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Journal Sentinel Bucks beat writer Charles F. Gardner ranks players on the roster based on their importance to the team this season.


The Bucks didn't pay the Moose those big bucks (3 years, $50 million) for nothing. They wanted a low-post presence, a physical center with the ability to notch a double-double on a regular basis and a player who desperately wanted to win. They found all that when the 6-foot-11 Monroe decided Milwaukee truly was a free-agent destination.


The 20-year-old forward can do amazing things on the basketball court. Don't blink or you may miss a spectacular dunk, an incredible block or an unbelievable steal. His confidence is rising after a solid second NBA season and playing a starting role for Greece in EuroBasket 2015 during the summer. He is working on his three-point shot and if he ever starts knocking them down consistently, watch out.


The Bucks had a choice — pay Middleton or Brandon Knight. Middleton's emergence as a solid three-point shooter, a threat in the post and an improving wing defender made the decision an easy one. Knight was traded at the deadline and Middleton received a five-year, $70 million deal as a restricted free agent. Not bad for a second-round pick, a player thought to be a throw-in when the Bucks acquired him from Detroit in the Brandon Jennings-Knight trade in 2013.


It's difficult to say how good Parker can become. There was just a small sample size in the Chicago native's rookie year, when he played 25 games before suffering a season-ending injury to his left knee. Now he may be even better than the Bucks thought when they drafted him No. 2 overall in 2014. The former Duke star has worked hard to reshape his body for the pounding he will take at power forward. His return will be a huge moment for the franchise.


Playing on a team that really doesn't care if it wins is one thing. Playing for a team striving for a playoff berth is another. Carter-Williams discovered the difference after arriving from Philadelphia at the trade deadline last season. Now he has the benefit of a full training camp and better comfort with his teammates. His outside shot is suspect, but if he can drive the paint and set up his teammates, the Bucks should click on offense.


Possibly the strangest thing about this team is that the 24-year-old Henson is the longest tenured Bucks player, entering his fourth year with the franchise. General manager John Hammond identified Henson as part of the young core of six players the franchise is counting on, and the Bucks rewarded him with a four-year, $44 million contract extension. His shot-blocking skills will complement Monroe and his left-handed hook is becoming more consistent.


Landing a veteran point guard was a priority in the off-season and the Bucks made a draft-night trade to acquire Vasquez from Toronto, giving up the future first-round pick they obtained in the Jared Dudley deal with the Clippers in 2014. The confident Venezuelan can run the offense or play off the ball, and he provides a three-point threat to keep defenses from sagging on the Bucks' athletic young players.


The 31-year-old Copeland can play as a "stretch 4" and shoot from three-point distance, taking over the important bench role played by Dudley last season. Coach Jason Kidd was Copeland's teammate with the New York Knicks during the 2012-'13 season.


The former Arizona star is comfortable in Kidd's system and can play either guard spot. His toughness and court savvy pay off in clutch occasions — witness his game-winning basket off an inbounds play in Game 4 of the playoffs against the Bulls last season.

10. O.J. MAYO

Mayo is in the final year of a three-year, $24 million deal he signed in the summer of 2013. Weight and conditioning issues contributed to an unproductive first season in Milwaukee, but he thrived under Kidd last season and played in 71 games (11.4 points per game). If he can stay healthy, his contributions off the bench will be vital.


The 19-year-old from Minneapolis — already dubbed "the rook" by Kidd — has a quick release and can shoot the three with ease. If he can adjust to the rigors of the NBA schedule and the physical shooting guards he will encounter, he has a chance to play a part.


The former Syracuse guard is still recovering from surgery on a torn right labrum. In limited playing time last season he showed explosiveness but still has plenty to learn about playing point guard at the pro level.


The 6-11 center from Duke is the second Plumlee coached by Kidd, after he had Mason Plumlee on his Brooklyn Nets roster in 2013-'14. Miles suffered a right knee injury in the second preseason game but returned Friday against Minnesota and should be ready to open the season.


The second-year forward from Louisiana State is being asked to concentrate on rebounding and filling a more specific role off the bench. He should not be needed for scoring on this team, and if he can cut down his fouling he will benefit.


A broken right ankle sidelined Inglis all of last season, but the Bucks have been patient with the 20-year-old forward from French Guiana. He missed time in the preseason with illness and still must find his niche.

51,478 Posts
Middleton too low, Copeland too high

23,791 Posts
Here's the real order:

1. Khris Middleton
2. Greg Monroe
3. Giannis Antetokoumpo
4. Jabari Parker
5. John Henson
6. MCW
7. O.J. Mayo
8. Greivis Vasquez
9. Rashad Vaughn
10. Jerryd Bayless
11. Chris Copeland
12. Damien Inglis
13. Miles Plumlee
14. Tyler Ennis
15. Giannis's empty Smoothie King cup
16.-20. The team's water boys
21. Johnny O'Bryant

I wouldn't be surprised to see Giannis, Jabari, Vaughn, and/or Inglis take a significant leap this year.
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