The 2008 Milwaukee Buck's slogan is all about the team being new. They have a new coach in Scott Skiles, a new defensive philosophy, and a new point guard and small forward.
But they can talk about the word "new" and all of it's good points for as long as they want. The fact of the matter is, does "new" translate to winning, and when will we know?
The Bucks still benefit from several things. First, they retain on of the leagues most prolific scorers in Michael Redd, as well as a promising center in Andrew Bogut. But what isn't desirable about both of these players is that they play awful defense, and outside of their obvious attributes, offer very little to team-play and are defensive liabilities.
Scott Skiles is coming into Wisconsin with the same mindset he had when he took the job at Chicago. He knew what types of players he was being given, and what players he needed to draft and sign to assemble the team he felt could win. And that team is a team that can consistently score, but even more consistently stop it's opponents from scoring. Considering the Bucks haven't been able to stop anyone in years, this is no small feat.
So where do new GM John Hammond and Skiles start? Where any new regime would start; unloading the dead weight. It was obvious, even after one year, that Yi Jianlian wasn't the player the Bucks thought he was. He wasn't a banger or a great outside shooter. He was a moderate rebounder who could shoot the mid-range jump-shot. When you already have that player in Charlie Villanueva, you have to ask yourself two questions: Who is the better player right now, and who could be the better player down the road. Apparently, that question was easily answered.
John Hammond continued his cleaning of house, as he unloaded a terrible contract and underachieving player in Bobby Simmons. The best part, is he got a great player in Richard Jefferson in exchange for on of the league's worst contracts, and a rookie bust. Not a bad trade. And most importantly? Jefferson does two things exceptionally well: He's a high percentage shooter, and a lock-down defender.
Then Hammond looked to the draft for two cornerstones of the future, Joe Alexander and Luc Richard Mbag a Moute, two players who are hard workers and can play defense. The only problem with both of them is when and where to play them.
The last main transaction made to complete the Milwaukee Bucks' makeover was to get rid of score-first point guard Mo' Williams, and find a guy who can get his teammates the ball, and well as cover the opposing guards. Luke Ridnour, who had become the odd man out in Seattle after the team started playing Earl Watson ahead of him, and then drafted Russell Westbrook, was the prime candidate to take over for the Bucks.
Hammond pulled off a three-team trade that sent Williams to the Cavaliers, and brought Ridnour to Milwaukee to take over the starting job that he deserves. Before his unexpected demotion a year ago, Ridnour was beginning to progress as a passer and defender, jumping from 5 assists to 7 assists per game. His only true knock is his shooting tends to be erratic, but with Michael Redd in town, this doesn't seem to be a problem.
Now, with all these fresh faces in the offices and on the court, will it finally translate to victories, and ultimately a spot in the post-season? If you've been watching the Bucks' pre-season action, you'd probably answer with a quick, no. And the truth is, the Bucks are at least a year or two away from teams like Charlotte and Chicago, who aren't even sure-fire playoff teams this year.
Either way, the defensive mindset should begin kicking in by mid-season, which will inevitably lead to better play, smoother chemistry, and more wins. I buy into the coach, the GM, and all the new acquisitions. Now it's time for the Bucks' players to do the same.