The key to the season? Maximizing Joel Przybilla's ballhandling opportunities, of course! Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

Taking a Stab at the Milwaukee Bucks Rotation

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In 48 hours, all 270 fans who follow the Milwaukee Bucks closely will have a better idea of what the rotation will look like for the 2012-13 season.  So why guess it now?

For the fun of it.  To either guess the rotation right or be spectacularly wrong in failure.  It won’t be any fun guessing after the weekend.

There are 240 minutes worth or player time for each game.  Below is a breakdown of those minutes.  Bear in mind that because each player won’t go for all 82 games — these are the Bucks, after all — their minutes on a per-game average basis will appear larger at the end of the season.

The Starters

Brandon Jennings: 34 minutes
Monta Ellis: 32 minutes

The Bucks aren’t deep at guard; in fact, if Beno Udrih misses any extended time, these numbers will skyrocket to around 39 per game.

Jennings hits restricted free agency in the summer and Ellis has an opt-out clause too.  They want minutes to showcase — or dare I say, audition — their talents both with their own team and rest of the league.

What I would hope for, though, is that Skiles splits up the pair a bit.  Jennings, in particular, was outstanding when working with Beno Udrih last year.  Skiles could, for example, take Monta out at the midway point of the first quarter, reinsert him between quarters, and give Brandon a four-minute rest until around the 8:00 mark.  This substitution pattern would give Udrih the longer stints he craves as well.

When Jennings and Ellis are in the game together, they need to play fast.  I like the starting lineup Skiles has chosen in this regard, because to run well Jennings and Ellis need 1) the best two defensive rebounders on the team, and 2) a speedy running mate who can finish at the rim.

Tobias Harris: 26 minutes per game

Harris is an excellent pairing — especially from the players on the Bucks roster — with Jennings and Ellis on the fast break.  He’s the one who can make the tall, athletic finishes when there’s one final defender to maneuver around — and he’ll do it with a soft touch.

Personally, when I play basketball, I mostly play like crap.  I can’t shoot, can’t dribble, and can’t jump — a zero-tool player.  But there is one thing I’m decent at, and it’s something that Tobias needs to figure out:  making the decision of when to go for the defensive rebound (and/or help his team by boxing out) and when to get out and run.

Harris is getting his shot at starting.  In the preseason, he hit 55.6% of his three-point shots.  Of course, that won’t continue, but it’s a good sign that he can make enough threes to keep his PT up.

The big question mark is defense.  There are some tough covers at small forward in the Eastern Conference: LeBron, Carmelo, and tonight, Paul Pierce.  If Tobias can figure out that end, the number jumps even higher than 26 minutes per game.

One last note: When Luc Mbah a Moute returns, Harris stands to lose the most in terms of playing time.

Ersan Ilyasova: 28 minutes per game

The glistening new contract dictates that Ilyasova get a lot of run, but if there’s a spot where the Bucks have depth (and really, a ridiculous amount of depth), it’s power forward.  So despite the fact that Ersan gives the Bucks the rare combination of an above-average rebounder and three-point shooter, the Bucks will do their best to keep him fresh.

They almost have to.

Samuel Dalembert: 22 minutes per game

At 31 years old, Dalembert is the old guy from the starters.  His per game minute totals from the past three years: 26, 24, and 22 minutes per game.  He’s not particularly nimble, speedy, or ‘aerobically gifted’.  But in short stints, he’s an elite (no, really, elite) rebounder and shot blocker.

He’ll be around to start games, finish games, and not a whole lot in between.

The Core Bench Players

Mike Dunleavy: 26 minutes per game

Dunleavy played well enough to merit dark-horse consideration for Sixth Man of the Year last season.  Plus, Skiles likes him better than his starter, just not in a starting role.  He will get lots of minutes, even when Mbah a Moute returns.

Beno Udrih: 20 minutes per game

Beno and Beno’s +/- rating will be so happy with their increased roles this year.

Larry Sanders: 17 minutes per game
Ekpe Udoh: 15 minutes per game

Barring something crazy (and you really can’t bar that altogether for a player as emotional as him), Sanders will be the first big man off the bench.  He had a complete turnaround from Summer League to preseason, he blocks shots at ridiculous rates, and he plays with the type of frenetic energy that coaches love from bench guys.

His minutes will be limited more by foul trouble that anything else.  Well, that and rebounding.  Unfortunately, Udoh won’t be able to help and they will be paired together quite a bit.

The Rookies:

John Henson: 10 minutes per game
Doron Lamb: 10 minutes per game

They both need to play, they both have styles that are nearly NBA-ready, and they both have question marks.  Skiles will find them time — Henson because he can block shots and mix in more offensive range than Udoh or Sanders, and Lamb simply because the guard rotation is short and he can score all over the floor.

The Insurance Policies:

Marquis Daniels, Joel Przybilla, Drew Gooden

They will all get their turns at playing this year, but once everyone is healthy, expect some DNP-CDs from this group.

Gooden will find time while Henson recovers (and probably more whenever the next injury occurs).  Przybilla will have a role in the games against the Marc Gasol and Andrew Bynum types — the really physical 7-footers.  Daniels will be needed until Lamb has more than two preseason games and a week of practice under his belt.

All three could figure in a more prominent way if the Bucks have a midseason fire sale.  At that point, Bucks fans may get the tank job that spins them out of the cycle of below-average mediocrity.

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Tags: Beno Udrih Mike Dunleavy Milwaukee Bucks Tobias Harris

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