The 2009-2010 NBA schedules were released last week, and the Milwaukee Bucks received their list of 82 opponents of the regular season. The team went over a semi-makeover this off-season, getting rid of veterans Charlie Villanueva and Richard Jefferson and bringing in the young talent of Amir Johnson, Brandon Jennings, Jodie Meeks, and Hakim Warrick. Here’s a look at the ten most intriguing matchups that the Bucks will face this season in no particular order.
1. Saturday, October 31st – Detroit Pistons vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Charlie Villanueva will return to the Bradley Center in Milwaukee just two games into the season. Villanueva signed with the Pistons this offseason after not receiving a qualifying offer from the Bucks. Along with the additions of Ben Gordon and Ben Wallace, Villanueva and co. will look to spoil the Bucks’ home opener.
2. Friday, November 6th – Milwaukee Bucks vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
Just a week after the season opener, the Bucks will travel north to play the new look Timberwolves. Heading into this year’s NBA Draft, the talent at point guard was the topic of conversation as five point guards were selected in the first ten picks.
Three of those point guards will match up when Brandon Jennings faces Johnny Flynn and Ricky Rubio. Jennings will have the chance to prove to the Wolves that they made a mistake in passing on him, while Rubio and Flynn will show Scott Skiles and the Bucks why the Wolves were right.
3. Saturday, December 26th – San Antonio Spurs vs. Milwaukee Bucks
The day after Christmas, the Bucks will get their second taste of a former player in a new uniform when Richard Jefferson and the Spurs come to town. Traded for Fabricio Oberto, Bruce Bowen, and Kurt Thomas, Jefferson has now made the Spurs contenders again as he joins Tim Duncan and Tony Parker this year.
Jefferson spent just one year in Milwaukee but quickly become a fan favorite and was greatly counted on when Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut went down with season-ending injuries.
4. Friday, December 18th – Milwaukee Bucks vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Bucks will play the Cavs twice on the road (March 31st as well) in what should prove to be huge tests for the young Bucks team. Teamed up with Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James and the front-runner Cavaliers will look to bully the Bucks when they meet at “The Q”.
The Cavs lost just two times at home last year and should be up to more of the same with O’Neal in the lineup. The Bucks will also see an old friend in Mo Williams, who averaged almost 17 points per game against his former team last year.
5. Friday, March 12th – Utah Jazz vs. Milwaukee Bucks
You’re probably confused as to why this would be an interesting game, but Wesley Matthews was extended an offer to the Jazz’s veteran camp this summer and will have a chance to make the team this season.
Matthews, a four year player at Marquette University, was loved by many and called the Bradley Center home for every game played in Milwaukee.
You can bet that if Matthews makes the team there will be a huge fan base in attendance cheering him on. Just ten minutes away from campus, loads of people would come to the Bradley Center to cheer their man on.
6. Saturday, January 30th – Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Staying with the Marquette theme, former standout guard Dwyane Wade will visit the Bradley Center twice this year in his return to Milwaukee. In 2003, Wade led the Golden Eagles to their first Final Four appearance since winning the title in 1977, and has been a big supporter of Marquette ever since.
The matchup will be a tough one for the Bucks, who lost two of three games to the Heat last season. The game will also feature a pair of U.S.A. Redeem Team members in Michael Redd and Wade. Together, they helped Team U.S.A take home the gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
7. Friday, January 8th – Chicago Bulls vs. Milwaukee Bucks
The Illinois-Wisconsin rivalry continues when the Bulls come to town to square off in the third of four match ups between the two teams this season. The Bulls took three of four games last season from the Bucks, but with the loss of Ben Gordon the future is up in the air. Scott Skiles will also match up against his former team, as he coached the Bulls from 2003 to 2007.
8. Wednesday, December 16th – Los Angeles Lakers vs. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks will get their shot at the defending champs at home when the Lakers come to town in mid-December. Last year, Kobe Bryant put up 30 points, eight rebounds, and four assists at the Bradley Center as the Lakers won 104-98.
Milwaukee will look to get their revenge and will hopefully have Michael Redd this time around. Last year, Redd missed both matchups against Los Angeles and Andrew Bogut missed one. If the Bucks are at full strength, an upset could be in the cards.
9. Wednesday, November 25th – Milwaukee Bucks vs. New Orleans Hornets
If Brandon Jennings doesn’t get his first “Welcome to the NBA” moment within the first month of the season, he sure will when he visits Chris Paul and the Hornets.
One of the best, if not the best, point guards in the game, Paul will match up on Brandon Jennings and use his elusive quickness, speed, and strength to give Jennings a lesson on how to play the point in the NBA.
10. Tuesday, January 26th – Milwaukee Bucks vs. Dallas Mavericks
Last season, the Bucks put up a commanding 133 points against the Mavs in Dallas, and will look to do so again when the two teams match up.
The other storyline in the game is the mystery of what the Bucks’ franchise would look like had they not traded away Dirk Nowitzki. Drafted ninth overall in the 1998 Draft out of Germany by the Bucks, he was then traded to the Mavericks for Tractor Traylor.
Every time the Bucks play the Mavericks, it has to sting a little bit knowing what they gave up in the All Star power forward.
With the games completed and recapped, it is now time to grade out the 2009 Milwaukee Bucks roster. It was an important summer for the young squad that needed a lot of questions answered during the five-game span in Las Vegas. Let’s see how it all went down.
Jodie Meeks, SG: Drafted in the second round, 41st overall, Meeks was expected to fight for a roster spot behind shooting guards Michael Redd and Charlie Bell.
In order to do this, he was going to have to shoot lights out and show he was capable of playing defense at an NBA level despite his slightly undersized frame at 6’4″. Well, After five games in the Summer League, it is looking more and more like Meeks was a huge steal in the draft and should have no problem making the roster.
During the five games, Meeks averaged a team-high 19 points while shooting a blistering 55.7 percent from the field. The junior from Kentucky showed a complete range of shooting as just eight of his 39 field goals were from behind the arc. Known for being a pure shooter in college, scouts wondered whether or not he could contribute in other areas of the game.
Defensively, Meeks had a steal in all five games and, from what I saw, did not look overmatched at all. He only averaged 2.2 rebounds per game, but that number did not need to be any higher than that.
Originally, I thought Meeks could be the second coming of Eddie House for the Bucks, but not I believe Meeks could be something special to come out of this draft. He reminds me a lot of Michael Redd who was also a pure shooter in college selected in the second round. In fact, Meeks (41st) and Redd (43rd) were taken by the Bucks in almost the exact same spot.
For whatever the Summer League is worth, which admittedly lacks on the defense, Meeks proved he is here to stay. GRADE: A
Brandon Jennings, PG: Despite Meeks’ hot shooting, most eyes were on the 10th selection in this year’s NBA draft. Many wondered how Jennings would play in his first “American basketball” game in over a year. After struggling in Europe in his only year there, Jennings showed that he is fully capable of playing and succeeding in the NBA.
After a shaky first game, Jennings ended the summer averaging 14.6 points and 8.2 assists. He looked blazing fast in the games as one scout said he “was the fastest player on the court, with or without the ball”. He showed glimpses of Steve Nash on his passing ability, Deron Williams on his range from deep, Chris Paul with his ability to get to the lane and finish with a floater, and a little bit of Allen Iverson in his pick-pocketing abilities playing on the ball.
Jennings will have to shoot better in the regular season (37.9 percent) but in a shot-happy summer league, that number is not completely accurate. His turnovers were also up at 4.2 per game but his passing abilities were not questioned during the week.
He is still raw and will need some work, but after a week it looks like the Bucks made nicely on their gamble of Jennings. GRADE: B+
Joe Alexander, SF: Many believe that general manager John Hammond decided to trade Richard Jefferson to 1) save money and 2) put in on Joe Alexander to become a starting small forward in the NBA.
Over the week, Alexander showed flashes of talent but also played out of control at times. What this means is he might be a year or two from completely breaking out but will need to harness his athleticism and turn it into a basketball player.
Alexander averaged 16.6 points and 6.4 rebounds to go along with 1.4 assists and 1.4 blocks per contest. The number that jumps out to me is the rebounding display that Alexander put on. In the games I watched, he positioned himself well and was aggressive on the glass.
He shot just 39.7 percent from the floor but went to the basket strong, averaging 7.6 free throws per game. He also turned the ball over just five times in the 160 minutes he played. GRADE: B
Amir Johnson, PF: Everyone in Milwaukee and their grandmothers are expecting a breakout season for Amir Johnson this year, but last week was not a good start.
Johnson really had just one game that could be considered a plus, occurring against the Bulls when he went for 17 points and eight rebounds.
Fouls were a problem for Johnson all week, however. In the four games he played in, he racked up eight, six, six, and seven fouls in each of the contests. It looks as though he will need to add more strength to survive in the NBA post.
Offensively, he shot 60 percent from the field and averaged 10.5 points per game. He is smooth and finesse down low and can really get up as seen in the alley-oop dunks thrown from Jennings. He reminds me a lot of a Tyrus Thomas that will play more in the post.
Johnson had his highs and lows during the week, but much more will be expected out of him over the course of the season. GRADE: B-
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, F
I was very excited going into the summer to see if Mbah a Moute could build on his fantastic 2008 campaign. Unfortuantely, he struggled to find his rhythm over the week and did not improve much. For the week, he averaged 7.8 points and 6.4 rebounds but failed to stand out amongst everyone else.
It seems as though we can expect much of the same from Mbah a Moute next year, which isn’t neccesarily a bad thing but just not a better thing. GRADE: C
Will McDonald, C
Outside of the starting five for the Bucks, no one else made much of a splash. McDonald was the “best of the rest”, averaging 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in an average of 16 minutes in the three games he appeared him. He is a longshot to make the team but had a decent week. GRADE: D
Following draft night on June 25th, Bucks’ general manager John Hammond must have been excited about the upcoming year. After trading last year’s most consistent starter in Richard Jefferson and letting fan favorite and starting power forward Charlie Villanueva walk away, it was clear the team was moving in a different and younger direction.
The additions of Amir Johnson as well as Brandon Jennings and Jodie Meeks through the draft gave the front office a positive attitude heading into the future. Throw in Joe Alexander, an athletic forward who showed promise and a lot of athleticism at time last year, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute from last year’s draft class, and this was a team worth getting excited about.
A week and five summer games later, Hammond must be feeling A LOT more excited.
The Bucks finished up their Summer League mini-season Thursday with a last second loss to the Toronto Raptors. It marked the fifth game in Las Vegas for the Bucks who finished a very respectable four and one on the trip. Here’s an entire recap of the week that was.
Game One: Bucks 65, Mavs 59
Both the Bucks and Mavs showed a good amount of rust in the first game for each team, with the Bucks pulling away down the stretch. Jodie Meeks and Joe Alexander led the Bucks with 14 points apiece and Brandon Jennings put in ten points of his own.
Both teams matched up fairly evenly the whole game, but the big difference was at the charity stripe where the Mavs shot just 56.5 percent (13-23) compared to the Bucks 75 percent (18-24).
Game Two: Bucks 80, Cavaliers 69
The two teams stayed neck and neck in the first half before the Bucks went on a 25-3 run in the third quarter to pull away from the Cavs in the second Summer League game. The star of the night was Brandon Jennings who had 23 points and eight assists to go along with five steals on the night.
The Bucks played arguably their most efficient game of the summer, turning the ball over just ten times compared to 23 Cavalier turnovers. Joe Alexander struggled from the field for the second straight game while Jodie Meeks shot lights out for 16 points, including eight in the decisive third quarter.
Game Three: Bucks 91, Kings 86
Joe Alexander finally broke out of his shooting slump to score 24 points on eight-of-13 shooting while adding a team-high seven rebounds and Brandon Jennings showed off an array of talent that led to 13 points, 14 assists, and seven steals.
Jennings, the tenth overall pick in the NBA draft, improved his statline for the third straight game as he seems get more and more comfortable with the NBA game flow. It was the best game offensively for the Bucks who won their third straight game of the summer.
Jodie Meeks continued his tear with 20 points on eight of 12 shooting.
The Bucks matched up against two familiar faces in Marquette’s Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal. Matthews poured in 14 points while McNeal added two of his own.
Game Four: Bucks 87, Bulls 72
The Bucks won their fourth consecutive game of the Summer League in their most spread out fashion as four players scored in double figures. Amir Johnson posted his best line of the week with 17 points and eight rebounds against some pretty stout talent in James Johnson and Taj Gibson.
Brandon Jennings posted 14 points and nine assists against the border rivals and Jodie Meeks went for 16 points.
The Bucks led for the majority of the game which allowed reserve Will McDonald to log 18 minutes of his own. He made the most of it, scoring nine points and hauling in five assists.
Game Five: Raptors 84, Bucks 83
The Bucks were one shot by Quincy Douby away from ending the Summer League with a perfect 5-0 record, but fell to the Raptors in the league finale.
Jodie Meeks stayed red hot this summer, scoring 29 points on 12-23 shooting, including four from downtown. Joe Alexander finished up nicely, scoring 14 points on 7-14 shooting for the Bucks.
Brandon Jennings struggled to take care of the ball as he committed eight turnovers, but finished the game with 13 points and seven assists.
Meeks was awarded first team All-Summer League honors after his performance in the game and wowed many Bucks’ front office personell.
Tomorrow player breakdowns can be found right here.
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.
The 2009 NBA Draft has come and gone with many picks that came as surprises (Minnesota selecting four PG’s) and some picks that did not (Blake Griffin to the Clippers). Staying in the Midwest, let’s break down the Bucks and what they did last night to improve their team.
First Round, 10th Overall: Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy
One of the biggest stories of this year’s draft was where Jennings would end up. Having one of the biggest ceilings of any player in the draft made him an option as early as number four to the Sacramento Kings, but his decision to play in Europe instead of college, making him somewhat of an unknown, meant that there was a chance he slipped out of the lottery.
However, when the Bucks’ pick came around, Johnny Flynn, Ricky Rubio, Tyreke Evans, and Stephen Curry had already been selected. Jennings was the next highest ranked point guard in front of the likes of Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, and Jeff Teague.
Why I Liked the Pick: Jennings’ stats in Europe (5.5 points, 1.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists in 17 minutes) do not reflect the kind of player he is. His senior year at the prestigious Oak Hill Academy, Jennings set a school record for total points and scoring average in a single season. This is the same high school that has had Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Josh Smith, and Rajan Rando attend, among others.
His best asset is his ability to score, giving the Bucks a scoring point guard that they lacked last year. With a 37 inch vertical, Jennings’ athleticism was second to none in the draft which should make up for his lack of size (6’2″, 165 pounds). Another one of Jennings’ traits is his ability to push the basketball and find open teammates.
He is a playmaker on offense and gives the Bucks a threat at the position every night. His lightning quick speed makes it near impossible to stay in front of him and he is an excellent finisher at the hoop. With Rubio and Flynn off the board, the Bucks took the player with the next biggest upside and a player that could be the steal of the draft as he becomes more polished.
Why I Didn’t Like The Pick: Jennings is a bit of a showboater and a “me-first” player which is not going to fly in Milwaukee. It’s true that in the NBA, one needs to have an ego to succeed and keep up with the rest of the crowd, but if Jennings comes in with too big of a head, he will be in for a very quick and large reality check.
With Jrue Holiday still on the board, taking Jennings might be a questionable call. The freshman from UCLA slipped all the way to the 17th pick but easily could have been swiped up by the Bucks. Like Jennings, Holiday has tremendous upside and more of an NBA frame to build on.
Jennings is also very raw and might take a few years to develop, especially if he can not come in and shoot the ball well. He needs a more consistent jump shot and needs to make better decisions on the court. He has been in the spotlight his whole career, so he should be able to make the jump fairly easily.
Defensively, he will need to bulk up a bit more in order to play night in and night out against what will usually be a much bigger point guard (in terms of weight). His scouting report says that he is a defensive gambler which could be a good thing if he perfects it.
Overall Breakdown: With Flynn and Jordan Hill off the board, Jennings was most likely at the top of the Bucks draft board. It probably meant that Ramon Sessions has played his last game as a Milwaukee Buck, while management will likely begin negotiating with Charlie Villanueva. Jennings has superstar potential if he can harness his ego, continue to work on his game, and become more consistent. OVERALL GRADE: A-
Second Round, 41st Overall: Jodie Meeks, SG, Memphis
One of the group of players who was leaning towards pulling his name out of the draft before the deadline was Meeks. With the number one recruiting class in the nation back at Kentucky, his senior year awaiting, and the chance to be a favorite for the National Championship, Meeks had many reasons to go back to school and see what could have been.
In the end, Meeks decided to stay in the draft and wound up on a rebuilding and improving Milwaukee Bucks squad. With a potential future point guard already in the bag, the Bucks stayed in the backcourt and selected one of the purest shooters in the draft not named Stephen Curry.
Why I Liked The Pick: At number 41 overall, Meeks was excellent value for a Bucks team that was looking for the best player available and not neccesarily a need. Last year, the Bucks ranked 18th in the league in bench scoring with 26.4 points per game and will likely get a boost with Meeks.
Despite being one-dimensional for the most part, that one dimension is the only thing Meeks will need to succeed in the NBA. His long-range shooting was unbelievable this year as he averaged 23.8 points per game, good for eighth in all of college basketball. Meeks is able to shoot from any spot on the floor and will give the Bucks an Eddie House-type player that can come off the bench and make up baskets.
Why I Didn’t Like The Pick: When looking at Meeks’ game, one could say that he is a poor man’s Michael Redd in the sense of other than scoring, he isn’t going to bring much on a given night. With a guy like Chase Budinger still on the board who could potentially fill in as a replacement for Richard Jefferson, the pick seems questionable.
Charlie Bell will be back for the Bucks next year as a solid back-up shooting guard so the pick was hardly a need.
Overall Breakdown: Meeks was the best pure shooting guard left on the draft board and will be a scorer in the league. I doubt he will ever be able to start just because he can’t do much other than shoot, but if he can be Eddie House for the Bucks, the pick will be worthwhile. I just wonder if Budinger or Danny Green would have been a better decision. OVERALL GRADE: B