Tuesday , Oct , 19 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Milwaukee Bucks 2004-05 Season Preview

=== Milwaukee Bucks 2004-05 Season Preview ===

By Warren Blatt, NBA Editor

2003-04 FINISH: 41-41

OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Zendon Hamilton (F) – Free Agent; Mike James (G) – Free
Agent; Lonnie Jones (C) – Free Agent; Zaza Pachulia (F) – Trade with
Charlotte; Maurice Williams (G) – Free Agent.

OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: Damon Jones (G) – Signed with Miami; Brevin Knight (G)
– Signed with Charlotte; Brian Skinner (F) – Signed with Philadelphia;

2004 DRAFT PICKS: NO SELECTIONS.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Mike James, SG Michael Redd, SF Desmond Mason,
PF Keith Van Horn, C Joe Smith

COACH: Terry Porter

(Sports Network) – What a shock last season turned out to be for the Milwaukee
Bucks. The majority of the so-called experts felt the Bucks were a squad that
was in a re-building mode and that this was a team that would become a
fixture in the lottery for the next few years.

Well, Milwaukee finished 41-41 in a weak Eastern Conference. The Bucks record
seeded them at No. 6 in the postseason, which earned them a first-round date
with the Detroit Pistons, who eliminated the surprising Bucks in five games.

Head coach Terry Porter had a successful first year as the general. The
players were able to adapt Porter’s style and philosophy of coaching. Porter
motivated his club to be hard-working on defense, and got the Bucks to work
the pick-and-roll on almost every offensive set.

Shooting guard Michael Redd flourished under Porter. The 25-year-old shooting
guard led the Bucks in scoring with a career-high 21.7 points per game and
earned the right to play in his first NBA All-Star Game. Redd also averaged
five rebounds and 2.3 assists while starting all 82 regular-season games for
Milwaukee.

High-flying forward Desmond Mason also seemed to embrace Porter’s style of
play. The 27-year-old small forward averaged 14.4 points and 4.4 boards in 82
contests during the regalia season. He showed that he can be effective
whether he starts or comes off the bench, as Mason started 31 contests during
the regular season and then became a fixture in the starting lineup in the
playoffs.

Keith Van Horn, who was acquired in February from the New York Knicks in a
three-team trade that also involved the Atlanta Hawks, gives Porter a forward
who should be able to be successful in an offensive style that revolves around
the pick-and-roll. Van Horn netted 15.7 points and grabbed 6.3 boards per game
in 25 games for Milwaukee, which is Van Horn’s fourth stop in the last three
years.

During the offseason, Milwaukee signed free agent point guards Mike James,
who was a member of the world champion Pistons, and Utah restricted free agent
Maurice Williams, who was allowed to join the Bucks when the Jazz declined to
match Milwaukee’s offer. James and Williams give Milwaukee depth at the point,
as T.J. Ford continues to recover from spinal surgery.

The Bucks did lose forward Brian Skinner, who signed with the Philadelphia
76ers. Skinner gave Milwaukee a player who could play power forward and
center. He was not flashy, but he worked hard on both ends of the court and
suited Porter’s system.

Porter once again has a big challenge ahead of him. He will lead a team that
finished with a .500 record and is considered over-achievers because they made
the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference. Porter will try to get that extra
effort out of his club which could result in a few more victories.

BACKCOURT

Redd is the key to Milwaukee’s backcourt, as he has established himself as one
of the top shooting guards in the league. The Ohio State product attempted a
career-high 1,439 shots and converted on 44 percent from the floor and 35
percent from three-point range in 2003-04. Redd, who was selected by the Bucks
in the second round (43rd pick overall) of the 2000 NBA Draft, is the focal
point of Porter’s offense and is the key to any success that Milwaukee will
enjoy for many years to come.

James and Williams should see plenty of action at the point. James averaged
9.3 points and 4.2 assists for Boston and Detroit last season, while the 21-
year-old Williams posted five points and dished out 1.3 assists in just over
13 minutes per game for the Jazz. If Ford, who had started all 55 games that
he played in last season before he was injured, is not able to comeback in the
near future than the Bucks are at least covered until he is able to resume his
career.

Erick Strickland will spell Redd when the All-Star is catching his breath on
the bench. The 6-3 guard saw limited action in 43 contests for the Bucks last
season. He averaged 5.4 points and 2.1 assists in a little over 13 minutes per
game.

Porter has also used Mason at shooting guard in the past. Mason is not known
for his outside game, but he can penetrate and does have solid ball-handling
skills. Even though his natural position is small forward, Mason can hold his
own as an off-guard if needed.

FRONTCOURT

Mason and Van Horn are both effective at small forward, but it will not be a
surprise to see the two playing a lot of minutes together. At 6-10, Van Horn,
who has a reputation of being known as a “soft” player, can play the power
forward.

Twenty-nine-year-old Joe Smith will see action at power forward and center.
The 6-10 Smith raised his game to the next level in the playoffs, as he
averaged 13.2 points and 10 rebounds in five games against Detroit. During the
regular season, Smith registered averages of 10.9 points and 8.5 boards in 76
contests. The Maryland product is durable and has proven to a valuable asset
to the way Porter wants his team to play on both ends of the court. He has
found a home in Milwaukee and should continue to excel under Porter.

The Bucks have some depth up front, as Toni Kukoc, who was an unrestricted
free agent, decided to re-sign with the team. He is a versatile player who can
handle the ball and knock down the outside jumper. Kukoc played about 21
minutes per game for Porter, and averaged 8.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.7
assists in 73 games as a reserve.

The middle is suspect with Dan Gadzuric, Daniel Santiago and Zendon Hamilton,
who played with Philadelphia last season and signed with the Bucks as a free
agent, battling for playing time. Smith should see a lot of time at center,
while Gadzuric, Santiago and Hamilton will be asked to play defense and grab
some rebounds.

Marcus Haislip and Zaza Pachulia, who was obtained from Charlotte in a trade,
will also compete for playing time and a spot on the roster.

OUTLOOK

The Bucks should return to the postseason if they continue to follow Porter’s
lead. Redd gives Milwaukee a serious offensive threat, while Mason and Van
Horn should post respectable numbers in the scoring column. Smith, who is a
former No. 1 overall pick, seems to have found his niche in Milwaukee and will
need to continue to produce if the Bucks want to try and compete with the
elite in the East. Milwaukee can win 45 games if they stay healthy, but the
Bucks are not going to able to knock off Detroit, Indiana or Miami when the
playoffs roll around.

MIL