As much as I would love to tell you about the three newest Bucks, those players are often on the court at the same time as the Bucks, in a separate arena thousands of miles away. Enter Adam Papageorgiou, senior correspondent for Magic Basketball Online and founder of Orlando Magic Greek. Adam has watched the trio of new Bucks — up close and in person — for the entire season (and in Redick’s case, longer).
Here is what Adam had to say about Milwaukee’s incoming personnel:
J.J. Redick has gone from barely surviving in the NBA early on his career to now becoming the most well known commodity that was transacted in this year’s trade deadline. The 28-year-old is averaging career-highs in: points per game, assists per game, steals per game, field goal percentage, and the list goes on. Visually and statistically, the Magic were by far a better team when J.J. was on the court.
J.J. has tweaked his game to where he’s still super effective even when his shot isn’t dropping. Redick isn’t a 3-point chucker anymore. J.J. can drive to the bucket, orchestrate pick-and-rolls in his sleep, and has the attitude of a leader on and off the court. His brilliant Duke mind shows in interviews as he’s not hesitant to go in depth about schemes and minute details of the game and opponents.
Just don’t expect J.J. to lock down his opponent on defense. Redick holds his own one-on-one and rarely fails on the defensive help. Redick is versatile enough to where he can be utilized several ways offensively. You can hand him the ball to command a play or run him off screens. His jumper is reliable, but be wary of his ‘leaning tendencies’ if he does have a rough night. J.J. is determined to win a championship and his effort will never be questioned.
Gustavo Ayon’s best basketball of the season came in the preseason…when he was healthy. A sprained left thumb, a right thigh contusion, combined with other bumps and bruises have prevented ‘Goose’ from matching his rookie form in New Orleans. The 27-year-old has shown flashes of being a solid third big man on an NBA roster, but Gustavo struggles in one-on-one defensive situations. If he guards a center, they’ll bulldoze him to the rack. If Ayon defends a power forward, they’ll speed past or shoot jumpers over him. Gustavo can’t leap and isn’t a shot blocker by any means. His help defense can be an asset once he learns how to communicate well with teammates. He’s more comfortable speaking Spanish, but he knows English more than he wants to let on.
What the Bucks do need and will get in Gustavo is a superbly unselfish player. If he plays enough minutes, Ayon could potentially lead all big men in the league in assists per game. Ayon has quite the passing highlight reel. Gustavo’s offensive arsenal consists of an array of post-up drives to the hole and baseline lay-ups and reverses. Ayon’s great pump fakes are wasted because ‘Goose’ has been a terrible jump shooter this season. It’s tough to say how Gustavo will perform in Milwaukee, but he’ll always give you fabulous effort and energy.
Ish Smith may demand the Milwaukee fans and media call him “Ishmael” when he arrives to his new franchise, something he wasn’t able to succeed in accomplishing in Orlando. The 24-year-old is already moving on to his 5th NBA franchise, so Ish doesn’t know the meaning of being in a stable developing environment.
Smith is one of the best athletes you’ll see in the league. His fitness level was top-3 in Orlando. Ish is listed at 6-foot, but he’s lucky to be 5’10” in padded sneakers. That doesn’t prevent Smith from being a phenomenal leaper for his height. Ish was a huge upgrade over Chris Duhon during the Stan Van Gundy regime during the lockout season.
However, Ish didn’t find an identity with Jacque Vaughn’s staff. Smith started a few games and got quality minutes when Jameer Nelson or E’Twaun Moore was injured, but Ish didn’t take advantage of his opportunities. Smith can’t defend, can’t shoot (though his jumper is improving), and commits careless passes. But Ish can weave through defenses at will and can be taught to be a usable spark off Milwaukee’s bench.