Bucks Diary

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Another winter of discontent in Bucksnation?

I know I sometimes piss you guys off when I write gloomy posts about the Bucks. I don't mean to. Its just that ever since June I've had a bad feeling about this Bucks roster and its functional value.

Yesterday I wrote a long season preview that reflected my pessimism, but I squashed it, like Prince squashed his Black Album. It was as depressing to edit as it would have been to read. I called the Bucks a lottery team who would struggle to win 30 games. I didn't even want to read that, and it seemed out of step with the consensus opinion anyway. So I killed it.

Then the game started. Maybe I should have published it after all.

I'll just give you a synopsis of the points of concern I highlighted in my lost preview:

1. We have no true point guard on the roster;
2. Our power forwards are generally allergic to paint and don't play defense;
3. We have no reliable second scoring option after Redd;
4. Mason is a severe downgrade from Ruben Patterson;
5. We have a frontline of generally weak per minute rebounders;
6. We have no shotblocker to speak of;
7. Most of the players on the roster have never shown any commitment to defense;
8. Our frontline lacks any physical presence;
9. Our best player is a shooter, not a playmaker, which traditionally does not work;

Oh, enough of that. No team is perfect. Maybe things will miraculously improve. Maybe I'm totally wrong. I hope so. Otherwise its going to be a long, cold winter.

Live Blog -- Bucks v. Magic

6:02: I will be live blogging the game tonight in the style made popular by profootballtalk.com, that is I will make time stamped comments as events warrant. Lets see how this goes.

6:03: Paschke is calling this the Yi Era. Come on, we don't even know if he can play. And enough with the "billion Chinese fans" references. Nobody in BucksNation cares.

6:05: Could Larry Harris use any more mousse? My God! Who does he think he is?

6:07: I would be stunned if Coach K doesnt turn out a success. You can just see that he has "it", that undefinable quality that the previous 2 Bucks coaches did not have.

6:10: I just received a text message from the Diesel, who is at the game. He says the scoreboard is showing Royal Ivey as a starter. That may just be wishful thinking on the Magic's part. He also says Bogut's jumper did not look good in warmups. Of course, he's a 28% jump shooter, so that's not all that stunning.

6:12: Whoop. Diesel reports that they switched it and now have the proper Bucks starting lineup: Yi, Mason, Bogut, Redd, and Williams.

6:14: Let's Get it on!!

6:16: Van Grundy is coaching the Magic. He did one hell of a job for the Badgers. The guy looks like he sells aluminum siding. Lose the stache, Stanley!

6:18: Diesel reports Yi looks very nervous. Why wouldn't he be? As Paschke has said about 12 times, the "World" is watching him.

6:20: Rashard Lewis is going to be a tough check. Oh, Redd scores. Atta baby! 2-2

6:22: Oh, is Redd a playah. He's got all 4. Yi with a steal! But he walked. Stick with it Yi.

6:25: Mason with a nice athletic play.

6:27: The red sea just parted for Torkuglu. Where's the new defense? Didn't see it there. 15-10.

6:29: Bucks take the lead! Redd enfuego (sp?).

6:33: Bogut cannot take outside shots! He just left an 18 footer 15 feet!

6:36: Tonight's drinking game, every time Paschke mentions Yi and all of his Chinese fans, pound your beer! He's done it about 8 times now.

6:38: Desmond with a spin move. Have we seen Simmons yet? I was on teh phone. Oooh, nice basket cut by Mo for 2. Bucks down 23-22.

6:39: Who the hell for Orlando just airballed a 5 foot shot? Oh, here's Simmons into the game. We hadn't seen him.

6:41: Oh, Mo ties it with a sweeeeet fader. We are tied at the end of the first quarter.

End of First Quarter impressions: Your Bucks 24, Magic 24

I was distracted for most of the quarter, but from what I saw Redd rules, Yi looks surprisingly NBA ready, Mo is "Good Mo" tonight, and Bogut needs to hit the boards and stop shooting from the outside. Live blogging an NBA game is hard! I can't type fast enough to keep the observations game relevant!

6:44: Welcome back Bobby Simmons! He just gave the Bucks the lead with an outside j, his speciality shot.

6:47: Villanueva just got two turnovers on two possessions, a travel and a charge, and he looked clumsy on both of them. They're making him put it on the floor and its working.

6:49: Nice defense by Gadzuric on Dwight Howard! Forced him off balance, and made him leave his hook shot short. We're tied at 27-27. Timeout Orlando.

6:52: Simmons is having a beautiful comeback debut! He even looks more aggressive on the offensive end, which will be key to his success. He's a high percentage shooter, so he needs to pull them more often.

6:54: Simmons just got on the boards for a nice put back! Oh, Magic is up now 30-29. Simmons just hit again!!! He is doing it tonight Bucks fans. Rashard Lewis just answered, but hte Bucks still have the lead.

6:57: Gadzuric just got his third foul in very limited number of minutes. He gone! Bogut back in. Get your head in the game now Bogut.

6:57: Did Bogut just hit a skyhook? Yes! I love it. The Down Under Thunder hook. Your Bucks by 7, Bell just hit a three! In my face, because I've been hating on Bell for so long. Good, I hope he shows me different. Bucks 41, Magic 34.

7:02: Bucks bench outscoring Magic by 12. Do I detect a hidden strength? Shit my cable just went out. You gotta be shitting me!! On Opening Night??

7:04: Alright, I'm back. Unfortunately so are the Magic as they've made a run and taken a 42-41 lead. Yi is back in the game. Lets get the momentum going back the other way. Timeout Milwaukee.

Halftime Bucks 46, Magic 48

Impressions: Somebody wake up Bogut. He's one for six. Yi looks okay, but his stats aren't that great. Redd rules, but I'm uncomfortable relying on him so much. What a return for Bobby Simmons! Great to see. Villanueva has to get it going. Great work on the second chance points.

7:34: P and M are blatantly sucking up to the Chinese audience. Yi isn't playing that well. He's got 2 points balanced by 2 turnovers. Oh, and Pashcke mentioned China again, so drink.

7:50: This game is getting away from the Bucks. They're down 8 with 4:41 left in the third, and just turned the ball over.

7:52: The Bucks need a run. And they need Bogut or Charlie V to show up. Down 11.

7:56: Good God. The offense has gone dead, because Redd has gone cold. We can't be Reddcentric. We're down by 16 with 2 minutes to go in the third. Orlando's on a 19-2 run and they are burying 3 pointers because the Bucks are not defending the arc.

7:58: Mo Williams is having A TERRIBLE GAME. Our "point guard" has taken 14 shots and has a grand total of ONE FUCKING ASSIST!! Oh, he's missed 10 of those shots. He's taken as many as Redd, for God's sakes!!

8:51: In case you wondered where I was, the proximate TV got wrestled away from me when the Bucks went down by 20. Agony, I'm still following it online while the GF watches "I Love New York", perhaps the worst television show in the history of the medium.

8:53 Signing off. I'll have a gloom and doom post tomorrow.

How the Bucks fare on the adjusted +/- rating

There is no better site on the net for interesting basketball-related statistical analysis than 82games.com. They've struck again with their lastest piece of work, the "adjusted +/-" statistic.

The raw plus-minus statistic basically records what impact each player had on his team's performance by calculating the score when that player was on the floor versus the score when that player was off. This new adjusted plus-minus, as I understand it, is basically the same thing with corrections. It corrects some of the flaws in the raw statistic by adjusting for the abilities of the teammates around each player, as well as the strength of each player's opponent.

The numbers generated seem very well crafted and very revealing. They are compiled into two sets of rankings... those who logged more than 1640 minutes last season and those who logged less than that (but more than 400 minutes -- leaving out Michael Ruffin, I guess).

Accepting the results as valid here are some comments on what they reveal:

1. The Bucks have 3 plus rated players, two high minute players and one low minute player. Michael Redd, ranked 19th overall among high minute players; Andrew Bogut, ranked 63rd among high minute players; and Charlie Villanueva, ranked 16th among low minute players.

2. The Celtics have the best high minute player in the NBA, 2 high minute players in the Top 10, and 3 high minute players in the Top 20 (and one of them is not named Ray Allen!).

3. The Bucks roster includes two of the worst players in the NBA. Desmond Mason ranked fifth worst among high minute players, 170th overall; David Noel ranked fifth worst among low minute players, 163rd overall.

Here's the ranking and adjusted plus-minus number for each Buck:

High Minute Bucks (out of 175 high minute players)

19. Michael Redd +5.42
63. Andrew Bogut +1.61
115. Charlie Bell -1.07
124. Mo Williams -2.10
170. Desmond Mason -6.04

Low Minute Bucks (out of 168 low minute players)

16. Charlie Villanueva +2.38
66. Jake Voskuhl -0.96
82. Dan Gadzuric -1.69
120. Royal Ivey -3.44
163. David Noel -8.43

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Is Maurice Williams a point fraud?

I've often accused the Bucks starting "point guard" Mo Williams of being a shooting guard masquerading as a point guard. There's a great deal of evidence to support that accusation.

For a point guard, Mo Williams is way too fond of seeing himself shoot the ball. Among starting point guards in the Eastern Conference, only World B. Arenas of the Washington Bullets takes more shots per minute than Mo Williams (.52 for Arenas vs .42 for Williams). Even Stephon Marbury of the Knicks (.34) takes far fewer shots than Williams. In fact, TJ Ford of Toronto (.40) is the only other starting point guard in the East who averages at least .40 shots per minute (have the Bucks even had a point guard in this decade?).

You could excuse Mo for calling his own number so often if he concurrently set up his teammates. But he doesn't. Only Arenas (.28), Tyronn Lue of Atlanta (.38), and Jameer Nelson of Orlando (.37), have a lower assist/FGA ratio than Williams (.39).

So among Eastern Conference point guards, only Gilbert Arenas is a bigger point fraud than Mo. But Arenas can argue that his approach is good for his team. Last season Arenas averaged a healthy 1.35 Pts/FGA, comparable to the Bucks' Michael Redd, who averaged 1.38 Pts/FGA. So his gunning arguably benefited his team.

Mo Williams cannot make the same argument. His Pts/FGA average last season was a paltry 1.12, which, if Charlie Villanueva is the Bucks starter at power forward and Bobby Simmons at small forward, would rank fifth among the Bucks five starters. In fact, if you look at the Bucks top eight players, only Charlie Bell has a worse Pts/FGA average than Williams. Mo needs to check himself and start acting like a point guard.

Here is how a proper point guard acts. He limits his own shots and looks to set up his teammates. The purest point guard in the East, Jason Kidd of the New Jersey Nets, averages an economical .31 FGA/min, and a robust .80 Ass/FGA. Andre Miller of the Philadelphia 76ers averages .30 FGA/min and .68 Ass/FGA. And Chauncey Billups of the Detroit Pistons averages .32 FGA/min and .62 Ass/min. Those three are playmakers who can score. The Bucks are stuck with a shooter who will occasionally pass.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Buck Droppings: Bucks look... well, awful

I'm not going to go crazy here, because it is the preseason, but the Bucks look terrible. Their offense is basically non-existent (when are they going to flip the switch?) and their defense last week looked suspiciously like the '06 model Green and Red.

In three road games, the Bucks were destroyed by double digits three times. They didn't even look competitive. Their offense remained as awful as it was the week prior and has been all throughout the preseason (91.85 pts/100 possessions) while their defense sprung some severe leaks (105.72), dropping nearly ten points per 100 possessions from the week before. Again, I know its preseason, but aren't you supposed to be getting better as the season approaches?


Dan Gadzuric had a nice week filling in at center for Andrew Bogut. In fact, he's had a decent overall training camp. So why do I get so nervous whenever he enters the game?

Maybe its because he reminds me of one of those guys in high school who only played basketball because someone told them "Hey, you're pretty tall... you should try out for basketball". You know what I mean by that? One of those countless vertically advantaged guys who couldn't dribble, couldn't shoot, couldn't pass, couldn't think on the floor... guys who when they got a couple minutes on the hardwood would run as fast as they could and jump as high as they could and look a little manic, if not spastic, doing it. That's Gadzuric.

Yet give the man his due. He rolls on. What's kept him in the NBA and made him a handsome living is his sheer desire and his huge motor. He wants rebounds and he gets them. He wants to block shots and he often does. And if the Bucks had one decent playmaker on their roster who could set the table for him, he would be a pretty productive player (he misses TJ Ford and Toni Kukoc badly). Last year he had the least productive season of his career, but it was almost entirely due to the Bucks lack of a playmaker.

I still would rather he wasn't out there, though.

Villanueva at the crossroads

I really feel like the Bucks Charlie Villanueva is at a crossroads this season. Its time for him to shit or get off the pot. Is he going to continue on the path to being the next mediocre Stacy King, or will he set a new trajectory and fulfill his potential as a somewhat less dynamic, yet equally productive, version of Terry Cummings? He can do it. But he has to get tough and get serious and get assertive if he's going to reach that ceiling.

Rosen sees something in the Green and Red

I used to enjoy reading Charley Rosen. But after I while I just couldn't take his writing style anymore. Its so disjointed and so full of coachspeak and honky street lingo, it becomes unreadable. And normally he's a Buck hater.

Not this season, though. Oh, he gets his standard "he's so unathletic" cheapshot in on Andrew Bogut, but he also says there's a "lot to like" about the "somewhat rebuilt" Bucks. He then goes on to destroy his own credibility by praising Charlie Bell's shooting (he shot 43% last year) and... I don't get this one... Desmond Mason's ability to "power his way to double digits". Is that a euphemism for "he can't shoot"?

I do like and agree with his praise for Coach K, though. Its effusive. He calls Krisco "one of the most promising young coaches in captivity." (Don't ask me what the hell that metaphor is supposed to mean-- are some coaches living in the wild?).

Somebody convince me Mason is an upgrade

I just don't get the love for Desmond Mason. From the Journal-Sentinel to Charley Rosen to the attendant at the gas station I frequent, everyone thinks Desmond Mason is a huge addition to the Bucks. I don't get it. What does he do well? Or, more specifically, what does he do better than Ruben Patterson... the guy we let walk in favor of Mason?

Everyone sort of implies that Mason's going to bring this "energy and athleticism". Were any of them watching the Pirahna last season? He was all energy and athleticism.

Lets compare the two, going right down the list provided by 82games.com. Ruben Patterson was the better jump shooter, if you can believe it (38% to Mason's 28%). Patterson was the much better overall shooter (eFG of 55% vs. Mason's eFG 45.3%). Ruben had the better 82games.com Passer Rating (5.2 vs. Mason's 1.2). Ruben had the better 82games.com Rebounder Rating (18.4 vs. 14.1 for Mason). Ruben was a much better ballhandler according to 82games.com (His rating was 12.0, Mason's was 5.6). Both of them were overrated on defense, with Patterson being slightly less so ( Opposition's small forward: 51.5% eFG vs. 51.8% eFG for Mason).

And when it comes to overall production, there is no comparison at all. In 30.7 mins/game, Ruben produced an excellent Eff48 of 24.41. In 34.5 mins/game, Desmond produced an awful Eff48 of 14.12. When you consider that the median Eff48 for players who averaged more than 20 mins/game was 19.64, you can see how unproductive Mason was. Shoot, David Noel (15.17) had a better Eff48 than Mason, and Noel is playing his way out of the Association.

Sweet 2007-08 Bucks Promotional Schedule

The Bucks used to have the lamest giveaway nights in sports. I love any kind of Bucks nicknacks, and I didn't want anything they had on offer. In the last couple of years, they've really stepped up their game.

This year, with the 40th anniversary and all, they've really got a nice list of promotional nights.

First and foremost in popularity will be their Bobblehead nights. They will pay off big. Especially since this season the Bucks are giving away some intriguing "Bucks Legend" bobblehead nights that could be sweet (how sweet would it be if they went off the reservation a little with their definition of "legend"... how about Pressey?... Mokeski?... Dandridge?... Pierce?... Marques? I'm sure they'll stick with the officially sanctioned legends, though... you know, the guys whose numbers are up in the BC rafters... which is fine).

The only thing that I think they got wrong on the promos was their pennant nights. This is a completely personal gripe, though. For some reason, I love pennants and this season they have three pennant giveaways that, if they're full size pennants, I would love to add to my small Bucks den pennant collection. They're giving away a 1971 World championship pennant, a 1974 Western Conference championship pennant, and a 40th anniversary pennant. I've never seen any of those on the market anywhere. But the problem for me is, each of the pennant nights are 14 and under giveaways, so I'm going to have to use some strategery to get my hands on those.

The most intriguing giveaway night on the list: "The Andrew Bogut Take Charge Inflatable" night. I don't even want to know.

Bucks Season Preview coming... possibly

I'm going to try to do a preview before Tuesday, but I promise nothing. But I'll try.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Supplemental Buck Droppings: Defense falters in Denver

I prop the Bucks for their improved defensive efficiency (pts allowed/possession * 100) and they go out in their next game and lay an egg. So typical.

After posting a sterling defensive efficiency mark of 96.4 for the preseason, last night in Denver the Bucks' defensive efficiency actually sank lower than last year's abysmal mark (which was 109.6), as they posted a 110.6 DE. I know Denver's got a high octane offense, but that won't get it done, guys.

Villanueva comes alive!

I thought twice about disrespecting Charlie Villanueva in my weekend post, but I went ahead and did it anyway. I knew when I wrote it, though, that Charlie has a habit of sleepwalking through the preseason and then turning on the jets as the regular season approaches. He seems to be doing it again.

Last night he had his first terrific game of the '07-'08 season. In 28 minutes of floor time, he was an absolute basketball playing Jesse, posting an Eff48 of 49.71. To quote Tiny Elvis, "That's huge, man... huge". If Charlie V brought it like that every night, and he could, he would be an All-Star.

Simmons does not heart Melo

Two years ago I was at the Bradley Center when Bobby Simmons nearly fouled out in the first quarter trying to defend Denver's SF Carmelo Anthony. He nearly did it again last night! In 8 minutes of playing time, Simmons picked up 5 fouls. There is obviously something about Melo that brings out the hack machine in Bobby Basketball.

Bogut looks like a Road Warrior

I know Andrew Bogut is a naturalized and not native born Australian, but with his new haircut, he looks exactly like one of the bad guys from the original Road Warrior movie. I must say its a huge improvement over the Maynard G. Krebs, post-bohemian look he sported last season. A huge improvement.

Ruffin, Ivey playing their way into the rotation

This summer, Bucks GM Larry Harris signed PF Jake Voshkuhl to a one year $3.0 million deal, then he inexplicably matched Miami's multi-year, $3.6 million per offer to G Charlie Bell. As an afterthought he signed PF Michael Ruffin and G Royal Ivey to one year deals worth $1.03 million and $743,000 respectively.

To this point, the low wagers are clearly outplaying their more expensive counterparts. Both of the low wagers bring high energy and a surprising amount of per minute productivity to the Bucks, whereas Bell and Voskuhl are probably more talented yet less productive players.

Last night Michael Ruffin was 1 for 3 for 3 points in 20 minutes of action, but because of his scrappy all-around play, he recorded an outstanding Eff48 score of 33.60. Ruffin's physical play is also the perfect antidote to the Bucks soft duo at the power forward position, Yi and Villanueva. Voshkuhl, meanwhile, seems to have fallen out of favor with Coach K, having recorded his third "DNP Coach's Decision" last night in 6 preseason games.

As for Royal Ivey, if you throw out his one bad game of the preseason, he's a consistent 20+ Eff48 performer off the bench, and he is a very tough defender. By comparison, Charlie Bell never seems to have an Eff48 score above 15 in any game, and he is a much less effective defender than his reputation would suggest.

Correction: The original post cited Bell's contract at 5.0 million per year. Wrong. Its 3.6 million, as Frank pointed out. Frank was also correct in pointing out that Bogut was in fact born in Australia... to Croatian immigrants. So the logic of the observation still stands (he's not a product of the unique Aussie gene pool), but the facts are in error.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Coach K getting his message through

When I do my Power Rankings, I do them based exclusively on Efficiency Differential. That is, the difference between each team's Offensive Efficiency (pts scored/100 possessions) minus that team's Defensive Efficiency (pts allowed/100 possessions).

Last season the Bucks finished near the bottom of my Power Rankings with a -5.0 Efficiency Differential. Their poor score was due to their poor Defensive Efficiency, which, at 109.7, was second worst in the Association.

Thus far in the preseason, the Bucks have turned that around. Their Defensive Efficiency is a sterling 96.4, which is better than the best DE mark posted last season (the Spurs and Bulls finished tied for the best DE mark for the 2006-07 season at 98.0). That's the good news.

The bad news is that the Bucks preseason Efficiency Differential (-4.5) is nearly as bad as it was last season, because their offense has dropped off badly. Their Offensive Efficiency currently stands at 91.9, which would be good if the Association still used peachbaskets instead of hoops and nets, but which would have been dead last by about 10 points last season (the worst team in the NBA by Offensive Efficiency in '06-'07 was the Indiana Pacers, who finished at 100.4).

That said, I take this primarily as good news. The offense will come. Defense is a mentality that has to be inculcated. And so far, it seems Coach K is getting that done.

Buck Droppings: Only 3 Bucks playing well

Let's hope alot of the Bucks players are just using the preseason to round themselves into shape. Because few of them are really producing to this point.

The exceptions have been three: Mo Williams, who had an outstanding game last night; Bobby Simmons, who has been really solid in this bounceback training camp for him; and... shhhhh... Andrew Bogut, who until last night looked like he might be poised for a breakout season.

I have to mention also that Yi Jianlian had his best week as a professional last week, despite getting abused by the one-dimensional Kenyon Martin up in GB. Last night Yi had a particularly outstanding game, by far his best as a pro, against the young Timberwolves, and, unbelievably, he has distanced himself from the seemingly disinterested Charlie Villanueva to this point in the power forward competition.

Among the disappointments have been Mr. Villanueva, Desmond Mason, Charlie "I'm mad as hell" Bell, and Michael Redd -- who may be feeling the hangover from a long summer on the US National team.

Bucks Preseason Eff48 averages (above 24.00 is good)

1. Bogut 27.49
2. M. Williams 26.52
3. B. Simmons 26.18
4. Storey 21.00 (in only 16 minutes of action)
5. Voskuhl 20.57 (in only 21 minutes of action)
6. Ruffin 18.38
7. Yi 16.96 (including 30.67 in the last week)
8. Gadzuric 16.74
9. Noel 16.27
10. Ivey 16.04
11. Villanueva 15.84
12. Redd 15.70
13. Bell 14.18
14. D. Mason 06.12
15. Sessions 00.00 (0 efficiency points in 13 minutes of action)

Footnote: Players who have played few minutes, such as Storey and Voskuhl, may have misleadingly high Eff48 averages. For instance, if you grab 4 rebounds in 4 minutes you have a 48.00 score. Its much harder to maintain high production over an extended number of minutes.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Buck Droppings: Box Score Fallacies and other thoughts

I've been super busy lately, but I promise to at least write multi-topic posts like this one that I will publish every Sunday until the season starts. I really apologize. Anyway, here are my latest thoughts on all things NBA and BucksNation, starting with last night's game...

Box Score Fallacies

You get your coffee, you pick up your Sunday paper, and you look at the box score from last night's Bucks loss to the Utah Jazz up in Titletown. What do you see and what do you think?

Well, you see Andrew Bogut scored 10 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. You think, eh... typical, mediocre Bogut. Then you look at Yi Jianlian's line. 13 points and 4 rebounds. Hey... nice effort. Maybe Yi's gonna shut that Ty guy's stupid mouth.

Wrong, wrong, and not quite yet. If you reached the first two conclusions you made the mistake of judging an NBAers play according to the passe "How many did he score; how many did he grab?" method. That's so 1980s. We never use that method on Bucks Diary.

Why? Its a sizzle judgment, not a steak judgment. Looking exclusively at a player's point and rebound totals leads to an incomplete judgment based on too little information. For instance, a players point total doesn't tell you how many shots the player needed to hoist up to get those points -- shots that could have possibly been made if a teammate had taken them instead of the missee. And point and rebound totals don't tell you how many floor minutes the player ate up to get those points and rebounds -- minutes that a more efficiently productive player might have made better use of. And just looking at points and rebounds doesn't begin to tell you how many times the player gave the ball back to the opposition in the form of a turnover (Hello, Yi! 8 turnovers last night, big guy? In America we dribble the ball with our hands... not our feet!).

Here's a better way. According to NBA.com, when NBA coaches judge how well a player played, they go directly to the total of "efficiency points" that player accumulated (Points + Rebounds + Assists + Steals + Blocked Shots - Turnovers - Missed FTs - Missed FGs).

"Efficiency Points" is just a somewhat mislabeled answer to the question, "What was the net total of good stats the player accumulated in the game?" (I write "mislabeled" because the term "Efficiency Points" doesn't capture the essence of the statistic. But until we find a better label, it'll do). I prefer to go one mini-step further by looking at the "Efficiency Points per 48 Minutes" statistic or "Eff48", which merely calculates "Efficiency Points/Min x 48". The question being answered with that statistic is "If each guy played the entire 48 minutes, how many net total good stats would that player have accumulated?" The reason I prefer Eff48 to straight Efficiency Points is Eff48 puts all players on an even court of evaluation by artificially equalizing playing time.

Both methods of analysis have the virtue of being simple to understand, yet quite comprehensive in their considerations. I'm positive there are more accurate methods of judging performances out there, such as John Hollinger's system on ESPN.com, but all the others I have found, including his, involve some headscratching use of calculus equations. And I am a firm believer that calculus and basketball do not mix. No square roots of anything and no weighting anything -- except Tractor Traylor -- will ever be allowed on Bucks Diary pages. If you can't calculate the stat using your fingers, toes, and an abacus, I say it ain't worth it for the average HoopHead to ponder. Leave the Basketball Theories of Relativity to the stat geeks... we will try to center our judgments on the hardwood and not the calculator.

(BTW, by Eff48 scoring, Bogut had about as good a game as you can have last night. He accumulated 19 efficiency points in a mere 21 minutes for a Kareem-like Eff48 score of 43.4. Meanwhile, Yi actually regressed badly from his last game in which he had an Eff48 score of 15.3... which was bad enough. Last night Yi collected 1 lousy efficiency point over 28 minutes of action for a not-even-worth-calculating Eff48 score of 0.03. That won't get it done.)

Likin' the K Man

Thus far there's something I really like about Coach K. I call it his "Recognize and then Minimize" style.

For instance, if there is an obvious problem, such as Yi's foul troubles on Opening Night of the Preseason, he will recognize it ("We can't have him fouling out in 13 minutes") and then seek to minimize it ("Okay, four of them were screen violations, no problem. We can correct that.").

Or take last night. The Bucks turned the ball over an ungodly amount of times. Instead of pissing and moaning, or ignoring the problem, or talking in weird new age metaphors ("We need to bring a level of energy to the floor so we can match their energy, blah, blah, blah..."), Coach K simply owned the problem and then identified a solution (he said it was somewhat on him because he had been spending 75% of the practice time on defense and he hasn't yet had a chance to develop continuity, but he said there wa still time and he promised he and the Bucks would get it done.)

Its refreshing to hear some straightforward leadership in BucksNation.

What's the NBA thinking with these franchise moves, anyway?

I am efforting a copy of the Seattle Supersonics Demand to Arbitrate their Key Arena lease agreeement, so I can give it an eyeball evaluation, but from what I understand at this point, things are about to burn down in the Emerald City.

If the Sonics are not allowed out of their lease, which seems likely, they have a backup plan that promises to get ugly. They are purposely using inflammatory rhetoric on the public record in a clear attempt to destroy as much of the common ground between themselves and the people of Seattle as they can. They want to make it impractical for the Sonics franchise to remain in the Seattle market any time longer.

The whole affair is pretty sad, really. I'm both torn and baffled by it.

Torn because I want Oklahoma City to get a team, yet I don't want them to get this team. I want them to get the Boston Braves, not the Milwaukee Braves, to use a local allusion. In other words, I want them to get a team that has basically suffered from clear-cut, long-term, abject, fan disinterest, not a team that has a proven base of rabid fans who are simply alienated by circumstance, especially when that circumstance was in no small measure created by those who wish to move the team.

And I am baffled because, if this move goes through, the NBA will have moved its second straight franchise from a larger market to a smaller market (the first move I am referring to is the Hornets return to the shell city of New Orleans after such a successful run in OK City). I find it even more baffling that the NBA would abandon a top 10 market like Seattle, a market that has shown its willingness in the past to support basketball.

My Seattle Domino Theory revisited

Remember the Seattle Doomsday Domino Theory I was floating last year? Namely, if OKC moved back to NO, and Seattle moved to OKC, then I theorized that the Milwaukee franchise would be put in jeopardy by the mere availability of such a plum market location.

Well, I guess I was right in the crux of my argument, but my worries should not have been predicated on the OKC or the Seattle move. Turns out there were and are 10 somewhat attractive destinations open to any future Bucks owner even if the Hornets had stayed and the Sonics do not move.

I say somewhat attractive destinations because, while they all represent bigger markets than the Milwaukee market (Kansas City, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Columbus, San Diego, Providence, Raliegh, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Tampa) each of the markets is one in which professional basketball has already failed miserably, or it is a market already being relied upon by an existing team as part of their fan base, or it is both. So none of those destinations are necessarily pristine locations for any rogue Bucks owner looking to relocate the franchise.

But let me tell you, the new location for the team will be the very last of any carpetbagger's worries if the winds of relocation start blowing through Milwaukee. I and others will not sit back in disbelief and wait for the haymaker to land as Milwaukeeans did in 1963-1965 with the Braves move to Atlanta.

There are plenty of legal, social, and political means available to take the fight to any meddling owner who starts thinking about moving the Bucks out of Milwaukee. If city leaders balk at carrying the shield, I can assure you the fans will not. And it can be won. There are plenty of new, waiting-to-be-tested strategies that can be used to stick any carpetbagger in a legal and political quagmire so deep that it will make him or her or them wish he or she or they never heard the name "Bango Buck." Call it a Viet Cong strategy carried out in the courts and political lobbies, if you will. The aim will be to make it so hard and costly for a carpetbagger to achieve a successful relocation they will simply choose not to stay and fight. But let's hope it never comes to that.

Talk at you next week. Until then, may the possession arrow always point your way, and may it always be "Bucks' ball"!

Correction: Saturday's game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Utah Jazz was played at the Bradley Center, not in Green Bay. The game on Tuesday, October 16th between the Denver Nuggets and the Bucks will in fact be played in Titletown.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Simmons looked good... Yi did not

Its only one game, but the early signs from Bucks first rounder Yi Jianlian are not encouraging in the least.

Its not that he had a really bad game. He did. But that can happen to anyone, and is probably something to be expected from a rookie.

Its that he looked like he just didn't belong anywhere near an NBA court. Three off-the-ball violations in four first half minutes? And he struggled mightily just to stay with the decidedly limited Joakim Noah? What if he's matched against a real player? Not good.

Then his response to the performance was even more troubling. Unless something got lost in translation, Yi sounded like a guy who is confused and scared and has no confidence at all.

Listen to a sampling.

"There is a lot of attention on me. I feel the pressure."

"There aren't just one or two things I need to work on. There are a lot."

"Lots of my old habits I need to change."

So, Yi... you're saying there's a chance?

And the Bucks are obligated to play this guy 20 minutes a night? What's Chinese for anticipatory breach of contract?

Or wait, maybe the Bucks can fulfill their contractual duties by playing Yi at a few American football positions -- guard, tackle, and end. ("Yi, sit at the end of the bench, guard the Gatorade cooler, and tackle anyone who comes near it. Can you manage that?")

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Meet the Yi-eatles

I'm a little dubious about the contributions Yi Jianlian will make to the Milwaukee Bucks on the court this season. But its pretty clear he will make a significant impact on the size of BucksNation.

Yesterday he was mobbed at Chicago's O'Hare airport, Beatles at JFK style, by a large contingent of Chinese girls. One of them actually jumped into his arms. Yi is like a Chinese rock star.

His fans have even created a website in honor of their obsession. Its a little bland, though. One of the posts asks whether Yi will be the tallest Chinese person to ever live in Milwaukee. Apparently not. They unearthed evidence that some other Chinese guy who was 7'6'' lived here in 1876. You can't get that kind of information just anywhere.

Simmons, Villanueva will make a difference

The return of a healthy Bobby Simmons and a healthy Charlie Villanueva should have a positive impact on the court for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Basketballvalue.com measures team performance while a player was on the court against team performance while the player was off the court, and then weights those numbers to reflect an equivalent amount of minutes played for all players.

Their measurements show that the Bucks have been better off over the last two seasons with Simmons and Villanueva on the court. In 2005-06, the team was a cumulative +5.23 with Simmons on the court. In 2006-07, the team was a +5.03 with Charlie Villanueva on the court.

On the other hand, some of the Bucks off-season new additions may not yield positive returns. The New Orleans Hornets were -4.08 with Desmond Mason on the court, and the season prior to that they were -6.32 with him on the court. The news is a little better for Jake Voskuhl. In 2006-07, the Charlotte Bobcats were -1.57 with him on the court, but the season prior to that they were +3.15 with him on the court.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Breakdown, 1971

Did anyone see the Bucks flyer in yesterday's Sunday Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel? Pretty cool.

I wish I could quote from it, but I can't find where I put the damn thing! I know this, though. Every year they have some uncatchy ticket marketing slogan, and this year its "Where amazing happens". Huh?

Anyway, they tried their mightiest to fit that phrase to their players. It doesn't quite work out logically or semantically.

For instance, with Michael Redd it says "Where a better shot at gold happens". What does that have to do with the '07-'08 Bucks? And what does that phrase even mean?

For Yi Jianlian, it says "Where 1.3 billion new fans happen." Aaah, isn't that happening in China, and not at the Bradley Center?

The most hilarious phrase by far is the one attached to Andrew Bogut. It says "Where taking charge happens", and then it has pictures of Bogut taking charges! I'm sure they're going to see the turnstiles humming off that one! "Come watch the Aussie flop, mate!"

Here are some other thoughts:

... I had forgotten that its the Bucks 40th year. They have a logo to commemorate, but it doesn't have the old Bango as I hoped it would, and as the 30th anniversary logo did.

... This year they have something at the Bradley Center called "Club 1971". I actually want to watch a game from there. Maybe they have some old school Kareem and Oscar.

... I like their "Click n' Pick" 10 pack promotional. That's a great idea, and one I thought they should have offered years ago.