3. Milwaukee Bucks
2012-13 Record: 38-44 (Made playoffs, lost first round to Miami Heat 0-4)
The Bucks lost quite a bit this offseason. Two of their biggest assets, guard combo Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, are gone. They replaced Jennings with another promising guard in Brandon Knight, but he’s not as well developed offensively as Jennings. Without Ellis, they lose a lot of their perimeter threat by means of both shooting and speed driving from the outside. The replacement for Ellis is O.J. Mayo, but while Mayo might be a bit more consistent, he’s nowhere near as explosive as Ellis, and not as good of a three-point shooter. Their next best asset after their guards is probably defensive center Larry Sanders, who is one of (if not the) best defensive big men in the league in terms of interior stopping. He’s pretty much the exact foil to David Lee. Still the Bucks look to be a significantly diminished team from last season.
The Bucks won both of the last games against the Warriors behind major performances from their backcourt. This year, that section of their team isn’t as strong, and the Warriors also got much, much better as defenders on the perimeter with Andre Iguodala’s elite D and Klay Thompson’s emergence as a outside stopper. The basic assessment here is that the Bucks’ strong point got weaker while the Warriors’ counter to that strength got better.