Bucks Diary

Monday, March 20, 2006

Bucks Barely Even Have a Second Option

Most good basketball teams have at least three or more reliable scoring options on the floor at any given time. For example, think back to the 80-81 Bucks, a team that won 60 games. They were great because they had a plethora of scoring threats. If they needed a big basket they could confidently turn to: Marques Johnson on the drive or pull-up jumper, Sidney Moncrief posting up or from deep, Bob Lanier with the baby hook, Brian Winters from behind the arc, Junior Bridgeman with the pull-up jumper, or even Pat "Roadblock" Cummings with his bank shots. All of those players shot around or better than 50% from the field, and any one of them was willing and able to step up at any time. That's the definition of a scoring option.

This year the Bucks have only one reliable scoring option: G Michael Redd. And because Redd realizes this he often nullifies his own effectiveness as a scorer by forcing up many, many bad shots. The trouble is, his bad shots are about as likely to go in the basket as anyone else's good shot. In the Celtics game, when it was crunch time, no one would step up offensively. They acted as though the ball was a hand grenade that had its pin pulled. So Redd was forced to take nearly every shot down the stretch. Because the defense was keying on him, the only shots he could get were extremely low percentage. He missed repeatedly. He had a pretty effective shooting night going until that point, but the next morning's box score showed him 7 for 19. Nights like that make you wonder what he would be like with a little help from his friends. But who will step up?

F Bobby Simmons is on the cusp of being the second option but he is not there yet. He is still hesitant. He can't quite shake the subservient mentality of a role player. To do so he has to think aggressively. He has to be ready to attack his defender or launch his shot every time he touches the ball. He has to think "If I see daylight its going up and its going in". Right now you can see him almost thinking "Gee, am I open enough to justify a shot?". That won't get it done. He has to eradicate that thinking before the play-offs.

Even if that does happen, though, two options are not enough to win in the postseason. The Bucks need a third. But who else can realistically become a reliable third option? Magliore is an offensive nightmare (and what the fuck was he doing covering his eyes on that dunk -- that was disgraceful). Plus, he's unreliable down the stretch because he can't make free throws. So count him out. TJ Ford has the confidence, but he doesn't have a consistent jump shot and he often has trouble finishing because of his height. He can't do it. Two months ago I would have said Mo Williams was the man, but he's been starcrossed since the turn of the calendar. Its uncertain whether he will be able to regain his form this season. You can't rely on him. F Andrew Bogut is strictly an "opportunity" scorer at this point in his career. Either he puts back rebounds or finishes layups when his teammates set him up. He doesn't generate any offense of his own. He's not ready. F Joe Smith is a good percentage shooter, but he's so robotic in his moves and slow in the release of his jump shot I just have no confidence in his ability to consistently put up points. The picture looks bleak.

Thus, the Bucks will make the playoffs, but I fear for them when they do. Teams who are offensively challenged tend to get crushed, absolutely crushed, in the post season. And these Bucks are beyond offensively challenged. Did you realize, for instance, that they are scoring fewer points than last year's 30 win team? And that they shoot a lower percentage from the field? Last year's team wasn't exactly the '85 Nuggets on offense either.

Its been tough defense against the league's pondscum teams that has led the Bucks to their winning record. Its admirable that the Bucks are generally beating the teams below them, but that will be cold comfort when they match up against an elite team in the post season.

Then it will be "Michael Redd against the World". Bet heavily on the World.


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