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Bucks planning to break ground on new arena in November, team makes big jump in ESPN "future" ranks

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Groundbreaking on new Milwaukee Bucks Arena still planned for this year

The Milwaukee Bucks are hoping to begin construction on a new arena this November, according to a press release from team ownership published on Bucks.com yesterday. The news, which falls in the overall message as little more than an offhand comment, is nonetheless encouraging after last week's report that the opening of a new building might be delayed until the 2018-2019 season. Following Tuesday's approval of a financing plan by the Milwaukee Common Council, only minor hurdles remain before the project can begin in earnest. The NBA has imposed a "soft" deadline on the team to have a new arena in place by the start of the 2017-2018 season, which was always the team's plan. As Frank noted yesterday, though, there's little risk of the NBA taking any action if construction is, at the very least, underway when that time comes.

Groundbreaking in November of this year would give the Bucks less than two years to hit their targeted date in fall of 2017, similar to the ambitious plan set out by the Sacramento Kings. It seems highly likely that the entire proposed entertainment "plaza" being imagined will take longer to reach completion, but it's nice to hear some hope expressed that the critical stuff will be ready to go when the Bucks tip off two seasons from now.

Bucks make major jump in ESPN Future Power Rankings

And speaking of two years from now, let's turn to the NBA Oracles (not that one) and see how the Bucks will be doing by then!

In ESPN's latest update to their NBA Future Power Rankings, the Bucks have made a massive jump, from 26th all the way to 13th. The Bucks saw a big improvement in ESPN's scoring of the roster, where the signing of Greg Monroe and retention of Khris Middleton augmented an improving core of players. Milwaukee also saw modest gains in the market and management categories, though the latter continues to raise questions:

Perhaps even more important is the uncertain state of the front office. While Jason Kidd's coaching has become a cause for optimism, reports both before and after his 2014 arrival have said that Kidd also wants to run the personnel side. The team has denied that Kidd would be granted that authority and recently extended John Hammond's contract as GM for one year. Still, the widespread belief is that Hammond, a holdover from the previous ownership group, is gradually ceding control to Kidd.

One thing suddenly holding the Bucks back is draft considerations. Owing in large part to Milwaukee's faster-than-expected turnaround, the team has fallen back into the middle of the pack for expected draft slot. They don't have much coming their way in terms of future picks either, having traded the future first-round pick they were owed from the Los Angeles Clippers to Toronto in the Greivis Vasquez trade. The only remaining credits are some complicated swap rights in the second round and a pair of heavily-protected 2nd-rounders unlikely to ever be conveyed.

The Bucks Should Definitely Sign Anthony Bennett | Behind the Buck Pass

Ti Windisch makes his case for Milwaukee as a landing spot for Timberwolves-cast-off and former-first-overall-pick Anthony Bennett. Windisch point to the extenuating circumstances that have contributed to Bennett's current predicament: the incredible pressure that comes with being drafted first overall, the bad situation into which he was dropped upon entering the NBA. Bennett has also had weight and injury troubles in his young career. All those factors make it seem entirely possible that the improvement Bennett showed in his second season will continue, even if that improvement was merely from "terrible" to "very bad."

Keep in mind that adding another player on a guaranteed contract would put Milwaukee over the final roster limit of 15 when other guaranteed contracts are factored in, meaning somebody else has to go. Ti voices his support for Johnny O'Bryant, particularly in the sense that he and Bennett would both be well served by a little competition between them. For my part, I don't share the faith in O'Bryant--I'd take Bennett on the roster over him one hundred times out of one hundred. But I think it's an extremely unlikely occurrence in any case.

Henson excited about Bucks' potential | Appleton Post-Crescent

As part of the Bucks' state-wide tour, John Henson made a stop at my old high school for a football game. He participated in the coin toss, which is my main reason for sharing this story--look at how much taller he is than everybody else in that picture!

Anyway, Henson expressed his excitement for the upcoming season:

"It’s going to be a good year for us," said Henson, whose stop at Appleton East’s Pickett Field was part of the Bucks’ "Own the Future" statewide bus tour. "We got a few new guys like Greg (Monroe) coming in along with the rookies. It’s going to be a fun year, man.

"Expectations are high and that’s what you want. That’s usually not the case with the Bucks."

You got that right, John. But this year, things are different. Kidd, with some solid work by GM John Hammond, seems to have resurrected this floundering franchise. The Bucks are relevant again, instead of being a modern-day version of the Washington Generals.

"Jason is a great guy, a great coach, a great man," said Henson. "I’m excited and blessed to be playing for a guy like that. He’s a guy, who, with the staff he brought and the way he coaches, has helped my career. I have nothing but good things to say about him."

Uh-oh, John Hammond kinda takes a backseat to Jason Kidd in that quote. In the eyes of at least one Fox Cities reporter, things remain unsettled.