The NBA season is here. With that in mind, it is time to flip through the book on the 2012-13 season and to take a look at what the season might have in store — especially when it comes to the Magic. Be sure to look out for more of these team capsules and to check out all the blogs taking part in this year's NBA Blog Preview (don't worry, I will be linking to all of them in the next few weeks … months … this preview IS never-ending, afterall).
Last Year/This Year: 31-35/32-32
Last Year vs. Magic: Bucks Lost 99-94 in Milwaukee on Feb. 11; Bucks Lost 94-85 in Orlando on Feb. 17; Bucks Lost 93-90 in Milwaukee on Feb. 20; Bucks Lost 114-98 in Orlando on March 3
This Year vs. Magic: Bucks Won 107-98 in Milwaukee on Feb. 2; March 17 in Milwaukee; April 10 in Orlando
Magic Connection: Gustavo Ayon (Player, 2012-13); Drew Gooden (Player, 2003-04); J.J. Redick (2006-13); Ish Smith (Player, 2012-13); Assistant Coach Joe Wolf (Player, 1995-96)
The Previews: Frank Madden/Brewhoop
The NBA dropped a humorous advertisement earlier this year, cutting highlights of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis to the theme song of the Milwaukee-based comedy Laverne and Shirley. The dream for the Bucks was for the team they had built featuring the two shoot-first, undersized guards to work as well together as those two roommates did.
The results have been . . . well.
They have not been bad. The Bucks are comfortably sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference and appear set to make the Playoffs for the first time since 2010. But the future for Milwaukee is extremely precarious.
With the acquisition of J.J. Redick, Milwaukee could potentially lose all three guards and be left with a roster full of tough-minded tweeners in the frontcourt. The Bucks went all in on this season — even if that means just barely making the Playoffs.
Of course, that could mean they get them all back for another run next year. Brandon Jennings is a restricted free agent this summer, and there are rumors that he may sign the qualifying offer so he can become an unrestricted free agent in 2014. There are also rumors that Monta Ellis could opt in to the final year of his deal. That would be a bonus for Milwaukee.
This year though, Milwaukee should accomplish its goal and make the postseason. It is a small one, for sure, but one the franchise is determined to accomplish — thus the Redick deal and giving up Tobias Harris to get him.
The jury is still out it would seem on the Jennings/Ellis pairing. It is not so hunky dory.
Jennings is averaging 18.2 points per game and 6.7 assists per game, and he is shooting 40.4 percent from the floor. His usage rate is a career-low 23.8 percent. That is good, but you would like to see more efficiency from Jennings.
Ellis has really struggled to adjust though. Ellis is posting only 19.3 points per game, his lowest total since 2009, and is shooting 41.7 percent from the floor. Milwaukee is not exactly efficient.
But the team is set up to give them and J.J. Redick the ball. It is a guard-heavy offense and they rely on jumpers to keep the offense going. That is not exactly a formula for sustained success. They seemed destined to be in eighth in the East and do nothing more than make a Playoff cameo.
How the Magic Will Beat the Bucks: Because the Bucks are so guard-oriented, they lack some size in the backcourt. This is particularly when Milwaukee goes with the Ellis-Jennings-Redick backcourt. This gives the Magic some flexibility with how they attack. On Friday, the Thunder tried putting Reggie Jackson on Arron Afflalo and Afflalo took him tot he post and dominated him. Similarly, with such a small backcourt, Orlando could use Afflalo at small forward and run the two point guard lineup that has had some success this year. Options are always good for Jacque Vaughn as he tries to find the right formula.
How the Bucks Will Beat the Magic: Undoubtedly, Milwaukee has an offensive advantage because of Orlando's poor defense. The Magic could be very susceptible to the penetration ability of both Jennings and Ellis if they are not careful. The real difference though is the athleticism of Larry Sanders in the paint. He had a big game against the Magic in the first meeting and did a really good job changing shots and making the Magic think twice when they head into the paint. He will have to do more of that in the upcoming games and be a presence at the rim. The Magic will have to challenge him some and not settle for jumpers.