The Milwaukee Bucks kicked off their summer 2012 offseason, surprise surprise, with a focus on defense. Ok, so you aren’t surprised at all. For the majority of Scott Skiles’ tenure as Bucks head coach, the team has focused heavily on defense while filling in the cracks with a dash of offense. And it hasn’t typically gone well. The exception came late last season when they acquired offense-only guard Monta Ellis and began to rely on what they call a “run and gun” offense. Defense was basically thrown out the window in favor of an up-tempo fast break style of basketball. Ellis and partner in crime Brandon Jennings aren’t known for their defense, so that was left to the rest of the players on the court. Yet with too many injuries or guys playing out of position, it was a system that wasn’t meant to succeed long term.

As of now, on the eve of NBA free agency, it appears the undersized guard tandem of Jennings and Ellis will stay the same. So the thing the Bucks must improve is the defense behind them. The one thing Milwaukee had an abundance of was power forwards. The night before the draft, they parlayed some of that abundance into a trade yielding center Samuel Dalembert from Houston. The Bucks essentially had 8 players at the power forward position and packaged two of them to Houston. Some fans were disappointed to see Wisconsinite Jon Leuer depart in that trade, but it’s the nature of the business.

That leaves 6 somewhat true power forwards on the roster, and it’s possible we’ll see two more drop in the next few weeks. Ersan Ilyasova is a free agent and will probably get a contract offer not worth the Bucks chasing. Drew Gooden will be able to return to his natural PF position this season, but with 3 years and $20 million remaining on his contract, they might consider using the “amnesty clause” to shed that whole contract.

Power forward math is harder than I thought; we are down to 4 power forwards. And that’s assuming they’d use Tobias Harris and Luc Mbah a Moute at that position. The Bucks would rather use them as either small forwards, or some sort of hybrid forward that’s becoming popular in the league. And that leaves us with 2 power forwards on the roster: Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh. Both players are of the fast, lanky, shot-blocking freak variety of power forward. Young, but developing is the theme there. And the Bucks continued that theme by drafting ACC Defensive Player of the Year John Henson from North Carolina. Plenty of media-types are calling that a steal at the 14th pick.

If this was football, we’d be talking about how the rookie will put pressure on the current players at that position, and that training camp will yield some awesome battles between those three. Just because this is basketball doesn’t mean the same can’t happen. There is a total of 4 years experience between Sanders, Udoh and Henson, so just because they all fit the same athletic, shot-blocking mold doesn’t mean they can’t hit the weight room together, work off each other, and smash around on the practice court. Henson is a great value as the 14th pick and it will be fun to watch that position progress over the season.

As for the second round pick, Doron Lamb is expected to add a dynamic scoring touch immediately. He’s one of the few recent Kentucky players to stay longer than one season, and added a tiny bit of explosiveness to his game while playing for the national champions. He won’t be expected to constantly slash at the basket, but will have plenty of physicality as he looks to compliment Carlos Delfino. Delfino is a free agent, but I’d expect the Bucks to keep him around. Keeping Delfino more at a guard position, along with Lamb and Beno Udrih, opens the small forward position solely to Harris, Mbah a Moute and Mike Dunleavy Jr. Harris still has some developing to do, while Dunleavy shot lights out off the bench last season. Mbah a Moute is more of a wild card, capable of guarding all 5 positions on the court.

Dalembert fills out the current roster as a defensive specialist at the center position. And though the Bucks will look to extend Jennings’ contract soon, they have some money to spend if they let Ilyasova walk and amnesty Gooden. Don’t expect them to go on a spending spree, but they will try to add a solid roll player to a few openings. A backup center might be their first priority. Of course they could always keep Gooden and play him out of position as the backup center.

There is a lot to watch for as the Bucks finalize their roster. With no lockout to disrupt routines, a summer of training camp and a full 82-game roster should yield some promising results for the Milwaukee Bucks.


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  • Kevan

    I too would like to see them groom Harris, he has some solid potential. But to play the 3 he’ll need to develop a more inside-outside game. He also has the look of a solid rebounder so he could play at the 4, but the Bucks have 2829 of those, give or take a few.

    As much as I like Ersan, and as good as he’d look in the 12-13 lineup, the Henson pick pretty much sealed it. Too bad because Henson could learn a lot about big man offense from the Turk.

    As much as I liked Del3no, I think they should let him walk. Last year he went from a sharpshooter with solid perimeter D to a bricklayer with porous perimeter D. They ought to use the money they’re saving from letting him and Ersan go toward a veteran wing, which they really need. How about Gerald Wallace? That would be an outstanding signing, but I think he will move with the Nets to Brooklyn.

  • Brian

    You wouldn’t see me argue if Delfino wasn’t brought back either. He was an absolute monster in the World Games in 2010, and I was pumped to see him build off that. But he seemed too slow coming off of injuries and getting readjusted at times.

    Harris I almost see as a 3.5, as he’s too physical to be a plain 3 and too undersized as a plain 4. The youngest guy in the last draft will definitely see a bigger role this season.

    And yes, Wallace would be awesome. The Bucks would have to stretch a few dimes, but if you take away Delfino, Ilyasova and Gooden, suddenly they’d have a decent chunk of money to spend.