Fear the deer? The A.V. Club’s 2013-14 Milwaukee Bucks season preview
How about “remain rationally optimistic about the long-term plan” of the deer?
More Jock Itch
- Travel back to 1991 with Aaron Rodgers and “Da Bears” guys
- Sizing up the Bucks’ chances in the playoffs (yes, the Bucks are in the playoffs)
- Presented without comment: Here’s Jose Canseco’s painting of Bud Selig
- Let’s ignore the latest Ryan Braun scandal and listen to some awful Ryan Braun tribute songs instead
Last season, the Milwaukee Bucks’ losing season was still good enough (or not quite bad enough, depending on how you look at it) to result in the transitional team earning the right to be the first postseason victim of the eventual championship-winning Miami Heat, and, once again, winding up without a lottery pick in this year’s draft. The discouraging epoch of an organization seemingly content with a perpetual eighth seed culminated last season when coach Scott Skiles left the team, Brandon Jennings repeatedly expressed his desire to be traded, and an apathetic and altogether inexperienced squad preceded its four-game losing playoff sweep with a 4-12 regular season finish.
This offseason, the Bucks finally committed to a long-overdue organizational overhaul by dealing Jennings (and other pricy veterans), replacing interim head coach Jim Boylan and the entire assistant coaching staff, and setting its sights to the future—at the cost of the present. Still, even amid the team’s unabashed rebuilding campaign, there are still ample reasons to, if not fear the deer, at least remain rationally optimistic about the long-term plan of the deer.
Starting from the top
When Bucks GM John Hammond and owner Herb Kohl opted not to retain Boylan—a longtime disciple of Skiles—as head coach, they wasted little time in replacing the interim coach with an experienced leader with a history of winning. Mere days after the Atlanta Hawks replaced Larry Drew (despite reaching the playoffs each of his three above-.500 seasons), Milwaukee jumped at the chance to bring him to town. Drew has a 128-102 career coaching record and, unlike the defensive-minded and combative Skiles, is known for his positivity and emphasis on fast offense. Expect an entertaining style of play and few (if any) players populating his doghouse.
Out with the old
Only four players from Milwaukee’s 2012-13 squad remain on the team this season. Paramount of those many departures is former franchise face Jennings. In ridding itself of the unhappy guard in his contract year, Milwaukee netted point guard Brandon Knight and forward Khris Middleton from the Detroit Pistons. Knight was a former lottery pick (chosen eighth in the 2011 draft) who averaged 13.3 points and 4.0 assists a game last season—during a mere 31.5 minute per game average. Middleton is… a warm body. The pair is owed approximately $8.1M combined over the next two seasons, opposed to the three-year/$24M sign-and-trade contract Detroit now owes Jennings.
Other notable exits were Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Monta Ellis, who opted out of their contracts, along with Luc Richard Mbah A Moute and J.J. Redick, who were traded. All that remains of the Bucks of six months ago are the sturdy conduit of Larry Sanders and John Henson (who legitimately seem to want to play in Milwaukee), cheap forward depth Ekpe Udoh, and longest tenured Bucks player, Ersan Ilyasova.
While only a few Bradley Center lockers weren’t cleaned out this summer, there’s no shortage of names that will resonate with even the most casual Bucks fan. Former backup point guard Luke Ridnour (with the team from 2008-10) is back in Milwaukee after three years in Minnesota. Three-point extraordinaire Carlos Delfino (2009-12 Buck) returns after a year in Houston. Zaza Pachulia (2004-05)—the veteran center, not the failed Classic Slice menu item—is reunited with both his former team and his latest coach after eight years in Atlanta.
But the best regional connection comes in the form of Racine native and 11-year NBA veteran Caron Butler. The former Heat, Lakers, Wizards, Mavericks, and Clippers player was traded to Milwaukee, and brings a pair of All-Star selections, more than 11,000 career points, and a wealth of winning experience back home with him.
The remainder of the transitional team’s roster is made up of rookies rich in upside, and veterans of varying significance. O.J. Mayo—the former third overall draft pick, not the failed Kemp’s juice flavor—signed a three-year deal after having arguably the best season of his career in Dallas last year. Additionally, Gary Neal and Miroslav Raduljica also signed with Milwaukee.
Speaking of complicated names, the Bucks front office baffled experts and tied tongues by reaching for lanky 18-year-old Greek swingman Giannis Antetokounmpo with the 15th pick in this summer’s draft. While the raw teen’s body of work is essentially just a bunch of YouTube clips, he has Kevin Durant’s body type. If he ends up half as good as Durant, the gamble and jersey letter depletion will be worth it. Early nicknames are “The Greek Freak” and “CTRL C, CTRL V.” Later in the draft, the Bucks traded for 38th overall pick, South Dakota State point guard and Western Minnesota resident Nate Wolters. Not only is the sharpshooter the reigning Summit League Player Of The Year, but he reportedly also holds the rare distinction of growing up as a Bucks fan—so if things don’t work out for him in Milwaukee, the team will be doubly screwed.