The season opener is upon us, which means it's time to make predictions that we'll all regret
immediately by next spring. So read on below, and let us know your predictions in the comments and Fanposts.
Though I'm trying to limit any individual expectations I have this season, I'll throw out a few predictions for the sake of quality #content.
I predict that Jabari Parker will be a better defender than people are giving him credit for. I don't think he'll be above-average or anything just yet, but I also think that once he gets comfortable with the flow of an NBA game, he won't be as much of a liability as the experts think. On the same end of the floor, I think Larry Sanders will go back to being LARRY SANDERS! and will finish in the top three in DPOY voting. Sanders likely can't afford another dismal season, and he's done well in the past when his job depends on it (read: contract year), so I think he'll have a nice bounce-back season.
I think that the Bucks will get a handful of calls about Ersan Ilyasova, O.J. Mayo, John Henson, and Brandon Knight come deadline time, and I think those calls won't end in immediate hang-ups. Those four guys could be desirable to a team looking to make a playoff push or fill a vacant spot created by injury, and perhaps Milwaukee will be willing to listen. However, I think only Ersan is the one that gets dealt when all is said and done.
I think the team will get off to another slow start, but rebound nicely in the second half of the season once the rotation gets more consistent and guys get comfortable with playing with each other. The final record may not look that great, but I think that the Bucks faithful will head into the summer with a lot of promise and hope that coach Kidd and company can continue to build on the strong finish. Hell, maybe they can even contend for a playoff spot that following year. I don't know, though. We'll cover that in next year's prediction post.
2014-2015 Projected Record: 26-56
The 2014-2015 Milwaukee Bucks are going to be weird. Like, "tape your eyelids open and down a bottle of NyQuil" weird. Like, "pretty much any Olympic mascot ever created" weird. Like, "mixing up House with Hausu" weird. Like, "a missed call from an unknown number at 4:34 A.M. on your parents’ house phone" weird. Like, "everybody takes pop music very seriously now" weird.
Weird is new. Weird is good. Weird is fun. The Bucks’ best assets are both nineteen years old. One of them keeps expanding like a Grow Monster placed in water. The other actually wanted to play in Milwaukee. Jason Kidd is the head coach. Larry Sanders wears goggles now. Everyone in the comments of this post likes Nate Wolters a lot. This is only O.J. Mayo’s seventh year in the league! Khris Middleton might get involved in some sort of activity on All Star Weekend. Brandon Knight was this team’s only consistent fantasy option last year. Two separate players have crafted their social media personas around eating a lot of Chipotle. Look at Jerryd Bayless’s head!!! Jared Dudley plays for this team? Ersan Ilyasova still does, too?? Zaza Pachulia???
The Bucks are rolling with "Own The Future" as the team’s slogan this year. For good reason, because the future looks a lot more promising than the now. But we should own the now, too. We should Own The Weird.
2014-2015 Record Prediction: 26-56
Believe it or not, it's really hard for me to predict how this season will pan out for this team. There are handful of people I've talked to who believe they'll be just like last year's team because they're "the Bucks", but this roster is both better and healthier (for now). Milwaukee won't make the playoffs, but I definitely think they'll be enjoyable, much better on the offensive end, and generally better than what most people think.
I'm specifically really interested in seeing how Kendall Marshall contributes off the bench, and how Giannis continues to progress physically and mentally on the court. I met Giannis the day after he was drafted at his introductory press conference, and it's been really fun to see him grow from a baby wearing a blazer, to a core player with real expectations (he's still a baby obviously). Larry Sanders has a long road to regain the trust of fans in Milwaukee, but I think he certainly can make this a bounce back year if he reestablishes the defensive form that once gave him a Team USA select invite. I think O.J. Mayo will be much better than last year, too, and yes, you can probably book Jabari Parker down as the Rookie of the Year.
I think this is the year we see Ersan Ilyasova and John Henson shipped out, and while it would be a bit of downer because he's a real down-to-earth and nice guy, I believe the same will happen to Brandon Knight. Jason Kidd knows a thing about playing point guard, and I think he'll want to move on and stick it out with a different player until next year's draft. Henson hasn't been anywhere near a bad player, but I don't think the Bucks got exactly what they thought they would receive by this time when they selected him 14th overall in 2012. Ilyasova's shooting struggles are continuing even after heading into training camp fully-recovered from an ankle injury, and they'll likely move him at some point during the season. This might be the time where John Hammond takes the best offer he can get when the opportunity presents itself.
That's about it from me. Like I said, I don't think we'll see a playoff appearance from the Bucks, but they'll be a pretty interesting team to watch. Don't take this the wrong way, but if they register 25 or more wins, I think that's a successful season.
2014-15 Projected Record: 28-54
I have very little idea how any of this will look this season (good thing I'm covering this team!) because there are so many moving pieces, and potentially some literal moving pieces come February. I don't think they'll be good, but they'll certainly be interesting to watch develop, particularly Giannis and Jabari as they're already being looked at as potential leaders on the court. I think that's dangerous for Giannis, who I feel everyone assumes will automatically improve this year. I'm not sold on a massive improvement from him, especially if new positions and roles are thrown his way. Regardless, he'll still be adorable. Jabari will win Rookie of the Year and be somewhere around adequate defensively by the end of the season.
Brandon Knight will be an interesting case, as his hold the point guard spot could be tenuous. I'm not sure he has the ability to reign in his lapses and become a more sure-handed facilitator, but Kidd may be able to work something close to that out of him. I do think there's a role for him as an off-the-ball guard, more so if Mayo winds up a trade deadline departure.
Speaking of which, I do believe Mayo gets shipped at the deadline, and Ilyasova finally plays well enough when the Bucks need him to to send him out as well. I think Henson stays. Sanders will play above-average (but not 2012-2013 level) to begin his road back, and I like what Kendall Marshall has the potential to do off the bench.
It's been years since I've predicted a season that finishes somewhere other than between 36-44 wins for this club, so in that sense, this is already a refreshing year.
2014-2015 Projected Record: 24-58
There's simply no way the Bucks are as bad as they were last year, or even particularly close. That's my 10-cent prediction. The pull of .500 ball is strong. It's hard to stay bad in the NBA, just as it's hard to stay good. The Bucks won't be quite so unlucky this year (they were five wins below their Pythagorean record of 20-62 last season), and the roster looks better in many ways. By the end of last season, I was confident the Bucks were better than just one team--Philadelphia. This year I think there will be a handful of teams who qualify for that ignominious distinction. Improvements in three-point shooting, interior and perimeter defense, and rebounding on both ends will spur the revival.
But yeah, they're still gonna be pretty bad. I see a lot of progress for Giannis Antetokounmpo as a scorer and playmaker, but I doubt his turnover rate plummets from nearly 20% to a minuscule level. Jabari Parker can probably hit league-average efficiency but won't be an instant star. And Larry Sanders will stay on the court and play great defense again, but his offense will further shrink to the immediate basket area (actually, that's not necessarily a bad thing).
I don't think Ersan Ilyasova will be dealt during the season (though not for lack of trying), but Jared Dudley will. O.J. Mayo will show much better effort this season in hopes of being traded, but he won't go anywhere either.
Nate Wolters will be a better real-life player than Kendall Marshall, but Marshall will be a nice fantasy fill-in.
2014-2015 Record Prediction: 25-57
You've already heard Steve and I blather about our expectations for Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Larry Sanders, John Henson, and the Bucks' final win total, so at this point my hazy expectations for the season are already officially on public record. Damn.
Honestly, I always agonize over predictions, so maybe I should frame these more as my personal gut feelings, colored both by what I've seen (shudder), what I'm seeing (better!), and skewed perhaps by my perpetual need to my manage my own expectations. I know I'll be wrong on many fronts, but so it goes.
- I'm increasingly thinking Jabari Parker will score 15+ ppg and win rookie of the year because of it, though I'd expect the analytics community will prefer someone like Nerlens Noel or Andrew Wiggins. I'll take it.
- I think Larry Sanders probably bounces back reasonably well, though I think his numbers will fall short of his 12/13 figures. That's not all bad--a drop in blocks is OK if it's because opponents are afraid to challenge you.
- I think Ersan Ilyasova will provide offense in fits and starts, but will also do his usual thing where he finds ways to subtly complain about not playing more minutes (I know your game, Ersan!). Then, finally, mercifully, he'll be shipped out (but not for a whole lot).
- I can see Giannis' shooting struggles continuing through the season and preventing him from making a big leap, but not stopping him from putting up better overall numbers (maybe 10/6?). I dream of him earning most improved honors, but I don't think he makes a big enough leap (yet).
- I think John Henson finally takes the game seriously enough to be a clear value-add, though I still don't think he'll be able to shoot or reliably use his right hand. But hopefully he starts to pay attention and move around defensively.
- I think Brandon Knight is a good bet to see a healthy bump in his assist rate (6 apg?), in large part because he'll be extra motivated to prove his doubters wrong. But at the end of the year I think he'll still have plenty of doubters.
- Jason Kidd will do plenty of experimenting and keep fans happy by giving the young guys lots of minutes.
- We won't hate anyone as much as we hated Gary Neal last year. In fact, we'll probably like Jared Dudley much more than we thought we would. Related: If/when the Bucks deal him for another asset, that trade with the Clippers will look even more delightful.
- The Bucks will finish worse than 20th in both offensive and defensive efficiency, but will avoid finishing last in either (Sixers, huzzah!).
- The Bucks will finish outside the top ten pace, and bottom five in defensive rebounding.
- Attendance will improve only modestly--people will still demand some success before showing up to games--but not for a lack of effort from the team's marketing efforts.
- A crash-and-burn scenario is always possible--hell, I thought last year's team would win 30 games--but you can't convince me to predict that on the opening day of the season.
Don't get me wrong: I'm really excited for this season. But then again I've lived (and blogged) through Brandon Jennings, Yi Jianlian, Charlie Villanueva and Joe Alexander, too. I'll take baby steps for now.
2014-2015 Record Prediction: 28-54
For the last four years, the Bucks' hiccup of success in 2009-10 gave me Stockholm Syndrome.
In 2010, I got mad when Dan LeBatard (rightly) scoffed on PTI at the notion of the Bucks as a preseason playoff dark horse. I defended the John Salmons extension as one of necessity for the sake of "veteran leadership" and "scoring." In 2011, I genuinely thought Corey Maggette would shoot 15 free throws a game. In 2012, Brandon Jennings was going to shoot 40% from the field. Last year, Larry Sanders was going to average a double double with 3-4 blocks every night. As a Bucks fan/writer, optimism is defined as entropy.
Now? This season will be deemed a success by one simple question, playoffs or not: Did the young Bucks take developmental steps forward?
Veteran roles will completely change. In the past, Jared Dudley would be a talking point as a floor spacer that could help dig the Bucks further into NBA hell as an 8th seed. Now, his role is to take a bullet for the youths, creating enough space for Giannis and Jabari to work on complimenting each other inside and out. The food pellet is a handful of (likely open) threes each night, and a potential February vacation to a playoff contender. Ditto for Khris Middleton.
Expect Giannis and Jabari to hit a couple mid-season walls, heavily peppered with highlights (particularly on the break) signalling a better tomorrow. I also expect the "Giannis is a point guard" discussions to extend longer than his time actually bringing the ball up the floor in set plays (remember the Henson/Sanders dreams we used to have?), and Kendall Marshall to take home the "Khris Middleton Award For Overachieving Expectations To The Point Of Overvaluing His Worth."
Overall, the Bucks will have some great wins, ugly losses, and funky lineups. (Almost) all of it will be fun to watch because, for the first time in a long time, the season-long path is more important than the end goal.
2014-2015 Record Prediction: (No one's taken 27 yet, right? Great!) 27-55