With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, the Milwaukee Bucks have a record of 5-8 and very little to be thankful for other than their third ranked scoring defense (92 points per game).
Consider a few statistics from the Bucks’ weekend back-to-back against the worst team, record-wise, in the Eastern Conference (Philadelphia 76ers) and an Oklahoma City Thunder team that was missing superstar forward Kevin Durant and his trusty sidekick Jeff Green (46.2 combined points per game):
By Jake McCormick
By their powers combined, Milwaukee’s three point attack of Brandon Jennings, Ersan Ilyasova, John Salmons and a few others managed to hit on three of 27 shots from beyond the arc, all of which came off the fingers of Jennings in the fourth quarter of the Bucks’ Saturday night 82-81 loss to the Thunder.
Whatever touch Carlos Delfino has from the outside this season (37.8% on a career high 2.4-6.4 attempts) has been sorely missed since a neck strain has left his availability on an ambiguous day-to-day schedule.
31 minutes, 6 points, 9 rebounds
Those aren’t the two game averages for Luc Mbah a Moute, Drew Gooden, Larry Sanders, or Ersan Ilyasova. Those are the numbers center Andrew Bogut averaged over the Bucks’ weekend back-to-back losses.
There are many things wrong with the Bucks’ offense, but one of the most concerning is a lack of a post-up game featuring the borderline All-Star, who had more first half fouls than points (3 to 2) in the team’s loss to the Thunder.
It’s fairly obvious the casual and hardcore Bucks fan that the team simply is stunted offensively, even with supposed scorers Corey Maggette and John Salmons on the wings. The Bucks’ offensive success often ran through the Aussie in 2009-10 and there’s little reason to believe it can’t be the same this year.
Whether Bogut’s arm is affecting the team’s offensive philosophy, Corey Maggette has infused a “create your own shot at the expense of others” mentality into the team’s offense, or the team has too many players that need to get early shots to get into the flow of the game, it’s entirely possible the easiest explanation for the Bucks’ scoring woes is the simplest: No Andrew Bogut means no offensive rhythm.
16 points, 12 rebounds average over two games on 12-27 shooting
If Bogut was completely shut out of the Bucks’ offense in 2009-10, there really was no other semi-reliable big man that could shoulder the expectations of a quality post player.
Over the weekend, Drew Gooden was the Bucks most consistent inside presence on the offensive glass (nine offensive boards) and displayed a knack for hitting mid-range jumpers that Bogut wouldn’t consider even before his Theismann arm accident (12 points from between 10 and 23 feet).
Despite only recording two total assists, Gooden was a formidable passer at the elbow all weekend and actually looked like the most fluid passer on the team. That’s another problem for later in this article, but for now it is nice to see Gooden living up to his somewhat controversial contract with constant hustle, a couple blocks, and the ability to validate the “all over the court” cliché.
17, 11 assists
Before the season, Brandon Jennings was confident in his ability to average 10 assists per game with all the Bucks’ new offensive toys. Not only has he fallen short of that goal by 4.2 assists, but the team itself has struggled to even break 10 assists in a game and rank 29th in the NBA in assists per game (17.2).
Part of that can be chalked up to Milwaukee’s ability to miss more shots than any other NBA team (50.5% true shooting, 30th in the league), but the team also ranks 25th in the NBA in the percentage of field goals that are assists (51.72%) and 27th in the percentage of possessions that end with assisted baskets (16.44%).
The bottom line is that the team is not working cohesively anywhere on the court other than the defensive end, and their assist problems are just one issue that contributes to many wasted defensive stops when the team needed the offense to come through the most.
19 points or less in six of the last eight quarters
This statistic needs little further context, as it’s pretty obvious that 20 points or less in a quarter is counter intuitive to a defense that is considered elite for giving up 23 points per quarter.
Milwaukee has played 13 games, which from an NFL perspective would mean they are at halftime in their third game of the season. No one would call a season a wash after three games, and vicariously there are still 69 left to show the Bucks are as good as advertised on offense.
Sooner or later the chemistry issue will be resolved, either through the realization that the Bucks flat out aren’t a good basketball team or they’re as good as expected and just needed more time to turn their individual talents into team success.
Considering the coach, players at his disposal, and the fact that talent typically finds a way in the NBA, I’d bet on the latter resolution. Let’s just hope this is one of the last posts I have to dedicate to this topic.