Commentary

How Bucks, Pacers can catch Bulls

Indiana and Milwaukee have improvements to make in order to challenge Chicago

Updated: October 11, 2011, 5:54 PM ET
By Chris Palmer | ESPN The Magazine
Brandon JenningsRocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesBrandon Jennings needs to become more of a distributor for Milwaukee.

From the shimmering skyline to its legendary work ethic to its megawatt star power, the city of Chicago is the crown jewel of the Midwest. It casts a long shadow over its Midwestern neighbors, inspiring both envy and wonder. That could easily be a metaphor for the Chicago Bulls and the two teams in the Central Division who finished second and third to them this season and greatly aspire to follow them to the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls were led by MVP Derrick Rose to a league-best 62 wins and a spot in the conference finals, officially marking their return to prominence. But the Bucks and Pacers will have to get it done without a Rose-caliber star. Their odds of challenging the Bulls are long, but there's every chance to make some serious strides toward relevance this season.

Milwaukee Bucks

The situation: The Bucks simply need a total re-think on offense. Their attack lacks adequate firepower to compete with playoff-caliber teams. There's really nowhere to go but up. There is a silver lining, however: Despite being 30th in scoring and assists, they were competitive on a nightly basis thanks to their defense, and managed to win 35 games.

Andrew Bogut is one of the league's best-kept secrets and the anchor of that D, swatting away a league-high 2.6 shots per game. Maybe he didn't turn out to be the franchise-changing big he was supposed to be as the No. 1 pick, but the Bucks are content to live with who he is -- a quality shot-blocker and hard-working rebounder with the ability to score around the rim. Brandon Jennings is a proven scorer who plays an exciting brand of ball, but the remainder of the roster could go through extensive changes if the Bucks want to see themselves competing with the likes of the Bulls.


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Chris Palmer

ESPN the Magazine