We’re counting down the days till the start of the new season, and it’s about time for everyone to be making predictions. This year, instead of just doing one prediction, I decided to go out and interview one blogger for every NBA team.
The bloggers whose opinions we will be graced with over the next few weeks are the best of the best, as all of them have featured in Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie basketball blog’s Blog Association, where Kelly Dwyer has been profiling the best team-centric NBA blogs out there. If you have any inclination of increasing your knowledge about the NBA, these are the blogs you need to read and subscribe to (I know I will be!).
Today, we are honored to interview Alex from Brew Hoop, one of the best Bucks blogs out there. Alex was was gracious enough to give up some of his time to answer some questions regarding the Lakers and the Bucks .
Jonny: Out on a limb, although backing it up with solid reasoning would be cool too, what do you think the ball park for the Buck’s 08-09 regular season record will be, and do you think it will be enough to make the playoffs in the East?
Alex: As a team generally known for being consistently mediocre throughout the past seven years, the Bucks probably bottomed out with 26 wins last year. The players never responded favorably to inexperienced, 43 year-old coach Larry Krystkowiak, and a 7-4 start spiraled into the franchise’s worst season in the last decade.
The coaching replacement is 44 year-old Scott Skiles, who is similar in age to the departed Krystkowiak but boasts far more high-level coaching success, which gives him legitimacy to act authoritatively. He’s also known for improving teams defensively, which shouldn’t be difficult considering the Bucks were the worst on that side of the ball last year. Precisely how much they improve in that area is the great unknown, and that will go a long way in determining how many wins Milwaukee adds from last year’s meager total.
Andrew Bogut was one of the few players to show a pulse defensively, and expectations are peaking once again for the former first overall pick. In fact, a recent poll on Brew Hoop placed Bogut as the clear pick over Richard Jefferson and Michael Redd as the team’s top overall player for 2008-09. That might surprise people outside of Milwaukee, but fans appreciate Bogut’s well-rounded game that includes a soft touch around the basket, strong passing skills for a center, and a shotblocking presence. And with the pass-unhappy Mo Williams now in Cleveland, the Aussie could figure more prominently on offense even with Jefferson joining Redd on the wing. Also, unlike Redd and Jefferson, the 23 year-old is on the upswing of his career, a fact that no doubt was on the Bucks’ mind when they inked him to a $60 million extension this summer .
Bogut’s hopefully inevitable improvements, along with the addition of Jefferson, should produce at least a handful more wins. Distributing point guards Luke Ridnour and Ramon Sessions will contribute to a more free-flowing offense as well, but Milwaukee remains thin on defense and questionable off the bench. Expect the Bucks to stay in contention for a final playoff spot, and fall in the 35-40 win range.
Jonny: Again, out on the said limb, what do you think the ball park for the Laker’s 08-09 regular season record will be, and do you think it will be enough to win the West?
Alex: Well, what happens when you have an elite frontcourt, a solid stable of point guards, one of the game’s most versatile small forwards, and the best shooting guard on the planet? We’ll see in Los Angeles. A run at 60 wins is this writer’s guess.
As magnificent as the Lakers look on paper, they are even better on the floor when the offense is clicking and the defense is merely organized. It’s not all sunshine in L.A. though. I’ll freely admit I expected the Lakers to drop the Celtics in the Finals, but they proved me wrong, and proved themselves very mortal on the grandest stage.
Andrew Bynum would’ve helped a lot against Boston, but now the Lakers also must hope for peaceful coexistence in what appears to be a logjam in the frontcourt.
The tests in the West will be stringent again. The Hornets aged a year, and for most, that is a good thing for them. The Spurs have won the title every other season for the past six years, and they didn’t win last season, so Laker fans will have to hope that trends comes to a halt. The Rockets are more dangerous than ever with the addition of Artest. The Jazz, Mavs, Suns, and Blazers also won’t be pushed over easily.
Still, the Lakers are the class of the West, my pick to finish first. Then again, scanning the very able contenders, I wouldn’t exactly be shocked if their top spot was overtaken. And with a team as great as Los Angeles, it’s more about the playoffs than anything that happens beforehand anyway.
Once the Lakers get to the playoffs, they will hope to fare better than last year. And better than the previous 18 runners-up. The 1988-89 Pistons are the last team to win the championship coming off a Finals loss.
Jonny: How do you feel the Bucks match up with the Lakers over a 7-game series?
Alex: The Bucks actually outscored the Lakers in head-to-head matchups last year. In short though, the Bucks simply don’t match up with the NBA runners-up in a seven-game series.
Every team is beatable over a 48-minute period. Sometimes even the best teams can fall a few times. Look no further than the NBA champion Celtics, who were beaten by the eighth-seeded Hawks three times in a mere seven days. Supremely relevant here is Milwaukee’s win over Los Angeles in November last season.
More often than in any other league, the better team emerges victorious in the NBA. This is due to the exhaustive nature of a seven-game playoff series. Some claim that college basketball’s one-and-done playoff format is more compelling to watch, and there is credence to that argument. Those of us who stayed up late enough or woke up earlier enough this summer witnessed a similar intensity and passion in the Olympics.
But while it’s liable to produce anticlimactic results (which Laker fans know), the NBA’s painstaking method for picking a winner is virtually fool-proof. And I wouldn’t be fooling anyone to say the Bucks could hang with the Lakers in a series, even if all the games were played in our backyard.
The Bucks played the Lakers tough last season, winning 110-103 at home and falling 110-105 at Staples. After a drastic offseason remodeling project, the Bucks are a far different team, and by most indications a superior one. The addition of Richard Jefferson gives the Bucks two top ten scorers, along with Michael Redd, who averaged 24 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists in the two contests last season. Unfortunately, the worst defensive outfit in all the NBA isn’t going to fare well against one of the league’s most efficient offensive units in the long run of a seven-game series. Worse yet, perimeter defense is the foremost problem for Milwaukee, which spells disastrous results when facing the world’s premier offensive perimeter talent in Kobe Bryant.
Of course, we’d be remiss to not point out that Redd not only outdueled his fellow Team USA shooting guard, but actually played defense in the Bucks’ win at the Bradley Center the last time these teams met.
Jonny: What is your perception on Bynum? Lakers fans have him pegged as the next *insert hall-of-fame center*, yet the rest of the league doesn’t seem to hold him in such a high regard.
Alex: Obviously, Hall-of-Fame is a touch optimistic and premature, but I’ve consistently come away impressed with Bynum. I wrote an article outlining good prospects for Team USA going forward, and coincidentally, a couple days later Bynum was quoted as wishing to play for the national team.
He’s a solid candidate, and not only because of the lack of American big men. Bynum also should be one of the top centers in the league as soon as this year. He’s already an efficient scorer and rebounder, and might just follow in the footsteps of Wilt, Kareem, and Shaq as leading the league in field goal percentage.
How he responds coming off injury remains a questions however. Players come back so strongly, so often now that you almost take it for granted. That’s a dangerous line of thought.
That said, I like that he shoots a high percentage from the field, rebounds, and blocks shots, like a center should. I like that he’s improving from the line. I like that he stands a sturdy seven feet off the ground. I like that he scored 13.1 per game last season but has never attempted 15 field goals in a game. And I like that he’s all these things while being barely old enough to drink.
Jonny: Ramon Sessions. Not a lot of people know about the guy (outside of YouTube highlight videos). How do you rate him, and what do you expect his role to be on the Bucks this season?
Alex: Sessions is projected to back up newly acquired Luke Ridnour, but that might have more to do with experience than ability. Whereas Ridnour started for a first-place Sonic team a few years ago, Sessions started his NBA career a couple weeks before the end of last year’s regular season.
Of course, Sessions actually started more games (7) than Ridnour (5) last season. I fully expect to see them share point guard duties, and really, minutes distribution is a lot more important than simply who starts. Laker fans can relate; Derek Fisher started every regular season game for the Lakers last season but Jordan Farmer got more than 20 minutes per game.
Michael Redd and the departed Mo Williams were also second round draft choices, so 57th overall draft pick Sessions isn’t in a completely unfamiliar place as a guard primed for a leading role on the Bucks. However, the stakes are higher now than when he dazzled as the Bucks fizzled down the stretch last year. He notched 14, 13, 24, and 14 assists in the team’s final four games, and the mere numbers don’t explain the newfound hop in the step that teammates didn’t seem to have when Mo Williams ran the show.
On the downside, the team went 0-7 with Sessions starting at the point, he doesn’t have a consistent jumper off the dribble like Williams, and his defense was up-and-down. That said, after winning Rookie of the Month honors in his only month in the NBA, there is much to look forward to.
Thanks again to Alex for his time and Insights. Please DO NOT troll Brew Hoop, even if you think his ideas are totally off base (which you shouldn’t). Remember, on the Internet, you and I represent Lakers fans everywhere. Lets try to give ourselves a good name.