Bucks Diary

Friday, October 27, 2006

Bucks Preseason by the Numbers

Here are the Bucks preseason Eff48 numbers, which, since NBA.com isn't providing them, I had to calculate on my own, boxscore by boxscore. I think it was worth it. They are illuminating.

Bucks Eff48 Preseason Rankings

Mo Williams................27.76













-- this list shows why its folly to make eyeball judgments based on traditional statistics. Last week I said Redd, Patterson, and Noel were the only ones playing well. In fact, I completely overlooked excellent camps being turned in by Mo Williams, and in particular Charlie Bell. Bell is really filling up the stat sheets. On the flip side, after a surprisingly fast beginning, Noel has trailed off badly. Last night he did nothing at all in about 28 minutes of action. He has been completely passed at the 3 spot by a surging Ersan Illyasova.

-- In the battle for the starting point guard position, Mo Williams, despite some nagging injuries, has scored a decisive victory over newcomer Steve Blake. Williams numbers are exceptional and have been fairly consistent. Blake, who is reputed to be a slow starter, has lived up to his reputation. He has had one good game and has been awful in the rest.

-- Here's a head scratcher. According to the Journal-Sentinel the Bucks are pleased with the play of Skinner-Gadzuric. The operative question is "huh?" Both of them have been absolutely awful. Particularly disturbing is the falloff in Gadzuric's play. A consistent career +26 Eff48 scorer, suddenly he's fallen way down to the midteens, a place centers should never occupy. His problem is he suddenly can't find the basket. He is a career +55% shooter but this camp he's down near 38%. I'm telling you, life without Kukoc and Ford is going to be rough for the Dutchman. No more bunnies, and he can't shoot a lick. Skinner at least is trending upward.

-- This Markota kid is making the most of his garbage minutes. He's fairly productive without being spectacular.

-- If Greer didn't have the one outstanding game, his Eff48 would be microscopic. As it is, it sucks. He looks like a wasted signing. I'll bet the Bucks wish they could keep the kid from Maryland instead.

-- I'm beginning to see the criticism of Villanueva. He'll have really productive games sandwiched in between completely nonproductive games. He's got too much talent to be so inconsistent. Its time for his teammates to properly motivate him, soapbar in the towel, "Full Metal Jacket" style). Just kidding. But they should feed him some cannibal sandwiches or something.

Photo Credit: Patrick Ferron, Associated Press

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Buck Droppings 10/26/06

Mo already a lame duck?

Newly installed starting point guard Mo Williams may have already gotten a vote of no-confidence from GM Larry Harris. When asked how the Bucks intended to use their expected salary cap surplus next off-season Harris replied "on a point guard." Ouch. Tough to get any traction as a floor leader when the head cheese is knocking the legs out from under you. But maybe Harris knows what he is doing. Williams has a history of inconsistency, perhaps Harris is trying to motivate him into a career year with an early shot across his bow. By the way, speculation has Harris eyeballing Bulls PG Kirk Hinrich. I like him. Tough defender, decent shooter, hard nosed. Plus, he will distribute... which is the knock against Williams.

Bucks invade Titletown

Tonight the Bucks make their annual preseason jaunt to the land of cheesehats, football, and Saint Vince. They will face Adam Morrison and the Charlotte Bobcats up in the cozy confines of Green Bay's Brown County Arena. What I will be looking for is a continuation of the offensive progress they showed on Saturday night at the Bradley Center. I will also be watching the play of PG Steve Blake. He may finally be catching on. He had a nice game Saturday.

Miller low on the Bucks

According to a column by Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel media maven Bob Wolfley, TNT analyst Reggie Miller views the Bucks, at least at this point in time, as a lower echelon team. He sees them on the level of the Toronto Raptors or the New York Knicks. He mainly bases his low opinion of the team on the injuries to starters C Andrew Bogut and SF Bobby Simmons. He rightly points out that the Bucks cannot afford to dig themselves an early deficit if they expect to emerge a playoff team in April.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dance the Night Away, Ersan!

A friend of mine was out with a bachelorette party on Saturday. Later on in the evening, she and the gang stopped by Eve's, a Milwaukee dance club popular amongst the Bucks. She told me she met two tall white guys who played for the Bucks. She said she spoke with one of them, and that he was the "number two pick" in the draft.

That made no sense. The Bucks haven't drafted number two in quite some time, if ever. I deduced she meant that this player was a second round pick. I asked "Was he European"? She said he had a funny name. After she nursed her hangover a little longer, she remembered that she had pictures. She showed me. It was none other than Ersan Illyasova, that swinging Turk! He looked well-medicated, too. I wish I would have had her download the picture onto my computer so I could show it to you, but it was Sunday and there was football to be watched, so my mind was elsewhere.

The other guy turned out to be Bogut. I hope he wasn't doing much rug cutting, what with his injury and all. I don't begrudge Ersan a few cocktails and a little socializing, he had a nice game on Saturday against the Nuggets.

By the by, she says she hooked up with the Bucks video coordinator. I have no idea who that is, but as I was reading an account of Saturday's exhibition in Sunday's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, I mockingly said to her "It says here everyone on the roster scored last night, including the video coordinator!" She found that only mildly amusing.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Will the Bucks survive November?

Can I start to worry now? Instead of building momentum toward the regular season the Bucks are starting to look like the skycycle Evel Knievel launched and promptly crashed into the Snake River. Last night they put on an extremely putrid performance losing to the Dallas Mavericks 88-71. Plain and simple, they look like a very bad basketball team.

The problems? Let me get my scroll.

Gadzuric suddenly can't make shots and isn't really rebounding. Villanueva has been half-hearted. Blake is shooting like he's TJ Ford. Greer left his game in Europe. Ilyasova doesn't look ready for prime time. Skinner looks like a smaller version of Magliore, complete with the bad shooting and turnovers. Markota is strictly NBDL material... and on and on. The only ones who have looked good at all have been Redd, David Noel, and Ruben Patterson. How will the Bucks win games with this roster?

And I don't want to hear that its just preseason, either. A team with talent and depth doesn't perform like the Bucks did the last two nights, I don't care if they're playing the Harlem Globetrotters in mid-August. Hell, its just preseason for the Bulls, too, and they look like gangbusters. They look like a young team trying to establish itself. A team who is using the preseason to develop young talent and to hone themselves for a big start. The Bucks look like vomit. Who would you rather be?

For the Bucks to have any confidence at all going into the regular season they need Mo Williams to suck it up, get over his hangnail... excuse me jammed thumb... come back and take charge of the offense. And they desperately need Charlie Villanueva to stand tall and show some heart. He must assume the role of threat 1A behind Redd. To do that he has to move his game beyond where it was last year. So far he's moving it backwards.

Photo credit: Tony Gutierrez of the Associated Press

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bucks so far allergic to the foul line

When Bucks GM Larry Harris remade the team's roster this summer, he certainly shored up some of the team's weaknesses. But I thought he may have exacerbated at least one. The inability to get to the foul line. Because, with the exception of Ruben Patterson, none of the off-season acquisitions had a high free throw to field goal attempt ratio.

The preseason results have thus far confirmed my fear. In all four exhibitions the Bucks have had a double digit foul attempts deficit, with an average deficit of minus 14. They are not good enough to overcome disparities of that size on a regular basis. The Pistons can. They play solid enough defense. The Bucks don't.

Strange Promotion

This Saturday, in conjunction with the MACC Fund game, every fan 14 and under will be given a Jon McGlocklin bobblehead doll. The bobblehead is cool, and I love Jonny Mac, but what fan under 14 knows him from Adam? I'm no sage, but I can envision the typical response from kids: "Who's this? Is that supposed to be Bogut?"

When it comes to bobblehead nights, the Brewers know a secret the Bucks ought to learn. They are wildly popular with adult fans. The Brewers drew huge crowds every time they had one this summer, and I would guess part of the reason is they gave one out to each ticket holder. The Bucks should adopt that practice.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cold Pizza call Bucks "mediocre"

This morning, on ESPN's "Cold Pizza", resident NBA expert Chris Broussard gave his Central Division preview.

He said three teams had a chance to win the Division: Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago. He predicted the team to emerge from those three would be Cleveland. He based his opinion on LeBron James' stated intention to make a "commitment to defense." (That's some pretty weak evidence upon which to base a prediction. Cleveland might win, but players don't become good defenders through words, they do it through discipline and technique, and James has showed precious little of that on the defensive end. I'm skeptical about the durability of his stated conversion.)

Broussard went on to say he thought Chicago's acquisition of C Ben Wallace made them a player in the Eastern Conference, but that he foresaw trouble between the Bulls players and their roughneck coach Scott Skiles. He cited Skiles track record of alienating players over time, and on information he had that upwards of 7 Bulls asked to be traded last season.

When asked who would be in for "a long season", Broussard immediately mentioned the Bucks. When asked why he said "The Bucks are mediocre. They are what they are." That was the extent of his analysis on the Bucks.

He went on to predict that the Pacers may fall apart as a team due to the weight of recurrent injuries and off-the-court problems.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tribute to The Big O

Here's another video entry to get you revved up for the regular season.

Set to the sweet sounds of Ice Cube's "It was a good day", here is a tribute to the fantastic Milwaukee Bucks great Oscar Robertson. He certainly had many "good days" in his illustrious NBA career.

Most of the clips are rare treasures from his days as a Milwaukee Buck. Watch him shoot that distinctive one-handed jumper "right in the defender's snoot" as the original "Voice of the Bucks" Eddie Doucette used to describe it.

Especially enjoyable, too, are the scenes of Oscar and his Milwaukee teammates on the Bucks bench near the end of Game Four of the 1971 NBA Finals. They knew at that moment that they had just blown away the old Baltimore Bullets in four straight to win the Bucks only world championship to date.

You can see the realization of the achievement written on his face; the satisfaction of finally reaching the mountain top after enduring a career in the valley of the Cincinnati Royals. He and the Bucks were kings of the basketball world, at least for that one brief shining moment, and The Great One was enjoying it thoroughly. Here's hoping his Milwaukee forebears will reach that pinnacle again... and soon.

So enjoy. I'll be back with some analytical postings on this year's team Friday morning.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Greatest Shot in Bucks History

A little down in the dumps about the current state of the Bucks and their swelling injured reserve list? Let's reach back to the 1974 NBA finals and take a look at without question the greatest shot in Milwaukee Bucks history -- a sky hook from 16 feet out by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to win Game Six in double overtime. If your interested in learning more about that momentous contest, I did a post on it last year.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Buck Droppings for October 14th

Here are some random, poorly reasoned observations about the Bucks:

Simmons injury sounds troubling

What's a stress reaction? That's what Bucks SF Bobby Simmons was diagnosed with yesterday. That doesn't sound good. Those type injuries linger. Just ask Bill Walton. At first blush it seemed Simmons would only be out a month. A closer inspection of the Bucks press release is much more troubling. The Bucks are saying Simmons will be "reevaluated" in a month, not that he will be back in a month. He will be off his feet the entire time. I'm guessing he will not return anytime before Christmas. That means the weight will fall on Ruben Patterson and David Noel. Patterson will do fine. Noel has been quite impressive, but how much can we realistically expect from him?

Is Greer on the bubble?

Judging solely on the basis of playing time and productivity, Lynn Greer is having his second poor camp with the Milwaukee Bucks. Remember, he signed with the Bucks in September of 2003 and was cut three weeks later. Since that time he has been a very good player in the European Leagues, but the NBA isn't the European Leagues. He's never done anything stateside. His American professional experience consists of a 14 game stint in the NBDL with some outfit called the "Groove". That did not go well. He shot in the mid 30s during his stay. Yet he was resigned by the Bucks this offseason and touted as another "Charlie Bell". He's looking more like another "Jiri Welsch". You know, the shooter who can't shoot.

Mavericks bring their Junior Varsity to the Bradley Center

The 12,000 people who paid to watch the Bucks against the Mavericks on Saturday night got a first hand look at the Maverick's B team. None of their main contributors played, and most of their starters didn't even travel. That's a joke. I realize the preseason is meaningless, but come on. Let's not make it farcical. NFL teams at least flash their starters in the preseason. Spring training baseball is generally serious business. Why can't basketball be the same way? Injuries? As the Bucks know, players are just as likely to get injured during intrasquad scrimmages as they are playing in these preseason games. So if you're going to charge for tickets, there has to be at least a tacit duty to give some value in return.

Come on, Danny Boy

While most of Bucks Nation has no use for Dan Gadzuric, I and others (Sam at Five Point Bucks being among the notables) have tried to make the case that he's actually a rather productive player when he gets opportunities. We all pushed for him to get regular playing time. Well, now he is getting regular playing time. Sure its the preseason, but, still, he hasn't quite vindicated his backers. Yeah, he's doing alright, but what's going on with his shooting percentage? All of a sudden the basket is like a soup can for him. 3-for-9 the other night? First of all, he shouldn't be taking 9 shots unless they are 9 dunks. To be honest, though, I worried about his offensive game. Last year most of his baskets were of the "assisted" variety, and most of those assists came from either Toni Kukoc or TJ Ford. Who will set him up now? Perhaps Steve Blake. That's about his only hope. Mo Williams is a shoot first point guard. Redd isn't really an assist man. Patterson is more likely to throw it to the peanut vendor, and the only way he'll get the ball from Villanueva is off the glass or through the net.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Bucks Noel outplays Adam Morrison

For one night at least, it was difficult to tell which starting small forward was the one picked number three overall and christened a future superstar, and which one was chosen deep in the second round and expected to make no significant impact on his team.

Last night, the better player was wearing the Bucks traveling green. In fact, thus far in the preseason the Bucks lone draft choice, 6'6'' SF David Noel, has looked like a lottery pick. And last night he decisively outplayed a real one.

He and the Charlotte Bobcats' Adam Morrison each played 26 minutes in last night's preseason contest. Noel made much better use of his time. He scored an impressive Eff48 of 25.84, while his counterpart could only muster a measly 5.53.

Combined with another impressive performance from swingman Ruben Patterson (with an Eff48 of 26.24) the Bucks look to be much improved on the wing.

Now if they could only shore up the point guard spot. Thus far the Bucks are getting nothing from the position. Mo Williams sat out last night's game after going 0-for-7 in the first exhibition, and Steve Blake effectively sat out the game failing to register a single efficieny point in nearly 30 minutes of action. Hard to do.

Mke Bucks Diary's NBA Power Rankings

1. Phoenix Suns: If Stoudamire stays healthy, this is the year they step up.

2. Dallas Mavericks: After choking away the finals, they will be on a mission.

3. Miami Heat: Wade is the best, but Shaq will break down.

4. Detroit Pistons: Mohammed will do a serviceable job replacing Wallace.

5. LA Clippers: The stars are finally aligned for the Clippers.

6. San Antonio Spurs: The window for another title run is closing.

7. Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron will elevate his game.

8. Chicago Bulls: A team on the rise; but did they sell out the future?

9. Indiana Pacers: If they can stay off the police blotter, they’re much improved.

10. Orlando Magic: Came on very strong at the end of last season.

11. Denver Nuggets: Even with George Karl, this team poised for success.

12. LA Lakers: Kobe will have some help, but can he play nice?

13. Sacramento Kings: Artest brings a season of toughness; turmoil too?

14. Washington Bullets: How high is the Big 3’s ceiling?

15. New Jersey Nets: This team is getting old fast.

16. Houston Rockets: If McGrady and Yao can stay healthy, they’re moving up.

17. Utah Jazz: Those pesky Jazz.

18. Milwaukee Bucks: One more major injury, they will sink like a rock.

19. Seattle Sonics: Without last year’s coaching fiasco, they should improve.

20. OKC Hornets: Paul is a superstar in waiting.

21. Memphis Grizzlies: With Gasol injured and Battier gone, they are in decline.

22. Boston Celtics: With their firepower, they should be better than they are.

23. Golden State Warriors: The Milwaukee Brewers of the NBA.

24. Minnesota Twolves: Garnett should sue McHale for abandonment.

25. Atlanta Hawks: Too much youth to contend, but should show improvement.

26. Toronto Raptors: They will miss Villanueva and James.

27. Philadelphia 76ers: This team is a mess; keep shooting Chris.

28. Charlotte Bobcats: This team could be a sleeper.

29. New York Knicks: Isiah is no Red Holzman.

30. Portland Trailblazers: Why did they trade for Magliore?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bucks need more from the 5 spot

With the unfortunate injury to Bucks starting center Andrew Bogut, the team has been forced to rely on the two-headed monster known as Gadzuric/Skinner. The early returns are not good.

In the team’s first exhibition contest last night against their old nemesis the Minnesota Timberwolves -- a team lacking a dominant center -- the Bucks got virtually nothing from the center spot.

The starter, Dan Gadzuric, whom I expected to step up, did not. Given extended minutes, he contributed nothing. Shooting an uncharacteristically poor 3-11, his Eff48 for the night was 0.0. Brian Skinner was hardly better, recording a miniscule Eff48 of 4.80. If the Bucks are to keep their heads above water during Bogut’s absence, they need more than what they got last night from the pair.

Newbies show up big

On the other hand, three of the new Bucks showed up big. PF Charlie Villanueva was outstanding, at least on the offensive end. He turned in a phenomenal Eff48 of 34.90 in 22 minutes of action. In the same amount of time, the Kobe Stopper, SF Ruben Patterson, turned in an equally impressive 30.50. His backup, the rookie David Noel, did not shame himself either. He recorded an Eff48 of 21.33, not bad for a professional debut. Clearly, starting small forward Bobby Simmons, who sat out last night’s contest with a heal bruise, will be pushed. Perhaps this will result in a better Simmons. If not, it will surely result in a benched Simmons.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Bogut crisis could be an opportunity

As Lisa Simpson once remarked, in the Chinese language the word for "crisis" is the same as the word for "opportunity". (Leading Homer Simpson to ask whether the Chinese word was pronounced "Crisortunity?"). There is wisdom in that. While the injury to Bucks C Andrew Bogut looks devastating for the Milwaukee Bucks, it could be a well-disguised blessing.

First, it gives Bogut and his legs a much needed rest. Bogut's legs looked seriously tired and heavy at the end of last season. Then he spent the off-season playing for the Australian National Team. This gives him a chance to put life back into those wheels.

Second, it relieves some of the pressure from Bogut. His much hyped switch to center would have put him in an immediate spotlight he may not have been ready for. Now he can ease himself into the change, with the injury as a ready excuse should the transition be rocky.

Finally, it gives backup C Dan Gadzuric a chance to establish himself in the rotation. He has been very productive (when considered in Eff48 terms) throughout his career. Now he can show whether he can be depended on over long stretches. If he can, that would be a major plus for the team.

So, while the injury to Bogut might ultimately be a severe setback for the young Bucks, it might just as likely be a good thing. Let's hope for the latter.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Maynard G. Bogut and the innocent Pacers

This summer Andrew Bogut was sporting a little patch of beard right below his chin. I guess I never realized it until I looked at an ad for Bucks tickets in yesterday's Mke Journal Sentinel. My question is, does he realize it makes him look just like Maynard G. Krebs -- the original mainstream bohemian? Its exact (the picture posted doesn't do the comparison justice). Maybe reruns of that Dobie show are popular down under. But I don't know that I'd go for that look, what with there always being a little marijuana mysteriously present in every NBA player's vehicle.

Speaking of the outlaw Pacers. The thing that jumped out at me in that whole unfortunate and I'M CERTAIN TOTALLY UNPROVOKED incident is this-- all of the Pacers present were strapped! Is this SOP for NBA players? I hope not. I mean, to go to a booby bar they felt the need to carry? Apparently all of the heat was licensed, but, still, is that good practice? Doesn't that embolden them and encourage confrontation?

Finally, how can so many guys smoke J's on a regular basis and still effectively hoop? I guess Paul Hornung smoked ciggies in the locker room at halftime, so it can be done.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Terry Stotts is having a fastbreak fantasy

In an article by Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Tom Endlund, Coach Terry Stotts promised the '06-'07 Bucks would push the ball up the floor faster, and would employ a traditional fastbreaking style (outlet to a guard, fill the lanes, and run under most any circumstances). Every team should seek to cutdown on wasted backcourt time, of course that's a good idea. But employing a traditional three lane fastbreaking style, as Stotts clearly implied, would be a disaster.

A true fastbreak style would kill the Bucks

Let's say the Bucks chose to employ a true fastbreak style, meaning they would look to run in all situations, even after made baskets, as many teams did in the 70s and 80s. It wont work today. Against today's "opportunity break" teams -- and that's every other team in the NBA -- the fastbreaking Bucks would look like a slightly saner version of the disastrous Paul Westhead Denver Nuggets. And they would be about as successful.

Why does Stotts say he wants to employ this style, then?

For the same reason your high school coach spent hours in practice making the team do "11 man break" drills, but when it came game time he would greet any attempt to truly push the pace with a stern "HEY! Slow it dowwwn! Get a good shot!"

What I'm saying is, coaches love to talk about fastbreaking in theory because they envision waves and waves of lay-ups. Think Phi Slamma Jamma vs. the Doctors of Dunk. But, unless the opposition's guards are led foots, or the other team will run as relentlessly as you do (as the Doctors of Dunk did in that famous semifinal game) that never happens under real game conditions. The fact of the matter is all out fastbreaking teams are terribly inefficient offensively -- prone to turnovers, ill-advised shots, etc. Thus they need more possessions every game to be successful.

PACE way down, Pts Per Poss way up

Its no coincidence that as the the average number of possessions per game (or PACE) has declined over the last 30 years, the average points per possession (or PPP) has shot way up. Let me illustrate with an example. During the 1976-77, the median PACE was 109.96 (by comparison, NO team has had a PACE over 100 this century). Last season the median pace was 93.5 (about what the Bucks were at). The median PPP in '76 was 96.9, and the median number of turnovers by each team was 1680. The median PPP last year was 103.5, and the median number of turnovers by each team was 1186.

Will you run with me?

Teams cannot afford the offensive inefficiencies an all-out fastbreaking style would surely bring unless they knew for certain that their opponent would also employ a fastbreaking style and suffer the same inefficiencies. Why? Because an opponent can quite easily prevent a true breaking team from getting the optimal number of possessions they need to overcome the offensive production of a more efficient team. Think Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Ali knocked guys out by smothering them with flurries -- like a fastbreaker. George Foreman could put you out with one punch -- he was efficient. Imagine if Foreman could independently prohibit Ali from being able to throw the number of punches he needs to win? That's what an efficient team can do to a fastbreaker. Any team can slow a game down by simply deciding to be deliberate. But it takes two to speed the game up.

So, while I wholeheartedly agree the Bucks ought to try and get into their offense before the defense sets up, Stotts was just smoking up a pipe dream when he said they would be a 70s style fastbreak squad. Never happen.

Footnote: An "opportunity break" team looks to run off steals, long rebounds, or any time they see a numerical advantage in front of them. A "traditional fastbreaking" team, like the Magic Johnson Lakers of the 80s will run regardless of the numbers in front of them. They will try to "beat" the other team down the floor. This requires fast forwards like Cooper and Worthy and a preternatural point guard such as Johnson -- one who can maintain his dribble and can also thread the needle with his passing.

Mo Williams runs very hot or very cold

I was perusing the absolutely indispensable basketball site 82games.com when I ran into their study of basketball's streakiest shooters. Before I clicked on it I knew with absolute certainty which Bucks' name would be on their list: PG Maurice Williams. Mo Williams is the ultimate feast or famine player. This might dictate the way the Bucks rotate he and fellow PG Steve Blake. When Mo's running hot -- ride him. When Mo's running cold -- sit him.

The study specifically looked at each NBA player's shooting % after a made shot and after a missed shot. The theory being: the wider the differential between those two numbers, the streakier the shooter. Makes sense.

The study found that on average NBA players are not streak shooters at all and in fact are better after missed shots (.460) than they are after makes (.449). 82games theorizes that this is because defenders will often check a guy more closely after a make.

Anyway, turns out Mo Williams is not your average NBA shooter. He's quite streaky. In fact, Mo Williams is the ninth streakiest shooter in the Association. His field goal percentage after a make (.481) is much better than it is after a miss (.401), a difference of .072.

This fits his overall profile to a "T". When he was on last season, the Bucks generally won. When he was off, they generally lost. His eff48 in victories (25.56) was far better than his eff48 in losses (15.43). That differential (10.13) was far greater than any other Bucks regular from last season. No one else had a differential that exceeded 5 efficiency points with the average being 3.88.

In other words, Mo Williams was last year's barometer. I don't expect this year to be much different. We need him to even out his peaks and valleys if we are to become a championship contender and not another first round "adios".

Footnote: I have this maddening tendency to refer to Mo Williams as "Michael Williams". I think its because my three year stint living in the Twin Cities coincided with this player's run with the Twolves, and he was built the same as Mo, played the same position, and had a bit of a similar game. Still, I have to break the habit so if I do it call me out.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Bucks Open Practice Saturday

The Bucks are holding an open practice at the Bradley Center on Saturday at noon. Its free to the first 18,000, which, they're dreaming if they think they will get that many. But, I did want to go myself so that I could give a first hand impression of the team to those readers outside the Milwaukee area who couldn't make it. Unfortunately, I can't make it. I have a previous engagement in Madison at the very same time, and I can't get out of it. I'm so pissed.

My second order of business: I would like to feature on this site a comprehensive link to all other Bucks blogs -- sort of a clearinghouse for BucksNation. That way, if you don't like my take, you can sample some others... that sort of thing. As I always say, this blog is a community of Bucks fans or it is nothing. This will hopefully further that vision.

So, if you know of any Bucks blogs of any kind (other than those already linked), please let me know in the comments section. I have already inadvertently found this one which I have added to my links, and which I recommend. There is some very insightful commentary that Bucks fans should enjoy.

So, if you know of any active blogs, drop me a line. Thank you Bucks fans. And sorry again for dropping the ball on the open practice, but business is business unfortunately.

Clarification on "clutch"

In a previous post I labeled certain Bucks "clutch" and certain other Bucks "not clutch". Now, when I did that, I wasn't trying to determine, to quote this guy, 'whose heart pumps kool-aid'. All I was doing was looking at each particular player's overall numbers, and then comparing those numbers to the specific set of numbers said player produced under a given set of circumstances defined by 82games.com as "Clutch Time". If the player's numbers went up at Clutch Time, or were reasonably similar to his overall numbers, I concluded that he was "clutch". If his numbers showed a significant decline, I said he was not.

I paid no mind to the player's personal fortitude, or whether or not he tended to rattle. You can have the heart of a lion and still not be clutch. In fact, it could very well be that a player was not clutch precisely because of that. For example, if some guy thinks he's Michael Jordan but has a game closer to Eddie Jordan's, and because of that inflated sense of self he puts in on himself to take all the big shots, and if most of those shots produce nothing but fresh cracks in the backboard, he is not clutch.

Similarly, by labeling a guy "not clutch", I in no way meant to imply that he never comes through in the clutch. I only looked at each player's overall production. Lombardi said 'You are what you consistently do'. I tend to agree.

Finally, this guy has an excellent elaboration on the entire concept.

Dramatic improvement from Bogut?

Here's some food for thought. According to several insiders, Bucks center Andrew Bogut looks like a different player early in this training camp. They describe him as more aggressive, more polished, and even stronger, than he was last season.

Should we expect a dramatic leap in Bogut's play this season? That would certainly fit his pattern. After his freshman season at Utah, he was described as a middle of the road first round pick at best. Then his play and production improved so dramatically in his sophomore season (he went from a freshman Eff48 of 29.60 to a sophomore 38.86) that he became a fairly consensus choice as the top pick in the 2005 draft. According to the scouting report on him done by nbadraft.net prior to that draft, his sophomore play improved "10x" from his freshman season.

10x? Well, the NBA ain't the Mountain West, but wouldn't it be great if he could repeat that trick in his sophomore season with the Bucks? We shall see.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Memories of the ABA

This season marks the 30th anniversary of the ABA-NBA merger. It was so significant that the 1976-77 season ought to be a demarcation point in NBA history -- Before The Merger and After The Merger.

In fact, I would argue that the ABA, while a failed venture in and of itself, essentially created the modern NBA. If you doubt it, just watch an NBA game played just prior to the merger, and then compare it to a game played just after the merger. Its like two wholly different monsters. The style, the talent level, and the excitement that the infusion of ABA talent pumped into the NBA clearly resuscitated professional basketball just prior to the dawn of Bird and Magic.

I bring all this up because I just finished, and want to recommend to you as basketball fans, the book "Loose Balls". It is an oral history of the American Basketball Association as told to author Terry "I am no longer a planet" Pluto. While I generally dislike it when authors use this form of storytelling, in this case the technique works. It gave me an almost "you are there" sensation for the wild ride that was the ABA. The almost amatuerish, ephemeral quality of that celebrated league makes for some extremely entertaining, and often comical, reading.

At times it is also educational. For instance, I always wondered why the Kentucky Colonels, a reasonably successful and popular ABA franchise, was left out of the merger. It turns out the NBA just didn't want them. I always assumed the ABA-NBA merger was similar in nature to the AFL-NFL merger. Not at all. At the time of the merger, the ABA was basically in the same position as the USFL, not the AFL. They had six ongoing franchises remaining, but for all intents and purposes, they were done. The only hope for the remaining six was to merge with the senior association. So they were basically "hat in hand" when it came to negotiating the terms of any merger. And the NBA knew it. And they played hardball, basically cherry picking the four franchises that appealed to them and telling the others to get lost. (Sort of like when that record producer told Greg Brady he would sign him to a deal as Johnny Bravo if he got rid of the rest of the Bradys). Not only that, they forced the already cash starved four to pay their way into the NBA. Brutal.

Anyway, long story short, the four wanted teams then had to negotiate a buyout with the two unwanted teams (the Colonels and the St. Louis Spirits). The shortsighted Colonels took a relatively small cash payout, while the Spirits owners, in one of the greatest negotiated settlements in sports history, took an 1/5 interest in all future TV money. Genius.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Which Bucks are Clutch?

First of all, a belated Happy Media Day, antlerheads! You know what that means -- Bucks basketball season is upon us again. I love it. Today I'm examining which Bucks get it done when pressure's on in the "clutch".

82games.com defines “clutch play” as the final five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, with neither team enjoying a lead that exceeds five points. I was curious how the Bucks players performed in the clutch. I have undertaken a comparison of the player’s overall statistics against their clutch statistics (only for those players who logged enough clutch minutes to provide a meaningful statistical comparison). Some very interesting patterns emerge. Here’s an analysis of the Bucks.

Michael Redd

Surprisingly, Redd’s numbers fall across the board in clutch time. His overall effective field goal percentage declines significantly (50.4% to 44.0%); driven mostly by the decline in his efg on jumpers (47.6 to 40.6). His passer rating declines (4.4 to 1.3); and his ballhandler rating declines as well (14.7 to 9.3). Only Redd’s rebounder rating improves (11.7 to 14.6). In fairness to Redd, here is what I think happens – I saw it many times last year. In the crunch, everyone looks to him. There were many occasions were others would not shoot, and so Redd had to force balls up. I remember a game against the Celtics late in the season when he had to take 3 high degree of difficulty shots in a single possession simply because no one else would shoot.

That said, I have to go with the numbers and declare Redd: ASSERTIVE, BUT NOT CLUTCH.

Andrew Bogut

The Aussie does quite well in the clutch. His overall efg improves significantly (53.3 to 61.5); his atrocious jumper efg becomes respectable (30.5 to 50.0); his inside efg gets even better (54.9 to 62.5); and he becomes a very sure ballhandler for a big man (10.5 to 17.2). His rebounding and passing are the only things that suffer in the clutch: reb (26.2 to 21.6) pass (3.3 to 1.8). The one thing I worry about with Bogut is his free throw shooting. If he doesn’t get that squared away, I am afraid he may become gunshy in the clutch.

However, at this point, the numbers don’t lie. I must call him: WISELY CLUTCH.

Mo Williams

This one is a little scary. Williams is so not clutch. And a point guard really ought to at least entertain the possibility of clutch. He doesn’t. His efg falls way off (48.3 to 42.2); his jump shooting becomes erratic (47.4 to 42.0); his passing becomes dangerously sloppy (8.9 to 2.9); and his ballhandling becomes, simply, unacceptably bad (21.2 to 10.1). Quite simply, Williams completely shrinks at crunch time. If he is to be the floor general, he must show better leadership in the tight moments.

This should set the warning lights flashing because Williams is: SO NOT CLUTCH.

Steve Blake

Given Williams struggles at prime time, we may lean on Blake in the fourth quarters of tight games. Like Williams, his numbers fall off, but unlike Williams, they only fall off slightly and still remain in an acceptable range. His efg goes from (51.9 to 47.0); his jump shooting goes from (51.2 to 46.8); his passing goes from (10.9 to 8.0); and his ballhandling goes from (25.0 to 20.8).

While Blake does decline, he declines within an acceptable range and is: CLUTCH ENOUGH.

Bobby Simmons

Here’s a stunner. Given Simmons sort of soft demeanor, I just assumed going in that he wouldn’t be clutch. Not really the case. Like Blake, his numbers fall off, but within an acceptable range. And his ballhandling improves significantly (11.0 to 15.1) which implies that he steps up his concentration and decisionmaking in the crunch.

Simmons does decline slightly in most categories, but the decline is small enough to call him: SLIGHTLY CLUTCH.

Charlie Villanueva

Now remember, this was his rookie season in which he was called upon to be a frontline scorer on a very bad team. That’s a lot to ask of a greenhorn. That being said, he was not clutch. Although his ballhandling improved quite noticeably (10.0 to 17.1), and his rebounding went up, both of which imply strongly that he has the makings of a clutch player, his shooting numbers just went down (efg: 50.0 to 44.4) too much to go all the way and call him clutch just yet.

Though I have a feeling he will develop clutch, at this point he is: SOON TO BE CLUTCH.

Ruben Patterson

This one I had pegged all the way. Guys with the kind of mental toughness and aggression Patterson has displayed throughout his career live for the pressure moments. Patterson is no different. The things he’s good at (rebounding from the wing, scoring inside) he does exceptionally well in the clutch (for instance, his inside efg goes from 56.8 to 72.7), with his numbers rising drastically. The things he does poorly, he doesn’t do worse in the clutch – with one notable exception. His ballhandling becomes much too sloppy (9.7 to 2.3). He needs to tighten that up. Possessions are too valuable.

Overall, however, you have to say the Kobe Stopper is: BIG TIME CLUTCH.