Milwaukee Bucks: Summer League Roster, Key Storylines
By most accounts, Milwaukee has enjoyed a very solid offseason thus far.
Having drafted John Henson with the 14th pick, re-signing potential breakout forward Ersan Ilyasova, and acquiring a starting center in Samuel Dalembert, the arrow appears to be pointing up headed into 2012.
Other than rookie lottery picks, players who play in the NBA summer league rarely make an impact when the NBA regular season starts. However, with Milwaukee's last three first round picks on their summer roster, the Bucks hope their young guns can translate their summer success to the regular season.
Milwaukee's 19-man summer league team looks to catch the league's attention in Las Vegas. Let's take a closer look at nine key players, as well as some major storylines surrounding these young Bucks.
Milwaukee's Summer League Schedule
Tobias Harris, SF, Milwaukee Bucks (1 Year Experience)
Player Profile: 6'8", 226 pounds
2011-12, Per Game Stats: 5.0 points, 2.4 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.3 steals, 46.7 FG%, 26.1 3P%, 81.5 FT%
Key Storyline: After being a first round selection in last year's draft, Harris had a minimal impact as a rookie. But when he was given more playing time in the team's final two games, Harris averaged 15.5 points and 11 rebounds per game.
Two regular season games are a very small sample size, but the Bucks are encouraged by his development after entering the 2011 draft as a freshman. With veteran Mike Dunleavy currently the Bucks only reliable swingman off the bench, the door is wide open for Harris to play more minutes in 2012.
Prediction: Harris will play slightly more than his 11.4 minutes per game in 2011, but it may take another year or two before he "makes the leap" and becomes an impact player for the Bucks.
Larry Sanders, PF/C, Milwaukee Bucks (2 Years Experience)
Player Profile: 6'11", 235 pounds
2011-12, Per Game Stats: 3.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 1.5 blocks, 0.6 steals, 45.7 FG%, 47.4 FT%
Key Storyline: Sanders was Milwaukee's first round selection in 2010, and he's had a similar impact in both of his two seasons in the league. With career averages of 4.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game, the Bucks hope Sanders is ready to play more minutes in his third season.
After Milwaukee shipped center Andrew Bogut to the Golden State Warriors, the Bucks called upon Sanders to play center on occasion. As a natural shot blocker, Sanders appears to be the top backup for new starting center Samuel Dalembert.
Prediction: His numbers will slightly improve. Along with No. 14 pick John Henson, Sanders will see time at both power forward and center, as both players are better options at center than Drew Gooden.
John Henson, PF, North Carolina (14th Overall Pick in 2012)
Player Profile: 6'11", 220 pounds
2011-12, Per Game Stats: 13.7 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.9 blocks, 1.3 assists, 0.6 steals, 50 FG%, 51 FT%
Key Storyline: Prior to the draft, nobody thought Henson would make it out of the top ten picks, and Milwaukee GM John Hammond was so high on him that he considered trading up for the former Tar Heel. Instead of moving up, Hammond opted to swap picks with Houston. As a result, the Bucks acquired a new starting center in Sam Dalembert, and their coveted player fell into their lap with the 14th pick.
When the Bucks took Henson, many figured Ersan Ilyasova's days in Milwaukee were over, but Ilyasova has since been re-signed by the team. Henson isn't an elite scorer, but his length will be vital to Milwaukee improving its post defense and rebounding.
Prediction: Henson will play about 20 minutes per game as a rookie.
Doron Lamb, SG, Kentucky (42nd Overall Pick in 2012)
Player Profile: 6'4", 210 pounds
2011-12, Per Game Stats: 13.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 47.4 FG%, 46.6 3P%, 82.6 FT%
Key Storyline: A three-point specialist from Kentucky goes to the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the NBA draft. If that sounds awfully familiar, congratulations. You've been paying close attention to the Bucks' drafts in recent years.
Milwaukee took Jodie Meeks with the 41st pick in 2009, and grabbed Lamb with the 42nd pick in 2012. The Bucks have since traded Meeks, but a fellow Kentucky product will fill their void for a natural shooter off the bench. Lamb is Kentucky's all-time leader in three-point shooting, and he will have a real opportunity to see limited time as a rookie.
Prediction: For the most part, Lamb will be buried on the bench as a rookie. But being a three-point specialist, he will likely be called upon at times as a rookie.
D.J. Mbenga, C, New Orleans Hornets* (9 Years Experience)
*Sat out 2011 with a right knee injury, last played in 2010 with New Orleans.
Player Profile: 7'0", 255 pounds
2011-12, Per Game Stats: N/A
Key Storyline: The majority of summer league rosters are filled with young and unproven players trying to make a name for themselves, but that's not the case for D.J. Mbenga. After missing the 2011 season season with a knee injury, Mbenga is trying to come back in 2012, and he may have picked the right place to do so.
Mbenga is a two-time NBA Champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, and he may have a legitimate shot at making the Bucks' final roster, especially if they trade someone in their flooded frontcourt. The Bucks are flooded with with veterans Drew Gooden, Ersan Ilyasova, Ekpe Udoh and Larry Sanders, as well as first round pick John Henson. It seems likely that the Bucks will trade a combination of those players, and if they do, Mbenga could find a home in Milwaukee...albeit buried on the Bucks' bench.
Prediction: The Bucks will trade either Gooden, Udoh or Sanders, or a combination of two of them. If and when that happens, Mbenga would be a perfect role player to have on the bench at the center position.
Cameron Wells, PG, Zwolle-Holland (1 Year Experience)
Player Profile: 6'1", 195 pounds
2011-12, Per Game Stats (Holland): 14.3 points, 3.6 assists, 2.4 steals
Key Storyline: Wells is the all-time leading scorer at the Citadel, but he went undrafted coming out of college in 2011. After playing the past season in Holland, Wells will try his luck in an NBA Summer League.
Wells could be Milwaukee's starting point guard this summer, but even if he comes off the bench, he'll certainly be on the court often. Since the Bucks are loaded with undersized scoring guards with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis in the fold, it would be a complete shock if Wells made Milwaukee's team in 2012.
Prediction: Wells will remain overseas next season, but he's someone to keep an eye on in the next several years.
Brian Butch, C, NBA D-League: Bakersfield (2 Years Experience)
Player Profile: 6'11", 240 pounds
2011-12, Per Game Stats: 15.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.71 blocks, 42.9 FG%, 37.1 3P%, 75.9 FT%
Key Storyline: The man Wisconsin Badgers fans affectionately called "The Polar Bear" will return to his home state and play with the Bucks this summer. Playing in the NBA D-League, Butch was Bakersfield's leading scorer in 2011.
Another former Badger big man, Greg Stiemsma, was able to make an impact for the Boston Celtics in a reserve role this season. Butch is a superior offensive player, but he isn't nearly the defensive presence that Stiemsma is. Wisconsin sports fans will be particularly interested to see how Butch fares this summer, but it's extremely unlikely that he will make the Bucks' team in 2012.
Prediction: Butch will return to the D-League, or he will play in Europe next season. He will not be a Milwaukee Buck when the season starts.
Tarence Kinsey, SG, Anadolu Efes-Turkey (3 Years NBA Experience)
Player Profile: 6'6", 185 pounds
2011-12, Per Game Stats (Turkey): 8.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 1.1 assists, 46.3 FG%, 27.8 3P%, 69.2 FT%
Key Storyline: Coming out of South Carolina, Kinsey played three seasons in the NBA before going overseas to play. Kinsey had a pretty impressive rookie season, starting 12 games in 48 appearances while averaging 7.7 points per game with the Memphis Grizzlies.
After two seasons with Memphis, Kinsey appeared in 50 games in his one season with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kinsey has battled injuries in recent years, but with three years of NBA experience, he could be a top scoring option for the Bucks in the summer league.
Prediction: Kinsey will return to Europe next season. If he stays healthy and plays at a high level, he may again find a spot on an NBA roster in the next couple years.
Stefhon Hannah, PG, NBA D-League: Dakota (2 Years Experience)
Player Profile: 6'1", 175 pounds
2011-12, Per Game Stats: 18.4 points, 4.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 45.0 FG%, 40.7 3P%, 89.1 FT%
Key Storyline: With a natural ability to score and the willingness to share the basketball, Hannah is a true point guard. After leaving Missouri following the 2007-08 season, Hannah has bounced around from place-to-place trying to find a home as a professional.
Playing in the D-League, Hannah made a big leap in his production in the last two years. After averaging 7.6 points and 2.2 assists in 2010, Hannah exploded for 18.4 points and 4.8 assists last season with the Dakota Wizards. With several capable point guards on the roster, Hannah will need to be spectacular to get consistent minutes with Milwaukee.
Prediction: Hannah will return to the D-League next season, but with such a dramatic improvement from 2010 to 2011, he could be on the verge of bigger and better things.
Key Storyline for Summer League Roster
Milwaukee is in a unique situation this summer. Rarely does a team feature a trio of first round picks on its roster, and all three will have a chance to make an impact come October when the games actually matter.
John Henson and Larry Sanders—assuming he isn't traded—seem to be the safest bets to be in the Bucks' regular rotation this season, but Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb will certainly have opportunities to get on the court as well.
On top of being Milwaukee's first round pick this season, Henson is a player to keep a close eye on because of his experience playing in an up-tempo game. North Carolina is notorious for pushing the ball up the court, and the Tar Heels require everyone on their roster to be mobile—from point guard to center.
The strength of the Bucks' roster is its ultra-quick, high scoring duo of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis in the backcourt, so Henson's ability to run the court looks like an ideal for the Bucks, and it could result in some early playing time in Milwaukee.
It's foolish to rush to conclusions after exhibition games, but it will be very interesting to see how Milwaukee's young players fare against similar competition. After back-to-back disappointing seasons, Milwaukee hopes a solid summer will help them "Buck" the trend in 2012.