The 2012-2013 season is going to be a make or break season for the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks have missed the playoffs the last two seasons, and it is hard to imagine that head coach Scott Skiles will keep his job if it happens a third straight year.
This season, they might be on of the deepest teams in the league. However, they will probably need all the depth they can get because several of their players have injury issues. Besides injuries, a few other things could derail the team.
How will Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis play together for a full season?
Can Ersan Ilyasova match last season's production?
Also, how will the rotation play out?
While it is hard to answer those first two questions now, it is much easier to predict how the rotation will work and who will fill which role. So let's find out who starts, who will be the sixth man and who will be the first big off the bench.
While he may not have been a first-round pick or even the Bucks' first pick of last June's draft, Deron Lamb has a chance to make a real impact this season.
Currently, Lamb is the only other shooting guard on the roster behind Monta Ellis. However, that could change between now and camp, but that puts Lamb in a much more enviable position than fellow rookie John Henson.
Lamb is an excellent shooter that may remind the fans in Milwaukee of former Buck Michael Redd, who was also a second-round pick.
He may only get 15 minutes a night, but if he can hit a few open three-pointers in that time, then his impact will be huge. Getting production from Lamb will go a long way to helping this team reach their goal of making the playoffs.
What Joel Przybilla will bring to the team this year is one of the biggest questions heading into the season.
During his first stint in Milwaukee he missed over 100 games in three seasons. Since then, his health hasn't improved much.
He actually spent most of last season out of the league before rejoining the Portland Trailblazers at the end of February. Przybilla appeared in 27 games averaging 16.6 minutes, two points and 5.1 rebounds a game.
I would suspect that he will be the primary backup at center, but if he is unable to stay healthy, there are plenty of guys ready to replace him. The Bucks have seven players on the roster who are 6'10" or taller, so there is no shortage of guys to man the middle.
While Brandon Jennings is the unquestioned starter at point guard, Beno Udrich might be the only true point guard on the roster.
The former Sacramento King came to Milwaukee last season and averaged over three assists per every turnover he committed. While it may be an overlooked stat, I am sure coach Scott Skiles is aware of it.
During his last season with the Kings, he averaged over 13 points and four rebounds, which shows just how capable he can be. If Jennings misses any time like he did two seasons ago, the offense should be in good hands.
It'll be interesting to see if coach Skiles decides to play Udrich and Jennings together at times, since they lack a proven backup at shooting guard. A three-guard rotation of Udrich, Jennings and Ellis could be a very good one.
While he isn't a starter, Drew Gooden may be one of the most important players on the Bucks this season.
Much like last season, Gooden is going to probably find himself playing power forward as well as center. He started 46 of the 56 games he played in, with the majority of those coming at center after the first month of the season.
Like I said before, Pryzbilla might be the primary backup at center, but I believe coach Skiles will end up splitting Gooden's time between both spots, making him the first big off the bench most nights.
Gooden will also have the responsibility of grooming his eventual replacement in rookie John Henson. I would expect him to average around 25 minutes a night while scoring in double-digits and grabbing fire or six rebounds a game.
Most playoff teams have very good benches. To go along with that, they also have a sixth man that they can turn to for quick offense.
If the Bucks are going to be one of those teams, Mike Dunleavy Jr. needs to be that guy for them.
Dunleavy could easily be a starter on this team, but coach Skiles appreciates defense, and with the firepower already in the starting five, Dunleavy better serves the team coming off the bench.
Last season, he averaged over 12 points per game, while shooting just under 40 percent from three-point land. If he can match that production, it will more then make up for the lack of offense coming from the starting small forward.
Also, if Lamb proves not to be ready, then Dunleavy could also see time at shooting guard. Now, let's just hope he can stay healthy, otherwise the bench will be missing some punch.
Every team needs a defensive stopper, and for the Bucks that is Luc Mbah a Moute.
Mbah a Moute is going to draw the matchup of guarding the other teams most productive wing player every night. That means it will be his job to guard the likes of Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
Besides that, not much will be expected of him. Whatever he brings on the offensive end is just a bonus. As long as he can play solid defense, night in and night out, the Bucks should be fine defensively.
Andrew Bogut, when healthy, was a defensive force in the middle for the Bucks. However, he was rarely healthy.
Milwaukee hopes that Samuel Dalembert can be that same defensive force, while also staying in the lineup. Dalembert has only missed three games over the last six years.
If he can match the production he gave the 76ers during the 2007-2008 season, I think everyone would be very happy. During that season he started in all 82 games while averaging 10.5 points and 10.4 rebounds while also adding 2.3 blocks a game.
For his career, he has averaged eight points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks, so it isn't so far-fetched to think that he could reach those career highs again.
Mbah a Moute and Dalembert will have to carry the load defensively for this team in order for them to be successful.
Can Ersan Ilyasova do it again?
That might be the biggest question hanging over the Milwaukee Bucks this season.
If he can do it again, then the Bucks have a big three, which they haven't had since Sam Cassell, Glenn Robinson and Ray Allen were in town.
If he can't, then the Bucks are in big trouble for this season and for the foreseeable future. I say that because they re-signed him to a big five-year deal this summer.
After becoming the starting power forward last season, he averaged around 15 points and 10 rebounds. He also shot an amazing 45 percent from beyond the arc.
If he can come close to matching that again then he will help stretch the defense and allow lanes to open up for the guards.
When you combine all these things, there is a pretty good case to be made that Ilyasova might be their most important player. Let's hope he can live up to the expectations.
This season, Brandon Jennings goes from being the primary option on offense to being the second option. Hopefully that will allow him more time to focus on distributing the ball.
Jennings also has a lot riding on this season. He is up for a contract extension this summer, and if the Bucks don't sign him, he will become a restricted free agent.
If he can increase his assists while cutting down on his turnovers it should go a long way towards him getting a max-contract next summer.
Jennings also has the chance to prove a lot of people, who believe he can't fit well with his backcourt mate, wrong. If he can, then the Bucks could be a very dangerous team.
Monta Ellis came over to the Bucks at the trade deadline last season. He appeared in 21 games and made a pretty good impression.
In April, he and Jennings proved that they could not only co-exist but also play well together. Both averaged over 20 points per game during the final month of the season.
Milwaukee went 13-8 with Ellis in the lineup. If they can keep that up, not only will they be a playoff team but also they might win 50 games.
With Ellis as the primary scorer, it allows everyone else on the team to fall into a role. Jennings becomes the secondary man and Ilyasova can remain the third option and focus on rebounding.
If he plays up to his potential, he has a great shot of being the first Bucks' All-Star since Michael Redd back in 2004. Actually, if this entire team plays up to their potential, he might not be alone during All-Star weekend.
Let's hope it all works out.