State of the Bucks – Week 6
State of the Bucks – A Weekly Review and Preview of the Milwaukee Bucks’ Previous and Upcoming Weeks
Last Week’s Results:
@ Cleveland, Lost 83-81
@ Detroit, Lost 103-89
vs. Charlotte, Won 104-101
@ Utah, Lost 109-88
Welcome to December 1st. Enjoy the snow Milwaukee, it won’t hold off forever.
December 1st is also the day we’ve been talking about for a while. Up until this point, the phrase “it is still early” could be applied to the Milwaukee Bucks’ early season struggles. That day is over. Feel free to rejoice, but don’t get too carried away.
All fun and humor aside, this Bucks season has so far been no fun and all humor. At this point in the season, 17 games in (we are already more than 20% through), some things have to be realized. John Salmons’ shooting slump is officially causing too much harm for the minutes he gets. Larry Sanders causes harm to the other team when he actually gets minutes. And minutes in general, well, there are way too many of those to go around, and not enough healthy bodies to fill them.
The “athletic depth” that the Bucks built this off-season is starting to collapse under the weight of the injury list. If you are a Green Bay Packer fan, we can hear your shouting. Without comparing the two teams from two different sports, Milwaukee has faced an injury crisis because of one player: Andrew Bogut. While players like Sanders and Drew Gooden were brought in as “rentals” to the center position, everything shifts too far out of place when Bogut is missing chunks of playing time. The toddler’s toy where blocks of certain shapes and sizes have corresponding holes that each fit only one of the blocks? Welcome to the Bucks’ center position.
It was a downright awful week, so we won’t dwell on it too much. Former Buck Mo Williams hit the game-winning dagger for Cleveland. That was the only real heart-breaking moment of the week. The theme of every game this past week was Milwaukee’s inability to hold onto a late lead. The opponents were a combined +29 in the 4th quarter of the four games they played. Are injuries causing the remaining players to get tired? Are guys losing their focus? We’ll have to wait and see.
Player of the Week:
We’re going to have to go with Brandon Jennings for the past week. Has he had a stellar week? Not entirely. But no one else (who plays starter minutes) has performed close to Jennings. His weeks have been so constantly up and down, and we happened to catch him on an up one. His shooting percentage is up (hit 38% on the week), he dished 5.25 assists per game, kept his turnovers below a 2.5 average, and lead the team with a near 22 point average.
Other Standout Players:
We settled for Jennings above just because of the starter minutes. It’s hard to crack the “Player of the Week” category when you don’t play much. But do not ignore the efforts this past week from Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders and Jon Brockman (the Brockness Monster), who all shot well from the field, collected their fair share of boards, and contributed well during their time on the court.
LOWlights of the Week:
The “Highlights” have changed this week to reflect upon the fact that the Bucks are starting to get out-rebounded by other teams. Last week’s “highlight” was the consolation that during the losing streak, the Bucks still rebounded well. But when Andrew Bogut, Drew Gooden and Corey Maggette are all missing games (combined 22.5 rebounds/game), others need to step up. They haven’t.
Disappointment of the Week:
John Salmons has to be close to losing his starting shooting guard spot. Coach Scott Skiles has made it clear that performance will dictate playing time. Hopefully he won’t let contract size be the dictator. When Carlos Delfino is back to health (should be a week and a half from today’s article), he’d be prime to take that spot. Until then, Chris Douglas-Roberts should get his chance. More on CD-R later.
This Week’s Games:
Wednesday Dec 1st, @ Denver
Saturday Dec 4th, vs. Orlando
Monday Dec 6th, vs. Miami
So if you thought going 1-3 against a week schedule last week was rough, you might want to sit down for this. The Bucks’ opponents this week are a combined 33-18. If Bogut misses the Orlando game, trouble is an understatement. Milwaukee won last year in Denver, and I’m sure the Nuggets haven’t forgotten about that. As for Miami, I’m sure the cheers for the return of former Marquette star Dwayne Wade will be heavily overshadowed by the boos for league anti-hero LeBron James.
Things to Watch For:
With LeBron James out of the Central Division, the Bucks were expected to contend for the division title. Not only are the Bucks not contending for anything at this point, but expect James to continue to give them fits this week. This biggest problem with the Heat this season is that they spent the majority of their salary on All-Stars at the 2, 3 and 4 position. But success doesn’t come unless a team gets performance out of their 1 and 5 spots. The point guard and center positions lean heavily in the Bucks’ favor, and that could very well be an advantage for Milwaukee, especially with the home court in this game.
Match-up to Watch:
I always love the Andrew Bogut / Dwight Howard match-up. Dwight Howard is this generation’s Shaq. No one else dominates like Howard does in today’s NBA. Andrew Bogut showed reason last year to be considered the second best center in the league to Howard, but injuries have kept Bogut from making that statement the truth. If Bogut is healthy, this match-up will be a delight. Otherwise Milwaukee will just have to send wave of players at Howard to try to slow him down.
There is no reason to panic. Once the ship is straighten out, the Bucks could flip their record around, go 11-6 in their next 17 games. Right now a .500 record makes the playoffs in both the East and the West. When Milwaukee is healthy, they are built to wear down other teams. Winning streaks of 4 games here, 5 games there, and the Bucks, only 4 games out of the division lead, are right back in it. While the injuries persist, coach Skiles should continue this motley crew lineup to keep players fresh and focused. The players on the bench want to get in, smash around with the other team, and earn playing time. Don’t force the starting line up to eat minutes just because they are called “the starting lineup.” Utilize what you have, and when players start coming back, things will start heading in the right direction.
Milwaukee Brian’s Bucks Report runs from Wednesday-Tuesday and covers all the highlights, all the highs and lows of the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks season. Topics can be found at Pocket Doppler – The Wisconsin Sports Blog and Milwaukee Brian Sports