This is the 12th in a 15-part series running Wednesdays and Fridays profiling each Milwaukee Bucks player leading up to the start of the NBA season.
The last time Luke Ridnour put on a Milwaukee Bucks uniform, he was tasked with mentoring a young point guard named Brandon. Three years later, Ridnour is back with the Bucks and expected to help lead yet another young guard named Brandon.
But don’t mistake Ridnour for a player only on the roster for veteran leadership. There’s still plenty left in the tank for the 32-year-old, as Ridnour started all 82 games and averaged 11.5 points per game for Minnesota a year ago.
Coming to the Bucks in a three-team deal in the summer of 2008, Ridnour played a vital role in Milwaukee’s trip to the playoffs in 2010 despite losing starting point guard duties to Brandon Jennings. Searching for a veteran to play behind Knight, the Bucks felt it was an easy decision to trade for Ridnour when the Timberwolves made him available.
With just one-year left on his contract, Ridnour’s second stint with the Bucks could be a short one, but general manager John Hammond traded for him again for a reason. Milwaukee knows exactly what it is getting, something very important when it comes to a backup point guard.
2012-13 stats: 11.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 3.8 APG, 45.3 FG %, 31.1% 3-point FG %, 84.8 FT % in 82 games with Minnesota
2013-14 salary: $4,320,000
Last year: Ridnour led the Timberwolves in games and minutes played, surprisingly starting 82 games mostly out of position at shooting guard. Matching up with players close to 50 pound heavier than him on a nightly basis, Ridnour was often times overmatched on the defensive end.
Minnesota was hammered by injuries, but Ridnour was the one constant. He began the year as the starting point guard but was forced to slide over to shooting guard when Ricky Rubio returned from his torn ACL. His assists dropped from 4.8 per game in 2011-12 to 3.8 per game last season due to the position change, while his 3-point field-goal percentage dipped to nearly a career low. Ridnour still found a way to average over 10 points per game the eighth season in his 10-year career, serving as a team leader.
Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman called Ridnour “one of our soldiers” for the way he handled playing out of position last year, noting a complaint never once came out of his mouth about his role.
Ridnour made the best of what wasn’t a good situation, but became expendable in the offseason when the Timberwolves decided to acquire shooting guard Kevin Martin from Oklahoma City. With Rubio and Alexey Shved at point guard, Minnesota needed to deal either Ridnour or J.J. Barea.
This year: While Ridnour won’t start all 82 games for the Bucks, he’ll see significant minutes with the second unit. He’s in a similar situation as 2009-10 — a backup who will still contribute and play a big role.
At 21 years old, Knight is still learning the nuances of playing point guard and could really benefit from playing with Ridnour. There’s a chance the two could see some time together, as Ridnour and Knight could also log minutes at shooting guard if Larry Drew wants both on the floor.
Ridnour came to camp in great shape and there’s no reason to believe he’ll take a step back quite yet. Expect him to put up similar numbers to the season average’s he’s produced for the vast majority of his career.
From the front office: “It takes time to bring it all together, but you have some veteran guys who have been through it and know what it’s all about, it makes it a little bit easier. A guy like Luke who has been around this thing for a long time, his leadership and experience does help.” – Bucks coach Larry Drew