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Milwaukee Bucks Preview - Bango's Bunch

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mil.gifSo basketball season is finally here, but not too many people in Wisconsin are even aware of it. The Brewers just finished up their first winning season since 1992, and the Green Bay Packers are tied for the best record in the NFC at 5-1. And seeing how the Bucks are coming off of a highly disappointing season, there isn’t much talk of the Bucks in Milwaukee…or anywhere else for that matter.

Milwaukee Bucks - Bango's Bunch

Last year’s record: 28-54

Key Losses: Ruben Patterson, Earl Boykins

Key Additions: Yi Jianlian, Desmond Mason

What significant moves were made during the off-season?

Yi Jianlian came to Milwaukee with a ton of baggage and just as much potential. The 6′11″ forward was the sixth pick in June’s draft and it was originally thought that he wouldn’t play in Milwaukee. However, after a trip to China by team owner and US Senator Herb Kohl and GM Larry Harris, Yi signed a contract and put to rest any rumors of trades to Chicago or Golden State. Yi will provide depth and versatility at the forward position and should benefit greatly by having a former NBA big man (Larry Krystkowiak) as his coach. Desmond Mason also is making a trip back to Milwaukee. Mason played with the Bucks from 2003-2005 before being traded to the Hornets for Jamaal Magloire. Mason, who initially said he was angry with GM Larry Harris for trading him, has said he’s happy to be back in Milwaukee and will have his greatest impact on the defensive end of the court.

What are the Bucks biggest strengths?

The biggest strength for the Bucks lies in their backcourt. The Bucks are led by shooting guard, Michael Redd. Redd has one of the sweetest jump shots in the league and his scoring average has increased every year since coming into the league in 2000. He averaged 26.7 points per game last season. Redd spent his summer playing with Team USA in preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics. Redd will be joined in the backcourt by Mo Williams who had a breakout season last year. Williams became the full-time starter after the Bucks traded guard TJ Ford the previous off-season. Williams averaged 17.3 points, 6.1 assists, and 4.8 rebounds a game last year. Redd and Williams will be joined by bench players Charlie Bell, Royal Ivey, rookie Ramon Sessions as well as Desmond Mason who can play both guard and forward.

What are the Bucks biggest weaknesses?

There are two things that could potentially hold the Bucks back and keep them out of the playoffs: injuries and their team defense. Starters Michael Redd, Mo Williams, Charlie Villanueva and Andrew Bogut all missed double digit games last season. In addition, Bobby Simmons missed the entire season after having an up-and-down season with the Bucks in 2005-06. Injuries led to no team continuity and heavy playing time for players like Lynn Greer, Damir Markota and David Noel.

If everyone can remain healthy, the biggest key for the Bucks will be making a noticeable improvement on defense. The Bucks gave up the fourth most points (104.03) and second highest opponent’s field goal percentage (48%) in the league last season. The signing of Desmond Mason will help. Mason is high energy for every second he is on the floor and will bring an upgrade to the defensive intensity. Michael Redd needs to step-up and become a complete player this season. All the best players play at both ends of the court. In addition to Mason and Redd, Andrew Bogut and Charlie Villanueva need to start living up to their potential and become dominant players at center and power forward respectively.

What are the goals for the Bucks?

The Bucks number one goal this season should be the playoffs. Despite a much stronger Eastern Conference, Milwaukee does have enough talent to compete with anyone. They are very deep and athletic and would be best served by playing an up-tempo game to utilize the versatility of players like Redd, Mason, Villanueva and Bogut. If and it’s a BIG if Villanueva and Bogut can make the commitment to play to their size while still incorporating their skill, Milwaukee will bounce back in a big way from a dismal 2006 season. Michael Redd should carry his momentum from Team USA this summer and become a household name among NBA fans. If Yi can transition to the NBA game and not be overrun by the Milwaukee culture shock, he should compete for Rookie of the Year as well. A focused Villanueva and Bogut + a well-rounded Redd + a well-adjusted Yi = a playoff appearances for the Bucks this year.

Predicted Record: 44-38