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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014

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In Sports Commentary

Not many things went right for the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2013-14 season. (PHOTO: David Bernacchi )

5 silver linings and disappointments of the Bucks season


The 2013-14 season has come to an end for the Milwaukee Bucks, officially the worst team (by record) in franchise history. For that to happen, many things had to go wrong. But, there were some silver linings, too.

We take a look at the top five silver linings and the top five disappointments of the year.

The silver lining

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo

The year began with Bucks general manager John Hammond hoping fans might see flashes of what the teenage rookie from Greece could do in limited playing time. Plans changed fairly early however, as Antetokounmpo finished the year averaging over 24 minutes per game. While his final numbers aren't great, he brought national attention to Milwaukee with his incredible back story, his personality, and his potential.

2. Nate Wolters

The less heralded rookie was forced into action in the first game of the season due to injury and wound up starting 31 times in 58 games. Though Wolters' year was cut short due to a broken hand, the point guard out of South Dakota State University proved he may have a career coming off the bench as a solid reserve. He turned the ball over only 57 times in 1,309 minutes of action.

3. Brandon Knight

One of many big time offseason acquisitions by Hammond, Knight replaced Brandon Jennings and was given the keys to Larry Drew's offense. Despite being bothered by lower body injuries throughout the year, Knight did develop his offensive game while moving between the point and off guard positions, setting career highs in every key offensive category and player efficiency.

4. Zaza Pachulia

After an eight-year hiatus in Atlanta, Pachulia returned to Milwaukee this offseason to provide a great locker room presence and depth along the front court. Perhaps pushed too hard too soon after recovering from foot surgery, Pachulia did miss a month of action, but he's been exactly what the Bucks hoped for in terms of being a reliable player on and off the court.

5. Khris Middleton and Jeff Adrien

These two are lumped together for the sole fact that they've proven they can be solid contributors off the bench. The 22-year-old Middleton is the only member of the Bucks to play in all 82 games and he has proven he can be a solid defender and 3-point shooter. Adrien was an unknown after coming over from Charlotte, but the 28-year-old veteran has brought energy and a traditional post presence to the team.

The disappointments

1. Larry Sanders

After being one of the bright spots of 2012-13, Sanders was awarded a $44 million contract extension in the summer and invited to practice with Team USA. But the year got off to a bad start for the 25-year-old, as he played just 17.5 minutes per game and committed nine personal fouls in the first three games of the year, and then things really unraveled. He broke his thumb in an off-court fight, then was cited for leaving pets outdoors. He returned to play OK for 20 games, but also managed to get in a shouting match with a teammate before suffering a broken orbital bone. His year ended with a 5-game suspension by the NBA for violating the league's drug program.

2. O.J. Mayo

The 26-year-old was signed to a 3-year, $24 million contract and was expected to provide consistent scoring at the off guard position, but Mayo never got going. He dealt with personal issues, then illness, and then fell out of shape to have the worst season of his six year career. He started just 23 of the 52 games he played and posted career lows in minutes, points, assists, rebounds and shooting percentage. He was also suspended for an on-court "forcible strike" of an opponent.

3. Ersan Ilyasova

The longest tenured member of the Milwaukee Bucks was expected to build off the final 36 games of last season when he averaged 17.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game while shooting 49 percent from the field and 47.7 percent from behind the 3-point line. Instead, Ilyasova turned his worst season since 2010-11 across all the key statistical categories. He was also suspended for punching an opponent and spoke about his frustrations with the organization's direction.

4. The veteran experiment

Mayo could be tossed into this too, but the experiment of 33-year-old Caron Butler, 32-year-old Luke Ridnour and 29-year-old Gary Neal was a disaster. Neal shot a career worst 39 percent from the field and frequently hurried shots or spectated on defense. Butler battled injury but shot just 38.7 percent from the floor, the lowest percentage of his career in a decade. He also wasn't afraid to voice his displeasure with his minutes. Ridnour was nursing a sore back as early as training camp, and he shot a career low 38.4 percent from the floor in just 36 games with the Bucks.

5. Ekpe Udoh

It may seem unfair to call a back-of-the-bench player a disappointment, but let's look. Udoh was a lottery pick four years ago, and the injury issues early in the front court should have provided Udoh an opportunity to step up. He instead ran into his own injury problems and when he did play, he didn't take advantage of the second-most minutes per game he's logged in his career. The 6-foot, 10-inch center turned in career lows in points and blocks and shot a horrid 39.9 percent from the field. He was also the sixth-highest paid player on the team.


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