Bucks Diary

Friday, February 29, 2008

Responding to reader comments

I always say I want this to be a site for the highminded Bucks fan, then I get a series of excellent comments and just let them rot. Sorry. (By the way, "excellent comments" are not synonymous with "comments that agree with my point of view". Absolutely not. Always bring it at me... I'm often wrong. And if you go back, I'm often self-contradictory, too. But bring it strong with reasoning. No need to get emotional, like Sonny from The Godfather).

Q: Why did Yi die after his Xmas masterpiece?

A: The trite answer is his legs got tired. But that's too simplistic. To believe that, you have to believe in "sudden fatigue syndrome". And I don't necessarily think teams have played him differently... (a) he wasn't playing well enough to game plan him; and (b) that doesn't explain why he hasn't been rebounding.

No, I'm afraid the opposite occured. I think his big Xmas game was the fluke, not the other way around.

The problem with Yi is twofold. (1) He has "Ralph Sampson" disease. The guy is 7'1'', playing a game that rewards height, and yet he refuses to use it to his advantage. He has to work on post moves and limit his outside shooting for the time being. (2) I think he played a bit too long in an environment in which things were too easy for him. He's a rockstar among the Chinese. That guy who played for Dallas never was. You have to assume at some point he dominated. Yet he's not dominating now. That's sometimes a hard pill to swallow... your pride. He's got to come to grips with the fact that he isn't likely to have easy baskets here. He's got to get crafty and tough.

Q: Are you really satisfied with guards who can't defend?

This is a good point. I said a couple of posts ago that we were okay at the 1 and the 2. But I didn't mean to suggest we had Hal Greer and Walt Frazier. And, actually, as much as I like Mo Williams, I'm beginning to suspect that perhaps if we had a better defender at the 1 we wouldn't have such a consistently high Oppo 3pt FG%. That's killing us. Plus, we need more ball pressure from the point.

What I meant was, those guys have some value, and I'm afraid that if you trade them you will get garbage in return. The Bucks will almost certainly trade Redd, and I'm afraid of what will come back.

Q: Did you see the post on WoW about Carl Landry?

Yes. In fact, earlier this season I was looking around for hidden assets, and I saw Landry's numbers. I was impressed. At that time his playing time was so minute I figured it must be an abberation, but apparently it wasn't. That guy looks for real.

The cruel fact of the matter is that Landry, a second round afterthought, may add more value to Houston than Yi, a lottery pick, will to the Bucks.

Q: Are the defensive problems scheme related or personnel related?

I've been kicking this around in my head forever. Sometimes I think the problems are scheme related. For instance, why do the Bucks switch on soft picks? Doesn't that just create mismatches? And why do they trap so often? The traps don't lead to many turnovers... they just seem to lead to scoring opportunities for the opposition.

But then I watch the Celtics and begin to think our problems are personnel realted. Maybe our guys just don't like defense. After all, the Celtics don't seem to have that many better athletes, yet they play stifling defense. Their reactions are so much crisper and more aggressive and more intelligent than the Bucks... maybe their guys understand and enjoy defense and the Bucks simply don't.

I need to put more thought into this one. All I know for sure is we haven't played decent defense in Milwaukee since the 1980s. And this is a town that would support a team that relied on defense, so it doesn't make any sense.

Q: How would you fix the Bucks?

You give me way too much credit. I don't have any foolproof plan to fix this team. But like any fan, I have a few suggestions.

And the first would be: Go a little hardhat. I think the Bucks have put far too much emphasis on "athleticism". I think its overrated. Were the Celtics of the 80s "athletic"? Not that I recall. What about the frontline of the Bad Boy Pistons? Not really.

I think this team needs a serious dose of ugly. We've relied on cute for too long. We need guys who want to roll up their sleeves, play defense, and hang out in the lane. We need more meateaters and fewer perimeter players is what I'm trying to say.

Gotta go. I'll have more thoughts tomorrow or Sunday.

The Top Ten All-time Milwaukee Bucks

They are currently soliciting votes on Bucks.com for the team's 40th Anniversary All-Bucks team. To commemorate the occasion, I did a Win Score analysis of every prominent Buck I could remember. I've been working on it, and promising it, for quite some time. Its not in any alphabetical order... I just added Bucks as I thought of them.

And here is my resulting list of Top Ten Milwaukee Bucks of All-Time, according to their "Win Contribution" in a Bucks uniform:

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
2. Marques Johnson
3. Sidney Moncrief
4. Oscar Robertson
5. Ray Allen
6. Sam Cassell
7. Michael Redd
8. Ervin Johnson
9. Bobby Dandridge
10. Paul Pressey


Several retired jerseys did not make the list (Lanier, Bridgeman, McGlocklin, Winters) because either their contributions were made way past their prime or they simply weren't as valuable as commonly believed... I may have been unfair to Paul Pressey, he played PG on offense and, as I recall, SF on defense, but I evaluated him as a SF with Moncrief as the SG, and his Win Contribution suffered as a result... The Bucks have never really had a great PF... Terry Cummings comes to mind, but I came to find out he was more of a SF playing PF, and thus he didn't add that many wins to the team... In fact, when they collapsed in the late 90s it was almost solely because he stopped rebounding... Ervin Johnson is the most underappreciated Buck of all time, his hardhat work contributed wins to the team than any other center with the exception of Jabbar... Why the hell isn't Marques Johnson's number retired? He was the No.2 All-time Buck, and it really wasn't close... He had a monster rookie year that almost equaled Kareem's... I don't know if I was unfair to Johnny Mac and Brian Winters... Those two came along during the "Gail Goodrich" era, when teams thought it was useful to have a white boy at SG who did nothing other than shoot the ball... And I mean absolutely nothing... Why did we ever trade Ray Allen?... By the way, Bobby Dandridge was a pretty good Win Contributor during the regular season, but he is one of the all-time great postseason players... He and Kareem basically carried the Bucks to within inches of the 1974 World Championship... Those two had monster numbers while no one else on the team contributed anything but turnovers.

Footnote: What the hell am I talking about? Marques Johnson's rookie year surpassed Kareem's (according to me)... believe it or not... Maybe I should review my own work more often... by the way, if you want any additions (Alton "High Rise" Lister, anyone?), let me know... And finally, I will respond to the comments from past postings in the next day or two. They are all excellent.

Measuring the Bucks defense in February

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know that I go through phases. One day I'm hooked on this theory, the next day I'm hooked on that one. Well, my latest obsession is a pseudo-defensive metric I concocted called "Opponents' Win Score".

I refer to it as "pseudo-defensive" because the formula does not exclusively measure an opponents' offensive statistics. But I still think that looking at a team's Opponents Win Score is a very telling way to evaluate that team's defensive performance.

My thinking is, if the Win Score metric is indeed an accurate measurement of how proficient a player or team is at accumulating the particular statistics that correlate closely with wins, and it seems to be, then conversely "Opponents' Win Score" should serve as an accurate measure of how proficient a team is at disrupting its opponent's attempts to procure said statistics. And isn't that the essence of defensive basketball?

If you accept that reasoning, then you have to conclude the Milwaukee Bucks did not put forth much defensive effort this past month, especially in games played away from the Bradley Center. Here is a list of their February "Opponent Win Scores". Bear in mind when you are reading it that the NBA average team Win Score per game is 42.5, and, according to Draftexpress.com, the top Team Win Score average is 55.7 (Phoenix) and the bottom average is 34.9 (Minnesota). And according to my last calculations ten days ago, the worst Opponent Win Score average was held by Memphis at 50.1 and the best was held by Boston at 28.1. (Sidenote: I think the fact that the best and worst Team and Opponent Win Score averages are held by teams that are generally considered the best and worst offensive and defensive teams in the NBA adds further credence to my use of the statistics as measures of offensive and defensive prowess -- even though I recognize that citing a particular statistics alignment with "conventional wisdom" is generally a dubious way of establishing its legitimacy.)

As you can see by my chart, the Bucks worsted the Grizzlies overall OWS average last month by posting a 51.9, which is off Milwaukee's poor season average of 47.9, and which includes a laughable road OWS of 58.3. Consequently, the Bucks wasted a fairly decent offensive month (as I documented in my last post), and a pretty favorably scheduled month (8 home games), netting a disappointing 4-8 record.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Bucks in February

Here is my statistical performance breakdown for each of the Bucks in the month of February.

Random Thoughts on the Month

As you can see, of the 5 starters, 4 made positive Win Contributions. The only Buck starter who had a bad month was Andrew Bogut. Bogut has really struggled with his field goal accuracy this month (its down to 40%). Once again, the bench was not that great in February. The only bench player to make a positive Win Contribution was Bobby Simmons (who I think deserves more minutes). Royal Ivey continues to be "Poison Ivey" for the Bucks... he made the most negative Win Contribution. Charlie Bell is playing back up near his career average, which is just slightly below average. The Buck of the Month is Mo Williams, who is having a steady, very good season. He has not had an extended streak of bad games all year. Michael Redd turned himself around after a slumping January. Desmond Mason continues to shine... he's comeback from the depths of productivity for the Hornets to be an average producer for the Bucks. Yi Jianlian continues to struggle... although he tripled his "good game" output from last month. Still, the decision to give the bulk of minutes at power forward to Charlie Villanueva was correct... even though he's the epitome of a boom or bust player... he's either outstanding or terrible, depending on the night. Coach K has finally figured out that Ruffin and Voskuhl are a collective waste of time. If he could only figure out the same for Royal Ivey, we might make the playoffs.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

More notes on 2008 draft prospects

Over the last week and a half I've been slowly compiling statistical numbers in an effort to compare players' collegiate Win Scores to their subsequent professional Win Scores to determine the relationship between the two. I charted about 83 players, mostly players drafted in the late 90s, and I quit after that because I could not take anymore calculating. I came up with an average of 62.1%.

The standard deviation on that is 12.3, however, which is a lot. But still, 62.1% of collegiate production is a good benchmark for projecting a prospect's pro potential.

It seems, generally, that the type of players who are most susceptible to much larger than average dropoffs in production are shooting guards (especially "tweeners" like Juan Dixon) and power forwards who are either too short (Ryan Humphries, Rodney White) or too skinny (Marcus Haislip, Melvin Ely). The most dependable players on the other hand were point guards, burly and tall power forwards and centers, and small forwards.

Armed with this new information, here's my second crack at analyzing the '08 draft board as found on draftexpress.com:

1. Michael Beasley, SF/PF
I've warmed to this guy in a big way. His numbers are incredible. I still think his best position is small forward, but when you rebound and attack the basket like he does you can basically play anywhere. He should be a star. Perhaps another Marques Johnson circa 1977?

2. Derrick Rose, PG
I'm still not that high on this player. His numbers are average, his outside shooting is poor, and he turns the ball over too much even though from what I saw on Saturday in the Tennessee game, he doesn't really play the point for Memphis.

3. Jerryd Bayless, PG/SG
This player fits the profle of a bust. He's a short, skinny shooting guard whose college numbers really aren't that great. I'm not saying he's necessarily another Trajan Langdon, or Joseph Forte, but I would stay away from him.

4. Brook Lopez, C
Big centers translate well, but the problem with Lopez is his college numbers are below the NBA average for a center. That's a huge red flag. Centers don't usually more productive when they enter the professional ranks. If he can't do better against the much lesser centers in college, how can you expect him to produce big numbers in the pros?

5. Eric Gordon, SG
Again, the warning lights should be flashing. An extremely small shooting guard whose college numbers are inflated by the collegiate 3, and a player who doesn't rebound at all.

6. Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF
Now, what does draftexpress.com see in this guy? He's a poor shooter (43%), his European Win Score/40 is low, and he doesn't rebound at all. There's no way he can play power forward in the NBA. No way. He rebounds like a shooting guard and he's 6'9 and only 209 lbs. Basically, he's Adam Morrison redux.

7. DeAndre Jordan, C
Okay, this guy I kind of like. The only hesitations I have are that his college numbers are eerily similar to Michael Olowakandi's (aka, the Candy Man Couldn't), and I always worry when a guy has a very high FG% (63.1%) and a very, very low FT% (46.2%). It implies he's probably getting a lot of baskets simply by overpowering his college competition. Will that translate up to the pros?

Okay, I've got to go to the gym. I'll continue this post later. Believe it or not, there are players I really like (Ty Lawson, Kevin Love and others) down their draft board, and I want to comment on why the very productive Tyler Hansborough scares the shit out of me.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Two Faces of Bango

How do you reconcile the Bucks team that gave no effort two night's ago in yet another blowout loss with the gritty, gutty Bucks team that fought back last night at the BC from 23 down to defeat a Denver Nuggets team that features two maximum dollar scorers (Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson), a bench player who threw in 41 recently (JR Smith), and the NBA's most productive role player (Marcus Camby)? Is it the green uniforms? I don't get it. Why do the Bucks occasionally look great at home and often just don't even try on the road?

Did the light go on for Bogut?

Earlier in the year I said Bogut was a bust. He's not a bust. Andrea Bargnani is a bust. Kwame Brown is a bust. Bogut's a good but not great player.

However, he is never going to be a reliable scorer in the NBA (greater than 0.4 points per minute). He just won't. He doesn't have the game for it... or at least if he did, history shows he would have unveiled it already.

Because of that, if Bogut is going to be a consistently above average professional center, he has to be an efficient scorer (high 50s FG%), and he must be a big rebounder (better than .32 per minute -- right now he's at about .27 per minute).

Last night he was a huge rebounder, grabbing 20 in about 43 minutes of action, a staggering rebound rate of about .44 per minute. And as important as Redd's 42 points were, the Bucks would not have won without Bogut's superlative play on the boards.

If he can grab 20 rebounds against the Nugget frontline of Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby, he can do it against anybody. Get her done.

Maybe Coach K gets it

Coach K had a banner night last night, perhaps the best of his young coaching career. His rotations were near perfect. He rode those few guys he had to ride to give Milwaukee a chance to win, and he recognized early who wasn't producing and got them out of there.

Thus he avoided his bizarre penchant for giving Yi too many minutes at power forward, and he kept the "Buck Killer" Royal Ivey on the bench where he belongs.

And maybe he's decided that if neither Villanueva nor Yi are producing points or rebounds, then instead of just letting them out there to dawdle and destroy the Bucks chances for victory, he will put Gadzuric in at center and move Bogut to power forward. I like that idea.

To make it work, though, Gadzuric must be under three strict rules: (1) No shots, only dunks; (2) Rebound like your life depended on it; and (3) attack any opponent penetration.

Maybe Redd gets it

I never thought it was all that important for Michael Redd to pile up assists. He's not really a playmaker in that way. Sure, if someone is open, Redd should get them the ball. But he doesn't have to suddenly become Larry Bird.

What he has to do more often for the Bucks to be successful is (1) Take and make high percentage shots; (2) Pass up low percentage shots -- do not force shots (that's where his passing comes in), and (3) rebound at the rate he did when he first broke into the Association. Oh, and avoid careless turnovers and play the kind of stellar defense he displayed last night on Iverson.

We need a real power forward

A lot of pundits are saying the Bucks need to be blown up. I can't say that I agree. For one, I'm afraid all that will be left if they "blow the team up" is wreckage, not a better team.

Two, I think we have a couple pieces in place. We're okay at the 1, 2, and 5 positions. What we need desperately however is an authentic power forward, a guy who will rebound and defend the low post. Its impossible to win in this Association relying on players who are basically tall small forwards (Yi and Villanueva). They leave the lane open on D, are too inefficient on offense, and they don't protect the backboards. After all, you can't ask Bogut to grab 20 rebounds every night.

Secondly, we need either a rugged and efficient scoring small forward, or a reliable scoring small forward... a genuine shooter/slasher. When I say rugged small forward, think Ruben Patterson circa last year or Corey Maggette, or the ultimate... Marques Johnson (dream on... although I'm intrigued by the possibility that this Michael Beasley is exactly that, if he is deployed properly).

By a shooter slasher, I mean something like Carmelo Anthony with a little more basket attack and rebounding. That role could actually be filled by Yi if the Bucks would abandon the notion that he is a power forward. I'm going to get into this topic in more detail tomorrow, but I just don't think he will ever rebound and score like a power forward. He doesn't have the instinct, and history says that what you are getting from him now is about what you can expect for his career.

Keep on winning (if you can) Bucks

As I said a couple of posts ago, most of the college players that I think can best help the Bucks will almost certainly be available in the middle of the first round, and most of the ridiculously overvalued bust risks (i.e. Eric "Respert" Gordon, Derrick "The Turnover" Rose, Jerryd "Ben Gordon short" Bayless OJ "Jamal Crawford" Stinko, the assortment of foreign softies who can't put up numbers in the Upper Mongolian League so why should we think they can do it in the NBA, or the big white stiff from Stanford who could be Chris Mihm's clone) will go early, so there is no advantage to the Bucks to lose games... especially after the embarrasing and depressing fiasco that took place last spring. No more cheering for losing.

Besides, if the Bucks can somehow squeak into the playoffs, good for them. They might be able to take a game or two from the Celtics and feel good about themselves going into the summer.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bucks look like the Pittsburgh Pisces

I know I keep saying this, but last night's effort was sickening. No one except Gadzuric seemed to even care, and he looked like a spaz (Why does he shoot so much? That's not his role. Besides, he couldn't beat my four year old niece in H-O-R-S-E. The Bucks should fine him if he shoots anything that isn't a dunk).

This is about the sixth non-professional performance of the season. I don't get it. When he played, Coach K brought a lunchpail to every game. Why does he tolerate the kind of efforts we saw from so many players last night?

I'm not going to limit myself to generalities, either. I tivoed the end of the game just so I could call specific guys out for their disgusting play. I do so below.

4:03 4th Quarter
Bucks 98 Pistons 115

The game is still theoretically in reach, but you couldn't tell by the Bucks effort. They look like a YMCA team. The Pistons point guard brings the ball down against decent pressure from Royal Ivey. The wing player on the left makes a cut and frees himself from Awvee Storey and receives the pass just inside the arc on the left wing. Meanwhile, on the other side of the court, the Pistons run a casual double stacked pick on Charley Bell, but Bell's effort at getting around it is so nonchalant, he just kind of trails his man and allows him to get free cutting across the free throw line... in perfect position to receive a pass without any interference from Bell.

Now, this next part is not an exaggeration. The ball is still on the left wing. Bell's man is in the lane between Bell and the ballhandler as I described. Again, this next part is unbelievable but true... BELL REMAINS BEHIND AND ABOVE HIS MAN, MAKING NO EFFORT AT ALL TO GET BETWEEN HIM AND THE BASKET.

Are you able to picture this? If not, here's my caveman rendition of the play. I couldn't believe it. Did Bell lose track of where the basket was, or what? How can you explain such a thing? It was so disgusting. It was as if Bell was ALLOWING the guy to score.

Bucks 98 Pistons 117

Next Piston possession Detroit runs the most rudimentary pick and roll at the top left hand part of the key. Ruffin's guy sort of picks Royal Ivey. Ivey and Ruffin switch, but Ivey's reaction to the screen is so lazy he's caught out-of-position high when Ruffin's man cuts to the basket. Ivey's original man sees this and makes an easy bounce pass to Ruffin's original man who is cutting to the basket. Uvey is way out of position and just kind of flails at the pass. Meanwhile, Yi Jianlian is in the lane, on the ball side, and in perfect position to defend the play, except he somehow let's Ruffin's guy get right past him for a layup. Unbelievable. By the way, Charlie Bell was in the lower opposite box, in perfect position to prevent the layup, and HE DOESN'T MOVE A MUSCLE.

Bucks 98 Pistons 119

On the Bucks ensuing possession, Royal Ivey throws a pass from just inside half court to one of the Palace popcorn vendors about 16 rows behind the basket. Pistons ball.

The Pistons point guard comes down and gets a screen from Ruffin's man. Inexplicably (AND THEY DO THIS ALL THE TIME AND IT DRIVES ME NUTS) the Bucks decide to switch on the screen when there was no need to at all, creating a ready-made mismatch for the Pistons to exploit. Great Coaching. Great strategy. Switch on everything.

Anyway, whoever the hell the Pistons point guard is, he dribbles the ball maniacly in the lane, nearly loses it, gathers it back, throws a wild pass to another Piston right of the key, this guy fumbles the ball, and then is forced to literally push the ball to Walter Herrmann in the corner for a wide open three. Swish. Mind you, during the entire hot potato sequence, at least 4 Bucks could have gained possession with the most minimal of effort. No one bothered. And by the way, it looked like half the Bucks were playing zone and half man-to-man. Or maybe half of the guys just didn't care.

That's how it went all night long, and that's basically how its been all season long, especially on the road. I'm sick of it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Who is likely to play in the NBA Finals

I did an analysis of the Win Score per game average of all NBA Finalists in the modern statistical era, along with each of their Opponent Win Score per game averages, to see if the numbers offered anu insight into who will likely play in this year's NBA Finals. Win Score per game average is roughly equivalent to the team's offensive efficiency and Opponent Win Score is roughly equivalent to their defensive efficiency.

Historical patterns

Its difficult to draw absolute conclusions at this time, because nearly every contender in the West is in flux. But we can say this much:

1. Since 1974, the average TWS for an NBA Finalist is +13.9% above NBA average. This season, that would include Boston, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Utah, New Orleans, Denver, and Golden State.

2. In that same time, the average OWS is -12.2%. This season, that would include only Boston, Houston, and Detroit.

3. If both criteria held, then obviously only Boston qualifies.

4. If you use the Net Win Score % Above Average (26.1%), then Boston, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Detroit qualify.

5. However, Phoenix and Los Angeles would be bucking recent history if they made it. Both teams currently sport Opponent Win Scores that are better than 40.0. No team has made the Finals with an Opponent Win Score that high since 1995.

6. Since 1974, 95.6% of all NBA Finalists have had Opponent Win Scores that were below the NBA average. That would tend to eliminate Phoenix (0.00) Denver (+1.4%) and certainly Golden State (+12.7%) . The Lakers are teetering on violating this principle as well (+2.1%).

7. Since 1995, 87.5% of all Finalists have had Opponent Win Scores that were at least 10% below the prevailing NBA average. Again, this would eliminate Phoenix, Los Angeles, and New Orleans.

Hesitant conclusions

Again, its early, and the Western Conference is in full flux, but if Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Denver don't do something to improve their defenses, recent history says they are unlikely to survive the postseason tournament. Thus, the likeliest Western Conference representatives at this moment would be Utah, Dallas, and San Antonio, in that order.

In the East, I just can't see how anyone can stop the Celtics. Their numbers are historically dominant. But if anyone can do it, it would have to be the Pistons. The Cavaliers, Magic, and everyone else who is occasionally mentioned as coming out of the East look like pretenders at best.

General Comments about the NBA Finals since 1974

A. Five Greatest NBA Finals matchups since 1974 by Net Win Score:

1. 1998 Chicago-Utah (combined Net WS: 92.4)
2. 1996 Chicago-Seattle (Net WS: 83.3)
3. 1974 Boston-Milwaukee (Net WS: 73.5)
4. 1985 Los Angeles-Boston (Net WS: 67.5)
5. 1992 Chicago-Portland (Net WS: 66.8)

B. Five Worst NBA Finals since 1974:

1. 1978 Washington-Seattle (Net WS: 6.0)
2. 1976 Boston-Phoenix (Net WS: 17.3)
3. 1979 Seattle-Washington (Net WS: 27.3)
4. 1981 Boston-Houston (Net WS: 29.5)
5. 1995 Houston-Orlando (Net WS: 31.8)

Biggest Finals Upsets since 1974

1. 1995 Houston-Orlando (WS difference: 31.8)
2. 1994 Houston-New York (WS difference: 26.6)
3. 1975 GS-Washington (WS difference: 12.4)
4. 1974 Boston-Milwaukee (WS difference: 9.9)
5. 1984 Boston-LA (WS difference: 5.7)

Number of WS Upsets in the Modern Era (since '74)

13 (out of 34 -- 38.2%)

Number of WS Upsets since 1995

2 (out of 12 -- 16.6%)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

1977 NBA All-Star Game in Milwaukee: The Doctor was In

One of the more memorable NBA All-Star games ever played took place on February 13, 1977 at the old Milwaukee Arena (aka The MECCA). It was the first All-Star game following the merger between the NBA and the ABA. And since the ABA had no national television contract, the game was the platform for ABA legend Julius "Dr. J" Erving's introduction to a wider national audience.

Erving took full advantage of the opportunity, dominating the game, scoring 30 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, and demonstrating high-flying moves fans of the established NBA had rarely seen before. You can see for yourself. Or, for a better version, go here and scroll down to the 1977 All-Star game and click on "Top 10 highlights from the 1977 All-Star game". (Bucks fans from the 1980s will get a nostalgic feeling watching these clips. They feature the unmistakable high angle perspective we used to get watching televised Bucks home games in that era. I believe it was caused by the lack of room at the old Arena for court level cameras).

The Doctor in Bucks "Traveling Greens"

The '77 game was one of the last ones to feature a cool All-Star tradition I wish they would have kept. Both teams at that time would wear All-Star variations of the host team's Home and Away uniforms. (Here and here and here are some examples). For the '77 game the Western Conference players wore the Bucks "Home Whites" and the Eastern Conference wore the "Traveling Greens" (the Bucks were in the Western Conference at the time). Thus the game provided Bucks fans with a vision of what might have been: Kareem and Dr. J together in Green and Red. (The Bucks drafted the Doctor in 1972, but instead of wearing Green and Red, Julius decided to play for the ABA's New York Nets and, before that, the Virginia Squires. The NBA championships we could have had, Antlerheads!).

Is the original feed lost?

A couple of years ago NBA.tv had an All-Star Game marathon, starting with the 1970 All-Star game. Unfortunately, for some aggrevating reason, the marathon skipped the '77 game. I was so pissed. Thus the highlight link above is the only footage of the game I've ever seen.

When's the next one, Mr. Commissioner?

What about another NBA All-Star weekend in Milwaukee? That would be cool (albeit a bit dangerous). I know the baseball All-Star game was fun when it was here... at least the surrounding festivities were (the game... not so much).

But when will we get another one? We've waited long enough. Since the last one played in Beer City -- 31 years ago last Wednesday -- no fewer than six NBA cities have hosted two All-Star games a piece -- Los Angeles, Washington, Cleveland, Houston, Denver... and Atlanta!

If Atlanta (home of the routinely half-filled Phillips Arena) has earned two games, we most certainly deserve at least one. Come on, Dave. Pony up and give MKE another round.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Is Senator Kohl delusional or correct?

Did you see yesterday's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel sports page? Talk about negative publicity for the Green and Red. The entire front page featured articles designed to show the Bucks as an organization that's lost its way. (The picture above the fold not so subtley conveys the point: it is a half page shot of Coach K looking like a stark raving lunatic.)

Most of the articles were full of empty analysis and trite assessments any observant fool could make. The only really interesting piece in the entire expose was the one that contained an interview with Senator Kohl. I was particularly interested in the Senator's overall assessment of the 2007-08 Milwaukee Bucks, to wit: "To a man, everybody in the basketball organization feels we are a better team than we've shown so far."

I wondered: is the Senator's assessment of his team correct? Are they actually better than they have played? To answer this question, I produced three separate "Estimated Wins" scenarios using the Win Score metric, and my own derivation of it, "Win Contributions".

The first scenario was based on each Bucks player's best "Win Score" season. To me, that represents the team's absolute, idyllic potential. The second calculation I did was based on each player's average "Win Score" season. That is meant to represent a realistic estimate of the team's potential. Finally, I did a calculation based on each player's actual Win Score performance this season. That represents the brutal truth.

Here are my results. You will notice the numbers in each column are arranged something like this: 12.73 (+3.21) (+.433). The first number 12.73 is the player's Raw Win Score. The second number (+3.21) is the player's Position Adjusted Win Score, using position minutes as reported by 82games.com. The third number (+.433) is that player's Win Contribution, which is simply a multiplication of his overall percentage of player minutes by his Position Adjusted Win Score.


As my chart shows, Senator Kohl is arguably correct in his assessment, but totally unrealistic in his expectations. Sure, if every player on the team simultaneously repeated the most productive season of his career, the Bucks would be a pretty good team.

But, as you can see by comparing the first and second columns of my chart, most of the player's best seasons were either flukes (Ruffin's), or they are well in the player's past (Gadzuric and Mason). Besides, you should never assemble a team based on their best performances. That's wishful thinking. The more reliable predictor of likely success is each player's average production. And that turns out to be the case here.

Sidenote: Before I make a concluding point about my chart, let me make a quick side point. If you notice the first column, the player who can lay claim to having the best single season of anyone on the roster is not Michael Redd... its Dan Gadzuric! The year before he signed his much maligned contract, he had a monster season. Unfortunately, he made his contributions that season on the backboards, not on the scoreboard. So no one gave him the credit he deserved. Moreover, the Bucks subsequently ruined him by trying to transform him from what he was (an awesome role player) to what he could never be (a scoring center). That's why I never criticize the Bucks for signing Gadzuric to his contract. His past play showed he deserved it. I fault them for the way they misused him and basically ruined him afterward.

But back to my chart. Essentially what my calculations show is that the Bucks are basically having the season they would be expected to have given each player's career average. Expecting this squad to be a playoff team was always an exercise in wishful thinking.

The New "Most Costly Buck" is...

If you notice from the third column, Yi Jianlian has supplanted Charlie Bell (and before him Bobby Simmons) as the player with the highest negative Win Contribution... in other words the "Most Costly Buck".

While Yi's production has been bad compared to the normal production from a power forward, his positional production is not the worst on the team. But he's the Most Costly Buck because his rather substantial amount of playing time has magnified his negative impact on the team's record. That's on Coach K and/or whoever told him he had to give a struggling rookie so much PT.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ranking NBA Champions since 1974

Since we have reached the All-Star break, I went back in NBA history and examined every champion since the modern statistical era began in 1974 using Win Score per game and Opposition Win Score per game to see if I could find any patterns that would allow me to predict who is most likely to win the NBA championship this season and who has little chance. I did indeed find some clear patterns among the champions, and I will reveal them in my next post.

For this post, I combined the percentage difference of each champions Win Score and Opposition Win Score per game average from the NBA per game average and then ranked them from first to 35th. Here are my rankings. Here is my raw data. ("Team Win Score per game" is essentially a measure of the team's offensive efficiency while "Opponents Win Score per game" essentially captures the team's defensive efficiency.)

Bulls were the best

Not only did the second Jordan threepeat Bulls score highest, their Finals opponents in those years had Win Score averages that would have ranked, I believe, all 3 of them among the top 10 championship teams of the modern era had they prevailed. There is little doubt, then, that according to my formula, the Jordan Chicago Bulls of the late 90s were the strongest NBA champions of the modern era.

Another thing I found was that the Houston Rockets who won back to back championships in the mid 90s were unbelievably weak. In fact, the 1995 Rockets were the weakest champion in the modern era. That year their combined Win Score differential was zero. Given their relative weakness against average in both championship seasons, the Rockets almost have to be the weakest repeat champions in sports history.

Another interesting finding I made was that in the 1980s, offense, not defense won championships, particularly for the Showtime Lakers. Those Magic Lakers had just slightly above average Opposition Win Score averages, but incredibly high team Win Score averages. The Pistons reversed that formula to win 2 titles in the late 80s. Interestingly, they used nearly the same formula 15 years later to win another championship in 2004.

Another thing to note about the list is that each of the Spurs championship teams of this decade was exceptionally strong.

Finally, I think the Trailblazers left a couple of championships unclaimed in the late 70s. After Bill Walton hurt himself the year after their 1977 championship, a huge void was created and filled by two of the weakest champions in the modern statistical era: the 78 Bullets and the 79 Sonics. Each team was barely above average.

Footnote: On the original post you could not access my "raw data". I have now corrected the problem. Sorry.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Early opinions on 2008 NBA Draft prospects

My early impression of next summer's draft: If the NBA draft websites are any indication, the Bucks might want to trade down out of the lottery. All of the prospects who look good to me are rated near the bottom of the first round, while all of the ones who scream "bust" are rated near the top. Thus, by trading down the Bucks could add a veteran while still picking up a choice rookie.

The bottom half of this draft is loaded with the very type of player the Bucks desperately need -- rugged, big, productive inside players who live to rebound and can score in the paint.

Meanwhile, all of the "athletic", suspiciously non-productive, "upside" players... aka the biggest risks to go bust... are bunched up in the lottery. I'm talking about big men who want to be small forwards and are too thin to absorb punishment, point guards who overshoot, centers who like to shoot 3s, big guys who don't board... all specimens of the "get your coach and GM fired" class of ballplayers. (Note: any time you read on a draft site that a guy is a "freakish athlete" with "unlimited upside", immediately cross him off your draft board).

Prospects who scare me

1. OJ Mayo, SG USC
This guy is a complete non-producer on the college level -- how's he going to get it done in the pros if he doesn't even come close to getting it done in college? He's a shooting guard who can't shoot and doesn't like to rebound. This guy just screams "Stay Away".

2. Eric Gordon, SG Indiana
Remember a fellow named Shawn Respert?

3. Michael Beasley, PF Kansas
Admittedly this guy is hugely productive on the college level, and will probably be a good pro. But I don't think he'll be great. He scares me shitless. He's a power forward who is smallish, lacks bulk, and likes to drift outside. That's the correct recipe for a flop. In fact, he might be best suited to play small forward at the next level.

4. Brooke Lopez, C Stanford
Why is this guy in everybody's top 10? He screams "Chris Mihm". He's a 7 footer who doesnt rebound all that well and shoots under 50% from the field. His productivity numbers do not project well, either. He looks for all the world like a below average underathletic center. He's got the bulk you want, but I'm telling you, whoever drafts him will regret it.

5. Darrell Arthur, PF Kansas
Power forwards who are tall toothpicks that like to play on the perimeter and don't particularly like to rebound are my least favorite prospects. Ever. Stay away.

6. Donte Green, PF Syracuse
See No. 5

7. Hasheem Thabeet, C UConn
For a guy his size, he doesn't rebound well at all. He's 265 and he's only grabbing less than .25 rebounds per minute. And history says you don't get better when you get to the NBA. If anything, you get a little worse. And he isn't exactly a dynamic offensive force, is he?

8. Tyler Hansborough, PF North Carolina
I hate putting this guy on my scared list, because he's been super productive this year, but I hate power forwards who lack bulk, and he's one. And if he can't establish himself in the post in the NBA, there is no other place for him to play. Plus, while he's rebounding well this year, that hasn't been the case in his previous college seasons, which also gives me pause.

9. Roy Hibbert, C Georgetown
I don't know what to make of this guy. Again, for a guy his size, he doesn't rebound much. He's only pulling .25 rebounds a minute now, and that would barely be getting by on the pro level. He's got a nice hook shot but he's glacially slow releasing it. He just scares me.

10. Derrick Rose, PG Memphis
First of all, history shows its always dangerous to draft point guards who haven't completed their sophomore season. Second, he turns the ball over way too much and that will only increase up the ladder. Third, his low college three point percentage is troubling, as is his poor free throw shooting. It suggests he isn't a very good shooter. But I do like his size for a 1.

Prospects who intrigue me

1. Kevin Love, PF UCLA
What's not to love about Love? He's unbelievably productive, and he has the size to confidently project that productivity to the next level. Plus he's got a crafty and efficient offensive game. He shoots free throws well, and he's an incredible passer. He reminds me of Wes Unseld... a guy who took the Bullets to 4 NBA Finals in a ten year span.

2. Tyler Smith, SF Tennessee
Another guy with incredible productivity on the college level. He's a Josh Howard type. If his NBA numbers correspond to the standard .66 percent college to pro correlation, he's going to make some team a hell of a lot better. An excellent shooter who attacks the basket aggressively and has become an excellent rebounder for a small forward. Good size as well. My only criticism would be the turnovers. He needs to get those down a bit, but they aren't horrible, either.

3. Mareese Speights, PF Florida
Again, incredibly productive with the physical size to project his numbers upward. He just rebound like a wild man, and has the bulk to play some center too. He's basically Al Horford all over.

4. Ryan Anderson, SF California
Under the right circumstances, this guy intrigues the hell out of me. If he's a small forward, he's going to be very productive, with his length, rebounding, and deadly outside shooting. Sort of like Keith Van Horn. On the other hand, if a team thinks he's too slow to play 3 and mistakenly trys to play him at power forward, with his frame and penchant for stepping outside, I don't like the fit.

5. Richard Hendrix, PF Alabama
Here is another incredibly productive power forward that the draft sites hate. I think one of the reasons they downgrade him is his height. Another criticism the sites have is his lack of an outside game, but in a power forward, that's an asset. As for his height, as I've mentioned before on this blog, the important "basketball height" is standing reach. And preliminary indications are he's got tremendous standing reach.

6. Will Daniels, SF Rhode Island
Just like Hendrix, this guy's basketball height is reportedly much taller than his 6'8'' head height. He rebounds very well for a small forward, he's very strong, and he knows how to score the basketball, although his range is somewhat questionable at this point. But I don't think that will affect his ability to produce on the next level. Almost like a cross between Desmond Mason and Ruben Patterson. My only question would be his competition level in college.

7. Joey Dorsey, PF Memphis
I don't get it. The draft sites spew all over the tall stick men like Donte Greene who don't rebound, and then when you have guys like Dorsey, who combine size with incredible productivity, they get downgraded. This guy's rebounding rate is simply incredible, almost Rodmanesque. In fact, his profile on nbadraft.net reads like the second coming of Rodman, both strengths and supposed weaknesses. (Just like Rodman he can't shoot a lick, and is strictly an opportunity scorer. But that's alright. If he can rebound, and I think he can, he can be extremely Win Productive.)

8. Devon Hardin, C California
I read in the New York Times that people were saying this guy was having a bad senior year and that he made a mistake coming back to school. Their main criticism of him was that he didn't score enough. I suspected just from what I read that the criticism was misplaced. And I was right. In fact, all of his key numbers are up, and his scoring efficiency is up, too. The reason he isn't volume scoring is because he isn't getting the ball... his possessions per game are way down. I like his size and his rebounding prowess. Looks like a lane jammer.

9. Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG Memphis
Excellent shooter with very good Win Score numbers for a guard. Tremendous accuracy from the college 3 point line shows he's a good shooter from range, yet his "basket attack" ratio shows he will take it to the basket as well. He also rebounds pretty well for a guard and has excellent height and physical size.

10. Darren Collison, PG UCLA
Good point guard whose arms make him play taller than his listed height of 6'1''. Good defender, pretty good shooter, a guy who will penetrate, and a point guard who will dish it. There's nothing not to like about this guy. Well, maybe he could get stronger and cut back a little on the turnovers, but that's nitpicking.

The Bucks empty bench

According to 82games.com's "+/-" metric, the Milwaukee Bucks bench is the worst offensive bench in the Association, and the third worst defensive bench in the Association. I'm sure that comes as a shock to anyone who's followed the team this season.

Isn't it funny how every preseason we hear talk of how "deep" the Bucks are, and then once play starts that is always disproven. (It goes hand-in-hand with the claptrap they feed us every preseason about their "new commitment" to defense).

Beautiful basketball at the BC

Have you ever imagined a basketball world without defense? We saw a glimpse of it last night at the BC as the Bucks had one of their best offensive showings (and worst defensive showings) of the season. I'll tell you what, though, I'd rather watch that than the "No Offense No Defense" brand of ball the Bucks have been playing for most of the season.

Team Win Score evaluation

A team's overall Win Score average for any particular game is a good indication of their team offensive efficiency in that particular game. By the same token, their opponent's overall Win Score average is a good indication of their defensive efficiency (in fact, if you compare each team's overall offensive and defensive Win Score averages to the NBA average and then split the difference, you can pretty accurately compute the team's expected win total).

Last night the Bucks team Win Score average was 57.5, compared to their season average of 37.1, and the NBA average of 42.1 (the top Win Score offensive team, according to Draftexpress.com is the Phoenix Suns at 56.5). On the other hand, their defensive Win Score was 57.9, compared to their season average of 47.3.

So they had a great offensive game and a less than great defensive game. But, unlike most of the Milwaukee Bucks games this season, last night's game was fun to watch.

The Ugly Index says Two Beautiful Games

I saw two outstanding NBA basketball games last night. The Bucks loss to the Hornets and later the Suns narrow loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Remember my Ugly Index? The Ugly Index is my way of judging the aesthetic quality of basketball games. If you recall, the formula is: Turnovers + Fouls + Missed Shots / Points Scored. As you may further recall, the Ugly Index NBA norm for this season and for seasons prior is .80 and up, meaning you normally get more than .8 "ugly" plays for each point scored.

Well, last night's Bucks-Hornets games was a .60 on the Ugly Index, and the Suns-Warriors game was a sparkling clean .51. Thus, even accounting for each game's lack of defensive prowess, those were four teams that executed at a high level.

What might have been

I know I am a sworn critic of those who go back in time and say "We should have done this" or "We should have done that" without taking into account the circumstances surrounding the decision. I am referring here to the Bucks decision to draft Andrew Bogut and pass on Chris Paul.

There was NO possible way the Bucks were going to draft Paul. They already had TJ Ford, and there was no consensus indicating Paul was going to turn into the player he is today. Had Harris drafted Paul and passed on both Andrew Bogut and Marvin Williams, given the climate of opinion at the time, he probably would have been fired.

But dammit, you can't help once in a while imagining what might have been. Bogut is a slightly above average starter. Chris Paul is a borderline superstar. The Hornets are verging on elite status, and its all because of two simple moves: the drafting of Paul and the trade for Tyson Chandler.

As of a week and a half ago, Chris Paul was the fourth greatest Win Producer in the NBA. If he continues to play at the high level he has played at for the first half of the season, he will add 22.4 wins to the Hornets ledger. By comparison, in 1970 Kareem added 21.6 wins to the Bucks ledger.

Go back to the link and you will also see that Tyson Chandler is the 8th most productive Win Producer in the NBA. He is the ultimate role player and together the two by themselves are projected to add 39+ wins to the Hornets. You piece together 21 wins out of the rest of the roster and you've obviously got a 60 win season.

By comparison, the Bucks two top Win Producers, Redd and Bogut, project to add 17 wins to the Bucks.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Possible Redd trade scenarios

I spent the weekend trying to come up with a sensible Redd trade scenario. I came up with a few ideas. They might not knock anyone's socks off, but I'm going to lay them on you anyway.

First, here's my starting point. Michael Redd is both a "reliable scorer" and a slightly above average win producer. If we trade him, we almost have to get scoring back. The Bucks are paper thin when it comes to scoring... and that's with Redd shouldering the bulk of the load. So, in order to break even on any deal we need a reliable scorer who can also produce wins at around Redd's rate. In order to actually improve the team as a result of trading Michael Redd, we would need to get a scorer who can out Win Produce Redd, or a similar scorer and a throw-in Win Producer.

That's a difficult nut. Scoring is expensive, and guys who score as well as Redd and produce more wins than him are named Kobe or Amare or LeBron or Boozer. So it was hard to come up with anything advantageous to the Green and Red. But I tried.

!. LA Clippers: Corey Maggette and Cuttino Mobley
This season Maggette is scoring at a greater rate than Redd, and he is just behind Redd for career scoring rate. Plus, the two have about the same Win Production numbers, so this trade would be a virtual wash. (I'm ignoring the logistics for now. I spent a half hour on the RealGM trade checker and ended up with a headache.) And the Clippers would probably jump at pairing Redd with Elton Brand. I think the deal works if you throw Cuttino Mobley in with Maggette. The trade doesn't particularly excite me, though. The Bucks become different, but probably not better.

2. Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Miller and others
Miller is not the scorer Redd is, but he is a vastly superior Win Producer. And, if asked, I think he could provide scoring. Plus, he's got unbelievable "basketball height". Did you know his standing reach is greater than most centers? As for the logistics, I didn't even trade check this one. (I just thought of it a minute ago).

3. Sacramento Kings: Kevin Martin and others
This is basically a dream trade, because it would be almost impossible to pull off under the CBA. Besides which, why would the Kings want to do it? They would be giving the Bucks a superior scorer and a superior Win Producer... basically a younger, better version of Redd. The Kings would have to be stupid to do it.

4. Washington Bullets: Caron Butler and Antonio Daniels
This would be my personal favorite. First, it works under the CBA. Second, the Bullets are thin at the 2 so they might go for it. Third, Butler is from Wisconsin and Daniels will be expendable once Arenas gets back. Those are the good points. The bad point is that neither player provides anywhere near the scoring of Redd. So the Bucks will be short point production. But, if you can somehow shore that up with a different move, you would get two both players who are much better Win Producers than Redd... so the team will improve. I envision Daniels at the point, Butler as a big 2, Yi moves to the 3, we draft a rugged, rebounding power forward like Mike Love or the guy from Florida, and then we bring Mo off the bench to play the Vinnie Johnson role... the microwave.

Those are the only trades I could come up with for now.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Buck Droppings: Faulty memories

A week ago I saw an interview with Kareem in which he was asked what his career might have been like had he played it all in Milwaukee. In his answer he doubted he would have won as many championships because he questioned whether Milwaukee would have been able to assemble the necessary talent around him. I think the big guy's memory is faulty.

The talent the Bucks had in the early and middle 1980s was vastly superior to the talent they surrounded Kareem with in the early 1970s. Its always tricky to make counterhistorical assessments, but I think the Bucks would have won several championships in the 1980s if they had Kareem plus the players they assembled in the 80s (a gigantic "if", I acknowledge).

Then last night Sam Cassell told Scott Williams the reason the Bucks had success in the early 2000s was "team chemistry". What?

As I recall that time in Bucks history, my memory is they had success in spite of their lack of team chemistry. Weren't the "Big Three" and Coach George Karl constantly at each other's throats? In fact, wasn't that lack of chemistry what ultimately tore the squad down?

Yi looked rejuvenated vs. the Clippers

Last night Yi looked like he had his legs back under him. He was stroking his jumper like it was 2007 again. Perhaps he really did hit the infamous "rookie wall" after New Years Day.

Also, he looked pretty good guarding Clippers SF Corey Magettee whenever he had to switch onto him.

I still think his game is better suited to the small forward position than it is to power forward.

Redd never into it last night

Was it me, or did it look as though Michael Redd never really got into last night's game? I guess it happens over the course of an 82 game schedule. But it shouldn't happen when you are being paid a maximum dollar contract.

Props to Des

Before the season, all of the evidence said Des Mason had nothing left. Not so. He's turned his declining career numbers around this season, and I have to give him props for that.

What he does especially well is attack the basket. Twice last night he got in the lane for dunks, when the lane did not really seem open. I wish some other Bucks had his aggressive tendencies.

Also, he seems like a good mentor for the young Yi. I always see him giving Yi respectful tutealage.

Bad Night for Bogut

Last night Bogut took 16 shots and missed 12 of them. Uncharacteristically inefficient offensive night for the big man.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Coach K had a bad night

I like Coach K. I think he's been given an impossible task trying to mold a playoff team out of the clay given to him by GM Larry Harris.

But he had a bad night last night. The inbounds play he diagrammed with the game on the line was awful. And his rotational decisions were brutal.

Check out the Win Scores and Win Contributions from last night.

Notice how many Bucks had good games? Five. And two of them (Desmond Mason, Charlie Bell) had excellent games. Yet the Bucks lost, mainly because three of the Bucks had brutally bad games (Royal Ivey, Bobby Simmons, Michael Ruffin), and were given too much playing time. The question is "Why?".

None of those 3 had any business playing as long as they did last night. They were not contributing to victory; they are not scorers; and, they are not particularly reliable defenders. So why were they alloted nearly 27% of the Bucks courttime last night?

I can safely write that Coach K's decision to give those three so many minutes cost the Bucks the game.

Ruffin took the fu*#ing last shot?!

What the hell was that last out-of-bounds play all about, Crisco? How do you draw up a play that in any way involves, or has any chance of devolving into, Michael Ruffin taking the final shot? In fact, why was he even out there???!!!!

The play... if you can call it that... that I am refering to is the final out-of-bounds play in last night's hideous Bucks loss to the dreadful New York Knicks, at the Bradley Center, 99-98. This was the Bucks second loss to the 15-and-something Knicks in which the Bucks had a second half lead of 17 points. My God. Unforgiveable.

But back to the play. It was the WORST inbounds play I've ever seen in my basketball life. It was so stupid... it was virtually dead on arrival. I've watched it 8 times now on DVR, and I STILL cannot tell what Crisco was trying to accomplish with that play design.

It looked sort of like a half-assed attempt at setting up a lob for Charlie Villanueva. Yes, a lob to Charlie Villanueva! Because he's such a high flier, I guess. I hope I'm wrong about that, but that's all the action that was going on for the first 4.5 of the 5 seconds Bobby Simmons had to get the ball inbounds.

A lob to Villanueva! First of all, why are you calling a lob play? There was plenty of time on the clock to get it in and get something going toward the basket. Instead they looked as though they were setting up a lob to Villanueva. You call lob plays in desperation when there is like 0.1 seconds on the clock. Not when there's 5 plus seconds on the clock.

It gets better/worse. After the lob attempt was completely shut down, unbelievably, option 2 was to put the ball in Charlie Bell's hands. Charlie Bell!! The spot up shooter who never... ever... attacks the basket. That Charlie Bell. He was the guy Coach K had the inbounds pass directed toward.

I just have a few questions regarding the design of that play. Why wasn't the play set up as a two man game with the Bucks only scorers on the floor -- Michael Redd and Charlie Villanueva? Why did neither of them go anywhere near the basketball when it was being inbounded? Where the hell did Coach K get the idea that a play designed like the one he designed had any chance in hell of ever working?? And... WHY WAS MICHAEL RUFFIN IN A POSITION TO TAKE THE FINAL SHOT???

I'm losing my mind Bucks fans. I need to sign off RIGHT NOW before I type something about Coach K I might later regret.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Attempted karma change

As Cutty from The Wire once said, "When it ain't flowin' how you want it to flow... you got to change up." Bucks Nation currently isn't flowin how I want it to flow, so I'm doing my bit to change up by making a few changes to this blog.

First, the logos a little different. Big whoop.

Second, I dropped "MKE" from the title. Adding "MKE" in the first place was just a lame attempt to indicate that the blog was about the Milwaukee Bucks, but not a part of the Milwaukee Bucks. I was always afraid that just plain "Bucks Diary" might be taken as a hunting blog or a blog about somebody's Uncle from Up North, while calling it "Milwaukee Bucks Diary" was obviously out of the question due to trade name considerations, so I landed on "MKE Bucks Diary".

But, I never really liked the "MKE", and no one really ever used it when refering to this blog, and it always looked a little funny when people did. So its gone.

Now if its not sufficiently clear that "Bucks Diary" is a blog for NBA fans written by a Bucks fan who is not associated with the Milwaukee Bucks organization, I'm sure the Bucks will let me know. And if they do, then I'll do something about it.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Maybe the Suns were right

Why would you trade a hugely productive forward for an aging, lumbering, injury-prone center? That was my first reaction to the Suns trade. But on further review...

Maybe Kerr is shooting for a championship

As good as the Shawn Marion Suns were at playing efficient offense, they were pretty mediocre when it came to preventing their opponents from doing the same. Because of that, recent history suggests that the Suns were not going to win an NBA championship as previously constituted.

Opponent's Win Score

The Suns "Opponent Win Score" was 42.5. That number is just above the NBA average. But every NBA champion this century has had an Opponent Win Score that was below that season's NBA average, on average 17.1% below. And though I only did a random sampling of champions from previous decades, the only champion in my sampling whose Opponent Win Score was not below their championship season's NBA average was the 1974-75 Golden State Warriors.

Suns' problem: Defensive Rebounding

The Suns defense wasn't horrible. The problem was they allowed their opponents over 400 more field goal attempts than they themselves took. That's because they were a very weak defensive rebounding team.

The average NBA team's percentage of defensive rebounds per opponent's missed shots is 94.1%. The Phoenix Suns percentage is 81.3%. Thus the extra opportunities.

The Suns hope Shaq can shore up that problem. And, if he can stay healthy, he might be able to do so.

Shaq's personal percentage of defensive rebounds per opponent's missed shots this season stands at 31.7%. Shawn Marion's, while excellent for a guy his size, was only 25.3%. Thus, the Suns might know what they are doing. By trading for Shaq they might have made a major move to shore up their biggest weakness.

And even if the trade doesn't work out, history suggests the Suns were justified in making it.

Bogut's Rebuttal

Everytime I get on C Andrew Bogut's case, he starts going. He did it again last night.

After a few terrible showings in a row, Bogut had a HUGE performance against the Dallas Mavericks. He was all over the boards, especially on the defensive end, and he had his offense working as well.

Let's hope this is the start of another big Aussie run.

Let Mo flow

My Old Take: If you are a point guard, your first obligation is to start the offense, not to get your own offense.

My New Take: As long as you deliver a higher point per shot average than the rest of the team... you may fire at will.

My original take on Mo Williams, that he is too much the shooting guard to play the point, was a bit too simplistic. Shooting guards masquerading as point guards only hurt their teams when they deprive the better scorers of high percentage opportunities.

At the moment, the Bucks have no "better scorers" than Mo Williams. Last year I would have had a conipshit if I saw that Mo took 29 shots in a game. This year I think that as long as he is delivering more efficient point production, I have no problem with it.

Last night, Mo Williams produced 1.24 points per shot attempt, whereas the rest of the team combined to produce 1.13. If that's the case, you flow Mo.

Charlie V plays big again

It appears that Charlie Villanueva is much more comfortable starting than he ever was coming off the bench. While the evidence is still based on a small sample, he just had his second nice game in a row as a starter... and ahh, by doing so he doubled the 2008 "good game" output of the guy he replaced in the starting line-up.

I'll be interested to see, if this trend continues, how its gonna play when Yi comes back healthy. If he goes right back into the starting lineup, something smells rotten.

A bruised leg, Bob?

Is it me, or does Bobby Simmons always seem to come up with the most wussified injuries ever? He's making 9 million dollars this season and he couldn't play through a bruised leg last night? Are you shittin' me? Your going to leave your teammates short handed because you have a bruise on your leg?

And what was that other one he sat out with earlier this season... wasn't it like a "stiff neck" or something? Geez. I'll let you Antlerheads pass your own moral judgment on the man, but I think you can infer the judgment I've already come to.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Inconvenient Truth about the Bucks

The WoW Journal has posted its assessment of the 2007-08 Milwaukee Bucks. Its sobering to say the least. But it gets it right, and because of that, it reads like the epitaph to the Larry Harris regime in Milwaukee.

I think the crucial point the Professor makes in his post is one that I made (and was gently riduculed for... I like the linked-to blog by the way) on Opening Night. This is a lottery team we have in Milwaukee. It was never a playoff team. Thus the problem is not, as Harris recently asserted, that the team is underperforming. Its that this team, is, was, and ever shall be undertalented.

Even looking through my Green and Red preseason glasses, that's always seemed depressingly obvious. At the start of the season here's what we had: One potential All-Star (Redd); One solid starter (Williams); One unproven international mystery player (Yi); Two inconsistently productive lottery picks (Bogut, Villanueva); Two players with markedly declining productivity (Mason, Bell); One below average starter coming off a foot injury (Simmons); One well-paid shell shock victim (Gadzuric); and a bunch of never will bes (Voshkuhl, Ivey, Storey, Ruffin, Noel).

Believe me, as a Bucks fan I never wanted that to be the truth. But I think it always was.

My thoughts on the Bucks win over the Grizz

If you read my post yesterday, you will know that offensive rebounding was one of only two things I found the Bucks did well. Last night it was enough to carry them to victory against Memphis, 102-97.

The Bucks still allowed Memphis to shoot an above average 37.9% from behind the three point line, and they got to the free throw line less than half the times the Grizzlies got there, but thanks mainly to some outstanding work on the offensive boards by Charlie Villanueva, the Bucks had 15 more shot opportunities and it was enough to take them over the top.

Chinese Math: Addition by Subtracting Yi

In his 1966 book "Percentage Baseball", Professor Earnshaw Cook demonstrated that baseball managers had little impact on the outcome of baseball games with one exception. He proved mathematically that managers often cost their team's victories by playing the wrong people.

I don't know if the same holds for basketball coaches, but I've been frustrated and baffled for weeks now by Coach K's insistence on giving the bulk of the minutes at power forward to Yi Jianlian, a guy who clearly shot his wad around Christmas, and giving any minutes at all to G Royal Ivey... a guy who doesn't really do anything particularly well. In fact, I think Crisco's rotational decision have cost his team games. I don't know that, and can't prove it, but that is my strong inclination.

According to Winsproduced.com, Yi has not played a single above average game since January 2nd, and Ivey has played a grand total of 2 in the same time frame. And its not as if either guy is playing particularly good defense this season (although Ivey is somehow reputed to be a great defender. The field goal percentage and scoring output of the men he has guarded says that is a categorical myth. Statistically, he's one of the worst defenders on the team.)

Last night Coach K was forced to change up. Villanueva was thrust into the role of starting power forward by Yi's shoulder injury. He provided the Bucks with their first positive Win Contribution from the Power Forward position in over a month. The Bucks would not have won without him. If I were the Bucks I would tell Yi to take his time getting well... and I'd find a way to have Ivey join him on the bench.

Is Bogut going into another funk?

This is what frustrates me about Andrew Bogut. He can have such a great stretch of games one month, and then erase it the next with an equal string of bad games. He's the Geoff Jenkins of the Milwaukee Bucks. Mr. Feast or Famine (relatively speaking).

After a January feast, it appears he's headed toward famine again. Its not certain, but a trend is certainly afoot. According to Winsproduced, after putting together a string of 11 straight above average games last month, he has now put together 3 straight brutal performances and 4 in his last 7.

Shhhh... Bobby Simmons is having a good 2008

At the risk of placing the Bucks Diary jinx on him, I have to point out that SF/PF Bobby Simmons is having a very nice calendar year 2008. If you look at my Win Score numbers above, he was a big Win Contributor last night, and, unofficially, he's had something like 11 good games out of 16 played this year.

I say "unofficially" because for some reason Winsproduced chooses not to recognize Bobby Simmons as an active NBA player. Of course, up until a month ago he gave no indication that he was, so that's somewhat understandable... but its growing less and less so by the day.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Introducing the Ugly Index

The other night I was watching a vintage NBA Hardwood Classic from the early 1970s, a time in which there were two competing basketball associations. I was horrified at how unwatchable it was.

Missed shot... turnover... foul... clanker... foul... bad pass... excessive dribbling... and on and on and on. It was some ugly looking basketball.

We often complain about the brand of basketball being played today. I wondered how it compared to what they played back then.

So I came up with a statistical measure of Ugly Basketball to compare the aesthetic level of play through the eras. I call it the "The Ugly Index".

The Ugly Index

Obviously, the Index is subjective in nature. But I think its interesting nonetheless.

To come up with it, I asked myself, "What makes a basketball game aesthetically pleasing?" I decided sweet passing and scoring made games more pleasing to the eye. Since assists are so watered down, there's no reliable way to measure the first, so I use only scoring as my "beauty" variable.

Next I asked what makes games ugly. Missed shots, turnovers, and fouls. Those constitute my ugly variable.

So, its "Bricks, Hacks, and Kicks" divided by "Chord Music" and that is my Ugly Index.

The Pre-Merger 70s: Playin Ugly

Basketball, by its nature, draws from a very limited talent pool.

In my lifetime I've played alot of basketball against alot of people. I've probably played with/against less than 10 guys who had the average physical qualifications of an NBA player (6'5'' or above). That isn't even accounting for the necessary skill set. So basketball talent is rare.

In the early 1970s, the pool of qualified talent was probably even less because basketball was not as popular during the pool's formative years in the early 60s as it is today. And yet they tried to support two leagues with this talent. The results were ugly. The NBA's average Ugly Index in those years was around 0.91. Things changed dramatically, however, in the seasons following the 1976 merger.

The 80s were the golden age of basketball

If you grew up in the 80s like me you probably think basketball was better to watch then. By my standards, it certainly was. From 1983-84 until Michael Jordan went to spring training, every season was either a 0.79 or a 0.80 on the Ugly Index. The 80s were great, indeed. And its a myth that the Bad Boys of Detroit ruined the aesthetic. There was no dip whatsoever during their reign. That dip didn't happen until the late 90s.

The Strike and its Aftereffects

Actually, beginning the year before the strike, basketball took an ugly turn. In fact, the strike season returned us to the preMerger days in terms of ugliness: 0.89. The next season got better, but not by much. And the next few seasons were a bit better, but still well below the standard of basketball set during the NBA's Golden Age.

Then Steve Nash went west.

Did Nash save the NBA?

Coinciding directly with Steve Nash joining the Phoenix Suns in '04-'05, the NBA turned itself back in the proper direction. Last season it hit 0.81 for the first time since the first Jordan threepeat, and it has continued at that same level this season.

Actually, didn't David Stern crack down on handchecking that same season? Can't remember. But I still credit the Suns, because, unlike the 70s, early 00s basketball wasn't ugly because of a lack of proficiency. It was simply due to a lack of scoring, probably brought on by a lack of pace.

Nash and his Suns changed all that. They are play a very aesthetically pleasing brand of basketball. They are an incredible 0.69 on the Ugly Index. Now, if they could only defensive rebound...

Footnote: Why the Milwaukee Hawks failed

Just a quick footnote. If you ever wondered why the Milwaukee Hawks have been virtually lost to history, here's maybe one of the reasons. In their last season at the Milwaukee Arena, they recorded a shocking 1.17 on the Ugly Index. That means the hundreds of fans who actually went to see them play had to sit through more than one ugly play per point scored. That must have been exciting.