Hello, readers. I will be your guide this afternoon as we tour the Milwaukee Bucks. Well, not tour. They're coming to us. Whatever. I'm bad at this.
The Bucks are a playoff team. Barely, but a playoff team nonetheless. They've been unfortunate enough to have drawn the Heat in the first round, too. So barely a playoff team. A sweep seems not only possible, but likely.
And that's nothing against the Bucks: the Miami Heat are a very, very good basketball team. The Bucks are a good basketball team. See the difference?
I really like the Bucks.
On paper, their team seems like a random collection of talent. It's almost as if GM John Hammond spent his allowance on a bunch of booster packs while taking the scraps other GMs didn't like in theirs. It's that sort of team.
But it works, and my lord, could they be good in a few years.
The Bucks' most important player is Larry Sanders. Sanders was a question mark when he was drafted. Everyone saw the talent and athletic ability, but no one knew if he could put it all together. He has, and he's arguably the best interior defender in the league this season. If you haven't read this piece from the SLOAN conference this year, please do. It's called "The Dwight Effect," but really, it's about how awesome Larry Sanders is.
Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like Sanders will play. He was ruled out for Friday's game against the Atlanta Hawks.
Additionally, another of the Bucks' key players may not play tonight. Brandon Jennings was also ruled out against the Hawks with an Achilles injury. No one knows what will happen to Jennings this off-season, but it sounds like the Bucks want him back as long as it's at a fair price.
Three players will soak up the majority of Sanders' and Jennings' minutes: Monta Ellis; J.J. Reddick; and rookie John Henson.
Henson has been a pleasant surprise at the NBA level. In college, he was known as a solid help defender with some skill on offense. However, most scouts agreed that he would struggle in the NBA because of his slight frame. He's been excellent this year, though, with a solid PER of 17.6 in 12 minutes per game. He's no superstar, but Henson should allow the Bucks to keep their game plan without Larry Sanders.
What should be interesting tonight are the matchups in the backcourt. Kemba Walker will likely need to guard his predraft comparison, Monta Ellis, for most of the game. Gerald Henderson will likely be matched up with J.J. Reddick. Both positions have explosive scorers that like to play uptempo basketball. It should be a fun and fast game.
Rounding out the Bucks' starters will be Ersan Ilyasova. Ilyasova has long been a very underrated player in the NBA. His game isn't particularly flashy or appealing -- he works hard and scores efficiently. It's going to be interesting to see how Bismack Biyombo matches up with him. Biz has the most success guarding traditional bigs like himself. He struggles against "new age" big men like Ilyasova.
Some other players to watch out for: Mike Dunleavy, a great shooter with high basketball IQ; Luc Mbah a Moute, a rugged defensive player; and Samuel Dalembert, the enigma.
Here are some quick stats for you guys, via Basketball Reference: