Final First-Half Player Power Rankings for Milwaukee Bucks
With the 2013-14 season approaching its halfway point, it's time once again to give each player on the Milwaukee Bucks roster his own, special power rankings spot.
What's the use in ranking a bunch of guys on the league's worst team?
For one, it's important to get an idea of what they have moving forward. Not only that, but despite the abysmal record, these young Bucks have looked good at times.
Rookie first-round draft pick, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is developing more quickly than most would have expected and players like Khris Middleton and John Henson are excelling as second-year players.
And while the season's second half may end up being a mirror image of the first, it will still provide a young team with ample time to learn and gain valuable experience.
After the first six weeks, O.J. Mayo had the honor of possessing the top spot.
Has anyone been able to dethrone him?
15. Carlos Delfino
Not surprisingly, the 31-year-old Delfino finds himself bringing up the caboose in these power rankings due to his injured ankle.
Unfortunately, it looks as though he'll continue to bring up the rear for the rest of the season.
According to Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Delfino underwent foot surgery in Argentina on Dec. 14 and will be forced to stay off that foot for a period of eight weeks.
Assuming everything goes according to plan, that would mean he'd be able to start putting weight on it again in early February. Then, he'll need to get back into basketball shape.
And at that point, it might not be worth the risk to return this season.
14. Zaza Pachulia
Prior to fracturing his foot on Dec. 4, Pachulia was doing a decent job of providing the Bucks with a post presence in the absence of Larry Sanders.
During the 17 games he played, he averaged 6.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists while providing veteran leadership and a bit of attitude in the post.
As long as he's injured, he'll be nothing more than a $5.2 million cheerleader.
Given the price tag he carries with him, Pachulia needs to, at the very least, be on the court and contributing something every game.
13. Miroslav Raduljica
With Larry Sanders and Pachulia both missing time due to injuries at some point during the first half of the season, Raduljica saw more playing time than most would have anticipated.
Like the majority of Milwaukee's big men, he doesn't provide consistent production at a high level but is capable of logging quality minutes.
And at 7'0", 250 pounds, he provides a huge body in the paint both on offense and defense.
With Sanders back, he'll likely see his playing time decrease, but should anyone else get injured during the second half of the season, Raduljica should get some more minutes again and continue to improve.
12. Ekpe Udoh
Much like Raduljica, Udoh provides occasional offense, defense, hustle and is another body capable of getting physical in the post.
In fact, his 1.2 blocks per game rank third on the team, making him a vital role player off the bench, especially if Sanders or Henson get hurt or into foul trouble.
Ultimately, the Bucks know what they're going to get whenever Udoh steps on the floor, and they're probably fine with where he's at.
As long as he can continue to provide that spark, he should still be utilized.
11. Luke Ridnour
After scoring in double figures each of his prior four seasons, Ridnour hasn't been able to find a rhythm during his second stint in Milwaukee.
In fact, this might be his worst season since his first year in the league.
Sure, his minutes are down, but Ridnour just isn't producing when on the floor. He's averaging 5.6 points and 3.1 assists (both are the second lowest of his career) and shooting just 38.3 percent from the field.
Failing to produce—especially with Nate Wolters playing well—certainly won't earn Ridnour any more playing time and may lead to him being expendable at the trade deadline.
10. Ersan Ilyasova
Regardless of his struggles to stay healthy to start the 2013-14 season, Ersan Ilyasova hasn't exactly looked great even when he's been on the floor.
The 26-year-old power forward, who has been extremely efficient the past few seasons, has struggled both in terms of scoring and hitting the glass.
His averages of 8.9 points and 4.8 rebounds are the lowest in each category since his rookie year, and his shooting percentages aren't a whole lot better.
After knocking down 46.2 percent of the field goals he took in 2012-13 (and 44.4 percent of his threes), Ilyasova has fallen off drastically. So far this season he's shooting just 38.6 percent from the field and 18.5 percent from three-point territory.
For a player with his size and versatility, he needs to be giving the Bucks more.
9. Nate Wolters
After an unexpected, and surprisingly good, to start the season, Nate Wolters' play has dropped off a bit lately as the result of Ridnour and Brandon Knight both becoming healthier.
Still, when given the minutes, the youngster continues to show great upside and is perfectly capable of running the offense.
Through 28 games, he's averaging 6.1 points, 2.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.1 turnovers in 20.8 minutes of playing time.
Visually, his stat line isn't going to jump out at anyone, but it's a luxury whenever a rookie point guard can distribute the ball and make smart decisions without turning it over.
With more minutes, Wolters will get even better.
8. Gary Neal
Those who were expecting some sort of breakout season from Gary Neal after a couple of great outings in the 2013 NBA Finals are probably extremely disappointed.
For those who understand he's a very limited as a player, this is probably the expected level of production.
Outside of connecting from three-point range at a consistent rate—41.9 percent this season—Neal doesn't add a whole lot of value when he's on the floor.
That becomes even more obvious when realizing he's averaging just 20.5 minutes of playing time, which is second lowest on the roster.
He's a proven energy guy and can provide a scoring spark, but that's about it.
7. Caron Butler
After a respectable start to the year, Caron Butler's value on the court is quickly dissipating.
The 33-year-old veteran was brought in prior to the season and many figured he would provide veteran leadership—which, to his credit, he has—and a consistent scoring option.
However, that hasn't exactly come to fruition.
Playing in just 20 of the team's 34 games thus far, Butler is showing signs of wear and tear and putting together solid outings on a consistent basis has been a struggle.
With the emergence of players like Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo, he certainly won't be seeing the court more than he has been lately.
Still, those moments are few and far between and Butler's main focus should be on mentoring the youngsters.
6. Larry Sanders
Since returning from a thumb injury that stemmed from his involvement in a bar fight (per Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), Larry Sanders has quickly returned to form.
In the three games he played prior to the injury, Sanders was averaging 2.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in just 17.5 minutes—due in large part to the 3.0 fouls he was averaging.
Since returning on Dec. 27, Sanders is averaging 9.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals while shooting 54.8 percent. The 3.8 fouls per game he's racking up are still far too many, but part of that could be attributed to him not being in the best shape yet.
As he logs more minutes, he should continue to build on his breakout 2012-13 campaign.
At least that's what fans—and management—are likely hoping for after he inked a four-year, $44 million extension over the summer.
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to climb up the Bucks' power rankings and for good reason.
The multifaceted rookie has started the team's previous 10 games and is only beginning to scratch the surface of his extraordinary potential.
Since being inserted into the starting lineup on Dec. 18, Antetokounmpo is averaging 8.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists while connecting on 44.8 percent of his field-goal attempts.
And while those numbers don't exactly jump off the paper, he's had a couple of stellar games during that stretch. Like his Dec. 27 performance against the Brooklyn Nets, which saw him score 16 points, haul in 10 rebounds and block three shots.
As with any rookie, the Greek Freak hasn't quite mastered the art of consistency yet and is sometimes too passive on the offensive end.
But in this brief stretch as a starter, he has shown he's far beyond initial expectations.
4. O.J. Mayo
O.J. Mayo finds himself down three spots from the previous power rankings, but that doesn't mean he has been playing poorly.
Other players stepping up, combined with his own inconsistency, has forced Mayo down the list. The 26-year-old guard has either been hot or cold and seldom finds himself anywhere in between.
And while a team suffering as much offensively as the Bucks are will take anything it can get, it's frustrating to watch someone so talented as Mayo be so inconsistent.
His numbers are down from 2012-13 when he was arguably the Dallas Mavericks' best player—at least through the first half of the season—and he just hasn't lived up to the three-year, $24 million contract he was given over the summer.
But hey, there's a whole second half left.
3. Khris Middleton
Khris Middleton has been one of the team's most consistent players through the first portion of the season and he doesn't look to buck that trend anytime soon.
On the season, Middleton is averaging 11.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists while knocking down 45.5 percent of his shots and an equally impressive 43.3 percent of his three-point attempts.
For someone not expected to do much heading into the season, those numbers are more than acceptable.
And when you look at his recent efforts, they're even better.
Over his last 10 games, Middleton has increased those averages to 14.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists while remaining pretty consistent with his shooting percentages (44.3 FG percent, 37.2 3P percent).
With good length and a smooth all-around game, Middleton should continue to provide the Bucks with solid production the rest of the way.
2. John Henson
Prior to being sidelined with an ankle injury, John Henson was building up a head of steam and starting to put together great stat lines.
In the 10 games prior to his injury, Henson was averaging 15.9 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.4 blocks while shooting 56.3 percent from the floor. In doing so, he gave the Bucks a legitimate offensive weapon in the post and did his share to protect the rim on defense.
When he returns, it's imperative he continues to play at that level.
If he can, he'll provide the team with solid low-block scoring and will team with Sanders to create one of the league's most intimidating defensive frontcourts.
And had it not been for that injury, Henson may have nabbed himself the top spot in these power rankings.
1. Brandon Knight
After a slow start to the year—with a hamstring injury being partially to blame—Brandon Knight has looked like the best player on the floor almost every night out.
The 22-year-old point guard has not only shown he can do everything from scoring to hauling in a high number of rebounds for a player at his position.
In fact, over the past 10 games, Knight is averaging 21.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.4 steals while shooting 46.8 percent from the floor.
Over this stretch—and really dating back to the end of November—he is asserting himself as one of the team's most legitimate scoring threats while doing a respectable job of running the offense and distributing the ball to teammates.
If he can continue to play like this, he'll continue to solidify himself as the team's point guard of the future.