In his season preview, John Hollinger takes the Bucks over the Bulls by a game.
Fear the deer. The Bucks won 46 games last season with numerous
flaws, and they spent the offseason aggressively addressing most of
those weaknesses. The only real decline will come at backup point guard,
where the Dooling-Boykins combo is unlikely to approach Ridnour's
Nonetheless, there is plenty of room for
optimism. The Bucks have a pair of second-tier stars in Bogut and
Maggette, and the hope that Jennings and even Salmons might join them in
that category. Moreover, they are one of the deepest teams in
basketball and should be able to match up in any way needed.
projecting the Bucks' record, I had two big questions. The obvious one
is health. Bogut's elbow is one concern, but the oft-injured Maggette's
availability is another. Both players have enough of an injury history
that I was conservative with minutes estimates for each; if they can
stay healthy for 75 games, the Bucks will achieve beyond what I've
The other confounding prospect is the
defense. It's a credit to Skiles that the Bucks played so hard last
season and finished third in defensive efficiency, but it also begs the
question of whether they're doomed to regress. Most of the new players
aren't accomplished defenders, most notably Maggette, so this is another
source of potential slippage.
Nonetheless, it's hard to
imagine this team missing out on the playoffs. If the D holds up, the
Bucks should be in the mix for one of the top seeds in the East. If so,
Milwaukee will continue a remarkable and unexpected shift to prominence
from what seemed a hopeless situation two seasons ago.
There's no question things are looking up in Chicago. Thibodeau is
just the guy to take an already talented defensive group and turn it
into a force of nature, and Rose is blossoming into one of the game's
top point guards. The easily forgotten Deng remains one of the best
small forwards in the conference. Throw in the emerging Noah-Boozer
frontcourt and the promising Gibson-Asik pairing to back them up, and
the Bulls should be a top-five team in the East for years to come.
I don't think the Bulls' offense is going to match its defense. Rose,
for all his gifts, is not a good long-range shooter, and that replicates
a weakness found up and down the roster. The wing players as a group
are a grade below what's found on most contending teams, and any
injuries to the historically fragile Noah-Boozer combo will blow open a
crater in the frontcourt rotation.
I expect the Bulls to
be a good team, but not anything more. They could easily be a top-five
defense and could place two players into the All-Star Game, but I have a
hard time seeing them moving above the league average in offensive
efficiency. Until or unless they do, 50 wins is their ceiling.
Hollinger seems to love Corey Maggettte far more than any of the teams he's played for. Maggette has piled up lots of points on high efficiency for losing teams his entire career. I don't know anyone else who considers him a borderline star. He also calls Drew Gooden a great value contract.
The one concern I have for the Bucks is that they were the #3 defense in the NBA last season, a tribute to Scott Skiles defensive genius IMO, but the roster moves made this season appear to be made almost as a taunt. Drew Gooden is one of the worst big men defenders in the league. He rebounds well, he has the size and athleticism, but he just has god awful court awareness.
Maggette's reputation is fairly similar, but since he wasn't on the Bulls, and I like to really watch a player a ton to make those judgments, I won't say for sure.
Either way, the Bucks will be hard pressed to defend at the same level this season. I look at their roster vs the Bulls roster from position basis, and I simply don't see how the Bucks end up with the better team. The Bulls have mammoth advantages at PG and PF, while the Bucks have a large advantage at SG only if Salmons continues to play well (which he's basically never done for more than half a season after a trade). They have an advantage at C as well, but not a large one, and I'd definitely give Deng the nod over Maggette at SF though Maggette has his strengths.
The Bulls bench is just as deep with Gibson, Watson, and Korver making up the remainder of their top 8 rotation against.
At any rate, I look at the Bucks and think, they'll be hard pressed to repeat. They had performances by several players (Salmons in particular) that I don't think are sustainable and brought in two guys who are terrible passers and defenders making things even worse for Salmons as he went from an isolation scorer on a team that needed one to one of three isolation scorers likely to be on the floor at any one time.
The Bucks are cursed with the same flaw as the Bulls in terms of a lack of outside shooting, so I don't think they'll have that on us either. I'd expect the Bulls to be better on both ends with a better closer and a cast that meshes more with each other than the Bucks.
Maybe I'm just a homer though.