|Still kind of weird to see those two high-fiving. (Getty Images)|
I. How they finished 2012: After making a big substantial trade that sent franchise cornerstone Andrew Bogut to Golden State in exchange for Monta Ellis and Epke Udoh, Milwaukee finished the season four games outside of a playoff spot in the East.
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The Bucks' finished a semi-respectable 31-35, but lost seven of their last 10 after getting to 28-28 and in the playoff hunt. They hovered around .500 for most of the season dropping as much as nine games under before climbing back to 28-28.
Despite finishing four games under, the Bucks did finish with a positive score differential of +0.3.
It wasn't necessarily a disappointing season for the Bucks as their expectations weren't that high, especially when you factor in the injury issues with Bogut. But a playoff berth would've been a solid accomplishment for the team.
II. Needs entering the offseason: I can tell one thing they don't need. Forwards. Because they're pretty good right there.
What they did need though was some size inside and perimeter depth. After dealing Bogut, they removed their top rebounder and interior defender and while bringing in Udoh to go with Drew Gooden and Larry Sanders provided some size replacement, it wasn't enough bulk.
They also lacked in having a few players to spread the floor on the wing, as well as scoring punch. Ellis obviously added quite a bit, but the Bucks were looking at a very small backcourt that could struggle to defend bigger teams.
III. The Draft: The Bucks sat at the most awkward position in the draft: the last lottery pick. You want to land premier, top level talent. But pickings get pretty slim at that point.
Why were they at 14? Because they moved down two spots in a trade with the Rockets that brought in Samuel Dalembert. The Bucks moved out some scraps in Jon Brockman and Jon Leuer in the deal, while getting a solid shot blocker and rebounder inside. A pretty good replacement for Bogut, or at least a need filled.
But it was clear that the Bucks were approaching the draft as an opportunity to add some talent to the roster and get younger. With the 14th pick they took John Henson from North Carolina, a rangy 6-11 forward that can block shots and rebound.
The pick seems a bit curious as the Bucks drafted Larry Sanders recently, traded for Udoh, have Ersan Ilyasova and Gooden already on the roster. It seems that they created a little logjam up front. Henson will likely begin the season third on the depth chart at power forward, depending on how they classify Udoh and Sanders.
Where the Bucks might've come out well is with their second-round pick. They took Kentucky sophomore Doron Lamb, a streaky shooter and scorer who came out too early. He slipped all the way deep into the second round, but he's a first-round talent. Good size, good athleticism and has the potential to be a high-level defender. Considering the structure of their current backcourt, Lamb could be an ideal addition.
IV. Free Agency: With needs to be addressed but not a whole lot of room on the roster or in the cap to do them, the Bucks had their hands tied a bit. After dealing for Dalembert and adding two players in the draft, it was about beefing up the center position and re-signing Ersan Ilyasova.
They got the first part done by signing once retired big man Joel Pryzbilla. Not a groundbreaking deal, but something that adds a little veteran size, toughness and depth.
The second part they got done with a five-year, $40 million extension. It's too early to tell how good the Bucks came out with the deal, but Ilyasova has quietly become one of the more underrated stretch 4s in the league. He can shoot the 3, rebounds exceptionally well and can go inside. He'll be battling for minutes with Gooden and Henson, but if he sees the time, he'll produce.
Outside of those moves, the Bucks held firm. They made their splash at the trade deadline, added their key big man before the draft and used their two picks.
V. Overall grade and accomplishments: C
It just felt like a pretty lukewarm summer from a pretty lukewarm franchise. The Bucks have been hovering in NBA purgatory the past few years. Not good enough to compete, not bad enough to blow it apart and get a high lottery pick. It's an unfortunate place to be in but they weren't really in a position to completely give up.
Because they are nice parts to the roster. Brandon Jennings shows flashes. Ilyasova is a good piece. And with Ellis, Dalembert, Udoh, Henson, Sanders, Gooden at Mike Dunleavy Jr., there's a reasonably decent team in there.
It's obviously not good enough to contend and at this point, it's honestly hard to imagine what they could do to take a next step, outside of a major renovation. But the Bucks could push for a playoff spot in the East this season, which might be their desired goal. Get back to the postseason and build from that.
As for really improving the team though, it their offseason was pretty meh.