As a Bucks fan, I went into the summer hoping the team would choose not to bring back both Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. Since Milwaukee is rarely on national television, I don’t have much connection with the team anymore, but I have never enjoyed watching guards who are high-volume/low-efficiency shooters. We could call them HivLes, and Jennings and Ellis would lead that team. I also continue to think that point guard is the most overrated position. My hope was that the Bucks would focus next year’s team on Larry Sanders and John Henson, and jettison the guards. To my astonishment, it has come true. The only thing I am sad about is that Scott Skiles won’t be around to coach this team, since it would be much more his style than the Ellis-Jennings shoot-a-thon. I am cautiously optimistic about Larry Drew, who doesn’t seem like he ever hurt the Atlanta Hawks. I think the Bucks are better than they were last year, which is all a fan can ask for during the offseason when everything is on paper.
The roster still has a hole at small forward and it isn’t clear who is going to initiate the offense (although, as I wrote earlier in the point guard papers, I think that every NBA player should be able to facilitate the offense). The fact that NBA writers thought the Bucks were going to tank because they traded J.J. Redick (who wasn’t going to sign with them) for a pair of second round picks was silly. The Brandon Knight-O.J. Mayo backcourt is at least a wash for the HivLes. Mayo is coming off his best shooting season, but he has never hit fewer than 36.4% of his 3-pointers. He is also bigger and a better defender than Ellis and Jennings. Knight is a step down from the other previously mentioned guards, but he is also younger. He would be a college senior in 2013-14, and has shown that he can at least hold up to big minutes on a losing team (a backhanded compliment, if ever there were one). I watched him more in his year at Kentucky than I did the past two years, but he showed some big game skills as a Wildcat and isn’t a train wreck as a shooter.
It’s a good thing that the Bucks had a nice offseason (at least in my eyes) because many other teams in the East look like they took a step forward. While I think Brandon Jennings did himself a disservice by scoring 55 points in his fifth game in the NBA, he is a nice offensive player. He should fit well with Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond (and will probably save a little something extra for Milwaukee). The problems with Jennings are that he is too slight to be a decent defender (and may not be interested in becoming a better defender) and he is terrible finisher around the rim. Perhaps new Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks will help Jennings. While Smith might do some dumb things on the court, he is a very skilled player and will help the Pistons. Cleveland, if they get anything out of Andrew Bynum, and Washington should also be better. Atlanta may not lose much with the trade of Smith for Paul Millsap. Philadelphia is clearly in tank mode; Boston, Orlando, and Charlotte are low in talent; and it is hard to see how the Raptors are going to be much better than they were last year (unless Rudy Gay somehow proves the metrics guys wrong). It should be a very competitive middle of the Eastern Conference in 2013-14.