2013-14 NBA Season Preview Power Rankings for Milwaukee Bucks
Power ranking each member of the Milwaukee Bucks for 2013-14 presents somewhat of an unusual challenge given the busy offseason.
Only four players from last year's roster return as a bevy of new faces fill the gaps around them. This fact raises several concerns.
Will veteran Bucks mesh well with a new coaches and teammates? Will the new faces embrace the organization and be able to have similar—or better—success as they did elsewhere?
With nothing more than an open practice and several preseason games to go off, those are questions that may not be completely answered until the regular season progresses.
However, the closer we get to opening night, the clearer the picture becomes.
Using what we know from the preseason, combined with performances from last year, we're able to get a glimpse of what the Bucks can accomplish in 2013-14 and which players can emerge.
The Best of the Rest
15. Miroslav Raduljica
Of the 15 players who have guaranteed contracts for 2013-14, rookie Miroslav Raduljica brings up the caboose.
It's not that he doesn't have talent, though.
The problem is that the seven footer provides the Bucks with a big body at a position where there's already a big logjam.
He'll be available if more injury issues arise during the season, but otherwise don't expect to see the big man on the court much this season.
14. Nate Wolters After a stellar career at South Dakota State University—and despite being a second-round pick—the expectations for Nate Wolters are relatively high.
And the reasoning behind those expectations are pretty valid.
During his four years playing for the Jackrabbits, Wolters averaged 18.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists while shooting 45.0 percent from the floor.
At 6'4", he possesses excellent size for a point guard and his poise on the offensive end is far beyond his years. It's defense that may trip him up in the NBA, due to his lack of quickness.
If he can learn how to play solid team defense and remain efficient on offense, the sky really is the limit for Wolters.
He may not play a ton during his rookie campaign, but he'll certainly continue his development.
13. Zaza Pachulia In perhaps the most bizarre offseason move of the summer, the Bucks signed center Zaza Pachulia to a three-year, $15.6 million contract.
It was a deal that brought the 29-year-old back to Milwaukee for his second stint (he played on the 2004-05 team).
The oddity of the situation is one based strictly on the absurd monetary figure. Pachulia isn't a bad guy to have on your team. In fact, it could be argued that he has plenty of value. He rebounds, he's tough and he converts the opportunities he gets most of the time.
However, at $5.2 million per year, it's a move that's a major head-scratcher.
Nonetheless, he is part of the roster and should serve as a pretty solid backup to starting center Larry Sanders while providing veteran leadership in the locker room.
12. Ekpe Udoh Similar to Pachulia, Ekpe Udoh is an energy player that can provide a team with valuable minutes coming off the bench. He's strong, super athletic and isn't afraid to get into it a bit in the post.
Where Udoh really comes in useful is on the defensive end.
Sanders and John Henson both make their presence felt on a consistent basis, but Udoh provides even more depth from a shot-blocking standpoint.
In 17.3 minutes of playing time per game last year, he averaged 1.1 blocks while providing a hard-nosed approach to defense.
According to Ben Golliver of SI.com, Udoh will miss 4-to-6 weeks after undergoing a surgical procedure on his knee.
When he returns, though, he'll provide experience and beneficial frontcourt depth.
11. Khris Middleton
Khris Middleton had a respectable rookie season for the Detroit Pistons in 2012-13 and will look to provide the Bucks with some depth at small forward.
The 22-year-old Texas A&M University graduate averaged 6.1 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.0 assists last season during 17.6 minutes of playing time.
Given that Delfino and Butler are both aging—albeit gracefully—having youth at the weakest position on the roster is always a positive.
Not to mention, the youngster has put together a quality preseason.
Even if he doesn't log significant minutes this season, Middleton should provide decent value whenever he does step onto the court.
10. Carlos Delfino
The 31-year-old Carlos Delfino returns to the Bucks for his second stint with the team after coming off a successful 2012-13 campaign with the Houston Rockets.
In 67 games last season, he averaged 10.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists while knocking down threes at a decent clip of 37.5 percent.
Prior to the acquisition of Caron Butler, it appeared as though Delfino would be the starting small forward heading into the season.
Now, it appears as though he may not even be ready to play due to a nagging foot injury.
Regardless, Delfino helps space the floor with his ability to knock down the three and should provide the Bucks with quality, veteran leadership off the bench once healthy.
9. Giannis Antetokounmpo
The 18-year-old rookie from Greece may not have much experience playing against elite competition, but he has the physical tools to succeed in the NBA and he's showing that this preseason.
His averages sit at 5.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.6 blocks while shooting only 34.8 percent.
Clearly, there's going to be a bit of a learning curve offensively.
With that said, he's certainly showing what kind of pest he could become on the defensive end.
It's unclear exactly what kind of role Antetokounmpo will play once the regular season begins, but if Larry Drew gives him enough minutes, he could evolve much quicker than many—including myself—may have expected.
8. Luke Ridnour
Consistency from a backup point guard is something that shouldn't be taken for granted. That's exactly what veteran Luke Ridnour provides whatever team he's on.
For his career, Ridnour has averaged 10.0 points, 2.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists while connecting on 43.4 percent of his field-goal attempts.
And while he has started 479 of the 722 career games he has played in, he's much more effective as a role player off the bench.
With Brandon Knight still trying to get a firm grasp on point guard, Ridnour will be tasked with tutoring the youngster in addition to stepping onto the floor without the team losing a lot of production.
If he can continue to do that, the Bucks will have made a smart investment in bringing him back.
7. Gary Neal
Gary Neal is essentially to the 2 what Ridnour is to the point guard position in that he can step right in and provide whatever team he's on with a flurry of points.
He proved that several times in last season's NBA Finals against the Miami Heat.
Primarily used as a spot-up shooter, Neal will likely continue to play off the ball in Milwaukee and further prove his value as—if nothing else— a sniper from three-point territory.
While he rarely beats his man off the dribble and likely won't ever blossom into a starting shooting guard, he can certainly catch fire and dramatically change the outcome of any game.
6. John Henson
If he continues playing as well as he has over the summer and into the preseason, John Henson will continue climbing the team power rankings as the season progresses.
After a successful run at the Las Vegas Summer League where he averaged 14.7 points, 13.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks on 54.8 percent shooting, Henson is continuing to play well into the preseason.
To this point, he's seen a slight decrease in those averages to 10.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.0 blocks, but nonetheless, is still playing efficiently by converting 54.3 percent of his attempts.
As he continues to build his strength and improve on his offensive arsenal, Henson will become a much more well-rounded player and continue evolving into a legitimate starting power forward.
When that time comes, the Bucks will have a very intimidating frontcourt.
5. Caron Butler
Caron Butler may have played a supporting role with the Los Angeles Clippers for the past few seasons, but he figures to be more involved with the Bucks.
As Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times recently tweeted, head coach Larry Drew made that clear at the team's media day:
Larry Drew on Caron Butler: "In Los Angeles, he was the third or fourth option. That won't be the case in Milwaukee."— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) September 30, 2013
The initial thought upon hearing that probably didn't thrill many fans.
However, to this point in the preseason, Butler has demonstrated he can still score and do so with heightened efficiency.
The 33-year-old has averaged 10.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists on 47.1 percent shooting from the floor.
If he can build on those numbers and continue to show heightened efficiency, bringing him in will be considered a successful offseason move.
4. Brandon Knight
Brandon Knight's evolution through his first two seasons hasn't been what many likely expected back when he was taken eighth-overall in the 2011 draft.
However, he's still very young and is now surrounded by a deep roster with many shooters. Both should help him gain confidence as a distributor and the more faith he gains in his teammates, the better a floor general he can be.
He certainly still has a long way to go before he's an elite point guard, but there's no reason to think he can't reach that level yet. It's simply far too early to tell.
One thing he will need to improve on, though, is his efficiency.
Thus far for his career, he's converting just 41.0 percent of his attempts. Improving his mid-range jump shot will be crucial in terms of improving that number.
3. Ersan Ilyasova
It's hard to say exactly what Ersan Ilyasova's ceiling is.
Over the past several seasons he has become a very efficient scorer and has rebounded well for his position. Still, the jury is out on whether or not he can reach that elite level.
Really, it all depends on what level of aggressiveness Ilyasova decides to take.
The number of field goals he has attempted per game has gone up over the past three seasons, and if he asserts himself more offensively, he could easily become one of the team's go-to scorers.
Those are big ifs, but Ilyasova is far too efficient to not be more aggressive, especially when the Bucks are in desperate need of someone to step forward and assert himself from a scoring standpoint.
With Henson hot on his heels for the starting power forward spot, Ilyasova better take it up another level or he'll risk being dealt at the deadline.
2. Larry Sanders
One word separates Larry Sanders from being just a shot-blocker and becoming an elite center: offense.
Sanders emerged as one of the best shot-blockers around last season and is no slouch when it comes to crashing the boards. But if there's one area he needs to dramatically improve, it's his offensive game.
Like many young players with similar physical characteristics, Sanders relies on his freakish athleticism to get himself baskets far too often.
In order to truly become a top center, he'll need to learn how to score in the low post and develop a more consistent mid-range jump shot.
Even though he's just 24 years old, Sanders will need to start doing that with a bit of urgency.
Hopefully he spent hours in the gym over the summer working on his post moves, otherwise the new contract he received may come back to haunt the team down the road.
For now, though, Sanders remains one of the brightest stars on the roster and should be a major contributor in 2013-14.
1. O.J. Mayo
Out of everyone on the roster, O.J. Mayo is the most talented and has the greatest potential to make a major impact on the team's success.
With arguably his best opportunity to step up and take control of a team, Mayo's tenure with the Bucks will determine whether he's nothing more than a role player or a superstar in the making.
He can certainly score—he notched 20 or more points 22 times last season—but he'll need to do so efficiently and consistently in Milwaukee.
If he can do that, he'll prove that he was worthy of being the team's marquee offseason signing and help lead the Bucks to their second-straight playoff appearance.
But if he struggles like he did during the second half of last season, things might get rough quickly for both Mayo and the team.
Either way, he has the talent to succeed at a high level, he now just needs to take advantage of it.