As training camps open in Milwaukee and across the rest of the NBA landscape, each team faces key questions to sort out over the next few weeks. The coaching staff and front office remain intact from last season, but the roster has once again undergone a significant makeover since last spring. The Bucks made yet another draft-day move, shipping out some of their depth for a true starting center (Samuel Dalembert) to replace the departed Andrew Bogut. Milwaukee's first-round selection, forward John Henson out of North Carolina, showed some pleasantly surprising skills in summer league, but he steps into a crowded stable of players at his position. Much of the power forward-center rotation remains muddled.
Meanwhile, the other end of the roster seems well populated, but the skill overlap raises questions. With the oft-mentioned need for a "big guard" seemingly fulfilled by the recent free-agency signing of Marquis Daniels, the guard rotation Milwaukee will carry into camp looks to be coming together. But simply filling out a 15-man roster doesn't necessarily cure the ills of a team with as many holes as the Bucks. Daniels should give coach Scott Skiles another reliable defender in the backcourt to counter opposing scorers, but he offers very little in terms of offensive ability. Floor spacing for the presumed starting lineup still feels like a dangerous proposition: Can Brandon Jennings recapture the good three-point shooting of his early career? Can Ersan Ilyasova sustain the phenomenal shooting ability he displayed last season? These two players figure to carry the bulk of responsibility for spreading the floor among the starters.
Similarly, is the stable of athletic-yet-mildly-skilled forwards capable of handling the task in front of them? The Bucks might be a good bet to lead the league in shot-blocking, but how about rebounding? How will they handle the physical PFs who are capable of just bashing their way to the basket? And can any of them stay on the court long enough to prevent a player rotation comparable to a revolving door?
There's little doubt the Bucks boast a lot of talent on the roster, perhaps the most in recent memory. But redundancy might be an issue. One might fairly criticize management for populating the team as an exercise in quota-filling. "We need X number of forwards and Y number of guards, let's get some."The "point guard and power forwards" mantra might be smart strategy in fantasy basketball, but it can leave a true team with glaring weaknesses.
Of course, none of us can confidently predict how the roster will evolve during camp. Truth be told, the answers to these roster balance issues may already be on hand. Their names? Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb.
Lamb was one of the top shooters in the draft, with numbers so consistently excellent that its a fair expectation he'll be able to step in on day one as a knockdown spot-up shooter. He could be a great offensive weapon for the second unit or play spot minutes with the starters when Jennings and Ellis get split up. How he handles the defensive end will surely dictate his level of involvement, as Scott Skiles isn't likely to regularly call on a young guy who consistently gets burned under his own basket (see: Leuer, Jon). If he can hold up well on that end, he could be a tremendous floor-spacer at a great value.
Aside from Brandon Jennings, Harris might be the most anticipated breakout candidate on the team. He was reasonably productive as a scorer and rebounder in limited minutes last season, and he figures to have an expanded role this year. It looks like he'll settle in at the small forward position for the most part, perhaps spending some time at the 4 if the Bucks utilize smallball tactics. As such, his outside shot should be a top priority. Defense might be an issue as well, but what news we've seen from him over the last month suggests he's in terrific shape and has dropped much of the bulk he carried out of Tennessee in his rookie season.
Getting good contributions from either of these players could go a long way toward resolving some of the balance issues we've noticed on Milwaukee's roster. Or maybe John Hammond will manage to swing a trade and cash in more of his squads' depth for top-shelf talent. It's sure to be one of the top issues facing the organization as training camp unfolds.