Milwaukee Bucks 2018-19 Team Preview

  • How’d We Get Here?

    The Bucks were scuffling along despite having the talent to be serious players in the East and decided to fire Jason Kidd mid-season. Joe Prunty didn’t solve their problems and the Bucks were foisted in round one in a hard-fought, seven-game series against the undermanned Celtics. There was clearly more work to do, and Mike Budenholzer will be the one to oversee it going forward.

    Milwaukee decided to let Jabari Parker and his balky knees head down the road to Chicago, clearing a potentially awkward logjam at the forward spot. What’s more, they added Brook Lopez on the veteran’s minimum to shore up a center position that has been lacking for years.

    Offseason Moves

    Arrivals: Brook Lopez, Ersan Ilyasova, Pat Connaughton, Jaylen Morris, Christian Wood
    Rookie Arrivals: Donte DiVincenzo (No. 17)
    Departures: Jabari Parker, Jason Terry???, Mirza Teletovic, Brandon Jennings, Joel Bolomboy
    Retained: Shabazz Muhammad

    Depth Chart and Minutes Per Game

    PG: Eric Bledsoe (31-33) / Matthew Dellavedova (0, 16-22)
    SG: Malcolm Brogdon (28.5-31.5) / Donte DiVincenzo (0, 9-18) / Sterling Brown (0, 14-17) / Pat Connaughton (0, 16-23)
    SF: Khris Middleton (35.5-36.5) / Tony Snell (25.5-28) / Shabazz Muhammad
    PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo (35.5-36.5) / Ersan Ilyasova (23-25) / D.J. Wilson (0, 5-10)
    C: Brook Lopez (23-28.5) / John Henson (19-25) / Thon Maker (15-20) / Christian Wood (X,X), Tyler Zeller (0, 10-16)

    Position Battles

    Point Guard: There’s not much of a battle here with Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon handling pretty much all of the work. It’s possible that Brogdon can start at shooting guard and give the Bucks a dynamic, two-guard starting five but he’ll get his share of primary ball-handling work any way you slice it. Matthew Dellavedova will return after an injury-riddled season and give the Bucks a pesky presence that should frustrate some of the East’s top guards.

    Shooting Guard: If it’s not Brogdon who starts it should be Tony Snell, who has held the role in the past and can help space the floor and play adequate defense on perimeter threats. Rookie Donte DiVincenzo will be coming off the bench to provide 3-point shooting and hot-in-a-hurry scoring ability, which is an element that the Bucks have been lacking since their return to relevancy. Pat Connaughton can pick up whatever’s left after a solid season in Portland.

    Small Forward: Khris Middleton is going to start and pick up minutes in the mid-thirties. Snell and DiVincenzo can support him off the bench with sophomores Sterling Brown and D.J. Wilson also in the mix but unlikely to play much.

    Power Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo can play any position you want him to but this is where he’ll line up more often than not. The re-acquired Ersan Ilyasova will work into the four spot when Giannis is playing center or working as the primary ball-handler or whatever it is he feels like doing to some poor defender. His shooting should be very useful and he’ll get minutes in the twenties.

    Center: Getting Brook Lopez for the minimum is a nice piece of business for the Bucks, even if he’s not the BroLo of old. Milwaukee has had a black hole at this spot for years, and Lopez finally offers scoring, spacing, rebounding and rim protection in one package after the Bucks had been trying to Frankenstein their way through different matchups with three centers.

    John Henson will be more of a situational rim protector nowadays while Thon Maker might struggle for playing time unless he shows the coaching staff that he’s at the next stage of development. Tyler Zeller, who drew starts last season, should be out of the rotation.

    Outlook

    The Bucks had a pretty solid, if unheralded offseason. They’ve answered a lot of questions at center, injected the roster with more shooting, cleared up a potentially uncomfortable situation that was brewing with Parker and his playing time and deepened the roster overall. With a well-regarded coach who came here to win, the Bucks should be scrapping for home court in the first round of the playoffs rather than one of the final two spots on the ticket.

    Eric Bledsoe

    Total Value: 19/24 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 24/33 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 74

    2017-18 Review: Bledsoe finally made his way away from the Suns. Landing in Milwaukee was good in the sense that he’d actually play again, but it was fair to question how his statline would hold up with a pair of players ahead of him in the offensive pecking order.

    While Bledsoe’s points and assists declined as expected, he made up for it with 2.0 steals per game and a .473 mark from the field. Considering Bledsoe had only topped 45 percent twice in his seven years before last season it was quite a welcome sight for owners.

    This Year: We’ll be okay with more muted scoring numbers if Bledsoe can keep his efficiency and steals up. He’s going to be getting 30-plus minutes and could cede some playmaking work to younger pieces, but a full year under one offensive system should also help him out quite a bit.

    Injury History: Bledsoe was able to stay healthy this year, with his absence coming as a result of a salon-related tweet that earned him a trip out of Phoenix. He’s got a history of knee troubles, including season-ending surgery back in 2015-16, but all the maintenance days he got during the Suns’ tank jobs certainly helps his long-term prospects. There’s moderate risk because of all the history but we’re cautiously optimistic about Bledsoe hitting 70 games again.

    Outlook: Bledsoe has the looks of an early-middle round point guard yet again. The shutdown risk is gone and he’s a pending free agent, so the fire should be decidedly lit beneath him as a 29-year-old who may be running out of time to hit it big. Expect a little jump in assists with some possible declines in steals and efficiency. Even with a few regression adjustments on last year’s numbers Bledsoe should slot snugly into the top-40.

    Tony Snell

    Total Value: 207/176 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 253/220 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 75

    2017-18 Review: Snell made 59 starts for the Bucks, and they were pretty much all forgettable. He scored and shot better off the bench and only topped double digits 22 times on the year despite averaging 27.4 mpg.

    This Year: The timing of Eric Bledsoe’s arrival and Malcolm Brogdon’s injury allowed Snell to keep starting but he might not be so lucky this year. Even if he does continue to start, he’ll be a 3-and-D guy with low usage around more talented players.

    Injury History: Snell missed two games with a right thigh contusion and five with left knee tendinitis. He hasn’t sustained a ton of injuries in his career so there’s not much risk.

    Outlook: Leave Snell on the wire outside of 20-team formats.

    Khris Middleton

    Total Value: 13/12 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 25/26 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 82

    2017-18 Review: Middleton posted a monster season that continued into a big first round against the Celtics. He established personal bests in points, rebounds and blocks while playing every single game. After an injury robbed him most of 2016-17, he responded with about as good as season as anyone can ask for and gave owners great value in the process.

    This Year: One of the ascendant two-way players around the league, Middleton’s shooting and defense are basically must-haves for the Bucks, who will give him as much playing time as he can handle.

    Injury History: Aside from the season where a torn hamstring limited him to just 29 games, Middleton has only missed six game in his other four full seasons.

    Outlook: Middleton’s ADP last season was no doubt influenced by his injury situation. With an excellent full season under his belt, expect no such discounts this time around. He’ll need to be taken in the third round of drafts but shouldn’t have any problems delivering thanks to his all-around output on good percentages.

    Giannis Antetokounmpo

    Total Value: 6/6 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 7/7 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 75

    2017-18 Review: Antetokounmpo is one of the NBA’s most enjoyable players to watch (unless he’s playing your team) and continued to march down the fantasy warpath, even if he didn’t quite live up to his ADP.

    There have been notable upward trends in his scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage since he began his career, and he set career-highs with 26.9 points and 10.0 rebounds per game on .529 from the field. The jumps there were enough to make up for a step back in the cash counters, as his 3-pointers remained consistent from 2016-17 to last season while falling from 1.6 to 1.5 steals and 1.9 to 1.4 blocks per game.

    This Year: Giannis is an unbelievable player but if he’s intent on taking the fantasy crown he’ll need to either increase those defensive numbers or start hitting his threes. The 3-pointers (and maybe the free throws, though he’s at least closer to 75 percent than 70 percent these days) are really the only thing missing in his game.

    He’s still only 23, so it’s not like he won’t have time to work on it. As for his on-court work with the Bucks, we’ll see if coach Bud decides to commit to the Giannis-and-four-shooters lineups that have long been a tantalizing thought experiment. It could result in some true nightmares for other teams.

    Injury History: Antetokounmpo missed two games with right ankle soreness, one with a vaguer “ankle” designation and four games because of three instances right knee soreness. He also dealt with knee troubles while playing for Greece last summer, so those are probably related. With only 10 absences in his other four seasons, we’re not going to call him an injury risk. The knee ailments appear to be adding up, however, even if they’re minor.

    Outlook: The Greek Freak is going to cost you an early first round pick, and the fact that he’s a monster in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks means he’s got a pretty safe floor at that level. He’s learning to score more efficiently and whoever happens to draft him the year that he figures out 3-pointers could very well be working with the top fantasy player in the game.

    Brook Lopez

    Total Value: 100/94(8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 118/108 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 74

    2017-18 Review: Lopez had a very poor season which was directly influenced by his stopgap role on the Lakers. They ran a lot of small groups with their young guys and had little incentive to trot out a veteran on an expiring deal, hence the career-low in playing time.

    A late-season surge couldn’t offset his mediocre production from the rest of the year, though it should be noted that Lopez did well to produce 1.3 blocks and 1.5 triples in only 23.6 minutes a night. Still, a major disappointment considering his pedigree and ADP.

    This Year: Lopez took a one-year deal for the veteran minimum to join the Bucks, who have long needed a capable center. His playing time is going to come back up to the high twenties and should play a big role for a team that’s always been thin up front. His polished offensive game will really help take the load off a perimeter-driven attack, though the Bucks are still likely to struggle on the glass.

    Injury History: Lopez missed eight games with a right ankle sprain this season and has done well to shed the injury-prone label after two right foot fractures earlier in his career. He’s had some foot soreness and back pain pop up here and there, but that’s to be expected from a 10-year vet. Lopez should be good for his usual 70-75 games.

    Outlook: Lopez is a great bounceback candidate and should have every opportunity to get back to his old fantasy ways as a key member of the Bucks, despite his tiny contract. It’s tough to toss Lopez right back into the top-50 pool but he’ll be worth your time in the middle rounds and his ADP should leave a little room for profit after a forgettable year out west. He won’t be the dominant scorer he once was but something like 16-18 points a night with his typical threes and blocks will suffice.

    John Henson

    Total Value: 102/88 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 133/114 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 76

    2017-18 Review: Henson finally got consistent run with Greg Monroe out of town and did what you’d expect him to: 8.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 0.5 steals and 1.4 blocks a night on .572 from the field. He still struggles to handle gifted offensive centers and is in trouble when defending in space, but he did enough to turn in at least late-round numbers every night.

    This Year: Henson’s fantasy stock falls but he slots back into a complementary role that should suit him well. He won’t be asked to overextend and will be able to come in and do what he does best.

    The fact that Thon Maker also offers shot-blocking potential coupled with whispers about Milwaukee wanting to move Henson does give a little pause but he should still be the second center as long as he’s on the team. He’s also adding a corner 3-pointer to his game, though who isn’t these days?

    Injury History: Henson suffered a back injury that kept him out of the team’s final four postseason games. He also dealt with a sprained finger and missed a four-in-five stretch because of a hamstring injury. The season before last he missed time with a back injury and sprained thumb. He’s not a real injury risk but we’d expect his back or hamstring to flare up at least once a year.

    Outlook: Henson will now need to outplay Thon Maker to hold onto his rotation gig, and while he’ll have the inside track on doing so it’s not a lock given their respective ages, development curves and contracts. Assuming he does win the backup center job he’ll be fine for use in deep leagues, and Henson’s shot-swatting will pretty much always give him streaming appeal. It’s a very tough sell beyond that.

    Malcolm Brogdon

    Total Value: 195/181 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 102/93 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 48

    2017-18 Review: Brogdon was looking ready to improve upon the numbers that won him Rookie of the Year (and gave him top-110 per-game value) before the Eric Bledsoe acquisition moved him to the bench. His numbers declined over the next several weeks, though he’d eventually move back into the starting five over Tony Snell.

    Unfortunately he’d end up missing 30 games with a partially torn left quad tendon, returning for only the final two games of the regular season. While Brogdon improved his scoring, 3-pointers and efficiency, his rebounds, assists and steals all declined thanks to Bledsoe’s acquisition.

    This Year: A full camp together should do everyone some good, and Brogdon should absolutely hold onto that starting two spot over Snell. He doesn’t have a ton of sizzle but is a steady player who can hold his own on both ends. Brogdon should have a good time with coach Budenholzer’s cut-heavy offense as well.

    Injury History: Beyond the quad tendon, Brogdon also missed two games with right calf soreness. He also missed seven games with back soreness in his rookie year.

    Outlook: Brogdon probably won’t be able to get firmly into the middle rounds as the least-gifted offensive player in the new starting five, but he’s not going to hurt you in any categories and should still get time propping up the second unit. Don’t be afraid to take him in the later rounds as he figures to offer some nice profit margin as a relatively unheralded player.

    Ersan Ilyasova

    Total Value: 142/124 (8/9-cat)

    Per Game Value: 141/121 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 69

    2017-18 Review: Ilyasova continued his tour of the league, starting with the Hawks and joining the Sixers later in the season. His positional versatility and 3-point shooting were huge in making the Sixers a deeper, more dangerous team. Ilyasova ended up making 43 starts on the year but didn’t see a huge boost since he was already getting low-twenties minutes consistently.

    If there’s one thing he did for fantasy owners it’s show up in the homestretch, as he averaged 14.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.6 blocks and 2.0 3-pointers in the final eight games of the year – including one three-point dud in the finale. He’s never flashy but Ilyasova chips in enough across the box score to deliver for fantasy owners year after year.

    This Year: Now a member of the Bucks for a second time, Ilyasova will be one of the first players off the bench for Milwaukee and will give them some badly-needed shooting out of the forward spot. He’s a really nice get for them, as their offense struggled at times and often relied on individual brilliance from a select few players rather than solid input from across the roster.

    Injury History: Ilyasova missed 11 games with a left knee strain and bone bruise early in the year and would go on to miss three between an illness and a shoulder strain – yes, the timing of his move meant he missed 14 games while still suiting up in 69. Previously Ilyasova dealt with eight shoulder and knee-related absences in 2015-16 and a groin injury and concussion sidelined him the year before that. He tops out as a moderate injury risk.

    Outlook: Feel free to look for Ilyasova in the late rounds since he tends to settle around the top-125. He’s got a nice stat set and is a safe bet for low-twenties minutes. If you’re looking for someone who can give you a little bit of everything, you could do a lot worse at the end of drafts.

    Thon Maker

    Total Value: 253/246 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 326/310 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 74

    2017-18 Review: Maker’s got great physical tools but remained extremely raw, looking like he made almost no progress as an offensive player while also adding no muscle. The first seven games of the year were the extent of his consistent starting experience, and his statline in those games offered up almost nothing for fantasy owners.

    He got pushed around easily by larger players and saw his block rate and efficiency fall. A year after emerging as a starter, Maker’s tough season puts questions about his long-term outlook back into play even after a few impactful games against the Celtics in round one.

    This Year: The Lopez acquisition will hurt him dearly, as he’s going to have to scrap with John Henson for reserve minutes. It’s possible that the Bucks try to move Henson but even so Maker will be a backup on a team that has the personnel to go small with ease.

    Injury History: Maker missed six games in March because of a right groin strain.

    Outlook: The decline in 3-point percentage is not a good sign, and neither is the fact that his blocks per game only rose from 0.5 to 0.7 despite his playing time nearly doubling. There will be multi-block nights every now and then but it’s not enough to chase outside of desperation scenarios. As long as Maker is the team’s third center he’ll be outside the top-300.

    Donte DiVincenzo (R)

    2017-18 Review: DiVincenzo made a name for himself with a monstrous Final Four performance and the Bucks felt strongly enough about the sweet-shooting guard to take him just outside the lottery. What he lacks in length he makes up for in energy and he could ride a solid fundamental game to a steady role.

    This Year: Luckily for DiVincenzo, the Bucks don’t have much in terms of backcourt depth and he could step in an provide a valuable contribution right away if his 40.1 3-point shooting keeps up. They certainly won’t be counting on him to take over any games like he did in college.

    Injury History: DiVincenzo broke a bone in his right foot ahead of his freshman season at Villanova (2015-16) and missed some Summer League action because of a groin issue. We’ll only worry if he battles repeated foot soreness or something similar.

    Outlook: The season will be a success if DiVincenzo can knock down his open threes. Milwaukee’s drive and kick game could be lethal with Giannis running the show, and DiVincenzo has the ability to both knock down some tough shots and make smart, simple decisions to find open teammates. It’s a nice role player skill set that could return value down the line but he’s only a deep league option this season, and even that’s not a lock.

    Matthew Dellavedova

    Total Value: 340/353 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 337/373 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 38

    2017-18 Review: Dellavedova dropped the ball in his chance to become the team’s starter when he first signed his big deal and got pushed further down the pecking order. He couldn’t even put up a fight due to injuries. One wonders if LeBron James gets a commission from Delly’s four-year, $38.4 million deal.

    This Year: Dellavedova may technically be the backup point guard but Brogdon, Antetokounmpo and likely others will get more playmaking opportunity. His defense should keep him in the rotation but he’s an extremely low priority for the Bucks, both this year and down the line.

    Injury History: Dellavedova missed a month with knee tendinitis and was later shut down from February 4 until the final game of the year because of a gnarly ankle sprain.

    Outlook: Dellavedova offers minimal upside and can be ignored in just about all formats.

    Pat Connaughton

    Total Value: 259/251 (8/9-cat)

    Per Game Value: 349/350 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 82

    2017-18 Review: Connaughton cracked the rotation for the first time in his career and was the only Blazer to suit up in all 82 games. There were a handful of surprising scoring nights but emerging as a rotation player was the real accomplishment.

    This Year: After inking a deal with the Bucks, Connaughton will provide them with solid reserve minutes and some extra shooting. Milwaukee’s wing depth has left a lot to be desired these last few seasons so it’s a helpful, low-cost addition, but Connaughton won’t be a huge part of the equation.

    Injury History: He left a game with a hamstring injury but didn’t have to miss any time. He’s not an injury risk.

    Outlook: Even in 18.1 mpg on a team limited sources of scoring and shooting, Connaughton was just a top-350 guy. It’d take a big jump in playing time for us to move from that valuation.

    Tyler Zeller

    Total Value: 247/239 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 270/264 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 66

    2017-18 Review: Zeller was traded from the Nets and put up 6.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 0.5 blocks in 16.9 mpg between his two stops.

    This Year: Brook Lopez, John Henson, Thon Maker, Tyler Zeller. The fourth center spot is not where you want to be in 2018. Even the third spot is dicey.

    Injury History: Zeller spent time on the sidelines with hip and back ailments last season.

    Outlook: Bucks fans rejoice, as Zeller won’t be getting 16.9 mpg going forward. He’s not a fantasy option.

    Shabazz Muhammad

    Total Value: 386/373(8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 440/421 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 43

    2017-18 Review: Muhammad averaged 9.7 mpg across 43 games between the Wolves and Bucks. He had a pair of 20-plus scoring games with Milwaukee but was irrelevant the rest of the time.

    This Year: Bazz sat on the sidelines for most of free agency but decided to re-join the Bucks in early August. He’ll get garbage time minutes and might get dusted off if the Bucks need a jolt on offense but he won’t be a consistent member of the rotation.

    Injury History: There was a sprained ankle last season but you can’t really tell whether he would’ve played or not anyway.

    Outlook: Muhammad doesn’t need to be drafted in any fantasy leagues.

    Sterling Brown

    Total Value: 310/296 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 335/336 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 54

    2017-18 Review: Brown’s rookie season was nothing to write home about. He cracked double digits only seven times and was in and out of the rotation regularly.

    This Year: The Bucks have two shooting guards ahead of him on the depth chart plus a few others who can play the position if necessary. Brown isn’t going to play much.

    Injury History: Brown has no injuries of note on his record.

    Outlook: Despite some big nights in Summer League it’ll be an uphill battle for Brown to get into the rotation.

    D.J. Wilson

    Total Value: 460/456 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 495/488 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 22

    2017-18 Review: Wilson scored 21 points in total last season.

    This Year: He’s hoping that a decent Summer League performance can punch his ticket to the final roster. The 3-and-D potential should help him but it’s far from a guarantee.

    Injury History: Wilson didn’t participate in his draft combine activities because of a quad injury but there’s no injury risk here.

    Outlook: Leave Wilson undrafted in all formats.

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