With media day in the books, the Milwaukee Bucks are off to Madison to kick off training camp -- and begin answering the key questions facing a young roster hoping to make major noise in the East this year. On Monday we highlighted the key questions facing Jabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the rest of the Bucks' forward crop, and today we tackle the big men.
Greg Monroe: Can the Bucks' big free agent signing replace Zaza Pachulia's quietly large contribution to the Bucks' defensive success?
Monroe was signed to get buckets, and on that front there's little doubt that he'll provide a massive boost. While he's never developed into much of a floor stretcher, he's a triple threat from the elbows and (to borrow from Jon McGlocklin) a ton on the block. His ability to score and draw double-teams in the post is something the Bucks have lacked for most of this 34-year-old writer's lifetime, and now they finally have someone who can deliver. I don't know if he'll ever be a 20-point per night scorer, but you'd expect that he'll provide at least the 16-and-10 numbers he managed in Detroit with a strong chance that he can bump both now that he's going to be able to play as a center the majority of the time.
But while Monroe will give the Bucks' offense a shot in the arm, what will his arrival mean for the Bucks' second ranked defense? The good news is that Zaza Pachulia's surprising turn as defensive anchor a year ago offers a nice blueprint for how to make the most of a non-rim protecting center in the Bucks' overloading scheme. Moreover, Monroe's elite defensive rebounding will help the Bucks allow fewer second chance opportunities, an area they struggled in a year ago (24th). The rest of the Bucks' roster has now had a year to acclimate itself to the system as well, though the bad news is that replicating Pachulia's success isn't a given.
John Henson: Will the Bucks' 2012 first rounder sign an extension before the league's October 31st deadline -- and if he does, will he live up to it?
For all the excitement of the Bucks-Bulls first playoff series, Henson was really the only Buck who actually rose to the occasion of postseason basketball. Not exactly encouraging for the rest of the roster, but a good sign for a player often criticized for a perceived lack of ambition.
That also puts Henson and the Bucks in an interesting position over the next month. With the cap set to rise by $20 million next summer, extension-eligible guys like Henson are seeing huge dollar signs as they head into the final years of their rookie deals. There was talk in July of Henson likely cashing in on an eight-figure deal, with later reports suggesting that Henson's camp was still debating whether or not to sign an extension or play out the coming season. Then on Monday he alluded to a deal being "close," suggesting a deal may be likely after all.
In theory, Henson should be the kind of guy who tries to cash in now; with Monroe on board he's not projected to start anytime soon, and his stagnant production over his first three seasons suggests a major breakout isn't likely. But the NBA's summers will get increasingly weird with the league's TV cash infusion starting next summer, so there's also a very real chance Henson could fetch more on the open market than the $11-12 million the Bucks are rumored to have offered.
Miles Plumlee: Is the Bucks' forgotten big man doomed to another year on the outskirts of the Bucks' rotation -- or a trip out of state entirely?
As far as third centers go, Miles Plumlee is probably among the better options you'll find in the NBA. The problem of course is that third centers rarely play unless foul trouble or injuries beset the guys ahead of him, and thus far that's meant precious few opportunities for Plumlee since he arrived last February from Phoenix. When we have seen him he's looked a bit like a modern day Dan Gadzuric: an athletic, energetic big man who's not quite strong enough to be a defensive linchpin, while lacking the offensive skill to do much beyond mop-up work around the rim. Still, he's just one season removed from a breakout year starting for a 48-win team in Phoenix, which makes his forgotten status in Milwaukee at least somewhat curious.