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Bucks extend Skiles and Hammond, last-minute scouting and predicting and previewing the Bucks

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement. Bucks extend the contracts of John Hammond and Scott Skiles
From the Unsurprising News File (along with exercising Young Buck's contract last week) arrives word that GM Hammond and Coach Skiles will be hanging around Milwaukee for a while. The team exercised the option on Hammond while Skiles had his contract extended. Both contracts now run through 2012-13. Remember though, this is isn't reward for past, it's a sign of confidence about the future. Re-welcome back.

JS: Bogut, Maggette, Salmons set for opener
Although Skiles has yet to name a starting lineup, with Salmons ready to roll, Jennings/Salmons/Delfino/Gooden/Bogut is the reasonable starting group (The homepage currently features five Bucks -- Maggette rather than Delfino, but I'm not reading into it).

While individually they are far from full strength, the fact that the projected starters are all back in time for Game One is more than many expected just a couple weeks ago. Then again, no matter which fivesome starts, it will be the first time they have ever done so. And typing while watching the Heat score 30 first-half points at the dawn of the James/Wade/Bosh era reminds that it takes time for a group, any group, to gel. Miami's halftime low last year was 32 points.

Also: Douglas-Roberts (eye - see his Twitter updates) and Brockman (sprained left ankle) are out, and Mbah a Moute (sprained right ankle) is questionable, so the Bucks are still possibly the deepest team in the NBA later-- just not sooner. CD-R is of particular concern after undergoing eye surgery that may keep him out a month.

All ten writers foresee the Bucks finishing in the 4-7 range of the East, which is pretty much what everyone not writing for ESPN also thinks. Notably, John Hollinger, Chris Sheridan and Zach Harper pick the Bucks to win the division.

In other Bucks-related ESPN predictions: Chris Sheridan and Michael Wallace predict Skiles to win Coach of the Year, Sheridan picks Ilyasova to win Sixth Man of the Year, Ric Bucher picks Mbah a Moute to win Defensive Player of the Year, and Brian Windhorst calls for Andrew Bogut to win Most Improved Player.

All of that at once.

SI: An opposing team's scout sizes up the Bucks
An enlightening annual read, this particular (unnamed) opposing scout thinks that not only is Maggette best suited on the second unit, but that the Bucks might also tinker with the idea of bringing fellow big-money newcomer Gooden off the bench and starting Ilyasova at the four. I'm not so sure. Skiles does have a very strong track record of playing whomever is playing, to put it simply, but he also opted to start Jennings all 82 games and bring Ridnour all 82 games at point guard last year despite comparable output.
I worry about a dip from Brandon Jennings in his second year. It'll be interesting to see if he's improved his shot. Of course, even when he wasn't shooting it well last season, he still managed to find a way to get inside the defense and dominate the game. He's so fast at getting the ball up the court for easy points, and when they pull it back into the half-court, they execute better than just about any team. Skiles was very good about not being harsh on him. A lot of people wondered if Skiles could coach him, but he was excellent with Jennings. Ultimately, Jennings is going to become a good shooter because he's a gym rat.

SI: Bucks 16th in power rankings
Just one spot in front of the Clip Show, but still sixth in the East, and Britt Robson is one of the best in the basketball-writing business.

Apportioning minutes based on performance more than reputation or salary is common sense but not necessarily common practice among coaches. Scott Skiles is an exception, which is why we might see new end-of-the-bench guys like Jon Brockman or pint-size point guard Earl Boykins step in and shine at some point this season. If the coach can motivate scorer Corey Maggette (out all preseason recovering from ankle surgery) and vagabond power forward Drew Gooden this way, and if center Andrew Bogut can come back from his gruesome fall last April, the Bucks could challenge Chicago for the top spot in the Central Division.
Seth Pollack pegs the Bucks sixth in the East, but shows a general lack of love.

Matt Moore predicts Andrew Bogut to win DPOY, Ben Golliver picks the Bucks to win the Central, Royce Young predicts at least one team from the East to make the playoffs with a sub.-500 record, and all three pick the Lakers to win it all.

HP crew bringin' it as usual.

The Bobcats/Bucks home opener is among 10 highlighted opening week games.

Season ticket-holder Brian Matzat's first-hand account of the exclusive team luncheon features a concise final sentence.