And tipping off the season with a day full of questions seems especially appropriate this year, as the Bucks enter training camp loaded with equal parts promise and uncertainty. Will fresh young faces make the leaps needed to replace departed veterans? Does Jason Kidd have the offensive weapons -- especially from the perimeter -- to bring the Bucks' offense closer to respectability? Can they retain the same elite defensive effort that carried them to 41 wins a year ago? Let's run through the roster with a key question for the 17 players with at least a vague shot at making the opening night roster, starting today with the frontcourt.
Jabari Parker: How quickly can the number two former overall pick regain the form we saw last December -- and can he help the Bucks win games in the process?
A common refrain from pundits this summer has gone something like this: "The Bucks made the playoffs without Jabari Parker last year -- imagine how much better they'll be with him!"
But in the very short term we can't be sure when Parker will be back or when he'll be, you know, back. He could be back in uniform on opening night, or it might be a month or two. And then it might be a little while before he's starting, and perhaps a while longer before his timing and confidence in his knee are back to 100%. Or maybe we get lucky and Parker's excellent progress to date means we see it all very soon. Either way, we should assume this is going to be a process, one that will limit his impact for at least the first few months of the season. Thereafter he'll still be a 20-year-old kid -- albeit an exceptionally talented one -- who will need to make major strides on both ends before he makes the Bucks significantly better.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: Will the tweaked mechanics and improved three point shooting he flashed for Greece transfer over to the longer NBA three point line?
It's not to say Antetokounmpo needs to become a high-volume gunner from deep in order to make a big impact this season. Starting in January, he shot over 40% from midrange and averaged nearly 15 and 7 without relying on the long ball to keep defenses completely honest. In other words, he'd be plenty good just as a more refined version of the guy we saw last season.
Still, the 20-year-old is unlikely to become a real star without becoming a more substantive threat from deep (among other things), and the Bucks do need someone other than Khris Middleton to space the floor for the starting unit. Age and sample size suggest Giannis and Jabari are better bets to do that than Michael Carter-Williams, though the pace of their progress is anyone's guess.
Hitting threes with regularity for Greece over the past month don't offer any guarantees, though his confidence in taking and making shots from the slightly shorter international three point line certainly won't hurt his confidence. It's hardly unreasonable to think he could get back to the 35% shooting from deep he displayed as a rookie (or better), though a willingness to shoot from distance can't dissuade him from attacking the rim either. Kidd's instruction that Giannis and Jabari not shoot threes at the start of last season was largely driven by a preference for them getting to the basket, and it mostly worked. Now comes the challenge of becoming the complete package.
Damien Inglis: What does a healthy Damien Inglis even look like?
Most Bucks fans know Inglis as the nattily clad, boot-wearing Frenchman from last season's Bucks bench. They don't know him as a person capable of easily running up and down a basketball court, not even after Inglis' abbreviated appearance in Vegas earlier this summer. He's supposed to be "ready" for camp after limping his way through summer league, but it's tough to count on anything given Inglis' nightmarish last 18 months. His defensive versatility and savvy offensive game make him a dark horse to steal minutes behind the two better-known 20-year-olds on the roster...or he might struggle to make the active roster most nights.
Chris Copeland: Can the journeyman forward bounce back from a terrible season in Indy to provide the Bucks some much-needed spacing?
Jason Kidd saw Chris Copeland at his best in New York -- when the former was a 39-year-old veteran in his final season and the latter was an improbable 29-year-old rookie. But Kidd didn't have to see Copeland up close during a forgettable season in Indiana last year, all of which raises questions about his ability to be a viable rotation player. It's not a high-risk proposition considering his $1.1 million salary, but a pick-and-pop threat off the bench -- or perhaps even starting in Parker's place initially -- could be a major boost for a roster short on floor stretchers.
Johnny O'Bryant: JOB might have a guaranteed deal, but after a miserable rookie year how guaranteed is his roster spot?
Everyone knows Johnny O'Bryant struggled as a rookie, but not everyone knows how historically bad the former LSU man's freshman season really was. He didn't rebound (a wing-like 10% rebound rate), didn't finish (54.3% at the rim), took mostly jumpers he couldn't make (41% of attempts 16-23 ft, 29% made), and in the end became one of seven rookies in NBA history to play 350+ minutes with a PER under 4.0. Yeesh.
Clearly that wasn't what the Bucks were hoping for when they reached for O'Bryant with the 36th overall pick in 2014, but the question now becomes what if anything they can salvage from O'Bryant's rocky start. Despite suffering a preseason knee injury that shelved him for the first two months of the season, O'Bryant looked to be in better physical shape compared to his heavier college days, and he certainly has the offensive skills to be a respectable offensive player. But his body language betrayed a player lacking confidence and generally overwhelmed by the speed and stature of the NBA game. With one year of guaranteed salary left he may get a second season in Milwaukee regardless of what happens this month, but without clear improvement he's unlikely to see a third.
Marcus Landry: Does the Milwaukee native and former Badger actually have a shot at the roster?
Common sense would suggest the journeyman combo forward has the deck firmly stacked against him this month. It's been six years since the almost-30-year-old Landry last played in a regular season NBA game, and Milwaukee already has the maximum 15 guaranteed contracts on their roster. But bear in mind that O'Bryant and Copeland are coming off horrendous seasons and are owed modest dollars by NBA standards, and Landry's versatility and perimeter shooting do fit the Bucks' frontcourt needs quite well. So anything is theoretically possible -- just don't expect it to be probable.