When the levee breaks … Michael Redd’s shooting may still be an issue

Gustav pounds the canals of New Orleans, Reuters photo APThe levees held, though New Orleans’ downriver quarters seem to have taken quite a beating from Hurricane Gustav. A shout out to friends and former neighbors Uptown in the Irish Channel and the Garden District, a few of whom I know didn’t leave despite being a lot more spooked this time than they were before Katrina hit. They’re on higher ground in those upriver areas, where the big worry is not the storm so much as how people will react during and after it, again going back to Katrina when the world went mad. So much water …

Now that Gustav’s spun itself down from hurricane to tropical storm status and headed for Texas, I think it’s safe now to turn our attention to the Bucks-o-sphere. (Easy to say for someone who hasn’t lived on the gulf coast in this decade). The Bucks first preseason game is 34 days away and it’s time to begin wondering how things will pan out for the 2008-09 Bucks.

But first, we find Brewhoop still  blowing up a storm to wash away any flotsam and jetsam from Michael Redd‘s disappointing Olympics.

The Olympics seemed a hangover from last season for both Redd and Andrew Bogut (and Yi Jianlian too). Bogut’s Olympics proved to be quite a story as he fought injuries and a coach joined at the hip with the failing Aussie pro league, yet, despite a difficult transition period for basketball Australia, the Bucks center found success, scoring 45 points in 46 minutes in the two games that thrust Australia into its quarterfinal matchup with Team USA. 

Today, however, the post-Olympic focus is again Redd, whose hangover from 2007-08 is indeed a wicked one. After shooting poorly last season (71st in the league on 2-point shots outside the paint, according to 82games.com; 92nd on 3-pointers), Redd lost his job as shooting specialist on Team USA. No, let’s rephrase that. Redd’s job as shooting specialist was eliminated after two games and he became a garbage time player.

The point that needs to be underscored here is that Redd’s Olympic performance was not simply a bad streak that happened to occur during the Olympics; it was a continuation of last season’s slump. This was the point that Brewhoop’s Alex Boeder conveniently ignores when he cites Redd’s abominable Olympic shooting stats and writes:

Of course, [Redd] didn’t really have a chance to work his way into a groove, and he’s not suddenly a bad shooter. He was simply off for what amounted to about two NBA games worth of minutes.

He had a difficult time adjusting, no doubt about that. The point made here which still stands is that there was nothing sudden about Redd being “off.”

Three-point specialist Redd finished last on Team USA in three-point shooting percentage. Yes, it’s true. (The link is to the official Olympic stats.) Couple the disappointing Olympics with last year’s shooting — in which Redd shot 36.3% on three-pointers (not bad but very middle of the NBA road) and only 41.8% on jump shots outside the paint.– and it appears that Michael Redd’s mythology as a great NBA shooter is in need of some major rehab.  His 41.8% figure on 2-point jump shots tied Redd with Rasheed Wallace for 71st in the NBA.

Michael Redd shooting

Certainly Redd’s ability to adjust to a new coach, Scott Skiles — one who is vigilant about defense and ball movement — is one of key questions facing the Bucks. Neither of those Skiles prerequisites are Redd’s strengths. His main strength (or what has been believed to be Redd’s main strength), shooting the basketball, could also bear some scrutiny.

And let’s face it: For many Bucks fans, #22 is more than a hangover from last season. He’s a recurring migraine from a forgettable era the team desperately wants to move beyond. With Mo Williams and Bobby Simmons gone and Dan Gadzuric relegated to the bench, and an experienced coach in Skiles, Redd can’t be held harmless for the losses anymore.

The Bucks record with Redd as a starter over the last four years is 110-170. That’s a lot of losing and they’ve lost those games for a number of reasons. Is one of them that the shooting star doesn’t really shoot well enough to give the team an advantage?

The 2-point jump shooting stats at 82games.com reveal that falling in behind Redd at 71st were Charlie Villanueva (128th) and Richard Jefferson (135th). Luke Ridnour was tied for 63rd, the highest two-point shooting mark achieved by a current Buck. This is not a team filled with shooters. The best the Bucks had, Mo Williams, is a Cleveland Cavalier.

Now let’s look at three-point shooting. Redd, the best 3-point shooter still on the team (Mo led the Bucks last season) came in at #92 in the NBA last season (.363) with Jefferson right behind him at 95th (.362). This is beginning to look funky for this team, as there seems no available advantage on the perimeter. The obvious candidate to back up and shoot more threes (someone has to and it better not be Charlie V) would seem to be Redd — but can he return to his three-point shooting form of six years ago when he was among the league leaders?

History would suggest no.  We can learn a lot looking at the NBA shooting stats, including that 17 guards in the NBA last season generated more scoring from 3-point land than Redd (the league leader among guards was Ray Allen, not surprisingly). Redd not only shoots an average % – he doesn’t shoot as many of them as a sharpshooter should. Two-point jump shooting in general being as bad as it is in today’s NBA, the statistically sound thing to do is to shoot threes. It generates more points. Skiles’ Bulls teams did this.

We also find that Redd’s shooting last season was not an aberration and can’t be blamed on Larry Krystkowiak. Redd has been a .369 3-point shooter since becoming the Bucks starting shooting guard (2003-04 season). 3-pointers have comprised about the same % of his shot selection during those five years. Somehow, Redd has maintained for five years a mythology as one of the NBA’s premier long range “spot up” shooters without being one. It’s truly fascinating — and somewhat reflective of how little national media attention has been paid to the Bucks these last five years. NBA fans see Redd’s name on the top ten scoring list, they see high scoring games along the way — and apparently they assume he’s draining threes. Not the case most of the time.

In the Skiles-Boylan offense, the ball moves, so you won’t find the 2008-09 Bucks standing around watching Redd and Jefferson hog the ball. Someone will have to be the go-to spot up shooter. The Bucks need that shooter to be Michael Redd, regardless of whether the Olympics showed that he has a difficult time adjusting to a new and different style of play and a faster pace. Regardless too, it seems, of how well he’s shot as a starter. 

2008-09 would be a good season for Redd to re-earn both his shooters’ mythology and his contract. If he does, Scott Skiles will look like a genius. But the question is not whether Redd will accomplish these things — it’s the more basic question of whether he can.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.