Tag Archives: Drew Gooden

Mission “Impossible” – The Milwaukee Bucks evaluation that coach Scott Skiles says can’t be done

Bucks coach Scott Skiles said after Friday’s blowout loss in Dallas that it was “impossible” to evaluate the 2012 Bucks.  They’ve been too hurt, too MIA and too jumbled in disarray in this rush-start, lock-out shortened season; it just can’t be done, not yet after 11 games, not in Skiles’ mind.

At The Bob Boozer Jinx, we’re undeterred by such obstacles, and have already noted that Skiles and Bucks GM John Hammond failed for the second year in a row to put a team on the court ready to start the season.   With that in mind as the Bucks get set to play the Philadelphia 76ers on Martin Luther King Day, here’s your 2012 Milwaukee Bucks evaluation, coach, in order of most playing time to least.

Brandon Jennings: He’s shooting better and has played smarter, attacking to the basket more than settling for that unreliable jumpshot of his, as the Bucks are playing at a faster pace than last season.  BJ3 is among the NBA leaders in minutes played per game, was at one point near the top in free throws per game (he needs to do more of this) and was shooting 44.3% going into Philly, 35.7% from Downtown.  Those are winning numbers for a point guard these days, especially one that keeps his turnover rate as low as Jennings does (10%).   Had a tough game in Philly and couldn’t give the Bucks an edge in the 3rd quarter when they needed it, but make no mistake — Brandon Jennings has improved.  Defense?  That’s improved, too, as BJ3 leads the Bucks in steals.  He wins the Bob Boozer Jinx “2012 Most Ready to Play” award.

Stephen Jackson:  He shoots, he scores.  He shoots, he misses.  A lot.  A 42% career shooter who can’t make a third of his threes is not a good shooter, but that doesn’t deter Captain Jack.  The intangibles?  Showed up out-of-shape and with a sore back but looks close to 100% now, and he seems to be the kind of nasty competitor the Bucks need some nights — and there will be those.  Unfortunately, he shoots so badly in some games — like today’s 3-for-12 against Philly — that the Bucks will often find themselves climbing out of a deficit as Jack rants.  The Bucks can’t win with Jennings and Jackson shooting a combined 6-for-23.  There will be those nights, and days, like these.

Carlos Delfino:  Here’s another guy who wasn’t ready to go, as he missed two games and was useless for three others due to a sprained shooting wrist.  Del is the Bucks best 3-baller (38%), and a capable defender who is again leading the Bucks in steals.  He’s solid all-around and would do well to take it to the hoop more often, and doesn’t help out on the glass as much as he could.  When he’s on, the Bucks can be dangerous.

Shaun Livingston:  One of the reasons the Bucks can look at their schedule, look at their record, and feel like they should be 7-and-5 instead of 4-and-8 even after reading the injury report.  Livingston has helped the Bucks build a few blowout leads, only to see them frittered away aided by offensive droughts, bad rebounding and Skiles’ flawed sense of matchups and rotations.  A player who does everything there is to do on the basketball court well — turnaround jumpers from the post! — and has fit in seamlessly on the Bucks jumbled roster.  He may have found his second NBA life in Milwaukee.

Ersan Ilyasova:  If you followed Ersan this summer with the Turkish national team and with Anadolu Efes in the Euroleague, you knew that Ersan had seemingly lost his jumpshot but wasn’t really bothering to look for it, content to play D, rebound and mix it up inside.  He’s very much a player in transition from “Dirk-lite” scorer to cage-rattling NBA power forward.  Does it look good in the box score or other metrics?   Hell no, with the exception of the rebound column.  Currently making Thaddeus Young‘s MLK day miserable in Philly, and is on the court with Bogut, Delfino, Jennings and Jackson – the Bucks strongest defensive unit today.  That unit “got up on ’em and got  physical,” said Bucks assistant Jim Boylan, noting that this was when the game changed.  They pulled a 13-point deficit down to six in the 2nd quarter.  Bucks trailed by four at the half.

Important note:  Skiles has managed to evaluate Ilyasova, deciding he’s an “off the bench forward” on “a really good, deep club,” and that this seems to be his NBA future.  Ersan would beg to differ, and this will very likely be his last season playing for the Bucks (not a really good, deep club) and certainly his last playing for Skiles.

Jon Leuer:  Ilyasova’s heir apparent and fan fave, currently starting at power forward.  Unlike Ilyasova, Leuer actively looks to shoot, and has been the Bucks most efficient scorer this season.  The downside is that the Bucks defense and rebounding takes a hit when Leuer is on the court, evidenced by the first 4 minutes of the 2nd half in Philly, as the Bucks struggled to keep the Sixers off the glass.  Enter Ilyasova at the 7:50 mark, as Skiles continues to play power forward roulette.  The interior defense and rebounding picks up in the 3rd, but little else.  The Bucks tried to pull back into the game in the 4th without Leuer or Ilyasova.

Andrew Bogut:  Not ready to play this season, missing four of the Bucks first eight games due to a “personal matter” back home in Australia.  Staying on the court is AB’s main problem.  Lesser problems:  As more and more centers step out to the three-point line, pulling Bogut 20 feet or more from the hoop, Bogut will need to learn to adjust — and it is frustrating to watch Spencer Hawes draining threes.  Bogut himself is stepping out a bit this season, encouraged to do so for the first time in his career, and he’s been able to knock down four or five set-jumpers.  Bogut’s game remains close to the basket, of course, where he’s one of the best defenders in the NBA.   He played strong against Hawes, racking up 20 points, 11 boards, four assists and three blocked shots to keep the Bucks within striking distance in the 4th quarter.  His best game of the season, a hopeful sign for Bucks fans everywhere.  Has Godot arrived?

Drew Gooden:  Bogut can’t play 40 minutes a game, certainly, and probably won’t play enough this season to qualify for the NBA leader boards, which makes the 30-year-old Gooden, the Big Zero, a primary NBA backup center for the first time in his NBA career.  Check that – this project was attempted and abandoned in San Antonio and Dallas.  It will have to work in Milwaukee, or Drew becomes a $6 million-a-year big man with no job.  Poor guy.  May end up spending most of his time playing high stakes poker with GM John Hammond.

Larry Sanders:  Drafted in the first round 2011, by 2012 he’s riding the bench behind Gooden, Leuer and Ilyasova – even Jon Brockman at times.   A fantastic shot-blocker and defender in development, now a utility, garbage-time, odd man out.  If Alton Lister was Nellie’s “Big Project,” Sanders is Skiles’ “Really Big Project” — one that the Bucks organization may not ever get around to.

Beno Udrih:  Luke Ridnour is back and he’s taller and left-handed, shoots about the same, too, though not as experienced or sneaky on defense. “Allergic to defense,”  the Kings bloggers said about Udrih when he was traded to the Bucks.  This is true.  Udrih plays about the worst perimeter defense I’ve seen since Michael Redd and Mo Williams.  But he came to Milwaukee ready to play, and, were it not for getting creamed in a collision with Andre Miller in Denver and missing six games, the Bucks might have a road win or two.  A 5-and-7 record would look pretty good right now compared to 4-and-8.  (Udrih returned in Philly and played as the Bucks faded in the 4th.)

Mike Dunleavy, Jr.:  Coming into this season, Dunleavy had missed 110 games from 2009-11, or nearly half of those three seasons.  Now he’s missed eight more with a groin injury.  Yet another guy who wasn’t ready to play this season.  An injury-prone free agent acquisition by GM Hammond.

Tobias Harris:  Strong, good hands, gets to the rim and has good scoring ability around the basket, just as advertized when the Bucks drafted him.  The Bucks rookie had made the most of his 90 minutes to date, and scored 12 against Philly in 21 minutes.  The Bucks don’t have a small forward backup with Dunleavy and Luc Mbah a Moute out with injuries.  The way this season has gone so far, the Bucks may consider taking a development year for Leuer, Harris and Sanders.  Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Jon Brockman:  The Brockness Monster is still that, and he’s a punishing rebounder.  Problem is he can’t guard anybody and has no offensive game to speak of.  GM Hammond knew this when he signed him in summer of 2010.  It’s still not clear why he did it.

Darington Hobson:   Good floor skills and likes to drive.  6’7″ but plays like he’s 6’5″.  Belongs in the D-League with the Mad Ants of Fort Wayne, Indy.

Luc Mbah a Moute:  Expect some player movement when Mbah a Moute returns to 100%.  He’s signed and committed for four years ($19 million), and Luc will be here as long as Skiles is here.  He was sorely missed against Philly.  There are few things in the NBA better than watching Luc lock down on the likes of Andre Iguodala.

Trends from the armchair:  The strongest defensive unit — Jennings, Jackson, Delfino, Ilyasova and Bogut — was used only a quarter of the game in Philly — not enough.  Skiles abandoned it late in the 3rd quarter in a hale of Jackson and Jennings missed shots.  Livingston might’ve looked good with this group in place of Jennings.   Note that Leuer, Ilyasova, Gooden and Sanders did not play a single minute in the 4th as the Bucks dropped out of the game.  That was curious, though it may have been a function of Skiles wanting to look at Harris with the game (sorta) on the line.  It never felt like the Bucks were ever in it, not with the perimeter defense playing so poorly. …

…. And Skiles said this couldn’t be done.

When failing to put a team on the court kills your season

Before the Bucks headed West two weeks ago for a five game road trip, we looked at the league leader boards, some advanced stats and other basketball geek fodder, and found some good things to write about after a small sample.

Two weeks later, there’s little good to write about, as nearly every Buck but an improved Brandon Jennings has either been injured or inconsistent or worse.  The Bucks’ vaunted Top 5 defense has gone to pot and now rates 16th, allowing one point more than the league average of 102.6 points per 100 possessions The Bucks, a team notoriously good at protecting the defensive glass, now ranks near the bottom with a 70.8% defensive rebounding rate.

Bucks center Andrew Bogut has not played well or even rebounded up to his standards (15.5% rebound rate, AB?) and, well, now he’s not playing at all after suffering a concussion against the Pistons on Thursday.  Carlos Delfino and Stephen Jackson have played well in spots.  In some stretches, they’ve been horrendous.

Remember when this team was good?  Remember when Scott Skiles was good?   Some even considered him “brilliant but evil.”

That was long ago, in another time and place and galaxy, in that long-ago age of Chicago Bulls basketball that didn’t include Derrick Rose.

For the 4-and-7 Bucks,”when we were good” was less than two years ago.   There’s not a blogger in the Bucks-o-sphere who can capture the essence of all that’s gone wrong since then.   As constructed, the Milwaukee Bucks are either a mess waiting for an upsurge remniscent of 2010 …

Or they’re just a mess that, for the second year in a row, was not ready to begin the season.

A wise man recently said:  “Waiting for Bogut has become like Waiting for Godot.”

Note:  The Bucks have played the 22nd toughest, or 9th easiest schedule in the league.  This was not the part of the schedule where they could afford to go 4-and-7.

Gooden time: On the road in the west without Andrew Bogut, Bucks need their “Big Zero” like never before

Bucks GM John Hammond’s $6 million man will get another chance to prove his worth in Sacramento tonight, as center Andrew Bogut has not yet returned to the team.   Bogut left for “personal reasons” Tuesday in Utah.

UPDATE: As of today (Thursday pregame), Bogut was still gone and the Kings have fired coach Paul Westphal.

So it’s up to the much-maligned Drew Gooden, “the Big Zero,” the man who has seemed in a world of his own as a Buck, to establish a paint presence against Chucky Hayes and the Kings young frontcourt of J.J. Hickson, Jason Thompson and, yep – he’s back from another temper tantrum and fight with the now departed Westphal – DeMarcus Cousins.

These are matches made in heaven for Gooden.  There are no DeAndre Jordans or Blake Griffins on the Kings roster (those two nightmares await in L.A. Friday). The Kings are big and slow and like to throw their weight around, just like Drew.  Pigs in slop?  Something like that.  This will be a rugged game in the paint.

It’s not Gooden’s modus operandii, but he may want to help mind offensive opportunities for his fellow big men, Ersan Ilyasova and Jon Leuer.  Ilyasova started with Gooden in Utah and shot just 1 for 8 in the Bucks’ 71-point offensive meltdown.  Leuer shot 1 for 4.

The Bucks need scoring from their big forwards, no doubt about that, with ill-shooting Brandon Jennings and Stephen Jackson manning most of the perimeter minutes.  Ilyasova, in particular, is due for a good game, and he’ll start on ex-Cav Hickson, with whom he’s fairly well matched and acquainted.  It should be a battle.

But what I’m looking forward to the most is a Leuer vs. Cousins matchup off the bench.  The Bucks will need Leuer to score, and Cousins is too slow-footed to guard the Bucks rookie.  Cousins may be too big for Leuer, but Cousins is susceptible to offensive fouls, frustration, temper tantrums and other drama.

The last time the Bucks were in Sacramento, Cousins committed four offensive charges against Ilyasova and Bogut, fouled out, threw a fit at the refs, and the Bucks prevailed with a strong 4th quarter.

I can’t really think of any two young players who are such polar opposites as these two.  Leuer, the cool, clever, good shooting, in control and fully developed 4-year college player vs. the raw, immature, undeveloped, out-of-control but talented Cousins.    Leuer vs. Cousins:  Book it, this should be fun to watch.

Kings PF/C Jason Thompson is also a handful off the bench.  Bucks shot-blocker Larry Sanders will get his minutes, and plenty of opportunity to wreak havoc above the rim.  Larry is his name.

TEAM TRAINER TEDIUM:  Mike Dunleavy, Jr., is still out with a groin injury and not with the team.  Luc Mbah a Moute is not expected to play due to soreness in his knee.  Beno Udrih is day-to-day with the mashed shoulder he suffered in a collision with Andre Miller on Monday.  Rookie Tobias Harris has not practiced.  Darington Hobson has been recalled from the D-League and will probably play tonight.  Aren’t Bucks injury reports boring?  You bet.

JOHN SALMONS:   The Kings are all about their young guns, Marcus Thornton, Tyreke Evans and Jimmer Fredette, but the old fish is getting his minutes starting at small forward.  Salmons’ defense is just as solid as ever and will likely guard Jackson, who, by transitive property of the 3-team trade, was the guy he was traded for.  Jimmer and Beno, Tobias Harris and Shaun Livingston are the other pieces in this trade, which should make tonight’s game, in the very least, interesting.

Salmons has started all seven games for the Kings and had a workmanlike game playing 30 minutes guarding Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest in a Kings win.  Against the Knicks, he was the best King on the floor during a long stretch in the first half, though he had his hands full guarding Carmelo Anthony.

And yes – Salmons is still shooting like crap (34%), though he’s hit a good percentage of his threes (38%), better than the 32% Jimmer’s shooting.

Sure, I’ll be watching Salmons because he’s not Fredette or Stephen Jackson, but also because GM Hammond gave up on him far too soon.  The revolving door that is the Bucks backcourt with Jennings is a sign that Hammond probably has ADD.

STATS CHECK:   The Bucks remain 2nd in the league in team defense giving up just 95.2 pts per 100 possessions, tied with the Bulls behind Denver.  The Bucks are 2nd in forcing turnovers (17.5% turnover rate) and 2nd in defensive field goal percentage, holding opponents to a woeful 44.4% effective shooting.  (Effective shooting counts one made shot for a made field goal and 1.5 made shots for three-pointers.)

But they’ve plunged to 28th in the NBA in team offense,  scoring only 96.5 points per 100 possessions, causing fans throughout Bucksland to wonder whether this is what we get with Jennings at the point.  There may be limits to how much the Bucks can improve from here.  Even baby steps would be welcome, given the strength of the defense.

With that in mind, most troubling is the Bucks defensive rebounding, which has fallen to 71%.  They are not protecting their defensive backboard very well at all, despite a reputation as one of the better rebounding teams in the league.

The Bucks rank 24th in controlling the defensive glass, which obviously undermines the great on-the-ball shot defense they’re playing.  This gets more and more surprising with each game it continues.

Not surprising is the jumper-chucking Bucks’ inability to the get to the line.  They’re dead last in Free-Throws-Field-Goal percentage — only 16.4% of their shots have been free throws.

Defensively, the Bucks are nearly opposite:  They don’t allow teams to shoot well but they foul a lot.  26% of Bucks opponents’ shots have been free throws.  Partial blame for this goes to Kevin Love and the T-Wolves loving referees.

Joel Przybilla – The only backup center left for the Bucks has one leg and no Drew Gooden headband

The signings this week of Kyrylo Fesenko by the Warriors and Sam Dalembert by the Rockets has scratched two more centers off the free agent list, and that can only mean one thing for the Bucks:  It’s ex-Buck Joel Przybilla or bust. 

Joel Przybilla, Charlotte Bobcats – $7.4 million – Unrestricted
Kyrylo Fesenko, Utah Jazz – $1.1 million – Unrestricted

Przybilla’s agent attended the Bucks home opener against the T-Wolves on Tuesday, and said the Bucks have “made it clear how much they want him.”

But they may have to outbid the Clippers, who don’t have a backup behind DeAndre Jordan (or power forward Blake Griffin for that matter), and the Heat who are starting another guy named Joel (Anthony) who would look good backing up a healthy Przy.

“Healthy Przy?”   That’s not really realistic.  He’s 31, had two knee surgeries and a long history of other injuries that have prevented him from playing full seasons in every year of his career but one.  Take a look at Przy’s career stats – not a pretty sight.

And, besides, acquiring Przybilla could well mean that the transformation of Drew Gooden into a bonafide, Kurt-Thomas-Omer-Asik, headband-wearing,  Bogut-resting backup center might never happen in the Bucks universe.

Strong games from a host of Bucks big forwards (Leuer and Ilyasova leading the way against Kevin Love) have created a logjam at the four, a nice problem to have but one that will only get worse when Luc Mbah a Moute’s right knee heals, or any day now.  This has forced Gooden to the backup center spot to get playing time, with second year man Larry Sanders sitting next to him on the bench also vying for minutes.

Between Gooden and Sanders, who still needs experience and playing time, they’ll have to get the job done. A broken down Przybilla just isn’t much of an improvement or anything to bank on, whether or not Bogut stays healthy.

There’s also no reason to believe that the GM who, in the summer of 2010, made Sanders a first round draft pick and signed Gooden to a $6-million-a-year contract would admit defeat with either player, which is what signing Przy would amount to.

The Gooden transformation, the Sanders development — they’re far more interesting than Przybilla’s last legs.

So is Greg Stiemsma, 4-year Badger, 2010 NBA Development League Defensive Player of the Year, now a Celtic.  Tonight in New Orleans, Stiemsma has swatted four shots in the first half and, at last check, was helping Kevin Garnett pull the Celtics back into the game against the Hornets.

More ridiculous video of Stephen Jackson

In this installment, featuring the Golden State Warriors of the short-lived Jackson-Corey Maggette era, Jackson is kicked out of a 2009 Suns game for, what else?   Being himself.

Only this time Warriors coach Don Nelson one-ups Jackson a few plays later with his own ridiculous ejection from the game.  That’s our Nellie.

Drew Gooden, apparently, really did deserve a break today.  Gooden is suspended for tonight’s T-Wolves game, punishment for thwacking Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson in the head as Henderson drove for a layup.  Read all about it.

The John Salmons watch.  I was one who thought Salmons was going to bounce back and have a solid season, reminding Bucks fans of the Fish who led us into the playoffs 2010.   Alas, somebody had to go to move the above-mentioned Maggette out of Milwaukee and Salmons (and a Kings draft pick) was the bait that got it done.

Salmons and the Tyreke Evans-led Sacramento Kings beat the Lakers last night, 100-91.  Fish had 13 and more importantly, clocked in 30 minutes guarding a relatively inefficient Kobe Bryant (14 missed shots), Metta World Peace and … Devin Ebanks.

Devin Ebanks?

Bucks giftwrap Bobcats home opener in Charlotte

After pounding the Charlotte Bobcats for one half and taking an 11 point lead at the break and going up 14, the Bucks apparently thought their season opener was in the bag.  A 30-14 pasting in the 3rd quarter reminded all (yet again) that this Bucks team simply isn’t as good as it apparently thinks it is.

They looked a lot like one of those teams that has forgotten what it’s like to win in the NBA and can’t find the “how-to” manual.

In the fateful 3rd, one long offensive rebound after another bricked out to the Cats over the inside position held by Andrew Bogut and Ersan Ilyasova, and the second and third chance points piled up against a solid Bucks D that had forced the Cats outside.

Charlotte held a 52-39 rebounding advantage and grabbed 15 offensive boards.  Remember when the Bucks hit the floor to seemingly come up with every available loose ball — those “50-50 plays” that coach Scott Skiles, Bogut and Luc Mbah a Moute used to talk about?

Last night, the Bucks didn’t get those, and nobody was talking about them.  (Mbah a Moute, it should be noted, didn’t play due to some minor tendonitis in his right knee.  Do the Bucks miss him that much?  Yeah, they probably do.)

Bobcat guards Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker had a combined 16 boards, just two less than Bogut and Ilyasova.  In 114 combined minutes, Bucks guards Brandon Jennings, Beno Udrih, guard-forward Mike Dunleavy and forward-guard Stephen Jackson had all of 8 rebounds.  That’s one rebound every 14 minutes.

Jackson was particularly awful, fouling out in just 17 minutes, getting a technical on the sixth foul and taking four ugly looking three pointers.  One banked in, unbelievably.  Is this the kind of basketball Skiles is going to allow this season?   One has to wonder.

More importantly, Bogut looked good, better than he has since he mangled his arm in 2010:  17 points, 9 rebounds, a blocked shot and two of the Bucks six steals.

Unfortunately, most of the points came early against Cats PF Boris Diaw.  Bogut had difficulty taking advantage of DeSagana Diop, the ‘Cats behemoth center, in the third quarter — and, you know our Bucks — the guards, led by Brandon Jennings, didn’t seem too interested in constructing offense where Bogut could take Diop in the open court.  More self-inflicted offensive woes from Skiles’ Bucks.

Ilyasova and Gooden couldn’t get anything going offensively (combined 2-8 shooting).  Here’s an insightful note from We’re Bucked because I’m trying really hard not to carp about Gooden:

The backup center issue is still an issue.  When Bogut left for his late third-quarter breather, the Bobcats outscored the Bucks 9-0. Not only that, but before action resumed, Charlotte added two more free throws (plus possession of the ball) on a Drew Gooden flagrant foul that led to his ejection.  So Bogut left with a six-point lead, came back to a five-point deficit, and returned early because Drew got himself tossed.

Mike Dunleavy, Jr., and Jackson shot a combined 4-16, the only makes from downtown.  That’s combined 6-24 shooting from three starters and a key rotation big man.  Ouch.

Carlos Delfino could have done that.  He was out nursing a sprained shooting wrist, apparently suffered when he gunned one too many from 3-point-land.

Home opener tonight at 7:30 PM.  Bucks will try again tonight at home in the Bradley Center against the Timberwolves and Kevin Love — a long night for the Bucks power forwards.  And BJ hasn’t been good against his old backup, Luke Ridnour, never mind Ricky Rubio.

Note to self:  This post is way too damned long.  Must … find … better … way … to write.   Running down recaps of generally forgettable basketball games will draw a fine from the editorial board.   Time to dig around in the video vault for more footage of Stephen Jackson doing things ridiculous.

First Glimpse: Bucks-Timberwolves pre-season live blog, game 1

Tip off is in about ten minutes, and still haven’t seen Stephen Jackson in uniform.  Andrew Bogut just got in the FoxNorth camera background and swished a warm-up free throw — right handed — and he’s not wearing a sleeve or a brace on the bad arm.

The pregame hype revolves around Ricky Rubio‘s debut against Brandon Jennings, and Bogut’s health. Rubio isn’t starting – Luke Ridnour does.

Interested to see who takes the Bucks first shot tonight.  If this is anything like last year, it will be Drew Gooden, starting again at power forward, shooting at will.

Not this year.  Mike Dunleavy drains the Bucks first shot, a three-pointer off a feed from Bogut in the post.  Dunleavy’s starting for Jackson.

The starting lineup:  Bogut, Gooden, Dunleavy, Delfino and Jennings.

Gooden takes an off-balance post-up fallaway, misses.  Bogut still hasn’t shot.  8-4 Bucks.  The T-Wolves aren’t getting anything in the paint.

4 minutes in:  Kevin Love beats Gooden on a drive and draws a foul.  Skiles yanks Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova makes his entrance.  13-7 Bucks.

Tobias Harris in for Delfino at the 6:30 mark.  The rookie can get to the rim.  First a layup on the break, then a foul drawn on a drive into the lane.  Two free throws.  17-10 Bucks.

Bucks need a good look and are trying to get it to Bogut in the post, can’t. 3 second call on Bogues on an Ilyasova drive.  17-15 Bucks.

Rubio and J.J. Barea into the game.  Barea somehow grabs an offensive board and Michael Beasley draws a foul on Tobias Harris.  17-16.

Bucks don’t look settled at all on offense.  Jennings, Beno Udrih, Harris, Ilyasova and now Brockman in for Bogut.  We know the Brockman-as-backup-center didn’t work last year.  Yet here we go again.

Larry Sanders anyone?

18-20 T-Wolves.  Leuer into the game for Ilyasova, who has two fouls.

Brockman-Leuer-Harris-Udrih-Shaun Livingston.  This is a D-League lineup to close the first quarter with BJ Livingston and Beno.  Udrih looks shorter in a Bucks uniform for some odd reason.  24-26 T-Wolves, end of quarter.

What have we learned so far?   Mike Dunleavy can shoot, and Delfino looks ready to have his best season as a pro.  Bogut looks comfortable and healthy but didn’t get touches.   The Gooden-Ilyasova playing time problem is still there, same as it was last season.  The bench rotations aren’t set, and one wouldn’t expect them to be at this point.

Livingston looks like Jennings’ taller, older brother.

2nd Quarter:  Luc Mbah a Moute starts the quarter, immediately grabs an offensive board and lays it in, starting the Bucks on a 12-2 run.  Leuer is scoring at will against Anthony Randolph.  Moute is all over the court, making plays.  The guy hasn’t practiced a day due to visa problems with Cameroon that finally cleared on yesterday.

Bogut’s back in at about 9:00 left.   He finally gets his first bucket after grabbing a Moute airball at the rim.

Bogut at the line, 6:28 mark.  He’s one for two, a lot of rim.

Skiles calls timeout after the T-wolves bomb away from three to close the gap, then Gooden eats the ball in the post and takes another bad fallaway.  45-40 Bucks.

Kevin Love just drained a three with Bogut in his face.  Then another one.  Skiles has realized he can’t put Gooden on him, so k-Love is Bogut’s charge.  This is clearly a job for Ilyasova or Moute.   46-50 T-Wolves.

Love hits another one from Downtown, where Bogut can’t get to him.  Bogut looks annoyed, and answers with a driving lefty hook.  Bucks go into timeout after a foul with Skiles looking confused.  48-55 T-wolves.

52-62 at half. Eight threes in the quarter by the T-Wolves.  Ilyasova looks glum, but gives Gooden a hand slap on the way to the locker room.  Bucks assistant Sidney Moncrief is clearly not happy.

This looks far too much like the beginning of last season for comfort.

Did the Bucks really just give up 62 to the T-Wolves in the half?   T-Wolves are 8-11 from 3-point-land.

SECOND HALF: Skiles starts Ilyasova on Love in the second half but Love picks up right where he left off and drains a mid-range jumper.  He’s on fire.

Now the refs are getting into it.  Ticky-tacky fouls and the T-Wolves are living at the line.

Great basketball play by Ilyasova – to Dunleavy – to Bogut for a dunk.  Best passing of the night.  61-68 T-Wolves.

Jennings hits a three from the corner.  But the Bucks are having trouble with Mike Beasley.  And Love again.  67-77.  But Dunleavy’s keeping them close. Another three. 16 for Dunleavy.

Love finally misses.  A jumper by BJ, and the Bucks are in a groove with this unit:  BJ, Delfino, Dunleavy, Ilyasova and Bogut.  It’ll be interesting to see where Skiles goes from here.   79-72 with Bogut at the line.  One of two – 79-73 and the Wolves turn it over.

Skiles has stuck with the group for most of the quarter, then subbed Livingston for Delfino, which may signal a Skiles preference in terms of who’s on his bench.  He’d normally go to Moute but Ersan has slowed down K-Love and Dunleavy’s filling it up.  Bucks had a good rhythm going until a couple of fluke bounces led to second chance hoops for the T-Wolves.

Bogut out after a ticky-tack call guarding Darko.  These refs won’t let Bogut d-up on Darko?  Really?  87-76 and it’s slipping back to the T-wolves.

92-78 at the end of 3 quarters.  The T-Wolves cooled off a bit from Downtown (2-7) but got enough garbage going to hold the Bucks off.  There’s not much to what the T-Wolves do but shoot threes and move off of point guard penetration.

Which is to say that BJ and Dunleavy haven’t been good on the perimeter D. This is where the Bucks need Moute and Livingston to help tighten it up.  (It’s not happening tonight).

4th Quarter:  The D-League unit of Udrih-Livingston-Hobson-Leuer-Brockman is getting smoked.  84-100 T-Wolves but Leuer has 14 against Derrick Williams this time in the matchup of rookies.

Hobson has some nifty moves on the perimeter, dropped a nice pass to Livingston for a dunk.  But how different from Chris Douglas-Roberts will he be?   He’s bigger but CD-R was pretty smooth on the offensive end.  I wonder how these things play out in GM John Hammond’s mind.

Bucks are shanking shots, still with the D-League group. Ooof!  Rubio to Derrick Williams for a lob dunk.  Williams beat Leuer badly on a back-cut.  86-105.

86-107.  Another dunk for Leuer.  The rookies Rubio, Williams, Leuer and Hobson are putting on a show.  Skiles isn’t entertained but, why not?  This one’s over and it’s fun watching Leuer light it up in Bucks green.

117-96 final, a poor night on the defensive perimeter, a second quarter of bad matchups that Skiles would like to have back.

LINK. Just to show that I didn’t make all this up.

None of the Above: The ultimate Milwaukee Bucks draft blog

Like many NBA bloggers, I’ve been scouring the interweb-o-sphere for any and all minutia relating to this 2011 draft class that, while it began heralded as the most underwhelming draft in years, seems to have a better grip on the attention spans of the NBA obsessed than many recent drafts.

The lack of the super-duper-talented has something to do with that; nothing is true, everything is permitted and no one is wrong.  The influx of top notch talent from outside the United States knocks a lot of mock drafts reeling (except for the mighty international site Draft Express)

In this draft, the big men from Europe are better than the guy from Morehead State who ruined your NCAA bracket and the guy from Oakland who gave your small college sneaker picks credibility on your favorite tournament blog.

In this draft, the guy who ran the table at the NCAA’s earned more suspicion than upside.

In this draft, a No. 10 pick is just as good as a No. 15, and the player who drops to No. 10 just may be the last player a team would want to draft.

In this draft, trust no GM.

That’s why today, upon a visit to the Bucks official site, I wasn’t surprised in the least bit to see three players prominently featured as possible Bucks draft picks:  Shooting guard Alec Burks, U. of Texas forward Tristan Thompson and Kansas forward Marcus Morris.

The usual suspects.  All three vaguely fit Bucks GM John Hammond‘s “best player available” rhetoric.  They’re all from the competitive Big 12, all from big, recognizable state schools, all safe, sound reasonable possibilities familiar to NCAA hoops fans.  And they all shot poorly enough in college to have “upside” as basketball players.

The chances are that the Bucks, although they interviewed all three players at last week’s draft combine, don’t want any of the above.

Because in this draft, it’s better to be sneaky than bold … or good.  Bucks GM John Hammond cannot be described to be “in bold mode” after mucking up last summer with the signings of Drew Gooden and Keyon Dooling, and trading for Corey Maggette.  This was after a season in which he drafted Brandon Jennings and made a deadline trade for John Salmons, moves that solidified the Bucks starting backcourt and earned him NBA “Executive of the Year.”

That was Hammond the good.  Sneaky?  Hammond’s pretty good at sneaky in the draft.  Last season the players the Bucks had worked out were gone by the team’s No. 37 pick in the 2nd round, so Hammond took Kentucky shooting guard Jodie Meeks, a player he knew the Philadelphia 76ers were interested in.  Mid-season, he traded Meeks to Philly for … well, for nothing basically, but that’s another blog and it’s important to remember that being sneaky is all about being sneaky, not necessarily about being effective.

So what’s to gain for the Bucks in advertising interest in three players they may not necessarily want?   To trade them or the pick, of course, which is precisely what  Hammond should do.  It’s in the Bucks best interest to swap one or both of their picks (Nos. 10 and 40), plus a roster mistake (Dooling, Gooden) for the rights to draft a bit lower in the 1st round.

Because in the 2011 NBA draft, there’s no such thing as good or bad.  And sneaky, this time, is more akin to shrewd.

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Despite a lot of negative feelings about the “no competitive matchups” format of the combine, there’s plenty of fodder flying around.

***Turkish 7-footer Enes Kanter, the projected top eight pick who hasn’t played in a year (NCAA ban prevented him from playing at Kentucky) wasn’t as impressive to some as Russian-by-way-of-USC center Nikola Vucevic, the biggest player at the combine (7-0, 260, with a 7-5 wingspan.  Kanter skipped out on scheduled interviews with the Bucks (wonder what Ilyasova might’ve told him?), Jazz and Raptors, apparently part of an effort to ensure that the Wizards draft him.  Does up-and-coming center Javale McGee, who made more defensive plays per game last season than anybody not named Dwight Howard or Andrew Bogut, know about Kanter’s plans?

***Jonas Valanciunas is still considered the best big man on the board, according to Euro-scouts.  The 6-11 Lithuanian has a 7-6 wing span and led Euroleague play in rebounds per minute.  Valanciunas ain’t cheap, though.  The team that drafts him will have to immediately buy him out of his contract with Belarus Rivas.

*** Remember Providence’s Marshon Brooks dropping 52 on Notre Dame this season and 43 on Georgetown?  He’s 6-4.5 with a 7-1 wingspan, and, unlike Alec Burks, doesn’t seem to have problems sticking a long range jumper …

Trading down and selecting Brooks or Klay Thompson or centers Vucevic or Keith Benson (Oakland) might be the Bucks best bet to improve, if they can move a Gooden and/or Dooling in the process.

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: 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.