Nov 7, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova (7) and center Larry Sanders (8) during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at the Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Putting the Milwaukee Bucks Back in the NBA Playoffs

The Bucks’ season is over. Eight teams are still contending for the NBA title as Milwaukee’s franchise prepares for June’s draft and the impending free agency of at least half of the guards on the roster. As those groups battle toward their respective conference championships and any buzz around professional basketball in Wisconsin has returned to the norm, let’s briefly see which remaining teams* could utilize each individual Buck to the best of his ability.

Larry Sanders to the…Oklahoma City Thunder: With Kevin Durant shouldering the scoring burden and the Marc Gasol-Zach Randolph tandem turning the paint into a war zone favoring the Memphis Grizzlies, Sanders would do wonders for OKC. His shot-blocking acumen would be an enormous weapon against the Grizz, yes, but his length would be useful in rebounding and leading toward multiple opportunities to score on a single possession. In a tight series in which no game has been decided by more than six points, Sanders could tip the outcomes just by reverse-cherry picking and staying on the Thunder’s defensive end of the court at all times.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to the…San Antonio Spurs: Perhaps LRMAM is not a starter if added to the Spurs’ roster, but against a high-octane offense like that of Golden State, Mbah a Moute’s defense would serve to slow down whichever opponent whose assignment he draws. Gregg Popovich would know how and when to utilize Mbah a Moute and make him look like he did at his best under Scott Skiles.

Ersan Ilyasova to the…San Antonio Spurs: Coach Pop would put Ilyasova to good use, as well. With Tony Paker and Manu Ginobli creating shots for him, Ersan would be a glorified Matt Bonner (impossible, I know) and spread the floor enough for Tim Duncan to operate in an extended comfort zone.

Monta Ellis to the…Chicago Bulls: For a team who scored a lowly 65 points in a playoff game, even a volume shooter like Monta v. 1.0 would be a godsend. Version 2.0, though – the one who passes efficiently and makes sounder decisions with the ball while still managing to fill the bucket? Now that would benefit a Bulls team missing their star point guard and his fill-in, especially with Nate Robinson’s bottled lightning coming uncorked. Speaking of, a Robinson-Ellis backcourt is utterly terrifying. Remember Milwaukee small-ball and a struggle for equity with Stephen Curry in Golden State? I shudder to imagine the box scores Montanate Robellis could compile…

Brandon Jennings to the…Oklahoma City Thunder: One of the Thunder’s nightmare scenarios is currently playing out as Russell Westbrook is sidelined after a meniscus tear and, having traded away a rehabbed Eric Maynor, Reggie Jackson is playing major point guard minutes. While Jennings is predisposed to fickle performances, this situation may be a perfect storm for both parties. Although not playing in a major market as he is interested in doing, Jennings would be on a highly successful team surrounded by many players around his age and in an atmosphere that relies heavily on personal relationships to build chemistry. The scrutiny of being a franchise player would still fall to Durant, putting less pressure on Jennings. Could it backfire? Sure, especially if Jennings went into diva mode and/or chose to make himself the team’s first scoring option, but inserting him into OKC’s starting line-up would pay big dividends if Jennings willingly took the second-fiddle role and used his speed and ball handling to create shots for Thunder teammates.

Samuel Dalembert to the…New York Knicks: Dalembert is 31 so this works if, and only if, the Knicks were interested in lowering the average age of their players by approximately seven years.

John Henson to the…Golden State Warriors: Golden State has a deep front court and given their Festus Ezeli-Carl Landry-Draymond Green rotation at power forward, Henson would likely have to find his place as a center in Oakland. However, his scoring upside and the flashes of brilliance he showed during his rookie season with the Bucks would make him a nice change of pace from Andrew Bogut’s defensive-mindedness. Could Henson usurp reserve minutes from Andris Biedrins? Absolutely. If nothing else, he would be a cheap, young insurance policy backing up the injury prone Bogut. Bonus: Henson is used to sharing a front court with Warriors rookie small forward Harrison Barnes as the two were college teammates at North Carolina.

Mike Dunleavy to the…Memphis Grizzlies: Toughness is a trait often associated with defense in basketball, and Memphis has it in Stax boatloads. What Dunleavy offers is the skill set of a jump shooter with range, which would give the Grizzlies’ offense a new dimension. Put Dunleavy on the court with Gasol, Randolph and Mike Conley from the beginning of the series and the Thunder could very well have been on the wrong end of a broom.

Marquis Daniels to the…San Antonio Spurs: Put him at the end of the guard and small forward rotations, let him spell those above him on the depth chart and for goodness sakes DON’T MAKE HIM GUARD TIM DUNCAN.

Ekpe Udoh to the…New York Knicks: As the Bucks-Miami Heat series reminded us, Ekpe Udoh plays defense well and rebounds at a sub-par rate. Pair him with Tyson Chandler and trust Chandler to clean the glass as Udoh bangs down low against the Pacers’ bigs. He doesn’t score like Carmelo Anthony (this is bad) or present the same obstacles as Kenyon Martin (debatable), but he also does not play defense like Melo (a good thing) or have Lil’ Kim’s lips tattooed on his neck (even better).

J.J. Redick to the…Indiana Pacers: When Jason Kidd ultimately has a big shooting night, let J.J. duel with him. He was less than stellar as a Buck, but it sounds like more of an anomaly than the beginning of a career downturn. The Pacers play slow, cerebral basketball with a grit unrivaled by any team in the Eastern Conference. If Redick were Indiana’s backup shooting guard, he would play much the same role as he did in Orlando without the expectations to be a game-changer as he was with Milwaukee. In this light, he flourishes. That much is known.

Ish Smith to the…Golden State Warriors: DNP-Already knows franchise color scheme.

Drew Gooden, Joel Przybilla and Gustavo Ayon to the…ice cream bar: Frozen dairy treats won’t help you get on Ish Smith’s level, but they will comfort you. Drew’s buying!

Disagree with a certain Buck’s landing spot? Suggest a better pairing in the comments.

*Except the Miami Heat. Let’s keep not thinking about those guys.

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