The Milwaukee Bucks have a bevy of young players on their roster, and before the season begins, it's fitting to analyze their player power rankings.
The Bucks almost squeaked into the playoffs last season, but came up short despite the midseason addition of Monta Ellis.
This year, they hope to land a playoff berth with Brandon Jennings, Ellis and developing big man Ersan Ilyasova leading the way.
This is a very realistic hope, but it could be difficult in a deep Eastern Conference. Some of their younger players will really have to improve if they hope to play into May.
Let's unveil the current preseason player rankings for Milwaukee's youthful roster.
15. Doron Lamb
Doron Lamb was an integral member of the University of Kentucky's national championship last season. The shooting guard's role will look much different in his first year in the NBA. On a team that already features Monta Ellis, don't expect to see much, if any, of Lamb on the hardwood.
14. Joel Przybilla
Joel Przybilla is a big body, and that's it. If the Bucks need a bruiser to go bully an opposing big man, Przybilla is the guy. However, on a roster that contains a slew of young big men, it's likely that Pryzbilla will be in street clothes for the most part (because he's left off the active roster, not because he's hurt).
13. Marquis Daniels
Veteran Marquis Daniels is a versatile slashing guard, but his career is sloping downward. He spent the last three seasons with the Boston Celtics, supplying a marginal role off the bench. With the Bucks, he will play a similar or lesser role, and Lamb will likely leap ahead of him on the depth chart in due time.
Larry Sanders stands 6'11'' and possesses stellar athleticism. This makes him an imposing shot blocker and defender in the lane.
Unfortunately, his value doesn't extend much further.
Offensively, he lacks a post game and is an ineffective mid-range shooter. As a result, his scoring opportunities are mainly centered upon dunks and lay-ups.
Further, he's not a quality rebounder because he lacks strength. He can move well, but his lack of strength inhibits him from snagging his share of boards.
Sanders has value in playing spot minutes, but even those could be few. He needs to show further versatility to warrant a more consistent role.
Rookie John Henson is raw, but he has the tools to become a productive power forward.
He stands at 6'11'' but is rather skinny, weighing just 220 pounds. His length enables him to block shots and rebound well, but his offensive game is in drastic need of development.
He doesn't hit the mid-range shot with respectability, nor does he have a post game. Therefore, he is really not that much different than Sanders.
As a rookie, he'll likely struggle to see court time. He may occasionally spell Ersan Ilyasova, but those minutes will almost surely be limited. Veteran Drew Gooden is also in front of him in the rotation, so Henson will have to make the most of the few chances he receives.
If he can develop an adept mid-range jumper and begin to add a post game, his value will skyrocket.
Until then, he'll just be an energy player who can block shots and net a few boards.
Veteran Beno Udrih is nothing to write home about, but he is capable of taking care of the ball and distributing.
Brandon Jennings will be running the show for the most part, but Udrih will take the reins when Jennings needs a quick breather.
When Udrih gets his chance, don't expect anything flashy.
The lefty can get into the lane and finish with a crafty array of moves, and he can also knock down the mid-range pull-up jumper. But, beyond that, his game is limited, and he struggles on the defensive end to contain quick guards.
Udrih is a serviceable backup point guard, but if Jennings were to miss time due to injury, the Bucks should look for an upgrade. In a conference laden with elite floor generals, Udrih is not suited to serve an integral role.
Luc Richard Mbah A Moute (which is so fun to say) comes in at No. 9 because of his defensive prowess. Frankly, he could be even higher, but his status for the regular season opener is unclear to due a knee injury.
He's developed a reputation as a tough-minded defensive player who can actively contain opposing wings. His defensive ability is the sole reason he's in the league, and his lockdown ability has undisputed value.
Mbah A Moute helps the Bucks do the little things well. His defense is obvious, but his rebounding and slashing ability are also present.
All these strengths could warrant him a starting spot upon his return, but youngster Tobias Harris may have already solidified a starting role at the three spot by then.
Mbah A Moute's downsides are centered upon his offensive game, where he doesn't handle the ball well nor can he shoot from the outside with any efficiency.
His grit earns him a No. 9 ranking, but it's hard to list him any higher when his overall game is rather limited and it's unclear how he'll recover from his injury.
Ekpe Udoh is yet another long, young big man on the Bucks' bench. Similar to Sanders and Henson, he is versatile on the defensive side, but he is incredibly lacking offensively.
He can protect the rim with long arms that enable him to swat shots at quite a rate.
And he is an all-around elite defender, which is the primary reason he's ahead of Henson and Sanders on the Player Rankings list.
He could rebound better and he also needs to show more discipline when it comes to fouls. But his defensive instincts are undeniable and worth utilizing off the bench.
Offensively, his range extends to about 15 feet, but he remains very confined in what he can do.
If Udoh became a full-time starter, he could potentially lead the league in blocks. He's that active in the lane.
But until he shows more facets to his game, he'll likely remain a high-energy reserve.
Drew Gooden isn't projected to start, but he possesses a great deal of experience and has what the young big men on the roster lack: offensive ability.
Gooden is crafty and finds way to score in the lane. He can also knock down the mid-range jumper. He will most likely not "posterize" anybody, but he can score in bunches.
Because of this, he figures to log minutes ahead of the younger, raw power forwards. He's also an adequate rebounder and an improved passer.
What could be a hindrance to Gooden is the presence of Ersan Ilyasova, who is now the premier power forward on the roster.
Gooden can also play center and see time alongside Ilyasova, but that could also be limited since Milwaukee has a handful of centers.
Gooden has offensive skills so he will be in the rotation, but the way he's used could change from game to game.
Mike Dunleavy had a productive 2011-12 and he figures to establish a very similar role this season.
He moves exceptionally well without the ball, catching and shooting off screens with great proficiency.
He is also the Bucks' most reliable three-point shooter, and he should benefit from the penetrations of Jennings and Ellis. Their ability to attack the lane should leave Dunleavy open for kick-outs.
Dunleavy also has value in his keen basketball mind. He understands the game remarkably well and isn't susceptible to having a mental blunder.
Further, this keen basketball mind helps him defensively. He's not lightning quick by any means, but he defends competently and takes a good amount of charges.
Samuel Dalembert is very similar to the slew of young big men on the Bucks' roster, except he's older and possesses more experience.
Further, he's proven himself in the league and has been a polished shot blocker for years. He also rebounds well and is a surprisingly capable free throw shooter (shot 79.6 percent last season with the Houston Rockets).
You can expect Dalembert to chip in around eight points per game, eight rebounds per outing and close to two blocks/game. He has typically been around these numbers for most of his career, and he should receive the minutes this season to continue this.
Offensively, Dalembert can hit the short jumper, but his post game is inept and he can't handle the ball well (the continued theme throughout the Bucks' centers is that their offensive game is essentially nonexistent, and the veteran Dalembert is no exception to this).
Expect Dalembert to contribute at the beginning of the year, but don't be surprised if the younger big men get more and more minutes in place of him as the season progresses.
As a rookie last season, Tobias Harris showed potential, but there remains a big question.
The question is what position is best suited for him. He's a tweener, as he's likely too small (6'8'', 226 pounds) to thrive at the four position but too slow to play the three spot.
The likelihood is that the Bucks will use him at the small forward position, and he has already started a couple pre-season games in this slot.
Harris can reveal his value in this slot by utilizing his post game, which is superb for a young player. At the small forward position, he can post up smaller players and take advantage of his size.
Compared to young forwards Henson and Sanders, Harris has much greater maturity on the offensive end.
Now he needs to add a more consistent defensive game, and he should be en route to becoming a solid starter.
The Bucks' top three players are leaps and bounds ahead of anyone else on the roster. The final three players will need to carry this squad, and Ersan Ilyasova will be desperately needed in the frontcourt.
Ilyasova is on the rise towards stardom. The 6'10'', 25-year-old averaged 13.0 PPG and 8.8 RPG last season.
You can expect those numbers to increase dramatically. He should receive more minutes than last year (27.6 a game) and should be a focused part of the offense.
Ilyasova will be largely effective in the pick and pop, and Milwaukee's savvy playmaking guards (Jennings and Ellis) should enjoy kicking to their big man.
Ilyasova shot an astounding 45.5 percent from long-range last season. It's unlikely he'll shoot at this high of rate again this season (it was a career high), but the long ball is clearly in his repertoire.
He can also score from the inside and is a top-notch rebounder, giving him the versatility that could vault him to All-Star status.
His only downsides are that he's an average defender and doesn't block shots particularly well. But the Bucks can live with those things, especially since the majority of their other big men are defensive-minded.
Ilyasova should have a breakout year in 2012-13, and his play is at the center of the Bucks' playoff hopes.
Monta Ellis is the definition of a stat-stuffer. He is a potent scorer and can also rack up a good number of assists from the shooting guard position.
What's more, he's also a thief on defense, often swiping balls and in turn leading the fast break.
When Ellis is on his game, he can help the Bucks beat anybody. He is that lethal of a weapon.
Ellis does have some questionable aspects to his game, though. He is trigger-happy and often settles for difficult jumpers. He's also turnover prone and can quickly become a coach's chief frustration.
But you have to live with those things if Monta Ellis is going to be a core member of your team. His playmaking ability is unquestioned, but it comes with clear negatives.
The main concern with Ellis is whether he can mesh with Brandon Jennings, another trigger-happy, smaller guard. After the Bucks added Ellis in the middle of last year, the duo wasn't able to lead Milwaukee to a playoff berth.
This season could be no different. They are almost too similar as players and they both demand the ball.
Ellis, in particular, may need to learn how to play more off the ball, something he's not accustomed to doing but could be necessary if this backcourt tandem is to flourish.
Brandon Jennings is electrifying to watch. His quick penetrations, dazzling ball-handling skills and smooth lefty jumper make him one of the league's most exciting young players.
As the Bucks look towards the future, they need to make it their distinct focus to keep Jennings around.
He could become the face of their franchise for the long-term future, and Milwaukee would be wise to pursue this.
This would be especially wise because Jennings can flat-out play and he's only 23. He figures to be an elite point guard for many years.
Plus, Milwaukee isn't a desirable location for superstar players, so it's a good choice to keep one of their own budding superstars, because they likely aren't going to lure any top-notch free agents.
Jennings has what it takes to become an All-Star, even in a conference loaded with top floor generals. He can dominate a game in so many ways offensively, which makes him the premier face of the Bucks.
Bucks fans can only hope he remains the premier face of their team for many years into the future.