Bucks Diary

Friday, May 12, 2006

Milwaukee Bucks Final Report Card

Thanks for a great inaugural season, Bucks Nation.

Well, another year has come and gone. Unfortunately, its now 35 years and counting since our last World Championship, and its 31 years and counting since our last trip to the NBA Finals. To put that into perspective, it took the Packers 29 years to get back to the Super Bowl. Remember the eternity that seemed to be? Well, the Bucks have now kept us waiting longer. Think about that for a moment.

He knew the life-long martyrdom, The weariness, the endless pain. Of waiting for something to come. What nevermore would come again.

Anyway... maybe next year, huh? As for this past year gone by, we're left with our memories... and the scars we got from banging our heads against the wall over this team.

Below are Milwaukee Bucks Diary's final grades for the 2005-06 Milwaukee Bucks, aka "Team Frustration". Hope you enjoy and comment on our evaluations. After this post we are going to go dark for a while, but we will certainly have something to say prior to and after the NBA draft, whenever there are any significant news events involving the Bucks, or whenever the spirit moves us. So check back accordingly. Join us again fulltime once the 2006-07 preseason gets started. Thanks again.

Bucks Grades for the 2005-'06 playoff season:

Michael Redd: A-

Its rare that an athlete signs such a lucrative contract and then actually steps up his game, but that's what Redd did. He had a much better year this year than last... Then in the postseason he established himself as one of the elite 2 men in the game with his destruction of Tayshaun Prince's individual defense and Detroit's vaunted team defense... He showed a slashing component that the Pistons couldn't deal with... He got around Prince and Rip Hamilton with startling ease... True he doesn't play defense or pass, but given his record of continual progress I wouldn't be surprised if he improved himself in those areas as well.

TJ Ford: C

His final two weeks along with his playoff performance saved him from a certain "D"... His career seemed dead-in-the-water before he began his shocking renaissance... He showed in Game 4 that, if he had a consistent jumpshot, he could be one of the toughest covers in the game... Unfortunately, he also showed in Games 4 and 5 that he is a defensive liability on the highest order. Once Detroit coach Flip Saunders finally recognized the massive advantage both of his backcourt starters had over Ford, it was series over... Ford needs a shotblocker on the court with him to protect him in the post. Right now the Bucks don't have that.

Jamaal Magliore: D+

This guy was once an All-Star? How did that happen? He had an abysmal year... His offensive shortcomings were startling to behold. He is physically slow and his footwork is awful. He also missed far too many easy, close-range shots, he bricked far too many free throws, he committed way too many turnovers, and he never seemed interested in passing out of the post... Sometimes looked lazy... Harris hilariously damned him with faint praise in a recent Journal-Sentinel interview when he said "he has a skill, clearly he is a guy who has a skill"... get it: "a skill"... Could sometimes defend well, but for a 5 he has no lane presence at all... Time to cut your ties with this guy, Milwaukee. He has reputational value around the association which, given his salary, the Bucks have to cash in on this off-season.

Andrew Bogut: B-

Taking into account the difficult situation he was placed in by the Bucks brass, who moved him to the unfamiliar and elite 4 position, I thought he had an okay season... Its where he goes from here that will define him... On defense, he was asked to guard perimeter players and he really didn't know how, so he was sometimes exploited -- especially by the Rasheed Wallaces of the association. Was helpless against the dreaded "pick and pop" play because his instincts told him to retreat to the lane everytime... On offense, he was rarely placed in advantageous scoring positions, and, consequently, his point production was low... He consistently showed exceptional passing skills, though, which is why next season -- if they do play him at the 5 -- the offense should run through him, ala Bill Walton circa 1977... His legs appeared to get tired and heavy near the end of the season... He clearly wasn't ready for the taxing duties of a 4... He promises that he will add new wrinkles to his game at the World Championships this summer... Look for him to assert himself early next season.

Bobby Simmons: C-

The Bucks needed him to be a viable second option, but he just never stepped up. It was like he was ashamed to assert himself as a scorer... He relies way too much on his jump shot. He's a big, well-built player who could be effective in the post or driving to the basket, if he just had the will... He's in danger of becoming a Tim Thomas stationary jump shooter... Most disconcerting of all, however is the way he disappeared completely in the play-offs, and was thoroughly outperformed by Pistons SF Tayshaun Prince... His defense throughout the season was less than advertised, too... Despite logging more minutes, Simmons' numbers were down across the board... The Bucks have a lot invested in this guy, somebody better give him a "Come to Jesus" talk before next season.

Mo Williams: C+

Mo had a spectacular first month and a half, and then injuries hit and he never regained his form... That alone may be the single biggest cause of the Bucks decline in the second half... Not as quick as TJ, but he's shoots better, he's bigger, and he is not as easily exploited on defense. But for his injuries, he, not TJ, might be regarded as the Bucks PG of the future... His playoff performance was a microcosm of his and the Bucks season -- in the 4 games the Bucks lost he was virtually nonexistent, recording Eff48s of 0.00 in two of them; Yet in the one game they won he was beyond spectacular, going 9 for 10 from the field and recording an incredible Eff48 of 53.42... He was the team barometer all year long, no doubt about that.

Dan Gadzuric: B+

In limited, sporadic duty Gadzuric was his old productive self, recording the highest Eff48 on the team. Why won't they use him more?... He came under criticism from the Milwaukee media for not getting off the bench in the playoffs, but I ask you: who's fault is that? Was he supposed to insert himself?... He isn't the most stout guy in the post, but neither are any of the other bigs on the Bucks roster... He seems to fit Harris' preferred "athletic" model, but, maybe because his game sometimes appears so rudimentary, the coaching staff won't take him seriously as a competitor and thus he is severely underused... He has to improve his foul shooting, though. That is the one area of his game that can legitimately come under harsh criticism.

Toni Kukoc: B-

I probably gave him a higher score than he deserves because I have so much respect for his body of work and his professional approach to basketball... At times he could still conjure a little of that old black magic, and when he did, man was that pretty to watch... He got by most of the year on the many tricks he learned during his momentous career, both offensively and defensively. He is a credit to the game itself... I'm afraid Bucks fans have seen the last of the old master in a Milwaukee uniform, though... Sad really, for I know we will never look upon his like again.

Joe Smith: C

Was injured too often to make much of a difference... When he was in there he was fairly productive, but its clear he has lost a step... He really has no post game to speak of at this point in his career... He relies almost solely on his sssssllllloooooowwwww release jumper... You can go to the Bradley Center men's room and back in the time it takes him to get his shot off... He can still rebound, though, and his effort is always top notch.

Jiri Welsch: F

The Journal Sentinel gave him an "Incomplete" saying he was a victim of too many players and too few minutes... Bullfeathers... The Bucks were desperate for him to step up and be the designated shooter, he just never did... And there's a reason for his lack of playing time -- he didn't deserve any... He's actually a victim of his own obvious deficiencies and lack of NBA level skills... With his performance this season he may have played himself out of the association and back to Europe for good... He really has no role in this man's league... The one thing he was supposed to be able to do -- shoot -- he has proven he simply can't do. And the things we knew he couldn't do: defend, dribble, pass... well, its piling on now... He worked hard, he just has never shown that he can get anything done.

Terri Stotts: C+

I admire him for getting the most out of a flawed roster, but I must also recognize some of his glaring mistakes, too. A coach has to have his troops ready to play every night -- or at least for big games -- and too often he didn't have the Bucks ready at all... Witness some of the stretch games, and Game 5 of the Piston series when the Bucks basically phoned it in... He also underutilized Gadzuric and couldn't seem to define the roles of each player... That said, he was handed a team with holes all over the place and he somehow crafted them into a borderline playoff unit that improved by ten games... Getting into the play-offs undoubtedly saved his job, but next year he needs to step up and act as though he has some kind of plan.

Larry Harris: B

Half of me says the guy overspent so flagrantly that he screwed up our entire salary structure. The other half of me says he has to pay a premium to get players to come to Milwaukee, and that's what he did... He may have overpaid for Redd, though that may not be so clear anymore... He may also have missed on Simmons, but the jury is still out... He has shown an uncanny knack for uncovering hidden gems (Mo Williams, Charlie Bell, etc.), a trait that is hypervaluable in a small market like Milwaukee... I also love the fact that he never seems willing to stand pat, and he sees things as they are (ie -- he sees the flaws in TJ's game, and he realizes the need to jettison Magliore)... Plus, he's forever willing to pull out his toolbox and get to work on the dysfunctional parts of the team. That's what I want in a GM.

Well, that's all from Milwaukee Bucks Diary for the '05-'06 season. Wish it could have been a championship year, but hey... Until we meet again, keep the faith Antlerheads! Enjoy the summer!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Simmons must regain his aggression in '06-'07

With his bloated contract, it looks as though the Bucks are stuck with Bobby Simmons as their small forward for the foreseeable future. One way he can redeem his large contract is to get more aggressive, particularly when it comes to earning free throws.

I did a study of the starting small forwards in the association to determine how often each attacked the basket. I evaluated each according to his ratio of free throw attempts to field goal attempts, which I characterized as his "Basket Attack" ratio.

The study yielded expected results. The average attack ratio for small forwards is .36. Those that were stereotypically seen as less aggressive and more prone to simply standing outside and bombing from long range had the lower ratios: Bobby Simmons .25, Peja Stojackovic .25, Tayshaun Prince .24, Vladamir Radmonovic .22, Tim Thomas .17, Bruce Bowen .15, and the least aggressive small forward of all, Miami's Antoine Walker .14.

Meanwhile, those who are typically regarded as "slashers" and guys who like to get to the rim had the higher "attack" ratios: Andrei Kirilenko .68, Corey Maggette .67, Richard Jefferson .58, Gerald Wallace .51, Andre Iguodala .50, and Carmelo Anthony .45.

We desperately need Simmons to try to get up there with the latter group. There is hope for him. Most of the low attackers have always had a low attack ratio, but not Simmons. Only he and Tim Thomas were at one point in their careers prone to attack. Three seasons ago Simmons had an attack ratio of .49, which would have made him among the more aggressive forwards, and his college ratio was .47. For some reason, though, he fell in love with the outside jumper in his last season with the Clippers (where he had a .26 attack ratio) and has continued his passive play with the Bucks (shades of Tim Thomas after he signed his big contract with the Bucks in '00).

He must regain the inititiative in '06-'07 and make a concerted efforted to get to the hoop as much as he can. It would make him a more aggressive player generally, which the Bucks could really use, and it would also help reduce the huge free throw attempt disparity that hurt the Bucks throughout the season. Will he do it? I have some reason to hope he will.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Bucks want Radmanovic? Why?

According to Gary Woeful of the Racine Times, the Bucks will make a concerted effort this summer to sign Clippers forward Vladimir Radmanovic. To which my only comment would be: You got to be shitting me.

Radmanovic is a soft 6'10'' player who bombs threes all night (but doesn't make many) and avoids the lane like its a minefield. If they bring this stiff in they will have added yet another "shooter" who has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he cannot shoot -- he is a career 41% FG shooter. Pretty good for a 6'10'' guy, huh?

To go with his lack of shooting ability, he brings no rebounding, no passing, and absolutely no defense. Shot blocking? Heh, heh. Maybe if you accidentally shoot it into his arm, otherwise you're safe. He has 321 blocks in over 360 regular season games. Pathetic.

God I hope they don't pull the trigger on this lame-o.

Are the Bucks after Nene?

I was reading some stories on JSonline that I had skipped while I was going through a personal Bucks detoxification program. One caught my eye. Larry Harris, in an interview with MJS, said his target for this off-season is "a young athletic power forward".

Young and athletic and plays the 4? The guy who fits this description perfectly is the NBA's only player with one name, Nene. He is set to be a restricted free agent this summer, and the Nuggets have forever been trying to move him. He's young, and according to hoopshype.com he's "freakishly" athletic. And he's the only guy I can think of who qualifies.

Now I would much prefer the suggestion put forward in one of the comments by "buckbonzi". He proposed a trade of Magliore and Williams to the Jazz for Carlos Boozer. Boozer is far more productive than Nene, but I don't think he fits Harris' wish list because he isn't what I'd call athletic.

But he's far more desirable than Nene. Nene scares me because he is one of those players who has a lot of "potential". Those guys seem to never pan out. Plus, everyone talks about his "wingspan", but if you look at his career stats on basketballreference.com you'll find that he rarely blocks shots. I want production, not potential.

Addendum to post: I just thought of another name: Drew Gooden. He's a power forward and he is a free agent this summer, and I think he would qualify as "young and athletic". I would probably prefer him to Nene, although he is well-traveled and that's usually for a reason.

Magliore actually came cheap

Jamaal Magliore has to be traded, obviously. But was he worth the risk? I'd say yes.

Yesterday, in their season wrapup, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said the Bucks paid a heavy price for Magliore. I don't agree. Criticism of Magliore's play is more than fair, but saying the Bucks paid a lot for him is not.

The Bucks gave up Desmond Mason and their 1st round pick, which turned out to be the 15th choice. Desmond Mason had a horrible season for New Orleans/ Oklahoma City. His Eff48 of 12.31 ranks as the very worst productivity of any NBA forward who was a regular contributor (defined as a player who played at least 25 minutes a game). The Bucks got more than that out of Jiri Welsch.

As for the 15th pick, here is a list of the 15th picks in each of the NBA drafts this decade:

2000------Steven Hunter -- Orlando
2001------Jason Collier-----Atlanta
2002------Reece Gaines----Orlando
2003------Boston Nachbar--Houston
2004------Al Jefferson------Boston
2005------Antoine Wright---New Jersey

Of that group, the only one who made any kind of contribution to his respective team is PF Al Jefferson (C Jason Collier tragically passed on prior to the season). That gives you a one in six chance of getting anything at all at the 15th pick, and Jefferson was a lucky choice. The Celtics chose him basically on spec coming out of high school. Thus, the value of the 15th pick is quite debatable.

If the Bucks can trade him for a truly productive player, then the trade will unquestionably have been worthwhile.

Establishing value for each Bucks starter

I was reading Sports Illustrated and I saw they were using a baseball statistic called "VORP" -- Value over replacement player. Essentially that stat seeks to quantify the value a player gives a team by comparing his output to the output the team would get if they replaced him with an average player at his position.

From that I got an idea. I decided to evaluate each of the Bucks starting five by comparing their production (in Eff48 terms) to the production you would get from an average starter at each player's position. The numbers were sobering but hardly startling.

In terms of production, the Bucks have a below average starter at every position save for shooting guard (where they are getting magnificent production).

To derive my numbers, I took each team's starting five according to Foxsports.com, then I looked up each of those starter's Eff48 numbers as computed by NBA.com. I then determined the mean (the average) and the median (essentially the production of the 15th best player at each position) Eff48 number for each position. Finally, I calculated the percentage the particular Bucks starter varied from each.

What I was attempting to show was the difference in production between the Bucks player and the average starter at that player's position. That, to me, equals the player's value.

Here is what I came up with at each position. I will discuss the implications of these numbers in subsequent posts.

Point Guard: TJ Ford (mean: -13.1%) (median: -10.4%)

TJ Ford's Eff48 number of 19.37 ranks him as the 22nd most productive point guard in the Association. The average Eff48 for PGs is 22.29 while the 15th most productive PG (Luke Ridnour) has a 21.64. The top PG is Steve Nash at 32.69.

Shooting Guard: Michael Redd (mean: +18.1%) (median: +27.3%)

Michael Redd's Eff48 of 24.89 ranks him as the 6th most productive shooting guard in the Association. This is 18.1% more productive than the average starter at the 2, and, because of a lack of quality shooting guards, it is a startling 27.3% more productive than the 15th most productive SG (Ruben Patterson) who has a 19.64. Redd's value has skyrocketed in my eyes (more about that in a subsequent post). What this means is the Bucks have an elite player at a position where most teams are below average.

Center: Jamaal Magliore (mean: -13.27%) (median: -11.4%)

Jamaal Magliore's Eff48 of 20.32 ranks him as the 21st most productive center in the Association. The average Eff48 at the 5 position is 23.43, while the 15th most productive center (Tyson Chandler) registers a 22.94. Interestingly, if Dan Gadzuric put up the same numbers as a starter that he has in limited action (26.30) -- and since that is about his career average there is no reason to believe he could not -- then he would rank amongst the ten most productive centers and would provide the Bucks with a substantial increase over the average and the middle of the center population. Yet Stotts won't use him. I don't get it.

Small Forward: Bobby Simmons (mean: -12.2%) (median: -13.1%)

Bobby Simmons' Eff48 of 19.17 ranks him as the 19th most productive starting small forward in the Association. If you notice, his derivation from the average production at the position (21.83) is less than his derivation from the 15th most productive player at the position (Peja Stojakovic at 22.06). What that means is that small forward is the one position where most teams field an above average player, yet the Bucks somehow paid a premium price to get a player who is clearly below average, and if you ponder his career Eff48 (20.38) you might conclude that he will always be so. A gigantic mistake.

Power Forward: Andrew Bogut (mean: -8.6%) (median: -6.3%)

Andrew Bogut's Eff48 of 23.85 ranks him as the 20th most productive starting power forward in the Association. Power forward is the Cadillac position in the NBA. It is the most productive, and it features a greater percentage of the association's elite players than any other position. Bogut, being a center in college, was put in a difficult position when he was shifted to the power forward and asked to guard many of these heavywieghts. His productivity must be judged through that prism. Thus his derivation from the average Eff48 at the 4, which is 26.10, and from the 15th most productive starter at the 4 (Kenyon Martin at 25.48) is quite respectable. Consider that he would have been above average if he were played at center, and his numbers probably would have been better given that he would have been expending much less energy defending much lesser players. For example, Samuel Dalembert is the 7th most productive center while Chris Bosh is the 7th most productive power forward -- who would you rather check? In fact, I think the fact that he kept his head above water was an acheivement in itself.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Bucks to get "more athletic"

Usually the postings on Bucks.com amount to little more than unreadable propoganda. Not so with Bucks Radio Network analyst Dennis Krause's playoff blog. His last post was very pointed in regard to the Bucks future. On that score, I agree with Krause almost verbatim. What's particularly interesting about his thoughts are those he leaves out of them... no mention of Bobby Simmons or Jamaal Magliore. He also nicely qualifies his praise of TJ Ford (praising his late season and playoff run) and Mo Williams (saying he can be helpful if healthy). I also found it interesting and somewhat encouraging that General Manager Larry Harris appears intent on once again getting out his tool box and going to work fixing this roster... Harris has told Bucks Radio Network that the team has to get more "athletic"... He certainly isn't satisfied with the results of this season and that in itself is comforting to Bucks Diary.

Upstart Bulls take sudden exit

It looked like there was certainly going to be some major first round upsets in this NBA playoff cycle, but then suddenly everything collapsed on the upstarts. The Pacers... the Kings...the Lakers... after furious starts they are all either dead or suddenly on life support. And I thought the Bulls had the Heat reeling for sure, but then... boom... two bad games and it all fell apart. I can empathize with the anguish being felt by our friend Matt at Blog-a-Bull. Not too much, though -- the Bulls have a much brighter outlook than our Milwaukee Bucks. Here's something he can take comfort in, however: up until Game Five, the Bulls-Heat series had an eerie similarity to the first round Bucks-Pacers series of 2000... and in 2001 the Bucks came within an eminently makeable Glenn Robinson 8 foot baseline jumper of getting to play the Lakers in the NBA Finals. Perhaps their near miss is merely foreshadowing of better things to come.

(Footnote: I was hoping the Bucks could somehow pry Nocioni away from the Bulls this summer for some interior size. Fat chance now. That guy went big time against Miami.)

Milwaukee Bucks Diary: Green and Growing

Have you ever heard that funky old Bucks promotional jingle from the early 80's that had a real heavy bassline and a repeating chorus that sang "Milwaukee Bucks.... Green and Growing ... Milwaukee Bucks..."? Maybe I can license that tune for our weblog. Apparently we're green and growing.

I just happened by lowpost.net where they now feature an "NBA Blog Ranking". Since I knew they track our postings on that site, I was looking to see where Milwaukee Bucks Diary was ranked. I couldn't find it. So I looked more carefully... and I found it. We're in the top ten! I guess on my first look I just assumed we couldn't possibly be that high. That blew my mind. If you look at the list we're in the company of some really outstanding weblogs. For all the frustration the Bucks brought into my life this year, this kind of makes it all worthwhile. I guess the pressure is on for next season to really step up the entertainment quality. We will be ready to deliver.

Before we close the book on this season, I've got a couple more things on my mind, so I'll have two or three more postings that will sort of serve as the Diary's official epilogue on the 2005-06 Milwaukee Bucks. Look for them in the next day or two. After that the postings will be pretty sporadic I'm afraid until training camp in October when we will get it kicking again. I hate to do it because we've got such unbelievable momentum right now (a real "3-on-1 Gold Rush" as the original voice of the Bucks Eddie Doucette used to say) but what would I write about? What I ate for breakfast?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Live Blog: Third Quarter Game Five

Turn out the lights, the party's over la la la la.... The Bucks have obviously raised the white flag, they're out there just dickin' around, lolligagging... I knew Hamilton was going to break out, damn it, I should have got it on the record... This thing is pathetic... Have you ever seen such a half effort?... Well, its good to see Hamilton get his game going because I'm pulling for the Pistons the rest of the way... Congrats, Detroit... I think I'm going to go to the Brewers-Astros game... I'll give my end of season recap late tonight... I'm out... Thanks everybody.

Thank You Piston Fan

If tonight is indeed the last game in the series between the Bucks and the Pistons, I would like to take this quick post to thank all the Piston fans who have visited Milwaukee Bucks Diary over the last week and a half. Your patronage was welcomed and appreciated. Your a class group of fans, and much more rabid than our Bucker Backers.

I have to admit to my shame, before I ran into the guys from detroitbadboys.com, if someone mentioned "Piston Fan" to me I bet my first thought would have been of that lughead who threw the beer. That unfortunate stereotype is forever erased. I now know Piston Fan to be a knowledgable and first rate basketball fan. Thanks Blue and Red. Get that championship.

Game Five Preview: The End is Near

The Bucks have certainly outperformed my expectations in this series. No matter how it ends, I have to say they have put up a good account of themselves. In fact, the entire outlook for the future of the Bucks is much brighter than I had imagined it to be just a few short weeks ago.

They have hung with, and in some ways even outperformed, the best team in the Association. From what I have seen of the other playoff teams I don't think anyone can compete with the Pistons, and yet in spurts the Bucks have.

Several individuals on Milwaukee's roster have distinguished themselves.

I expected TJ Ford to do nothing against the Pistons backcourt. I thought Billups would eat him like a praying mantis. Hasn't happened. TJ has proven that he is a consistent jump shot away from being an upper echelon player.

Michael Redd is already there. A couple posts ago I said the difference between him and Ray Allen was that Allen got it done in the playoffs and Redd didn't. That distinction is gone. The difference now is that Redd is younger and has an unlimited ceiling. The way he has destroyed the defensive efforts of both Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince has been astonishing. He has added an attack element to his game. He's got Prince so confused he doesn't know if he's on foot or horseback.

Andrew Bogut has been outclassed clearly by Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess, but the thing that impresses me is he keeps competing. Did you see the way he anticipated and stole that Rasheed save attempt late in Game Four? A veteran play. He will continue to struggle, no doubt, but the experience he has gotten will pay off handsomely in the years to come.

Finally, Jamaal Magliore has played himself back into the conversation. Before this series I didn't care if he took a shit and died. But in the last four games he has so thoroughly outplayed Piston C Ben Wallace, I am, remarkably, beginning to soften toward "The Big Cat", and beginning to imagine him in a long term role as a Milwaukee Buck. He still can't hit the broad side of a barn from two paces, but I at least love the way he's been taking it right at the "Fro" all series long. Its left Wallace almost bewildered. Several times the Piston big man has commited the cardinal sin of playing defense down low and consequently he's gotten cheap fouls trying to defend Magliore. Wallace has been no factor in this series. I didn't know Magliore could operate so effectively against the league's premier defensive center.

So, what do I want tonight? If the Bucks are going to go out, I just want them to be a tough out. I want them to leave everything on the floor of the Palace. If they do that then no matter the outcome, in my book they'll be winners.

Bobby Simmons Steals Money

Just out of curiosity I looked up the salary information for the Detroit Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks. Half surprisingly, I found out the Bucks have a slightly higher payroll than the Pistons. What a bargain those Bucks were. For roughly one million dollars more, they delivered 22 less wins than the Pistons. The Senator must have fun writing some of those payroll checks. No wonder no one will buy the team.

Here's some concrete proof that the NBA is not a properly functioning market. Did you realize Bucks F Bobby Simmons, who logged one more Efficiency point in 32 minutes of Game Four action than Piston G Maurice Evans did in only two (4.0 vs. 3.0), makes nearly eight times as much money as his Piston counterpart Tayshaun Prince? If you landed here from Mars which player would you guess was more valuable? (Prince must have signed a bad contract because the two of them came into the league at the same time, if I'm not mistaken. Yet Prince's contract doesn't run out until this summer, whereas Simmons signed his bonanza second contract last summer -- hence getting a year of earning power over Prince that Prince will never get back.)

If you think that's odd, consider that Simmons also makes nearly twice as much as MVP candidate Chauncey Billups. Oh, Billups must be thrilled with that. Simmons also makes much more money than Pistons F Antonio McDyess. How is that possible? That's so absurd I want to puke.

Simmons can take comfort in this, though; He makes about the same as Pistons G Richard Hamilton, and in this series they've been about equally bad.

Pistons Free Throw Paradox

Three things are making the difference for the Pistons in this series: deadly jump shooting, terrific interior defense, and by far the largest free throw disparity in the 2006 NBA playoffs.

The Bucks have to be a little frustrated. They've played about as well as they can play, yet they still find themselves in a 3-1 hole.

On defense they have forced the Pistons to beat them with jump shots. 73% of the Pistons field goal attempts are shots from the outside. The problem is that the Pistons are making those shots. The Pistons effective field goal percentage from range is 50%. Their overall effective field goal percentage is 52.8%.

Unbelievably, though, the Bucks are shooting even better from the outside. Quite an accomplishment for such a poor shooting team. Their effective field goal percentage on jump shots is 52.1%. But, get this, their overall effective field goal percentage is actually lower at 51.9%, principally because the Pistons are playing such tough interior defense the Bucks are having a much harder time making the close in shots than the long ones. Strange paradox.

But here's the central paradox of the series. The predominantly jump shooting team (Detroit) is getting 12 more free throw attempts per game (33 to 21) than the team that's taking a much larger chunk of their shots inside the paint (39% for Milwaukee vs. 29% for Detroit). What hurts is the free throw line has essentially made the difference in the series. The Bucks are actually outscoring the Pistons from the field by a little over three points per game (82.8 to 79.8) but they are getting outscored in toto by five points per game (103.5 to 98.8).

Now, I got down on the Bucks hard for what I perceived to be a little bit of whining on their part over free throws following Game One. But, after examining the data, I think they may have had a point. The number of extra free throws awarded to the Pistons are way out of whack when compared to free throw attempt disparities in the other first round series.

In fact, the 12 extra attempts per game constitutes by far the largest free throw disparity of any of the first round playoff series. By far. In 6 of the 8 first round series the difference in free throws attempted between the teams is less than two free throws per game. The only other first round series featuring a wide disparity in attempts per game is the Bullets-Cavaliers series, where the Bullets (I refuse to call them the Wizards) enjoy a nearly nine attempt per game advantage.

Now, I'm not saying the Bucks are getting rooked -- they probably aren't. Its just curious that a three point shooting team like the Pistons could build up such an advantage. Its curious that the Pistons are averaging ten more foul shots per game than they averaged in the regular season, while the Bucks are somehow averaging nearly five less. Even the Phoenix Suns, who averaged a paltry 18.0 free throw attempts per game in the regular season, are getting more attempts in the playoffs than the Bucks. Go figure.

Game Five Preview coming up.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

McDyess is a monster

With all due respect to "The Catalyst" (who has played quite well), the Most Valuable Player thus far in the Pistons' first round series against the Bucks has been PF Antonio McDyess. He gets it done every night. The Bucks simply have no answer for him.

McDyess has been so good that as soon Piston C Ben Wallace picked up his fifth foul late in the fourth quarter I cringed. Flip Saunders may not have realized it yet, but the Pistons best lineup vs. Milwaukee is the lineup they used to pull away from the Bucks last night: Billups-Hamilton-Prince-R. Wallace-McDyess. The Bucks have no counter to that fivesome, even with the continued struggles of Richard Hamilton.

By the numbers, the Bucks did pretty well last night, all things considered. But, clearly, they have to be better than good -- they must be superior -- to beat Detroit. That's hard to do.

Frankly, though, the Bucks have surprised me with their ability to play competitively with the Pistons. The Bucks may be further advanced than I had earlier believed.

Here are the head-to-head Eff48 numbers from Game Four:


Chauncey Billups 36.57
TJ Ford 26.05


Richard Hamilton 16.80
Michael Redd 31.99


Ben Wallace 3.55
Jamaal Magliore 36.92


Tayshaun Prince 30.26
Bobby Simmons 6.00


Rasheed Wallace 10.10
Andrew Bogut 14.66

Sixth Man

Antonio McDyess 33.10
Joe Smith 19.20

Seventh Man

Tony Delk 36.00
Charlie Bell 30.54

Prince Makes the Difference in Game Four

If you watch NBA basketball enough, you will notice that in every close fought game, as last night's Game Four of the Pistons-Bucks series was, there comes a tipping point. A point, usually late in the fourth quarter, at which one team gains the subtle advantage and the other team is left to play the rest of the game uphill. Last night the tipping point came at the free throw line when Bucks FC Andrew Bogut bricked two free throws. The Pistons hit back-to-back 3 pointers, with yet another Buck turnover sandwiched in between, and it was good night, Milwaukee.

In the overall struggle it was the play of Pistons F Tayshaun Prince, who completely dominated Bucks F Bobby Simmons, that was crucial. Prince has proven the fulcrum of this series. If he is allowed to get off, the Bucks cannot win. Simmons has been so anemic that the Bucks only hope in the SF matchup is for Prince to have a terrible game. Last night he had a great game. Hence, the Bucks fell short in their upset bid, 109-99, and now they are looking at the end.

More analysis of this heartbreaking loss in the next few hours.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Live Blog: Halftime Game Four

When the Pistons bench is playing this well, no one on Earth will beat them... Tony Delk is killing us? Oh my God... What's up with that guy's arms?... He's the strangest looking dude in the Association... Wallace may have gotten a T, but he definetely got in the refs heads with his whining... I love this Pistons G Maurice Evans, when is he going to be on the market?... Bogut can guard Ben Wallace, he cannot guard Rasheed Wallace or McDyess... Kukoc has made a difference, but tonight it looks like it won't be enough... The Pistons can make shots like no other team I've seen in the play-offs... Ford is off his game, he already has too many turnovers... If the Bucks don't play better defense, this thing is over in a big way... The Bucks should consider staying with their men rather than collapsing on the penetrators... The refs basically put the kibosh on the Bucks run at the end of the half... If this thing gets out of control there will be no third quarter live blog.

Live Blog: End of First Quarter Game Four

The Pistons have come out all business... Rasheed Wallace especially appears more serious... The Bucks are going to kick themselves if they continue to allow Tayshaun Prince to beat them... But he is... The guy isn't strong enough to push my Grandma around, but if you leave him wide open he can make shots...TJ Ford is a little out of control tonight... The Bucks better get it going or the Pistons will wipe them out.