Bucking the Trend
The Milwaukee Bucks are a team that truly reversed identity last season. They dropped from third in points allowed per game all the way down to 22nd. They also dropped from fourth in defensive rating down to the 16th spot. Such a drop isn’t really something you see every day when it comes to the NBA. Of course, the Monta Ellis-Andrew Bogut trade probably factored into that more than anything, but its still a huge drop off.
Defensively, the Bucks have to get the ball rolling once again. They’ve now got two scorers in place who can score with some of the best players in the NBA. Their offensive prowess got a huge boost once Monta Ellis strapped on his Bucks uniform for the first time. He and Brandon Jennings can drop 50 on a team in the blink of an eye. Ellis also boosted the way the teams offense moved up and down the floor. The Bucks went from 25th in pace in 2010 all the way to third last season. I don’t think its any coincidence that Ellis’ presence has boosted the team. Rather, this is just the adjustment that Scott Skiles made with his new roster.
Offensively, this Milwaukee Bucks team is more aesthetically pleasing to watch than they have been in years. They ranked third in the league in assists with an average of 23.4 assists per game and only have a turnover percentage of 12.9% which is a very low number. That means that they distribute the ball well among themselves–something that I didn’t believe that Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis couldn’t do when the trade was first made–and they also don’t turn it over. These things that people doubted that they could do, they ended up excelling at. Ellis and Jennings do get in each other’s way from time to time, but they still make it work with the rest of their teammates.
On nights where Jennings doesn’t have it and Ellis does, Jennings will willingly become more of a facilitator. The same thing goes for Ellis, as well. Their chemistry seems to be coming along better than I initially thought it would–which was not at all.
The only thing that the Bucks have to do is start making more shots. They rank 13th in offensive efficiency because of the shot output that they have with the lack of shot makers. The team as a whole ranks 20th in field goal percentage in the NBA shooting 44%. They shoot that low of a percentage while being second in the NBA in field goal attempts with 85.6, per basketball reference. They need to make somewhere close to 50% on these shots. Anything below 45% is just plain unacceptable in today’s NBA. That’s what separates playoff teams from the teams who are stuck feeding in the middle parts of the lottery.
Once the Bucks fix that, they’ll have one of the best offenses in the NBA. An offseason to work together should help Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis figure out some ways to get each of their shooting percentages up. They both shot 41% and 43% respectively. For guards their size, that’s an average number if you’re carrying the offense on your own. The thing is, they aren’t. They have each other to play off of, so anything under 45 is unacceptable for them as well. They must set the bar as the best two offensive players on their team. If they can’t get that together, the Bucks have no hope of being a contender again.
Grabbing the Buck By the Horns
The Bucks, again, have to improve on the defensive end if they’d like to get better anytime soon. Of course, that’s going to be relatively difficult to do since they have one of the worst defensive back-courts the NBA has to offer. Brandon Jennings finished the season with a 107 defensive efficiency rating and Monta Ellis finished with a 109(107 after the trade to the Bucks). They’ve clearly got some improvement to make their, but the organization is taking the right steps into making the Bucks relevant on the defensive end once again.
First and foremost, they have on of the best defenders in the NBA in Luc Richard Mbah A Moute locked up for the next three years on about a $13 million dollar salary. They also picked up Samuel Dalembert, who has been a solid rim protector his whole career. That’s something that they lost when they traded away Andrew Bogut but he wasn’t staying on the floor anyway. It was worth the risk in the end.
They also acquired Ekpe Udoh last season in the trade with the Golden State Warriors. He’s a decent rim protector as well, but just needs to find his way on the floor. Maybe with a year of experience under his belt and an offseason of tutelage under Scott Skiles with his defensive system he’ll be able to do so. The same thing goes for newly acquired draft pick John Henson. He has a similar skill set to Udoh, but is able to stretch the floor with his jumpshot. He’s much more in the mold of a Serge Ibaka than anything else. He’ll likely see the floor a lot because of his defensive prowess and offensive ability.
With those bodies in the paint, Jennings’ and Ellis’ propensity to gamble on passes and matador defense shouldn’t harm them too much more. The paint will be protected and they’ll be able to jump passing lanes all they want.
Here comes your favorite part. How will the Bucks spread out their minutes? There isn’t a lot of room to go around in the front-court with all of their bigs, however, I believe that some bigs fit their needs more than others. That’ll be the key thing that’s reflected in my minute prediction.
Brandon Jennings- 35.4 Mpg
Monta Ellis- 37.6 Mpg
Luc Richard Mbah A Moute- 24.5 Mpg
Ersan Illyasova-31.4 Mpg
Samuel Dalembert- 32.4 Mpg
Drew Gooden- 24.5 Mpg
Doron Lamb- 18.2 Mpg
Tobias Harris- 15.3 Mpg
Larry Sanders- 18.2 Mpg
John Henson- 24.1 Mpg
Mike Dunleavy- 26.5 Mpg
Joel Pryzbilla- 14.2 Mpg
I think that the Bucks will be in the fight for the postseason next year. With Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis having better chemistry than they did last year, they’ll be able to play off of each other and get their teammates involved even more. The team, as a whole, will need to improve their defensive strategy. Ellis and Jennings may have to play it safe and stay in front of their man for as long as possible, but if not, they’ll definitely have help defending the paint. I loved watching the Bucks toward the end of last season and I expect no different from them this year.