Here we are.
Last preseason game to get our role players finely tuned and guys more connected with the system in real-time action before the games actually mean something. We’ve had a contentious preseason so far, mainly because of the injuries. Obviously, there was Rubio and his injury. Then we had Luke Ridnour up and down with his back, Love breaking his hand, Pek hurting his hand when he knocked out George Washington on Mt. Rushmore for giving him a funny look, and Andrei Kirilenko had a hammy issue for a moment.
I’m not quite sure that we’ve learned a whole lot from the preseason action. Derrick Williams is still a question mark for us, we have no clue if Brandon Roy will remain moving the way he has so far, and who knows how the first month of the season will go? We have learned that Dante Cunningham is an awesome role player, Kirilenko is going to make this team look fun on both ends of the floor at times, and Chase Budinger is a better shooter than you.
Let’s just hope everything goes smoothly tonight and nobody gets banged up. I feel good about taking this squad as is into the start of the regular season, and then we’ll see if that’s going to hold up until Love’s hand is whole. Now let’s learn a little bit about Milwaukee from Alice Cooper:
For today’s 3-on-3, I tagged Ian Segovia of Bucksketball.com and Matt Cianfrone of Hickory-High.com. Ian and Matt are both big Bucks fans, who may get frustrated with the team from time to time. In fact, the Bucks fan base as a whole seems to be very conflicted with where this team is and where they’re heading. I thought I’d weigh in with them on the outlook and makeup of the team to try to figure out how our opponent is doing heading into the regular season.
Ian Segovia, Bucksketball: Dalembert, Ilyasova, Dunleavy, Ellis, Jennings. Dalembert and Ilyasova are far ahead of everyone else on the team as rebounders. It pains me to choose Mike Dunleavy over Tobias Harris because I’ve been maniacally obsessed with Harris’s potential for over a year now. Dunleavy provides spacing that Harris can’t. Plus, the Bucks run a pindown screen with Dunleavy that’s absolute money.
Matt Cianfrone, Hickory High: Jennings/Ellis/Mbah A Moute/Ilyasova/Dalembert. As Zach knows well I am not in any way shape or form a believer in the Jennings/Ellis back court but in the end the scoring has to come from somewhere and with this team built as it is those two have to be on the floor together to put up points, even if it is extremely inefficiently. Obviously being probably the best player on the team Ilyasova has to be on the floor, he can stretch defenses and is an underrated defender and an excellent rebounder, especially offensively. Most importantly with the Jennings/Ellis duo, he will get limited shots and be able to use the, extremely effectively. The other two spots are where I keep switching players depending on the day. Today my belief is with the back court being so small and probably disastrous defensively Mbah A Moute and Dalembert need to be on the floor to at least give some potential stoppers, one on the perimeter and one at the rim. But ask me tomorrow and I may say Tobias Harris or Mike Dunleavy and Epke Udoh instead. Really I have no idea yet.
Zach Harper, A Wolf Among Wolves: I’m going to say it’s Jennings/Ellis/Harris/Henson/Ilyasova. The Jennings-Ellis backcourt seems like a no-brainer. I do like the idea of Udrih pairing with either of these guys at any given time, and Dunleavy can play some 2-guard next to either one. But Ellis and Jennings are the two best players on this team. I love the upside of Tobias Harris and think he should be playing a lot with John Henson on the court (the basketball player, not the old Talk Soup host). I threw in Ilyasova because he can stretch the floor for you and rebound like one of those infected people from 28 Days Later. I believe in putting your best five out there, regardless of position. I think this is their best five.
2. Andrew Bogut was the staple and the identity of this Bucks team for years. What is their identity now?
Segovia: It really depends on who has it going between Jennings and Ellis. From night-to-night, they could be a high-speed, high-assist bunch led by a small guard or a high-speed, high-assist bunch led by a small guard. This team will pass, block shots, and run. The Bucks aren’t really capable of much more than that.
Cianfrone: A fun offensive team filled with not great offensive players. After the trade last year I was furious, Andrew Bogut was my favorite Buck and I don’t think Ellis is all that good but things changed quickly when the team started playing. The ball movement and scoring was something the Bucks have not shown in recent years and it was startling. But as I watched the team I couldn’t shake the feeling of impending disappointment. The thing that makes me nervous about this season is that the Bucks don’t have a great offensive weapon. There is not a player on the roster we can throw the ball to at any point and say go get a bucket. Some nights it will be Jennings, some Ellis and some Ersan but in the end I worry about how the offense will hold up over the course of a year. But when the shots are falling, especially Jennings’ shots, this team is incredibly fun to watch.
Harper: I don’t think they have one yet. They could get one if Jennings and Ellis create some great on-court chemistry and become lightning in a backcourt bottle. But this team has too many different and awkward moving parts to fit together and play a certain way. They should be able to get out and run with their youth and speedy guards, but this is Scott Skiles we’re talking about. He doesn’t seem to like youth or running. I doubt he gives them the freedom to find their identity.
3. Feels like these teams are built with a lot of good rebounding potential. Is this a way to make up for defensive shortcomings for your team?
Segovia: The addition of Dalembert should only help Ilyasova on the offensive boards. If that duo is even half as aggressive as the Bulls on the offensive glass then the Bucks should survive more nights when Ellis and Jennings are throwing up hot garbage (often). The biggest problem with the defense is that they can’t end possessions. The Bucks were ranked 25th in the league last season in defensive rebounding rate. Even with Dalembert and Henson, I haven’t seen anything in the preseason that suggests they are a better defensive rebounding team.
Cianfrone: I think it can help but it won’t solve all the problems. The Bucks seem destined to be a middle of the road defensive team because of how small they are at most places. The back court is going to get torched plenty of nights and while Sam Dalembert can help I don’t think he is going to be the guy getting most the minutes at center. When Udoh and Larry Sanders come into the game it will probably be at center and they got pushed around plenty at that position last year, when the team gave up 41.4 points in the paint per game. The rebounding will help eliminate second chance points to keep the team in the middle of the pack defensively but in the end being small at two guard spots and with both the backup centers seems like a recipe for defensive disaster.
Harper: For the Wolves, I definitely think this is the key. The Wolves don’t have to be great defensively in stopping shots, but if they can keep opponents out of the paint and rebound missed shots, they could be a middle of the road defensive unit. In fact, that’s exactly what they were last year before Rubio got hurt. Ending possessions with a turnover or a rebound are so huge in this league. It doesn’t matter if it’s great defense. Get it going the other way without allowing the opponent to put points on the board and you’re starting off in the right direction.
Place: Resch Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin
Time: 7pm Central Time
Viewing and listening pleasure: No TV for tonight’s action, but I’ve been a little disappointed in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia the last couple seasons.
Records: Wolves are 4-2 and Milwaukee is 3-4.
I’m at a Where In the World Is Nikola Pekovic and three CunningHAMs. It’s probably too happy to be about this team sans Rubio and Love, but against middle of the road teams or worse, I like the effort of these guys to win out.