The Milwaukee Bucks currently stand at 1-0 in this year’s Summer League after a 65-59 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Second round pick Jodie Meeks led the way for the Bucks with 14 points on six-of-nine shooting while second year player Joe Alexander added 14 points of his own and seven rebounds.
It was a good start for the Bucks, who will need a big summer out of a few players to get ready for their semi-makeover this upcoming season.
With Richard Jefferson being dealt to the Spurs and Charlie Villanueva bolting to the Pistons this offseason, a few young players must step up and show that they are worthy of receiving the minutes left by Jefferson and Villanueva.
Along with the voids that need to be filled, depth at point guard and power forward will be very important next year, and the summer should give the Bucks a better grasp of where they stand.
Let’s take a look at the five players that need to prove they belong this summer.
1. Brandon Jennings, PG, First Round Pick in 2009
Not only does the 19-year-old Jennings need to prove that he was the right selection for the Bucks at number ten, but he must also prove that his game transitions over to the NBA.
Last year, Jennings skipped out on the University of Arizona to play in Italy where his stats dropped but his upside remained.
This summer, Jennings will have starting point guard duties and need to prove he can handle the reigns of leading a team. Head coach Scott Skiles puts a lot of trust in his point guards, meaning Jennings will need to make good on this responsibility if he wants to see the court in the upcoming season.
In his first game, Jennings scored ten points in 25 minutes on three-of-12 shooting to go along with three rebounds, three assists, and two steals. He turned the ball over just two times and nailed a three pointer in the contest.
In his first actual game on American soil in about two years, all of his points came in the second half as he seemed to calm down throughout the game.
The Bucks are hoping Jennings will shoot out of the gates like Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook did last year and prove himself to be an All Star in the making this summer.
2. Joe Alexander, SF, First Round Pick in 2008
In his rookie year, Alexander was buried in the depth chart that saw him log just over 12 minutes a game where he averaged 4.7 points and 1.9 rebounds. Drafted based on his freak athleticism and upside, Alexander will get a chance to shine this summer and find a spot in the Bucks’ rotation and potentially starting lineup.
Part of the reason John Hammond felt comfortable enough trading Jefferson this offseason was because he believed Alexander can be the small forward of the future. He has no problem getting to the rim and has an above average jump shot, but he needs to use his size better and add muscle to his frame.
If the first Summer League game was a sign of things to come, Alexander had seven rebounds in the contest including five on the offensive end. Despite going 4-18 in the contest, it showed that Alexander is gaining confidence in his shot as well as getting to the rim as he seen by his seven free throw attempts.
3. Amir Johnson, PF, Acquired via trade this off-season
The acquisition of Johnson was easily John Hammond’s biggest dice roll this year. Many experts believe that he will thrive in a new setting and seeing consistent minutes, away from the bench role he saw for three years in Detroit, but his first game in the Summer League was anything but a breakout performance.
Johnson started at center for the Bucks, logging 21 minutes while totaling four points, four rebounds, seven turnovers and seven personal fouls. It was hardly a good start for the 22-year-old California native, who has the potential to be the next Josh Smith on defense if he can harness his potential.
The best part about Johnson is that he is still young and will have many opportunities to get better on a Bucks team that lacks depth and needs a power forward to step up and start.
His full potential is probably two or three years away, but the Bucks could really benefit from him making improvements this summer.
4. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, F, Second Round Pick in 2008
Of all the returning players coming to the Bucks next year, Mbah a Moute tops the list as the one I am most excited about. As a second round pick last year, he was not expected to be much more than a practice body that could provide good minutes off the bench if needed.
However, he proved to be much more than that, playing in all 82 games while starting 51 of them.
This season, he will look to improve on last year’s success and fight for the starting small forward position. Despite being a tweener at both forward positions, Mbah a Moute showed that he is capable of playing multiple positions and roles on the team.
As he works on a better post game and adds muscle to his frame, he has the potential to be a double-double threat every night.
5. Salim Stoudemire, PG, signed this off-season
Call this my major sleeper pick, but I believe Stoudamire still has a whole lot of potential in him and can make the Bucks roseter this year and have an impact. His rookie season was the best of his three year career, but battling the likes of Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby for playing time isn’t the best way to show off your skills.
In the first Summer League game, Stoudamire played 13 minutes and contributed six points with a rebound, assist, and two steals. While it was nothing spectacular, the point guard position will be a big time mystery heading into the season and Stoudamire can make his case for minutes this summer.
Ramon Sessions and Jennings will head the depth chart and Luke Ridnour will see decent minutes as well, but if Stoudamire can prove his point in the summer, he will find a spot on the Bucks roster.