick-and-roll, his quickness in limited space, and his on-ball defense…well, it’s always the little things, isn’t it? He may not be the total package yet, but Jennings has a lot going for him in ways both big and small.

PLAYFUL TUNES:

PLAYER WHO COULD BE AN IMPACT GUY BUT PROBABLY WON’T BE:

Who can ever tell with Skiles doling out the minutes? I’d say Chris Douglas-Roberts, but its feasible that he could turn his career on its head and turn out shooting mid-range jumpers for the Bucks all day, every day. I’d say Jon Brockman, if only because the rotation may not allow him the minutes he deserves to gobble up rebounds, but the Brochness Monster seems to be of Skiles’ brand. I’d say Larry Sanders, but Jennings bucked everything I thought I knew about Skiles and young, promising players. Every player on this roster who has the potential to contribute could be on Skiles’ call, so even a random guess is as good as mine.

YOU SHOULD TOTALLY WATCH BECAUSE:

Ahem. You have been reading, right?

YOU SHOULD TOTALLY HATE THIS TEAM BECAUSE:

Skiles, for all of his strengths, will be Skiles. Jennings, though gifted in so many ways, will be Jennings, and he’s no stranger to hoisting up a shot or 12 just for the hell of it. All of this means that the Bucks’ offense, though improved, will be the Bucks’ offense.

That’s about all I’ve got. They’re not as good offensively as you’d like them to be, and the new additions can only do so much. Otherwise, the Bucks are theatrical dynamite, a basketball fan’s dream, and quirky enough to funnel interest over the course of the entire year.

Seth Carstens