Tag Archives: 2011 Bucks reviews

More Bucks forwards: 2011 NBA Draft signs point to the Bucks adding to a crowded power forward situation

The 2011 seasons of Luc Mbah a Moute (“reliable”) and Drew Gooden (very “unreliable”) failed to provide much in the way of writing material (or so I’ve found) so what’s to keep Bucks GM John Hammond from adding another another power forward type to the roster in the draft?

Nothing of course, and that’s what many draft watchers thought Hammond would do even before he said last week that the Bucks No. 10 pick was one of those kinda-sorta “best player available” kinda picks.

In Hammond speak, that means “We don’t know but I’m probably gonna draft an athletic 6-foot-8 guy and hope he can figure out some NBA offense.”

In 2008 that translated to Joe Alexander in the first round and Mbah a Moute in round No. 2.  In 2010, that was Darington Hobson, “the best player available” whom the Bucks had worked out.   In this draft?

Tristan Thompson, 6-8, 225, Canada by way of the University of Texas.

“The Bucks have two terrific building blocks in Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings – but after that, it’s mostly question marks. They traded last summer for Corey Maggette and signed John Salmons and Drew Gooden as free agents, and none of them really panned out as expected,” according to ESPN Draft Insider Chad Ford.

“They really could use help at the 2, 3 and 4 positions. I have Thompson here because, of the players on the board, he’s the most likely to be a Scott Skiles-type player. He’s tough, aggressive and just a beast on the offensive boards. His skill level isn’t particularly high on the offensive end yet, but he’s a good fit alongside Bogut on the front line.”

Chad Ford pays very little attention to the Bucks, but that probably doesn’t matter with this draft.  Here’s how the thinking goes:

Everybody in and around the NBA knows the Bucks need backcourt help.  Unfortunately, what little backcourt help there is in the draft will likely be gone by the time the Bucks pick (assuming they don’t improve position in the lottery).

The point guards (Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and Brandon Knight) are slated to go in the top five.  Forward Derrick Williams (Arizona) will likely go No. 2.

Bismack Biyombo, the 6-9 phenom from the Congo with 7-7 wing span, won’t survive past Detroit’s No. 7 pick.

Three of the international big men who’ve been on NBA radar for two years (Jan Vesely, Enes Kanter and Jonas Valanciunas, in no particular order) will be gone in the top eight.

The rest of the lottery board:  a group of NCAA forwards plus shooting guard Alec Burks and 6-11 scorer Donatas Motiejunas (Lithuania).

Ford thinks Charlotte at No. 9 will take San Diego State forward Kawhi Leonard.  Others have a feeling that Jordan isn’t looking for another version of Gerald Wallace and will take Motiejunas, a big forward who’s got a scoring arsenal but a disdain for defense and rebounding. In other words, he’s the least like “Crash,” whom Jordan just traded.

Still others think Jordan will like Burks’ game most of all and will take a chance on the guard developing a reliable jump shot, a la Jordan himself.

The questions about these players are the same ones the Bucks will be asking.  Why bother with Motiejunas if he’s disinterested in defense?   After being dead last in shooting and scoring, can the Bucks afford to play a shooting guard (Burks) who can’t extend past midrange?

Who’s better — Leonard or Thompson or Marcus Morris, a classic 6-9 college power forward with three years at Kansas on his resume?  They’ve all got knocks.  Leonard and Thompson have offensive skill work to do.  Morris’ downside is athleticism and short arms, mid-range shooting.

The best answer for the Bucks is that hard-working Leonard fits the Bucks core personality, if for no other reason than he has a nose for winning 50-50 plays that Skiles can’t resist.  But he’s also a fair bet to be off the board by the nine pick, which would leave the Bucks picking between Thompson, Morris, Burks and Motiejunas.

They’ll likely shy away from Kentucky one-and-doner Terrance Jones, who’s not ready for the pros.

“Best player available” would then be Motiejunas — but Thompson becomes the player the coaches want — a 6-8 defender with scoring potential (Mbah a Moute again) who can play small or big forward.

Thompson would join a crowded stable of versatile Bucks power forward players, in keeping with GM Hammond’s modus operandi:  overload the frontcourt while he figures out who’s staying and who’s going.  The path of least resistance then becomes the trade Hammond backed himself into when he signed Gooden — Ilyasova for whatever veteran backcourt help the Bucks can get back.

Ilyasova wants full time NBA power forward minutes (32-35 per game) but  Skiles and Hammond have thus far been unwilling to entrust him with this.  Meanwhile, Ersan’s already considering offers to play in Europe if there’s an NBA lockout.

Bucks forwards: Injured rookie Darington Hobson plans return, but do the Bucks want him back?

Every so often during this mean season, when Bucks fans would be overcome by one of those perplexed expressions that fans of losing teams know well, someone would ask:

Whatever happened to that Hobson kid from U. of New Mexico the Bucks drafted last summer, the guy who had hip surgery?  (In fact, this happened just last week at The Bob Boozer Jinx. We didn’t have an answer then — but we do now.)

Darington Hobson, 6-7 forward, the 37th pick in the 2010 draft, has had successful surgery on both hips, is off of his crutches and will “seriously consider” resigning with the Bucks (lockout allowing), the Racine Journal Times reported this weekend.

“They have been very good to Darington. And Daring likes it there,” said Hobson’s agent, Sid Lash. “We got to do our due diligence and find out if it’s the right fit for the Bucks and for us.”

Well, that’s good news. Two good hips, no bridges burned, no hard feelings. Now what?

I’d like to be able to say the Bucks had high hopes for Hobson, who turns 24 in September, but that doesn’t appear to have been the case.  When he was drafted, Hobson seemed almost an afterthought.

Hobson worked out in Milwaukee with Gordon Hayward, Lazar Hayward, Luke Babbitt, Jordan Crawford and Terrico White.  After the workout, very little about Hobson was said by Bucks scouting director Billy McKinney — the Haywards and Babbitt got most of the attention, with shooting guard Crawford receiving high marks.

The Bucks, of course, drafted shot-blocker Larry Sanders with their No. 15 pick.  The Haywards, Babbitt and Crawford were drafted in the first round.  White went to Detroit one pick before the Bucks selected Hobson with the No. 37 pick.  Hobson, a long armed rebounder, was the last man from the workout standing in the draft.

The Bucks cut Hobson in December to make room for free agent practice big man Brian Skinner.

Then there’s this unpleasant note from Draft Express:

“His shooting percentages from inside the arc leave a lot to be desired at just 43%, a reflection of his struggles finishing around the rim (due to his lack of explosiveness) in traffic, coupled with his often-poor shot-selection. … Hobson loves to pull up off the dribble in the mid-range area, but is not particularly effective when doing so.”

Unfortunately, the last thing the worst shooting team in the NBA needs is a 24-year-old coming off of two hip surgeries who shot worse than the 24-year-old they already have (Luc Mbah a Moute, a restricted free agent) — and has yet to prove he can play the kind of in-your-face defense that Bucks coach Scott Skiles demands.

So while Hobson is seriously considering a return to the Bucks, it isn’t clear why the Bucks would consider offering Hobson a contract and an invite to camp (not much is clear given the abundance of forwards on the roster and the looming lockout).  Maybe Hobson’s agent knows better (the Bucks did it once before, didn’t they?) but something tells me Hobson will probably have to look for work elsewhere in the NBA.

Bucks forwards: The strange case of coach Scott Skiles and the jumpshot of Ersan Ilyasova

Chances are that not too many Wisconsin sports fans were watching the FIBA World Basketball championships the weekend of Sept. 12, when the Badgers hosted San Jose State and the Packers opening their regular season in Philly.

If they had, more of the state’s sports nuts might be questioning Bucks GM John Hammond’s sanity.

After leading his Turkish National team in scoring (14 pts./game) and rebounding (7.5  rpg) during Turkey’s run to a silver medal, Ersan Ilyasova was in summer 2010 a star rising faster than any other international player.

Yet before the FIBA tournament even began, Ilyasova’s GM in Milwaukee had given away a big chunk of the 23-year-old forward’s job and playing time.

Ilyasova returned to the Bucks to find himself all but benched by coach Scott Skiles, watching $32 million free agent acquisition Drew Gooden play the bulk of the Bucks’ power forward minutes.  He was also watching Gooden flounder and the Bucks lose twice as much as they won to start the season.

Much has been made of the 270-plus games that injured Bucks missed, but the truth was that there was never playing time for the five Bucks forwards — Ilyasova, Gooden, Luc Mbah a Moute, Carlos Delfino and Corey Maggette — seven if you include Chris Douglas-Roberts and rookie Larry Sanders.

When the injuries to Douglas-Roberts, Delfino and Gooden occurred, the healthy players had some idea what their roles and playing time was going to be.  No injuries = limited PT and a management problem for Skiles.

Early on, the best solution Skiles could come up with was to bench Ilyasova, justifying it with talk about the minutia of Ilyasova’s textbook shooting form.  Ilyasova acknowledged that he was fatigued after a long summer with his Turkish team.

But there was always a “what came first?” question about Ersan’s poor shooting and lack of playing time.   Was he struggling with shooting rhythm because of a lack of PT, or was he really, as Skiles suggested, too off his game to deserve the PT?   Whatever the case, there’s no question that Skiles was yanking Ilyasova if he missed his first few shots and that, as a result, Ersan was pressing.  That high-arcing jumper wasn’t falling.  And the Bucks were losing.

Ilyasova started the season 1-for-5 against New Orleans and 0-for-4 in an 8-minute stint in Minnesota.  In game three, the Bucks home opener, Ilyasova played all of 58 seconds and didn’t shoot.

What was wrong with Ilyasova? Absolutely nothing, those who watched the World Championships could attest.  Excuses aside, Skiles was simply opting to play Gooden, the GM’s free agent investment.  The Bucks, also working newcomers Corey Maggette and Keyon Dooling into the rotation, looked lost on defense, confused on offense and worse — they looked like a bad team with a bad coach.

The fifth game of the season, in Boston, still stands emblematic of the Bucks frustrating season.  Against a respected opponent, the 2010 Bucks showed up and outplayed the Celtics until the game’s final minutes when the C’s were able to force overtime.  Gooden was benched after two quick fouls in the first quarter, Andrew Bogut got 20 looks and 21 points, and Ilyasova played 35 minutes, scoring 15 points, grabbing seven rebounds and battling Kevin Garnett to a sub-KG game.  But in what would become an all-too-familiar story, the Bucks couldn’t close the game and lost in a parade of Paul Pierce free throws in overtime.

The following game in Indiana — with Bogut out — Ilyasova played 27 minutes, including some at center guading Roy Hibbert, and was a defensive wrecking crew (2 steals, 2 charges taken) while scoring an efficient nine points on eight looks, hitting two threes.  The Bucks won, offering every indication that nothing short of disaster could land the Bucks behind the Pacers in the standings.

Problem solved, right?  Nope.  Skiles went right back to limiting Ilyasova’s minutes against David West and the Hornets, another loss,and the Bucks were 2-and-5.  Skiles had yanked Ilyasova in five games, four of them Bucks losses.  This would continue through game 14, a loss to the lowly Cavs in Cleveland.  In Philadelphia, Ilyasova snared six rebounds in eight minutes yet found himself benched and watching the Bucks lose by 11.

After 14 games the Bucks record was a pitiful 5-9, despite leading the league in defense.  Ilyasova wasn’t the only Buck struggling to put the ball in the basket, yet he was apparently the only Buck who had lost the trust of his coach over it.

In ten of the Bucks first 14 games (seven losses), Ilyasova played 21 minutes or fewer and shot a feeble 25.5 percent (13-51) from the field, just 3-for-18 (16.7 percent) from behind the arc.

Clearly, Skiles’ handling of the situation wasn’t helping the shooter.  Something had to give.  In the end, it was Gooden’s left foot and plantar fasciitis condition that would force him to miss 47 games.

But the ten “Ersan-i-yank” games had done their damage.  The Bucks and Ilyasova’s seasons, obviously, would have looked quite a bit different without them.

Ilyasova 2011(60 games) — fgs: 221 for 507 (43.6%)   3-pts: 36 for 121 (29.8%)   rpg: 6.1   ppg: 9.5

Minus the bad start (50 games) — fgs: 208 for 456 (45.6%)   3-pts: 33 for 103 (32.0%)   rpg: 6.5   ppg: 10.5

That’s better overall shooting in those 50 games — all but four from Nov. 26 on — than he shot last season, though with a slightly lower 3-point shooting mark.

2010 season (81 games):  fgs: 44.3%   3-pts: 33.6%   rpg: 6.4   ppg: 10.4

Remove the 32 percent 3-point shooting from those 50 games, and a 49.6 inside-the-arc shooting percentage is revealed — remarkable for a player who shoots most comfortably 17-21 feet from the basket and has a limited post-up game.  To compare, Bogut in a good year makes just one shot more per 30 shooting almost entirely within ten feet of the rim.

Crunching the shooting stats at 82games.com, Ilyasova on the season made 50.2 percent (125 of 249) of his jump shots inside the 3-point line, a Dirk Nowitzki-like percentage.  In close and into the defense was an adventure (just 43.8 percent) where Ersan’s “finishing” and shot selection could stand to improve.  But the midrange Ilyasova jumper was arguably the most reliable routine offense the 2011 Bucks had.

Taking into account Ersan’s 89.4 percent free throw shooting, the best marksmanship of any NBA forward (0.2 percent better in 2011 than Nowitzki), he emerges as the Bucks best “pure” shooter.  “One of the best in the world for a four,” says Andrew Bogut.  And arguably the best shooter on a 43 percent shooting team.

This was evident in late January when Ilyasova went on a tear to help lift the Bucks to wins against Toronto and New Jersey.  It carried over to a three-game road trip west which fell apart when Bogut was injured against the L.A. Clippers.  Such were the frustrations of the Bucks season.

“There’s no question Ersan has to be more consistent with his shot,” said Skiles at the end of the season.

Coach, you didn’t notice — he already has (no further micro-management required).

Ilyasova’s still only 23 years old (he turns 24 next month) and has potential to become one of the best long range shooters in the NBA.  For now, he’s the best jump-shooter from 22-feet-in that the poor-shooting Bucks have on their roster.

Pure shooter, solid, scrappy, disruptive position defender with a top 20 NBA defensive rating … That’s the kind of player who wins games if he’s on the court.

Ilyasova will be as bright a star as the Milwaukee Bucks want him to be. If they clear the path of capable, but limited guys like Luc Richard Mbah-Moute, Carlos Delfino and Corey Maggette – and empower Ilyasova to look for his shot on the same level as Michael Redd, John Salmons and Andrew Bogut – the Bucks have a budding superstar on their hands.  — Denver Post writer Chris Dempsey, naming Ilyasova “the most fascinating player of the 2010 FIBA World Championships.”

Add Gooden to Dempsey’s list and note that, after another season in Milwaukee, Skiles and GM Hammond seem no closer to clearing a path for Ilyasova than they did last summer when they signed Gooden.  In all likelihood, this path now leads out of Milwaukee.

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Three-point shooting at home: Just because the NBA painted a 3-point line on the court, does not mean that an outside shooter has to set up behind it.  For Ilyasova, the particular line to ignore is the one painted on the hardwood at the Bradley Center.

At home, Ilyasova shot a woeful (shield your eyes, it’s ugly) 19 percent from downtown (11-58).

On the road he shot 39.8 percent, good enough to lead the Bucks.

One can’t necessarily blame ticket-buying Bucks fans if they fail to appreciate Ilyasova the shooter, no matter how well he shot everywhere else.  The shots fell more often on the road last season than at home, too, though the difference was not as pronounced.  If it’s a Bradley Center trend, it dug in this season and grew worse.

Indeed, a change of venue may be what’s best for Ilyasova.  Unfortunately, it’s probably not the best thing for the Bucks.

**** Next up: I’ll continue to look at the Bucks power forwards, focusing on defense (Mbah a Moute’s forte) and rebounding (Gooden’s forte) … and Ilyasova, who played the most PF for the Bucks in 2011 and was the power forward on four of the Bucks five most successful rotations.