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Eastern Conference Competition Preview: Are the Bucks better than the Bulls?

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Should We Fear the Deer?

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

As the NBA season inches closer, we're looking at the Bulls competition in the East. Today: the Milwaukee Bucks.

Last year: 41-41 (6th in Eastern Conference). Lost to Chicago Bulls 2-4 in First Round.

'15-'16 Vegas Over / Under: 43.5

Additions / Subtractions

IN: Greg Monroe, Greivis Vasquez, Chris Copeland, Rashad Vaughn
OUT: Ersan Ilyasova, Zaza Pachulia, Jared Dudley

Over the past two seasons, the Milwaukee Bucks have been one of the toughest teams to project.  After unexpectedly tanking the 2013 season away and drafting Jabari Parker, the 2014 Bucks managed a complete reversal despite losing a promising Larry Sanders to retirement and Parker to a season ending knee injury.

The Bucks will be no easier to project this year, with an array of new weapons for coach Jason Kidd to tinker with.  Longtime fan favorites Ersan Ilyasova and Zaza Pachulia were dealt in cap-clearing trades.  Free agent acquistions Greg Monroe, Greivis Vasquez, and a re-signed Khris Middleton (5 years/$70 million) maintain the spelling bee that is the Bucks' roster (try spelling Antetokounmpo three times fast).

Depth Chart:
PG SG SF PF C
Michael Carter-Williams Khris Middleton Giannis Antetokounmpo Jabari Parker Greg Monroe (DET)
Greivis Vasquez (TOR) Jerryd Bayless Chris Copeland (IND) Johnny O'Bryant John Henson
Tyler Ennis OJ Mayo Rashad Vaughn (R) Damien Inglis (R) Miles Plumlee
Jorge Gutierrez Charlie Westbrook (R) Marcus Landry (FA) Josh Powell (FA) Jon Horford (R)

(credit to Redditor MrMittenz)

Fans can expect to see more movement out of the Bucks midseason as well.  Their roster as currently constructed problematically hosts a glut of point guards. Spanning the past year, the Bucks have acquired Michael Carter-Williams and Tyler Ennis in a mid-season trade, swapped draft picks for Greivis Vasquez, and doled out a multi-year deal to Jorge Gutierrez.  With the Bulls' suffering from a glaring hole at backup PG, don't be surprised to see the Bulls and Bucks as future trade partners.

What to Expect

No writeup of the Bucks would be complete without mentioning Jason Kidd, who fans of Milwaukee largely credit for the remarkably quick turnaround of the franchise.  The Bulls saw firsthand how Kidd was able to eke out extra wins during a surprisingly competitive 4-2 first round playoff matchup.  Videos of Bucks' practice sessions provide a glimpse of Kidd's ability to teach and develop his young players with remarkable clarity and patience.

Las Vegas projects Milwaukee as a 43.5 win team, a small improvement over last year's 41 win team (projected at 28 wins).  Working against the Bucks is their strength of schedule, which figures to be one of the toughest in the East.

Bucks fans have high expectations with a blossoming young team and a good coach behind them.  This may finally be the year that NBA teams fear the deer.

[special thanks to Bucks superfan Matthew Harland for his help writing this article]

FerriganFormula

[BaB's own Kevin Ferrigan gives his take using his own statistical model, described as: a plus-minus that used two years of data blended with predictive real plus-minus, and minutes projections from Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com]

The Bucks improved their overall talent this offseason by signing a good young big man in Greg Monroe. They don't project to be much better record-wise than last year, however, and could take a slight step back. This is because they lost Zaza Pachulia and Jared Dudley, important veterans from last year's team, for nothing and replaced half a season of Brandon Knight with a whole season of Michael Carter-Williams, who is not super good. Running their projected team strength through the sked gets them to 40 wins.