2008 NBA Preview: #18 Milwaukee Bucks

Offseason Movement: New GM John Hammond was busy this summer wheeling and dealing. Two starters from last season are gone. The Bucks traded Mo Williams to Cleveland in a three-way deal that brought Luke Ridnour from Seattle/OKC. Williams was more of a scorer, while Ridnour is definitely a pass-first point guard. The team also traded Yi Jianlian (and Bobby Simmons) to the Nets for Richard Jefferson. This move implies that the team is in “win now” mode, which makes sense given the roster.
Keep Your Eye On: Charlie Villanueva
Everyone thought that Charlie V would be one of the first Bucks to go once Hammond took over, but the team dealt Yi instead and they’re expecting V to take over at power forward. In the 31 games he started last season, he averaged 15/8, so if he can play enough defense to make new coach Scott Skiles happy, he could be in for a big year. The Bucks sure need him to break out, and there’s a good bet that he will, especially if he takes the ball to the hole more.
The Big Question: Can Scott Skiles whip this team into shape?
For the last several years, the Bucks have lacked a defensive mindset and toughness. There’s definitely enough talent to compete; a starting five of Ridnour, Michael Redd, Jefferson, Villanueva and Bogut makes for a good young core of skilled offensive players. If Skiles can get them to increase their effort on defense, the team should make a jump in the standings. It’s no sure thing that all the players will buy in; it’s just as likely that the Bucks will be looking at a losing record two months in and Skiles will have a revolt on his hands.
Outlook: Encouraging. The addition of Jefferson is a huge upgrade at small forward, which has been a weak spot for the last two seasons. The loss of Yi is a loss of potential only, as Villanueva should be able to produce better numbers from that position. Assuming good play from Redd and continued growth from Bogut, the Bucks are one of the darkhorses in the East. If Ridnour helps the team meld into a single cohesive unit offensively and Skiles can get them into the middle of the pack defensively, then the Bucks will be in business.

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