MILWAUKEE (AP) — What a difference a new season makes for Milwaukee Bucks coach Scott Skiles.
Last season, Skiles struggled to get enough big men on the court after the Bucks traded center Andrew Bogut to the Golden State Warriors prior to the March trading deadline. The result was the Bucks gave up almost 99 points per game, which ranked 22nd in the NBA, one year after giving up only 92.7 points per game.
The team finished with a 31-35 record and failed to make the playoffs.
This season, Skiles will be able to look down the bench and see seven players that are able to play the power forward and center positions.
"Hopefully we won't see the lay-up drills that we gave up a last year," Skiles said at Bucks' annual media day Monday. "We had to get some size and we did. It should allow us to play the type of defense that we need to play to win in this league."
Milwaukee acquired 6-11 Samuel Dalembert in a trade with the Houston Rockets, signed free-agent 7-1 Joel Przybilla and drafted 6-11 John Henson in the first round. The team also has Ekpe Udoh, Larry Sanders, Drew Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova — all of them 6-10.
For the most part after Bogut was traded, Gooden was forced to play center against much bigger players.
Skiles said he wants to be a top five defensive team this season. He said defense would be emphasized when the team begins training camp on Tuesday. The Bucks open the preseason Oct. 9 against Cleveland in Canton, Ohio.
"We proved that we can score last season," said Skiles, whose team averaged 99 points per game. "If we can get better defensively, it plays to the strength of this team in being able to get out and run."
General manager John Hammond said he knew that he had to make some moves.
"In order to be successful in this league, you have to have size," he said. "We can now go extremely big if we need to. I believe we can make a difference in the game with our size, which is quite a bit different from last season."
The Bucks' new contingent of big men was the main topic of discussion among all the players at media day. To a man, they said that defense would be the focus this season and that the team's size could help make up for any defensive mistakes that were made.
"If we can hold our guys for four or five dribbles, knowing that our bigs are back there to clean anything up, we will do very well this season," said guard Monta Ellis, who was acquired by Milwaukee in the Bogut trade. "It was great to see the front office focus on getting a lot more bigs in this season. I really think it will pay off."
Skiles even suggested he could struggle at times to find enough playing time for all of his big men.
For his part, Udoh said all the players would get their turn and understood the importance of defense to this year's team.
"It is what it is," he said. "We have enough big men now to cause some problems for other teams."
Skiles is also excited to see what Ellis and point guard Brandon Jennings can do after being able to spend a training camp getting used to playing together. Ellis averaged 17.6 points per game in 21 games with the Bucks, while Jennings led the team with 19.1.
"I want to do whatever it takes to win," Ellis said. "Me and Brandon don't have to score 25 points per game for us to win. We need to approach it as whatever we need to do to win, we will do."