Bucks look to bounce back, Ilyasova talking Turkey, Bogut on the comeback trail

Pelton: Five lottery teams that could break through to the playoffs next season
Over at ESPN, the intrepid Kevin Pelton picks the Bucks as the most likely lotto team to be playing in the postseason a year from now.

Teams a year removed from a playoff run get out of the lottery 40.7 percent of the time, as compared to 27.3 percent for all other teams. Second, while the 2010-11 campaign was disappointing, bad luck was a major factor. In addition to the injuries, Milwaukee's point differential was more typical of a 39-win team than of a 35-win one.

The glass half full: given everything that went wrong this year, improvement is inevitable--and in the East that's likely good enough to play in the postseason.  The glass half empty: it's not clear how the Bucks intend to go from just getting into the playoffs to actually winning once they're there. Baby steps?   

We're BuckedIs Ilyasova Preparing to Leave the Bucks?
K.L Chouinard catches up on some press reports out of Turkey which suggest Ersan Ilyasova may be looking to return to his old club Fenerbahce. While Brandon Jennings is one of many NBA players who have alluded to playing in Europe in the event of a lockout delaying the regular season, there's very little certainty about whether FIBA would even allow players with existing contracts to sign with other professional teams in the event of a work stoppage. As Marc Stein notes, players would risk voiding their big contracts in the event of a major injury suffered abroad, and FIBA will no doubt be under major pressure from David Stern--the guy who has enabled NBA stars to participate in FIBA events over the past two decades--to uphold contracts even when NBA teams aren't allowing them to ply their trade.

However, Ilyasova's situation is a bit different from Jennings' and other NBA players with existing contracts.  Ilyasova passed up more lucrative offers in Europe when he returned to MIlwaukee two summers ago, likely hoping that he'd prove enough in Milwaukee to justify a significant pay raise when his contract expired in 2012.  But while he's been a quality rotation player and occasional starter, right now I'd guess he'll be able to make more money in Europe even after he hits unrestricted free agency. And as a European who's been a star in both Spain and Turkey, it's much easier to see a player like Ilyasova taking the bait than your average American.  

That said, it's still 2011 and odds are Ilyasova and others won't be able to ditch their NBA teams too easily. An interesting note on that subject: though players can negotiate otherwise (like Shaq back in the day), the standard player contract pays them only during the season--every two weeks for six months beginning November 15. As a result, even if a lockout begins in July (when the current CBA expires), most players with contracts wouldn't be getting paid for a few months anyway. Previously the Bucks allowed both Lynn Greer and Roko Ukic out of their contracts to play in Europe, but neither of them were key rotation guys. And in spite of Ilyasova's complaints about not getting the minutes he expected this year, he actually played more mpg this year than last. But with Drew Gooden, Larry Sanders, and Jon Brockman around and Luc Mbah a Moute due for a new contract, could Ilyasova's days in Milwaukee be numbered?  

Some good things did happen in 2011 (excellent work from Brandon).

JS: Bogut hopes to leave pain behind
Nothing earth shattering, but Tom Enlund has a bit more on Bogut's summer plans, including a challenge from Scott Skiles to get in better shape--something we discussed a bit in the comments over the past couple weeks.

"He's got to improve his post moves, his foot work and his speed up and down the floor," said Skiles. "He's got to get in better condition. This was a year that was obviously very difficult on him, trying to come back from that injury and hopefully he can put that all behind him and have a good summer working on his skill set and come back better.

"He said early in the season that he didn't think he was going to be 100% all year long and so hopefully this will be it. He'll have a great summer and come back energized and ready to go."

Woelfel: Bogut key to Bucks' fortunes
Gery Woelfel with a bit more on that Bogut guy, including some words from his buddy Carlos Delfino.

"There were some games where he couldn't do anything, but he continued trying and showing the way. I guess that's what a captain does and he was a great captain in trying to show how to play through pain and injuries."

Ford: Who's In and Out of the 2011 Draft (Insider)
We'll have a bunch more on the draft in the coming weeks, but a good starting point for those looking to get caught up is Chad Ford's latest at ESPN. Lottery teams were dealt a serious blow when potential top five picks Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes and Perry Jones all opted to return to school, but otherwise most of the top lottery talent is making the leap in spite of the CBA uncertainty. In the past few weeks we've seen Brandon Knight (PG/SG, Kentucky), Terrence Jones (SF/PF, Kentucky), Kemba Walker (PG, UConn), Alec Burks (SG, Colorado), Kawhi Leonard (SF/PF, San Diego St.), Jordan Hamilton (SF, Texas), and the Morris twins (PFs, Kansas) declare for the draft, providing at least some hope that the Bucks could get a quality player even if they don't luck out in the lottery. While not all of them have hired agents, the only other lottery talent who's opted to return to school is UNC's John Henson. 

The lottery is also likely to have a decidedly international flavor, with five players currently playing in Europe projected in the top nine by DraftExpress. The one thing they all have in common: size. In the middle, Lithuania's Jonas Valanciunas and Turkey's Enes Kanter figure to be gone before the Bucks pick, while the Congo's Bismack Biyombo has been impressing in the Spanish league for months and dominated America's best high schoolers at the recent Nike Hoops Summit, bringing an NBA-ready body with a ridiculous 7'7" wingspan. There's a better chance of the Bucks having a shot at the 7-foot Donatas Motiejunas and Czech jumping jack Jan Vesely, though Motiejunas sounds awfully soft and Vesely could prove too much of a tweener to excel in the NBA.   

Assuming the Bucks end up at #10, Ford's latest mock draft has the Bucks taking the explosive Burks, who declared last week after a stellar sophomore year in which he averaged 20.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, and 2.9 apg on 58% true shooting. An athletic shot-creator would be a welcome addition to the Bucks' unexplosive attack, so on paper there's a lot to like about the 19-year-old Burks. Stay tuned.

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