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Lessons from the preseason: The Bucks are bigger (and better), the Suns won't miss a beat and the Bulls need big help

The defending champion Spurs went 2-7 during the preseason. The perennially lottery-bound Clippers were 6-2. The point: Preseason records are meaningless. But that doesn't mean the last month has been uneventful or even unimportant. Here are some of the most significant preseason revelations.

•No team improved more than the Bucks. When Milwaukee stole 6'11" center Jamaal Magloire from the Hornets (for forward Desmond Mason and an unprotected first-round pick) on Oct. 26, the deal was widely interpreted as a no-confidence vote for rookie center Andrew Bogut. Far from it. Though Bogut struggled during exhibition games, the Bucks still believe the No. 1 pick will thrive alongside the 27-year-old Magloire, a 2004 All-Star.

Magloire's arrival balances Milwaukee's lineup, providing interior defense and scoring to go with reliable perimeter players Michael Redd and Bobby Simmons. The 7-foot Bogut will back up Magloire to start the season, but new coach Terry Stotts plans to play them together extensively, utilizing their complementary skills to create matchup problems. While Magloire draws double teams down low, Bogut-an excellent passer with an accurate face-up jumper-will be free to create opportunities away from the basket until he develops into a more assertive player inside. A finisher and a creator: They'll make a quarter-ton one-two punch for a group that suddenly has the look of a playoff team.

•The Suns will survive the injury to Amaré Stoudemire. No single player can replace the 6'10" Stoudemire, who is out until at least February after undergoing microfracture surgery to repair a lesion on his left knee. But two might come close. During a preseason in which Phoenix scored a league-high 103.1 points per game, the biggest surprises were 6'8" swingmen James Jones and Boris Diaw. Jones, who came from the Pacers in exchange for a second-round pick, averaged only 4.9 points last season but produced 16.6 in exhibition games while hitting 41.9% of his three-point attempts. Acquired from the Hawks in the Joe Johnson trade, Diaw showed he can pick up the shot-blocking slack created by Stoudemire's absence, as well as deftly dish to the team's deep arsenal of shooters, which includes newcomer Raja Bell (40.8% from beyond the arc in the preseason).

•Earl Watson made a regrettable decision. It's too early to call Watson this year's worst free-agent signing, but he's the leader in the clubhouse. The fifth-year point guard left Memphis in search of more money and more minutes. The Nuggets ponied up the dough ($29 million over five years), but coach George Karl has been far more frugal with playing time. Starting point guard Andre Miller performed like an All-Star during the preseason, and 5'5" supersub Earl Boykins is crucial to pushing the tempo. Unless either one gets injured, the 6'1" Watson will see minimal floor time, as a defensive replacement. Come Dec. 15, when free-agent signees are eligible to be traded, he could be an intriguing target for the Lakers, Kings, Warriors or Celtics. But even those teams might find Watson's contract prohibitive.

•The Eddy Curry trade was bad for Chicago. But not for the reason you think. The Bulls were too concerned about Curry's heart condition to keep him, and by making the five-player deal with New York, they have $20 million to spend on a low-post scorer next summer. The more troubling loss for Chicago was big man Antonio Davis, who was thrown into the deal for salary-cap purposes. According to a league source with direct knowledge of the trade talks, the two teams had an understanding that Davis would be released by the Knicks so that he could return to Chicago, where he preferred to play. However, when word of Davis's potential return leaked out, the Knicks-fearing punishment from the league-retained the 13-year veteran, leaving Chicago without one of its most respected leaders and an interior scorer to go with center Tyson Chandler.

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Scout's Take

On Pacers rookie forward Danny Granger (33), the No. 17 pick from New Mexico, who was one of the preseason's bigger surprises, averaging 9.7 points and 6.7 rebounds:

"He isn't great at any one thing, and you don't usually see rookies play a meaningful role on a team as good as Indiana, but on any night he might give them 15 points or 11 rebounds or four blocks. The only thing I question is his demeanor. He looks so cool on the court, like he's hardly sweating, that I wonder if there's a passivity to his game."




Ex-Hornet Magloire (inset) frees Bogut (6) from being Milwaukee's center of attention.