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Is John Hammond following a Pistons blueprint in Milwaukee?

I’ve made no secrets in the past about my intrigue with the Milwaukee Bucks. I loved the way the toughness they played with in surprisingly making the playoffs a couple seasons ago. Andrew Bogut, when healthy, is truly one of the best defensive players in the game. Brandon Jennings showing up in the middle of the draft and surprising David Stern on-stage will forever be one of the greatest moments in NBA Draft history. Former Piston Carlos Delfino (always a favorite of mine when he was in Detroit) finally started realizing his potential that season and the Bucks even had a Flint guy, Charlie Bell in the fold. Most importantly, though, John Hammond really seemed to be putting together a team the way Joe Dumars did in the early 2000s — finding value where others couldn’t see any, not over-spending and building around a defensive-minded big man.

Then things got a bit off course last season. Hammond over-spent on the overrated John Salmons and Drew Gooden. He acquired noted ball-stopper Corey Maggette. Jennings didn’t improve from his promising rookie season, Bogut wasn’t healthy and the Bucks regressed.

But after the moves the Bucks made around this year’s draft? I’m firmly back on the bandwagon. They’re not a championship caliber team, but I still once again see some parallels between the Bucks and those early 2000s Pistons teams. I wrote about this in a guest post for new NBA blog The Crossover Dribble:

Although Bogut and Jennings are clearly the keys to any success the Bucks will have, the team also has a supporting cast in place that is built for the postseason. Newly acquired guard Stephen Jackson is the type of big, strong, defensive-minded perimeter defender the Bucks need to bother the league’s best wing players. Jackson isn’t the only versatile swingman either — Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Carlos Delfino and first round pick Tobias Harris all bring different and distinctive skills to the table. Beno Udrih is one of the better backup point guards in the league (albeit an expensive one). Shot blocking forward/center Larry Sanders could turn into another defensive minded presence next to Bogut.

We’ve talked some about the Pistons’ dim postseason prospects this season, but what about the rest of the East? Is age going to catch up to Boston? Is Dwight Howard’s impending free agency going to be a distraction to the Magic? Miami and Chicago are givens, but who are your picks to perhaps surprise and move to the cusp of the East’s elite this season? I definitely think the Bucks will be a top five team, but I could make cases for the Pacers, Philly or New York to move way up as well. What do you think?

9 Comments

  • Sep 27, 20111:10 pm
    by neutes

    Reply

    I like the Bucks but their ceiling is limited. They do have Bogut and he’s good. Jackson is getting older. Jennings doesn’t look like he’s ever going to turn into the player both he and the Bucks would hope for. Udrih is a better PG. They’re gonna need to swing some sort of homerun type trade to make a jump. Move a bunch of pieces for one. They’re kind of stuck in the same breath as the Houston Rockets at the moment. They have a team of underrated productive players, but nobody to get them over the hump.

    • Sep 27, 20111:25 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      But the difference is, the Rockets will never make the playoffs in the West. They’ll always be in that 9-12 range as constructed. The Bucks, on the other hand, could be as high as a 3 or 4 seed as is and it wouldn’t shock me. They’d get clobbered by Miami or Chicago in a series for sure, but that puts less pressure on them to make a big move than it does on Houston.

      • Sep 27, 20112:23 pm
        by tarsier

        Reply

        You must think of S-Jax much, much more highly than I do. He’s a good fit as a scorer on the Bucks. But he’s still at best an average starter.

  • Sep 27, 20112:08 pm
    by tarsier

    Reply

    I can’t see top 5. I mean, they have decent potential and all. But their total talent level is comparable to the Pistons’. Thus far, they’ve used it better. But unless, Jennings really improves over last season, they have one above-average starter. That doesn’t cut it. That’s a make the bottom two seeds of the playoffs if everything falls perfectly team.

    Miami and Chicago are shoo-ins to to top seeds. But Boston will do ok too. They’re old, but still a 50 win team easily. As long as the Magic don’t trade Howard, they will be pretty good too. And I don’t know what anyone would offer that is worth more than half a season of Dwight Howard. I think they’d want a productive young player and a high pick. Maybe Brook Lopez + sweeteners (but of course then the Nets could be a top 5 team). And Atlanta just has way more talent than Milwaukee. Short of a major trade (still don’t see the Bynum-Howard deal happening), I can’t see the Bucks surpassing any of those. And I would expect at least two of Philly, New York, and Indiana to be them out too (one of that group could certainly crack top 5 is things fell right for them). But a perfect storm could allow them to get ahead of all of those and squeak into a 6 seed.

    • Sep 27, 20112:35 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      I’m not saying it’s likely, just saying I wouldn’t be surprised. A healthy Bogut is so good and underrated. Jennings has a lot of developing to do, but he’s supposedly added about 10 pounds of muscle this summer and if his 3-point shooting goes back to where it was his rookie year and TOs go down a bit, he’ll be a much better player. I also like the Jackson addition a lot for them.

      They have definite holes (notably at PF), but teams like Orlando and Atlanta are always good bets for dissension plus both played really uninspired ball for stretches last season. You’re right about Boston, they’re still top three, but KG has so many miles on those knees. I just think the 3-8 spots in the East will be more competitive this year.

  • Sep 28, 20119:57 am
    by khandor

    Reply

    @ Patrick,
    re: “I definitely think the Bucks will be a top five team, but I could make cases for the Pacers, Philly or New York to move way up as well. What do you think?”
    What I think is this:
    I would like to make you the following proposal.
    Part 1 – I say that the Milwaukee Bucks will not finish in one of the Top 5 positions in the Eastern Conference next time the NBA has a season.
    Part 2 – You say that the Milwaukee Bucks will finish in one of the Top 5 positions in the Eastern Conference next time the NBA has a season.
    Whichever one of us turns out to be correct will collect a payment of $500 from the other, using our respective paypal accounts.
    Will you agree to accept my proposal, or not?
    It is all too easy for every Tom, Dick or Harry to say whatever it is they wish to say, regarding goings-on in the NBA; but, when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is, it frequently becomes a different story altogether.

  • Oct 1, 20112:22 pm
    by khandor

    Reply

    @ Patrick,
    If your response included the following video clip, then, I would have been able to tell quite clearly that your reply comment was intended to be a form of “acceptance” of my proposal. Alas, however, you chosen to be more cryptic than that. As such, my original proposal still stands, waiting to be, either, accepted or declined. The proverbial ball is still in your hands.

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