SPECIAL PREVIEW EDITION
|Marc Stein ESPN.com
||Expectations are high after the Bucks' good fortune in the lottery, T.J. Ford's return and a free-spending summer. Only a playoff berth can satisfy those expectations, but I think they'll get it.|
|Chris Sheridan ESPN Insider
||A team of unanswered questions. Was Andrew Bogut a worthy No. 1 pick? Can T.J. Ford come back from a spinal cord injury? Was Michael Redd worth the long-term financial commitment? And, don't forget: Why on earth would they want Toni Kukoc back for another year?|
|Will Perdue ESPN Insider
||Is Bogut for real? Did Redd deserve the max contract? Is T.J. Ford ready for 82 games? Is Kukoc still the waiter? If Terry Stotts can figure this out, the Bucks might be the most improved team record-wise (only 30 wins last year), but they play in the best division in the East.|
|Jim O'Brien ESPN Insider
||A healthy T.J. Ford, and adding Bobby Simmons, will give Terry Stotts plenty of additional firepower to go with Redd and Mason. If they improve their defense and can force more turnovers (28th in forced TOs) they will make some noise in the East.|
|Eric Neel ESPN
|If T.J. Ford is all the way back, they'll be better than this.|
|Tim Legler ESPN Insider
See Item 7 for Legler's analysis of the Milwaukee Bucks.
|Scoop Jackson ESPN
|TJ Ford may prove that he belongs in the 2003 class conversation with Melo, Wade, Hinrich and Bron.|
|John Hollinger ESPN Insider
||Team looks to be playoff caliber again with return of T.J. Ford and additions of Bobby Simmons and Andrew Bogut. If they end up in lottery, lack of bruisers in frontcourt will be why.|
|Chad Ford ESPN Insider
||GM Larry Harris did a nice job this summer retooling. The problem is that they're stuck in the NBA's toughest division. The Bucks will need a great rookie year by Andrew Bogut and an inspirational comeback by TJ Ford to make the playoffs.|
|John Carroll Scouts Inc.
||Big re-signing of their most important player, Michael Redd, who is one of the most talented shooting guards in the NBA. Terry Stotts is a bright, young coach and will help improve this team.|
|Ric Bucher ESPN Mag
||Young teams with lots of new pieces under new coaches are best served with a few early wins to build their confidence. Those are going to be hard to find with their November schedule.|
|Chris Broussard ESPN Insider
||Poor man's Nets (strong outside, weak inside though Bogut will eventually be tough).|
|Starters: Potential is here. But potential rain don't grow no crop.|
|A one-year wonder? C'mon, have the Clips ever gotten it right?||
|Wanted to be a starter, must prove he should be.||
|Pretty sure of himself for a guy who could be Greg Ostertag.||
|Spurned Cavs to be The Man. He better be a patient one.||
|Great to see him back, but will he be once broken, twice shy?||
|Bench: Joe Smith will be a top sixth man if he stops caring about being one of the first five, and Mo Williams is enough insurance for a rehabbed Ford. But then what?||
* Traded to Hornets on Oct. 26.
ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands Oct. 26.
Player Efficiency Rating
vs. NBA Avg.: -1.00
Williams is quick and has a great first step, qualities that enabled him to post solid numbers in his first year of regular point guard duty despite his scorer's instincts. Another inexpensive pickup by Harris -- three years, $5.3 million -- Williams got to the basket fairly easily and his talent for creating shots kept Milwaukee competitive after the James and Van Horn trades. He also surprised with his passing, nearly doubling his Assist Ratio from the previous season and finishing among the league leaders in assists.
Williams is a work in progress though. His quickness failed to produce many free throws, suggesting he needs to put more effort into drawing fouls. Plus, his jumper needs work, as he made only 32 3-pointers all season. Finally, the cost of all those drives was that Williams was turnover-prone, something he may be able to cut sharply as he gains more experience at the point.
Defensively, Williams needs work as well. He was beaten off the dribble with alarming frequency, and at 6-1 he can be vulnerable to size mismatches against bigger guards. Regardless, the Bucks have to be encouraged that they found an inexpensive, developing point guard who can fill in adequately if T. J. Ford's spine problems return.
Milwaukee drafted the Aussie center, and needs him to make an impact right away. So we asked SportsNation how he would do:
Describe Andrew Bogut as a rookie:
55.1% Steady rotation player
24.5% Instant impact player
13.2% Inconsistent contributor
7.2% Subpar player
There is also reason to be excited about center Andrew Bogut, the first pick in the draft.
The problem is they don't guard a soul and they just happen to be in the second-best division in all of basketball, which means the lottery will beckon once again.
Tim Legler, ESPN Insider
Experience: 2 years
Reg. season record: 52-85
Playoff record: none
A healthy T.J. Ford will make Terry Stotts' offense aggressive and up-tempo. Add Bobby Simmons and Andrew Bogut to the Michael Redd , Desmond Mason equation and you have some real firepower.
Stotts' fortunes, however, may rest on the other end of the court, where the Bucks were No. 27 in field-goal defense and No. 28 in forcing turnovers.
Jim O'Brien, ESPN.com Insider
It's definitely on the short list.
Milwaukee hit the jackpot twice in the offseason, first in the draft and then in free agency. The Bucks had the good fortune of winning the draft lottery and selected Utah center Andrew Bogut, a slick passer and strong rebounder who immediately strengthens their shaky frontcourt. Bogut's impact won't be as great at the defensive end, where Milwaukee needs the most help, but that's where free agent Bobby Simmons steps in.
Simmons won the league's Most Improved Player award mainly because of his improved shooting, but it was his stellar defense that was the most commendable part of his game. He should take over as the starting small forward and allow Desmond Mason to return to his natural sixth-man role. Plus, Simmons immediately becomes the Bucks' primary defensive stopper.
In addition to Bogut and Simmons, the backcourt has several new players. Ford's return is the most obvious, but two other pickups to watch are guards Charlie Bell and Jiri Welsch. Bell has put together a couple of very solid campaigns in Europe and should provide some scoring punch off the bench. Welsch, meanwhile, can play three positions and is the best defender among the reserves. Together, they should tighten up what was a weak bench a year ago.
Sleeper: T.J. Ford has found a way to come back from serious injury, so the least fantasy owners can do is take him seriously. Any starting point guard is worth a look. Ford was never much of a shooter, but these Bucks have weapons, so we could be seeing seven assists per game. Many owners will forget him because he missed a season. Steal him late.
Bust: Andrew Bogut is a rookie. And rookies were put on this earth to torture fantasy owners. Bogut has game, but we don't even know if he'll start over Dan Gadzuric. Whether Bogut does or not, the draft's top pick has huge expectations. Bogut is worth drafting, but not in the top seven rounds. Find the safe 12 points, 7 rebounds elsewhere.
Eric Karabell | Fantasy Basketball Index