Projecting the NBA using xWARP: Milwaukee Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks are, frankly, an oddly constructed team. They have too many centers with similar skill sets and the talent to demand minutes and too few answers on the wing. They also made a series of strange decisions in the offseason. This summer, the Bucks swapped Monta Ellis for OJ Mayo in free agency- a downgrade, however slight- and traded Brandon Jennings for Brandon Knight- a larger drop in talent. In addition, the Bucks went out and gave Zaza Pachulia a sizeable contract, despite the fact that they had several perfectly capable backup centers behind franchise center, Larry Sanders, including Ekpe Udoh and Gustavo Ayon. As a result of that contract, Ayon was let go and the Atlanta Hawks jumped at the opportunity to grab a player of similar impact to Zaza for a much cheaper price. It was a really strange move, in a summer full of them. The Bucks also added another volume per minute shot taker in Gary Neal, though his overall impact has traditionally been lacking. They also lost Mike Dunleavy Jr. and J.J. Redick in free agency to the greener pastures of Chicago and Los Angeles, respectively- though in the case of Redick they were at least able to turn it into a sign and trade and get a couple of second round picks. The Bucks also, weirdly, traded a helpful wing stopper on a cheapo contract, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, to Sacramento for a couple second round picks. Where do the numbers, courtesy of Nathan Walker and my own minutes projections, say the Bucks’ confusing offseason has left them?

After adjusting for the wider league context, the Bucks’ team Net Rating per game is -3, which translates to a roughly 33 win team. The Bucks and their management, perpetually chasing that 8th seed, will no doubt be disappointed if they only win 33 games this year. On the plus side, if they do land in the lottery, this season would provide them an opportunity to find an actual difference maker in the vaunted 2014 draft who could, when paired with Larry Sanders’s dynamite defense, propel them out of the muck of the Eastern Conference’s playoff-lottery bubble.

As far as potential bright spots go for this likely lottery club, the Bucks will get another year of Sanders blocking or intimidating everyone who dares enter the lane against him and rookie Nate Wolters should be a pretty solid rookie, per minute, according the the Hickory High projections. If the Bucks play Wolters more minutes than I’ve projected for him, they may be helped a bit, as he looks to be more likely to help matters than, say, Gary Neal. In addition, Ersan Ilyasova is awesome and more people show know that. Three point shooting bigs who can also rebound well are very rare indeed. Three point shooting bigs who can rebound well AND look just like James Franco? Well, there’s only one of those and that’s our man Ersan. Enjoy and appreciate him, you guys.