Bucks Diary

Monday, February 27, 2006

Bucks Record Stunning and Sweet Victory

Unfrickinbelievable. Last night the Milwaukee Bucks rebounded from one of the most depressing weeks in the annals of the purple and green to record one of the more stunning and sweet victories in recent memory, 110-89 in Denver against the George Karl Nuggets.

Stunning because the Bucks have been awful against teams with winning records for the better part of two months (prior to last night they had lost 14 of 15 against teams with winning records), and yet last night they handled the Nuggets with incredible ease. Stunning because the team's offense has been atrocius throughout calendar year 2006 and yet last night they scored a mind-boggling 69 points in the first half. Stunning because the Bucks rarely win in Denver, and yet playing their third game in four days in the mountain air they found the energy to came out smokin' like Joe Frazier and just bury the hometown Nuggets in an avalanche of purple snow. Stunning because in the last two weeks Andrew Bogut looked like he had nothing left, and yet last night he played a simply magnificent game against the formidable line of Camby and KMart, scoring 16 points on 8-of-10 and yanking 11 rebounds.

Sweet because the team desperately needed an unexpected win after a week in which they suffered some of the most painful "defeat from the jaws of victory" losses I have ever witnessed. Sweet because the team has been getting relentlessly bashed on local sports talk radio since the All-Star break (mostly deserved, but nonetheless). Sweet because, let's face it, the season was kind of hanging in the balance. When you combine the psychological impact of last week with the difficult games coming up, if the Bucks lost last night the slippery slope downward would have gotten a hell of a lot slicker and the descent would have gotten a hell of a lot faster. And finally, sweet because its always nice to spank the loud mouth ex-coach whose ego and larynx nearly ruined the franchise (if you don't get my spank reference look here).

In the next two days I will analyze some of the transcendent clues to success the Bucks should take from last night's victory. But for now all I'm going to say is this: Lean on that one Curious George, you narcissistic windbag, you!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

How Inept is Magliore's Offense?

Last night I witnessed Bucks C Jamaal Magliore miss a 5 foot hook shot, taken from in front of the basket, by at least a foot to the left. It was like he was shooting at his own imaginary basket. I have never seen anyone miss a hook shot that badly.

This season I have seen so much offensive ineptitude from Mr. Magliore on so many levels (turnovers, missed shots, bad passes, missed free throws), I thought there must be someway to demonstrate statistically just how useless (and even counterproductive) it is to involve him on the offensive end. What I wanted to know was this: when Magliore handles the basketball, and tries some sort of offensive move, how often does it result in points for the Bucks compared to his teammates?

A player can produce points either as made baskets, assisted baskets, or made free throws. So what I did was I added each of the Bucks made field goals, assists, and productive fouls drawn (total times fouled while shooting multiplied by free throw percentage), and divided that number by the player's total number of field goal attempts (including attempts in which he was fouled), plus all of his assists, plus all of his turnovers. The number produced by that equation I call his "offensive trustworthiness" number. The statistic is not really a perfect measure ( for instance I ignored all of the player's non-assist passes ) but it is none the less illuminating. Here are the results amongst the Bucks regular players from best to worst:

Bogut 55.0%
Williams 53.8%
Ford 53.1%
Bell 51.3%
Redd 50.5%
Gadzuric 50.5%
Simmons 50.0%
Welsch 49.3%
Magliore 41.6%

As you can see, Magliore's "Offensive Trustworthiness" number is substantially worse than any other Buck. So much so, I decided to test it randomly against some of the least effective offensive performers I could think of. The players that came to mind were Kwami Brown of the Lakers, Michael Olowakandi of the Boston Celtics, Eddy Curry of the Knicks (only because he is prone to turnovers just like Magliore), and Ben Wallace (because his reputation is one of offensive ineptitude -- though I will show this rep is not deserved).

Well, none of the above listed players were as bad as Magliore. Here are their individual results (I used Kandi's numbers from last year):

B Wallace 54.7%
E Curry 46.8%
K Brown 45.0%
Olowakandi 43.7%

I quit trying after those four because my point, I think, had been proven: Magliore is an awful, awful offensive player, and the more he touches the ball the more bad things happen for the Bucks. He is a poor shooter from the field, a poor shooter from the free throw line, a poor handler of the ball, and both a reluctant and poor passer out of the post. These numbers are so bad, in fact, I'm beginning to wonder whether the positive contributions he makes on the boards even begin to offset the destruction he wroughts on offense.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Bucks euthanize much-less-than-super Sonics

Nothing revives a struggling offense like a nonexistent defense. The Bucks found that out first hand on Tuesday night as they easily defeated the visiting Ray Allen and his band of squishy soft Seattle Supersonics, 106-91. The Seattle defensive effort was so poor the Bucks shot nearly 50% from the floor and scored over 100 points for the first time since January 27th, a span of 9 games.

The Bucks were led by should-be All-Star Michael Redd who had 19, points on an economical 7-for-12 shooting, and by the inspirational Joe Smith who poured in 18 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in only 19 minutes of duty. When Smith is cleared for full time duty, I have a feeling PF Andrew Bogut will return to the bench (although I'd like to see Stotts experiment with a C Bogut/PF Smith look). Smith must be on the floor.

Other Bucks who can be singled out for their exceptional contributions in last night's game are the versatile and valuable reserve G Charlie Bell and the surging starting SF Bobby Simmons. Bell spreads the ball around (he had 8 assists) and he plays rock solid defense. He's looking like another fine free agent signing by General Manager Harris. So is Simmons for that matter. Last night he continued what has been about a month long stretch of exceptional play. Once left for dead, Simmons has clearly rejuvenated his entire season. He's got his shot zeroed like a sniper rifle (he went 5-for-10 in the game) and he is making contributions in virtually every phase of the game. If the Bucks are going to do anything the rest of this season, and God-willing this postseason, I'm beginning to believe that the trio of Bell-Simmons-Smith are going to be the principle reasons why.

I think the Bucks are really beginning to mature as a team. The flighty, on-again, off-again crew that manned the Purple and Green in '05 has morphed into a workmanlike, professional unit in '06. Give them credit. The win may not have been overly impressive, due exclusively to the effort of the hapless visitors, but the Bucks did what needed to be done to get it. They encountered a Seattle team that was determined not to win and the Bucks didn't stop them.

On the other hand, give the Sonics no credit for their disgraceful effort. By quitting early in the third quarter they cheated their fans, themselves, and the Bradley Center faithful out of a full professional contest. Respect the game, Seattle. That halfass shit belongs in the NBDL not the Show.

Speaking of disappearing act, what the hell happened to the Sonics of '05? Where did they go? Those guys played an entertaining pass-and-shoot Olympic style game that was a refreshing alternative to the NBA's standard "no motion" offensive sets. Seattle of '06 just looks like a bunch of gunners who feel no obligation to play defense. What a shame. I liked last year's team. This year's team is a shameful collection of dogs who are really good at playing dead.

Bucks beat reporters a bunch of "yes sir" soft shoes

Why hasn't anyone in the media taken the Bucks to task for their obvious shortcomings? I mean, the Bucks just got blown away once again and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel puts out a puff piece extoling Terri Stotts for his "new" emphasis on defense. That's great, but how about addressing the team's myriad of flaws?

There's so much fertile ground to cover. For instance:

Where's the offense? The Bucks have no offense, and have been lacking it since the first of the year. What's causing this drought? What is being done about it?

What about the shoddy ballhandling? The Bucks have the Association's worst turnover margin, and its killing them. Is anyone at all paying the price for this sloppiness?

What about the shooting? The team ranks amongst the worst of the worst when it comes to field goal percentage. Has the team explored any trades to bring in some real shooters? If not, why not?

What about the team's declining level of play? They can't compete against quality opponents. In games against playoff worthy teams, the Bucks have been generally noncompetitive for the last two months. The awful truth is the team is really just skating by, squeaking out harder-than-they-ought-to-be victories against the doormats of the NBA.

Where's the fast break? It was supposed to be the singular identity of the team, is nonexistent. What happened and why?

What about the problem at point guard? Mo Williams injury lingers, and TJ Ford, the team's lone point guard and floor leader can't shoot, is reckless with the ball, and never bothers to defend anyone.

What about the lack of bench scoring? Jiri Welsch, the guy they traded for last off-season to provide scoring off the bench must now be considered a lost cause.

What about the failure of leadership? The team has had these obvious problems throughout the season and Coach Terri Stotts hasn't done a thing to fix them. Yet if you read the Bucks beat writers he's a shoe-in for coach of the year (if you read most Bucks forums its obvious the rank-and-file fans feel otherwise.) Why haven't these problems been brought to light and analyzed thoroughly by those who are in a position to publicly pressure the Bucks into fixing them?

What I don't understand is why no one will step up and address these issues. Why is it left to this stupid blog (and the various Bucks forums found around the Net) to provide any sort of critical analysis of the team? I mean, I just don't think my seven reader audience will carry much weight at the Bucks Corporate Headquarters. The Journal-Sentinel is in the best position to do the job but for some reason they won't do it; they just eat the Bucks line-of-the-day. Even Gary Woeful, the most interesting and informational Bucks insider, is mashed potatoes when it comes to analyzing the team. He seems to view everything as perpetually sunny side up. He writes as though the road ahead is devoid of any obstacles, when even the most casual fan watching any Bucks game can see that it is simply not so.

It doesn't have to be this way. Look at the reporting done locally on the Packers. The reporters on that beat are outstanding. Even in victory they will illuminate the Packers shortcomings for their readers. They pull no punches and it makes for fascinating reading. You feel as though you know where the team really stands at all times. It makes it easier to follow the team because you get a clear picture from which to form your own opinion's about the team's fortunes.

Why can't the Bucks get the same treatment? Can't we have just one Bob McGinn covering the Bucks? That's all I'm asking. Can't Bucks fans have just one guy or girl giving us the hard truth rather than spoonfeeding us the corporate oatmeal dished out on 4th and Kilbourn? Would that be so hard?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Will Someone Please Shut Barkley's Fat Ignorant Mouth?

I love TNT's NBA coverage, but one man is bringing it down. He's the eminently moronic Charles Barkley. I'm so sick of listening to his insipid, poorly thought-out, illogical, insulting commentary. And I'm infuriated that no one at TNT or the NBA has the guts to just say "Shut up you fat overrated loser," or "Think before you speak you total dumbass." Since they won't, he's allowed to undermine the work of his excellent TNT studio mates with his unstoppable mouth, and basketball fans are left to suffer.

Barkley sucks primarily because he never prepares for the telecasts. He all but implies that this is true, and the quality of his work more than confirms that it has to be true. Because he is unprepared, the only contributions he can make are based upon whatever pops into his head. The results of this haphazard style of broadcasting are routinely awful... and worse.

Barkley apologists say this is Barkley's strength, his unscripted spontaneity. They say Barkley is such "a breath of fresh air" because he says what's on his mind and doesn't follow anyone's rules. It is not and he is not. He has none of the skills or discipline necessary to be an effective extemporaneous speaker. The things that come off the top of his mind are either poorly thought out declaratives, or worse, baseless stereotypes of the ugliest kind. Thus allowing him to participate during studio discussions is akin to detonating a bomb in a confined space -- he cannot be controlled and he does nothing but damage.

Last night, during a serious interview his mates were conducting with OK City Hornets G Chris Paul, Barkley kept interrupting to ask Paul what he was doing living in Oklahoma, as if that was of any interest to anyone but him. He had the nerve to then proclaim "there ain't nothin' in Oklahoma 'cept cows and chickens." (You'll recognize this as typical elitist blather -- if its not on either coast and its not Chicago, it must be farm country. How stupid.)

When no one rebuked him, he felt free to step it up a notch with some really awful, ugly commentary that he somehow, inexplicably, thought was funny. He said Oklahoma is 'no place for black people' and that the only "brothers" in Oklahoma were in Norman on the Sooner football team. Yeah, he really said that. Then he laughed. This is typical Barkley. He freely admits he's never been near Oklahoma, yet he feels authoratative enough to make blanket pronuncations on who does and does not belong in the state based upon the color of their skin. And he thinks its funny, laughing like a girl at his own stupid comments. He then, without any hint of irony, proclaimed the University of Georgia "a school full of dummies," saying that his alma mater, Auburn, has far superior academic standards. Yeah, Chuck. And you're a nice advertisement for those so-called standards. They let you in the door and you can't even form proper English sentences or come close to properly pronouncing most English words.

What an idiot. I'm sick of his insults and just generally sick of him. And he needs to get out of the "Travel Guide for African-Americans" business. I don't know what exactly he looks for in a city, but if he doesn't find it, he'll blast the entire city, or proclaim it unfit for black people. He routinely calls Milwaukee and Detroit the worst cities in the NBA, because "there ain't nothin' to do in either of those places." Funny, but that didn't stop Barkley from finding enough to do to get arrested on different occasions here in Milwaukee during his playing days. I think the charges were gross buffonerry or flagrant jackassery or something like that. It hardly matters.

Chuck also has this annoying, insulting habit of labeling every task or rule he doesn't like as "slavery". On Thursday night's TNT telecast he refered to TNT's all-day schedule as "Slavery Saturday" because, apparently, he feels its oppressive to ask a six figure employee to actually work an entire day at a time. How can he get away with this? Its such a slap in the face to so many Americans who went before this moron and actually had to suffer through the horrors of slavery, his flippant stupidity should earn him some sort of rebuke. It never does.

When he actually talks basketball, he never puts forward any insights. He never develops critiques, he just makes naked statements and won't ever bother to follow them up, even if they are worthy of follow through (e.g. "Sacramento is terrible." No explanation why.) And I won't even get into the way his man-crushes on every superstar player skew his ability to fairly analyze games.

He's just a lazy clown who has gone from a comic foil to an insulting embarassment. He should be removed. He's ruining the excellent work done by Reggie Miller and Kenny Smith. Particularly Miller. I enjoy listening to his well thought out insights. He and Smith are terrific. But too often their worthwhile discussions get shortcircuited by Barkley's nonsense. Get rid of him. I've already wasted enough time just writing about him.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

How Two NBA Scouts Evaluate the Bucks

***Before I start this post, I have to clarify something. A lot of people have been emailing me to ask if the new subtitle to this webzine, "A Bucks Fan's Notes", is an intentional homage to the classic 1968 fictionalized memoir "A Fan's Notes" by Frederick Exley. Indeed it is. My love for the Bucks in someways parallels Exley's profound and yet pathetic love for the New York Football Giants. I only hope to one day express myself as eloquently as he did in that phenomenal book.***

A Couple of Scouts Give Bucks Diary Their Take on the Team

If you're at a basketball game its very easy to spot an advance scout. First, they all carry those ridiculous folders that have the exterior texture of a basketball, and second, they're always overdressed. They're the only ones outside of the luxury boxes who are wearing suits.

At my last game I spotted a couple of scouts sitting together about four rows up from where I was sitting with my girlfriend. I decided to befriend them at halftime and see if I couldn't get some good opinions on the team for my blog. After all, that's how Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Packer beat writer Bob McGinn makes a living. So, with the ultimate friendmaker in hand (two cold beers) I approached. No, I didn't tell them I write a Bucks blog, especially one that was once described as "unreadable". I told them I was a sports reporter for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. That paper is recently defunct. Being out-of-towners, they didn't know that. (They did ask me where my credentials were, though. I made up some cock and bull about how I was trying to blend in with the crowd. It worked.)

After successfully establishing myself, I asked the two if they wouldn't mind giving me their professional opinions on each of the top six Bucks. I told them it would be anonymous so they could be blunt. They said sure, and I turned on my dictaphone, and let them pontificate. (For the record, one scout works for a Central Division foe, and the other works for a Western Conference power. I'll just refer to them as Scout 1 and Scout 2). Here are their assessments: spontaneous, raw, and uncensored.

TJ Ford

Scout 1: That little fucker is useless. He can't shoot, his decisionmaking blows, he plays zero defense. That adds up to a big liability in a small package. Sure, he can penetrate past some guys but he can't finish against anyone. I don't like midget point guards, period. They kill you in the long run. He's a nice feel good story but I don't like him at all as a player. No game. Mo Williams should start.

Scout 2: I'm not as down on him. If he would just concentrate on setting up his teammates and being careful with the ball, geez, he could be effective. He's a good passer, and he's got exceptional speed, if the Bucks use it he can really be a difference maker. He CAN play defense, let me point that out. He's got the quickness to harass anyone. Thing is, he only wants to every once in a while.

Michael Redd

Scout 1: What he does, he does real well. No one in the league is better at creating his own jump shot, or getting it off in confined space. God, he amazes me sometimes the way he gets shots off with no space at all. I guess that weird slingshot release makes it hard to block, kinda like Jamaal Wilkes, remember that guy? OK I said that -- now I have to say his shot selection really sucks. When he's hitting you don't notice, you think he's great, keep shooting... when he's missing he looks selfish and a little out-of-control.... He's average on D. You have to attack him (on defense) to sap his offense.

Scout 2: Ditto with what he said. (Redd) is what he is, you know? I guess I would like to see him develop a little bit more playmaking ability... I can't tell sometimes if he's carrying the team or holding them back with his shot selection... One thing, though, when he gets the ball, if you notice, his teammates will just stagnate. They don't expect to get a pass, so they stop working and just stand around watching Redd twist and turn and launch. They figure, 'He's gonna pump anyways, why the fuck should I bother working off the ball? Its wasted energy.' That's his weakness, and probably the reason he won't make the All-Star team. On defense, he's... ehhh.

Bobby Simmons

Scout 1: He's coming on. He's my favorite Buck. He's a strong guy who's quick enough and shoots well enough to play the 3. The guy's a brick shithouse. I mean, just check him out when he comes back out. That motherfucker is buff. No one's gonna fuck with him, at least no 3 --outside of maybe Artest, but (Artest) would fuck with Mike Tyson he's so nuts... (Simmons) has got such a great looking stroke. Why doesn't he use the goddamn thing more? He needs to get aggressive and stay aggressive on both ends. I mean, lose the conscience kid. You're making the big bucks too you know... Stayin' aggressive -- that's the key to his whole game.

Scout 2: Around December if you would have asked me I would have said "mistake". Now I don't know. I know talking around the league, he's turning some guys (opinions of him) around... He's probably the most complete Buck in terms of playing both ends. I like what I'm seeing lately... I know this much -- all or most of Ford's shots should be going to him, that's for goddamn sure. I'd kick Ford's ass every day until he got the message -- pass to Simmons... He can be deadly from three. Not a bad rebounder either.

Jamaal Magliore

Scout 1: He's almost comical sometimes when he's down on the blocks. (Scout 1 makes 3 Stooges noises). His feet are just awful, wouldn't you say? (Scout 1 turns to Scout 2. Both laugh heartily) He thinks the fuckin ball is a fuckin hot potato. I mean -- look at his turnover numbers! Ugly! How does a guy who handles the ball as little as he does have so goddamn many turnovers?... (When defending Magliore) you can either body him and throw his shot off or pull back and throw his balance off. Either way works... He's not a shotblocker, that's for sure, but his D is coming on... I gotta say, he is a great worker and a slithering type rebounder. He wants that goddamn ball and he gets it.

Scout 2: Yeah, those turnovers are unacceptable. I don't like his game at all. He mucks up the middle on offense and frees up the middle on defense. I'd like to know how many of his offensive rebounds are off his own awful misses. He's got NO touch whatsoever. He's just a guy in a jersey as far as I'm concerned.

Andrew Bogut

Scout 1: I love this guy. Smart, unselfish, hardworking, long, good passer, nice touch with both hands. He's got a lot of positives. He's not Bill Walton but he sure ain't Brad Miller either. I like his guts. (F Pau Gasol) swats him easy, then the guy goes right back at him... Nice. I can't wait to see what happens when he really learns this game and adds some strength to his frame... Sometimes his feet look real slow.

Scout 2: Yeah, he's good. I'm not crazy about him, but compared to the centers I've seen this year he's way past serviceable. What I like the most about him is, unlike a lot of big men, his head always seem to be in the game, and he seems to just get it. He knows where to go with the ball, where a lot of 5's are just clods who can barely catch the ball let alone swing it... I really like his rebounding, too... I think they should play him at 5, I really do. He's getting his ass kicked on D playing the 4s in this league. He played 5 in college and you expect him to come into this league and suddenly guard the perimeter? I mean, most college 5's have a hard time just defending the 5 spot when they get to the pros. How can Stotts ask a rookie to play out of position like that? Magliore can do it.

Mo Williams

Scout 1: If I didn't know different, I would swear he was the lottery pick and TJ Ford was the middle second rounder... He has arrived, dude. If he can just shake those goddamn injuries he's going to finish this year strong. He can shoot, penetrate, pass, and play D. He's pretty strong too and plenty quick... Why the hell is Ford starting ahead of him? Seriously.

Scout 2: This is Larry Harris' pride and joy. Great signing. Stupid by Utah to let him go. He's better than anything (Utah has) now, and I'm including their big rookie guard... His defense at least looks better than TJ's, I don't know how much more effective it is, though... I kind of like him at 2 better than 1, he's a scorer more than a playmaker. If you look at the stats the Bucks have had a lot of success playing TJ at 1 paired with Mo at the 2 and Redd at the 3. In fact I think their best lineup is Ford-Williams-Redd-Simmons-Bogut. They get their best offense out of that package.

(Teams take the court for second half...)

Scout 1: Oh, hey guy they're ready to go... We gotta get back at it... Thanks for the brew.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Don't Quit on the Bucks Just Yet

Bucks Nation seems to be shrinking. A lot of people are breaking their ankles jumping off the purple and green bandwagon. I've been listening to Milwaukee sports talk radio, and reading some on-line discussion boards, and many of the recent comments and sentiments have been variations of this actual posting:

"What happened to the Bucks? They sure turned to shit in a hurry. I knew they were a fraud."

I may be a contrarian, but my sentiments are just the opposite. I feel better about the team now than I did earlier in the season when they had their deceptively good record. You'll remember that early on when people were losing their minds spewing on this team I tried to raise some red flags to show the irrationally exuberant that the team wasn't as good as they thought. Now that people suddenly want to throw the team overboard, I want to raise some -- I don't know what's the opposite of red flags... white flags? -- to show that the team is actually in better shape than many of the former faithful believe. Here they are:

A Stronger Defense

In the last six games the Bucks have given up an average of only 85.5 points per game. That is superb. In that stretch they have held every opponent under 95 points, and 5 opponents below 90 points. That's pretty good for a team that was routinely giving up +100 points earlier in the season. These are not fluke results built against bad offensive teams. In the six games, opponents scoring is down by an average of 7 points per game (compared to each team's typical offensive output). Of course, the Bucks have lost 3 of the 6 games, but in the long run the improved defense will pay dividends, especially if the team makes the playoffs.

Bobby Simmons is Alive!

Bucks fans should be ecstatic about this next item. After muddling along for most of the season, F Bobby Simmons has finally found his groove -- on both ends of the court. He's taking and making shots on offense, and he's doing a pretty good job against some big guns on defense. On offense he seems to be emerging as a legitimate scoring option. He has hit double figures in nine of the last ten games. During that time he has averaged 16.6 points per game while shooting a remarkable 52.8% from the field (both numbers are substantially better than his season average). He's been particularly hot from behind the arc in the last 10 games, making a whopping 22 of 43 attempts for an astounding 51.1% accuracy. On defense he has recently done excellent work against both the Rockets Tracy McGrady and the Cavs LeBron James.

They Are Limiting the Blow-outs

The Bucks have now gone seven games in a row without suffering a double figures loss. That is their longest stretch without a blowout loss all season.

The Remaining Schedule is Cakish

In the Bucks remaining 35 games, 20 are against teams with losing records. Several more are against teams with similar records to the Bucks, such as Philly and New Jersey. In fact, only 8 of the games feature teams that currently have at least 3 more wins than the Bucks. If the team handles business, they should finish with a winning record this season.
Bottom Line: Keep the Faith Antlerheads! The Purple and Green ain't dead yet!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Bucks Record First Quality Win since Christmas

The Milwaukee Bucks victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, 88-78, on Saturday night was important for many different reasons. It was Joe Smith's first game back. It kept the team above .500. It was mainly a defensive victory. But most of all, it was important because the Bucks defeated a team with a winning record for the first time since December 23, 2005, a span of 43 days. The Bucks lost the previous nine times they played a team with a winning record. They were getting desperate for some validation. They got it with a hard fought victory over a pretty good team.

Bucks Feeding on the Weak, But Not to the Maximum Extent

The Bucks are beating the weak teams and losing to the strong teams. At least that's what it seems like. I totaled the winning percentages of all the teams the Bucks defeated this season and it averaged out to .478. I did the same for the teams that have defeated the Bucks and that averaged out to a robust .557. But that doesn't mean the Bucks have completely dominated the bad teams, and it doesn't mean they haven't had some success with the really good teams. The Bucks have 9 "bad" losses (losses to teams with losing records) and they have 5 "big" wins (wins over teams with better winning percentages and more victories than the Bucks). While they win the majority of games against teams with losing records, they can do better. That should be their goal. If they really take care of business against the NBA's weak sisters, and avoid any unnecessary slip-ups in the second half, they need only pick off an elite team here and there in order to finish with an outstanding record.

Bucks Usually Playing From Behind

According to a new survey done by 82games.com, the Bucks have been trailing their opponent 54.8% of the time this season. That's atrocious. In fact, its seventh worst in the entire Association. The scary thing is, with the exception of the Bucks and the Timberwolves, the teams that are ahead the most win the most, with Detroit at the top of their list followed by the other usual suspects: San Antonio, Dallas, and Phoenix. If you look at it, the list almost mirrors the typical NBA power rankings. Is this more evidence that the Bucks are a fraud?

TJ Always Cold; Why Not Try Bogut?

TJ Ford is shooting 40% from the field and has made less than 50% of the field goals he has attempted in 33 of the 41 games he has played in this year. By contrast, rookie center Andrew Bogut is shooting 53.2% from the field, and has made less than 50% of the field goals he has attempted in only 17 of the 45 games he has played this year. Yet Ford has the second highest field goal attempt per game average among the Bucks regular starters at 11.2/game, while Bogut has the lowest field goal attempt per game average among the Bucks regular starters at 7.1/game. Shouldn't this incongruous relationship get fixed?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Seven Truths About the Milwaukee Bucks

Here are what the numbers (as provided by 82games.com) tell us for sure about the Milwaukee Bucks:

1. Mo Williams is the team's MVP and should start ahead of TJ Ford

I wrote in an earlier posting that Mo was the MVP, based only on my intuition. To my surprise, the numbers back me up. According to 82games' "5 man Unit" statistics, no 5 man unit on the Bucks has outscored its opponents over the course of the season unless the unit includes Mo Williams. That's the definition of "most valuable", isn't it? And some of Mo's units are +14 and +24. Here's another stat to back me up: when Mo is on the court the Bucks outscore their opponent (or "win") 55% of the time, the second best winning percentage on the team, and far better than TJ Ford's winning percentage of 43%. Here's the clincher: if you remove TJ Ford from the regular 5 man starting unit (Ford Redd Simmons Bogut Magliore) and replace him with Mo Williams, the unit goes from a score of -1 to a score of +14. If that isn't enough, the most effective 2 man combination on the Bucks is Williams and Michael Redd. They are collectively +77 points for the season. Don't you want to maximize their time together? When Williams comes back, he must start.

2. Charlie Bell is a very effective performer off the bench

A lot of things I learned when I looked at the 82games statistics shocked me. Like how effective a performer reserve G Charlie Bell has been. It blew my mind how good his 82games floor numbers are, because his traditional statistics are mediocre at best (4.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 36% FG). Charlie Bell either proves the value of 82games floor statistics, or exposes them as misleading and useless. I don't know. All I can say for sure is the team is very effective when Charlie Bell is playing. In fact, he has the highest "winning percentage" (% of times the Bucks outscore the opponent while he is on the floor) on the team at 57.1%. And he improves the Bucks on both ends. When he plays, the team shoots better (51.1 eFG% to 47.4%), and the opposition shoots worse (48.7 eFG% to 50.1%). When he plays, the Bucks overall offensive average per 48 minutes (98.7 with him vs. 96.6 total) is better and so is the overall defensive average per 48 minutes (96.4 vs. 98.7). But, get this: when you assess Bell in combination with his fellow Bucks, the only starter he does well with is Bogut, and that's only +1.0. Every other starter, when combined with Charlie Bell, produces a negative output. Astonishing. Clearly, Bell is best when he is paired with his fellow reserves, and the numbers bear that out: Welsch (+15.4), Kukoc (+12.4), Gadzuric (+8.7) and Williams (+ 7.9). What do you make of that?

3. While Mo Williams is out, the Bucks have a HUGE problem at point guard

I knew the Bucks would suffer without Mo Williams, but I did not know the severity of the problem. By the numbers, starting point guard TJ Ford has been merely serviceable, while experimental backup point guard Jermaine Jackson has been downright awful. His 82games numbers are shockingly bad. His on court winning percentage is an anemic 16.7%. When it comes to total points scored versus total points allowed while he is on the floor, he nearly has the largest deficit on the team (-77 points) despite the fact that he has barely played! His incompetence is as wide as it is deep. It covers every area and every player. When he's on the court the offense virtually shuts down (88.2 vs. 96.6), and the defense becomes an absolute sieve (110.2 vs 98.7). He is so bad, there is no other Buck you can combine him with and get a positive overall floor average -- no one. Even Reese Gaines can't claim that. (Gaines has a positive number when you combine him with Redd.) In short, Jermaine Jackson is KILLING the Bucks everytime he steps foot on the court. They need a backup point guard other than him.
4. Old man Kukoc really makes the offense go

The player with the highest on court 48 min offensive average on the team is, amazingly, Toni Kukoc (99.4). Again, I find this a little surprising because Kukoc's traditional offensive statistics have slumped this year. But, they don't call him "The Waiter" for nothing. Though he may not be scoring, he makes his teammates better by serving them. He does well with almost all the regulars, and does exceptional work with G Michael Redd (+7.7). However, his numbers are slipping. In the last two weeks his offensive average has sunk from 101.6 to 99.4.

5. Statistically, Gadzuric sucks on defense

Another surprise: Gadzuric is a big defensive liability, but something of an offensive asset. His defensive average (102.1) is the second worst on the team when you consider only those who have played more than 10% of the time (Jiri's the worst), and it is by far the worst among the regular big men (meaning he, Bogut, and Magliore). On the other hand, his offensive average (97.2) is by far the best among the regular big men, and almost as good as Michael Redd's (97.7). What's strange to me about this is, Gadzuric is the closest thing the Bucks have to a shotblocker on defense, and he always looks somewhat uncomfortable on offense. So I would have expected things to have been reversed, but they are not.

6. Statistically, Bogut is the Bucks best defender

Here's another head scratcher. The player with the best defensive floor average is Andrew Bogut (94.4). I thought defense was his weakness, but apparently not. His defense is so good he never averages above 95.4 no matter what other Buck he is combined with. That's impressive. He must be doing something right. But it seems counterintuitive. To add to the confusion, he's not as good on offense as I had assumed. The offense doesn't run as well when he's out there (94.9 vs 96.6). I have a theory on this one, however. His offense is suffering because he is playing power forward most of the time. Look at his floor average on offense when he plays center and Joe Smith plays power forward (114.5). Huge improvement. Or how about when he plays center and Kukoc plays power forward (99.4). Much better as well. Bottom line: I think he needs to play center, but I've said that all along.

7. Magliore has his groove back

The Buck who has the best total floor average over the last 30 days is none other than C Jamaal Magliore. For most of this season his total floor average has been abysmal, but he has turned that around dramatically in the last month. Now its nearly in the positive after it was as low as -24 around Christmas. How has he turned his season around? Defense, baby. His offense has remained kind of iffy, but he has really tightened the screws on defense. His defensive floor average over the last 30 days is a Detroit Piston-like 90.4 and his winning percentage has been a healthy 56%. Great to see. Now if he could just make a few more of those three foot bunnies...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Silver lining in this Bucks loss?

The Bucks lost another close one on Wednesday. Those close games are evening out rapidly, aren't they?

But, I think there was a definite silver lining in last night's loss. In the absence of both Michael Redd and Mo Williams, F Bobby Simmons and F Jiri Welsch stepped up. Both had their best games in purple and green. I can't tell you how good that was to see.

Simmons was spectacular, shooting 10 for 19 and toting 26 points. THAT'S the guy we thought we signed. Perhaps his problem before was one of comfort -- he wasn't sure when to take shots and when to defer to Redd. If so, he needs to pretend Redd isn't out there and act like a one option. We need him to look for his offense.

Oh, and memo to TJ Ford: You're a distributor, not a scorer. You should never, ever take 10 or more shots in a game. You're killing us when you do.

One more thing: what happened to Bogut last night?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Myth that the Bucks traded Nowitzki

Bald face lies are easy to refute. Distortions of the truth are not. Thus, for self serving reasons, many in the media continue to perpetuate certain myths that either resemble the truth or play into our preexisting beliefs, such as the myth that spousal violence increases on Super Bowl Sunday, the myth that someone asked Doug Williams "How long have you been a black quarterback?", and on and on and on. Its pure journalistic laziness.

One disturbing sports myth that has clung to the Milwaukee Bucks like superglue is the myth that they traded F Dirk Nowitzki for Robert "Tractor" Traylor. The Bucks are guilty of having the stupidity to move up in order to secure the rights to Traylor, but the rights to Nowitzki were never actually there's to trade. Yet the myth gets retold and retold and retold until it becomes almost gospel truth. Well, it's not. Its a lie.

But like any good lie, it appears, at first glance, to be true. To the lazy observer, it may even seem true. But in form, function, and fact, it is a complete canard.

HERE IS THE TRUTH: The Bucks never held the rights to F Dirk Nowitzki as their own, nor did they ever have any opportunity to obtain said rights to Nowitzki as their own. The only reason Nowitzki was available when the Bucks drafted at No. 9 was because the Bucks had previously promised Don Nelson that if Nowitzki was available they would draft him for the Dallas Mavericks. They made that promsie because they wanted Robert Traylor and were afraid they wouldn't be able to get him if they waited until No. 9. So promises were made. Had they not been made, the Mavericks would have selected Nowitzki at No. 6.

What the Bucks traded to the Dallas Mavericks were, essentially, proxy rights to the No. 9 and No. 19 selections -- not Nowitzki. Nelson could have told them to draft Fred Flinstone and Barney Rubble in those two spots, it made no difference to the Bucks. All they cared about was securing Traylor with the No. 6 pick.

Nelson, on the other hand, wanted Nowitzki, not Traylor. The only reason he was willing to draft Traylor is because the Bucks were willing to take Nowitzki for him at No. 9 and a player named Pat Garrity at No. 19. Had Nelson been unable to secure those proxy picks from the Bucks, he would have simply forgotten about Garrity and just went ahead and selected Nowitizki at No. 6. AT NO TIME DID NELSON EVER INTEND TO SELECT TRAYLOR FOR THE MAVERICKS.

So, the Mavericks agreed to select Traylor with the sixth pick only because they knew they were trading him to the Bucks. It was a gamble on Nelson's part. He was risking losing Nowitzki to either the No. 7 pick or the No. 8 pick. AT NO TIME, HOWEVER, WAS HE IN DANGER OF LOSING NOWITZKI TO THE BUCKS. The only slots Nelson was gambling on were the 7 and 8 slots. He felt it was a reasonable risk to take to get an additional pick from the Bucks at 19.

The bottom line then is even if the Bucks coveted Nowitzki (and there is no evidence that they did), they had no chance whatsoever to obtain his draft rights outright for themselves.

Here's how it all went down on draft night (in a nutshell): Prior to chosing Traylor, Nelson called Bucks GM Bob Weinhauer and locked him into selecting Nowitzki at No. 9 and Garrity at No. 19. Only then did Nelson take Traylor at No. 6 for the Bucks. The deal was submitted to the league; the Bucks could not renege. Had the Bucks not made that promise, Nowitzki would have been a Dallas Maverick with the sixth pick. "It was prearranged," Mavericks coach and general manager Don Nelson has said. "We wouldn't have done the deal unless (the Bucks) picked the right players we wanted." Now you know the true story.

So next time you hear or read ignorant sportscasters or sportswriters lampoon the Bucks foolishness for trading Nowitzki, or speculate on what the Bucks line-up might be like with Nowitzki, or act as though Nowitzki was traded straight up for Traylor, you will know that you are being spoonfed one of the NBA's most enduring urban legends. Someday the truth will set us free. Until then there's Milwaukee Bucks Diary.