Skiles hiring means defense now, burnout later
An interesting beginning to the John Hammond Era. After firing Larry Krystkowiak, the Bucks new honcho moved quickly to hire veteran coach Scott Skiles, a man who could be described as a defensive version of George Karl. Skiles has previously coached the Phoenix Suns and most recently the Chicago Bulls. Skiles gets quick results, but his high intensity act tends to burn bright and then fizzle out. Each of his previous teams suffered mysterious and sudden declines around his fourth or fifth season and those declines ended up costing him both jobs.
But that's an issue for the future. For now, Skiles' hiring is a clear signal that Bucks leadership thankfully intends to put an end to the long era of "matador" defense in Cream City.
The Long Era of the Matador looks to be over in Milwaukee
I think I made this point once before, but I'll make it again. Since the 1990-91 season, the Milwaukee Bucks have not had a single team finish in the upper half of the NBA under basketball-reference.com's defensive rating system (which essentially measures a team's defensive efficiency in terms of points allowed per 100 possessions). And they've only had three teams that even finished above 20th in all of those 17 mostly miserable campaigns.
The Bucks decline as a franchise parallels their defensive misery. Prior to the team's long decline, the Bucks spent every season in the 1980s, except the last, in the top ten in defensive rating. And for most of those seasons the Bucks were ranked either number one or number two.
Then in 1989-90, the team fell to 14th. The next season they surged back to 11th, and then the bottom fell out. And the dark days began. It looks like they are finally over.
Skiles is a defensive genius
Scott Skiles delivers defense. That is clear.
Skiles first NBA head coaching assignment was with the Pheonix Suns in 1999-2000. He took over for head coach Danny Ainge about 15 or so games into the season. In the season prior to Skiles ascension, the Suns ranked 19th in defensive rating. In Skiles first season the Suns ranked 3rd. In his second season the Suns ranked 1st. In his third season he was fired three quarters of the way through and the team finished 12th.
In the two seasons prior to Skiles taking over in Chicago, the Bulls defensive rating was 21st and 24th. In Skiles first partial season, it improved to 16th. In his first full season, they finished 2nd. In his second full season, the Bulls finished 7th. In his third full season they had the best defensive rating in the NBA. In his fourth season, he was fired.
Hiring Skiles is the equivalent of shock therapy for the defenseless
When you hire Scott Skiles, what you are saying is, we shall play defense no matter the cost. In three or four seasons, this radical approach tends to burn teams out, but in the short term its highly effective. And, after 17 seasons of no defense in Milwaukee, I think it will be a welcome change.