Author Archives: J.D. Mo

About J.D. Mo

The creator of the Bob Boozer Jinx, slave to an unforgiving editorial board and the Bucks struggles to overcome one of the most naggingly persistent jinxes in all of sports.

Busy weekend for Bucks GM Jon Horst: Brandon Jennings signed, Mirza Teletovic waived . . . Mirza’s guaranteed $10.5 million and that business about a medical waiver

Brandon Jennings made his 2018 debut with the Bucks in Memphis Monday night and was so energized he hauled in 8 rebounds and nearly pulled off a triple double (he had 13 pts and 12 asts to go with the boards). It was enough to raise the question of why Jennings — whom the Bucks signed to a 10-day contract March 11 — wasn’t signed earlier, or at least on March 1 when the Bucks instead picked up T-Wolves forward Shabazz Muhammad off the waiver wire.

The Bucks have been playing without injured Bucks point guards Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova since Feb. 4 when Delly wrecked his ankle in Brooklyn, with no guarantee either player will be able to get back into game shape for the playoffs. After beating up on a string of lottery bound teams before the All-Star break, the Bucks lost 7 out of 10 games between Feb. 15 and March 9 vs. the Knicks (the last game before the roster moves over the weekend). Jennings, a veteran point guard fresh off a season in the Chinese Basketball League, with an excess reserve of energy in his tank, might’ve helped. No – there’s no doubt Jennings would have helped. Eric Bledsoe was the last point guard standing on the roster, and the Bucks tried to use two-way player Xavier Munford and even gunner Sean Kilpatrick at point.

It seems unlikely that anything Shabazz Muhammad does for the Bucks will effect the rest of their season. Zimbio photo. License: Standard non-commercial use.

By waiting until this week the Bucks not only kept losing, but had no more disposable contracts/players to clear out a roster spot for Jennings. The one they had, Sean Kilpatrick, was waived to bring in Muhammad. So they opted to cut a player whose $10.5 million contract is anything but disposable.

The victim was Mirza Teletovic, still recovering from pulmonary embolism (blood clotting) in both of his lungs, which developed after Teletovic underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Nov. 21. The Bucks reported Mirza’s condition Dec. 14, saying “updates on his condition will be provided when appropriate.”

Three months went by and no updates were forthcoming until last Saturday when Bucks requested waivers on Teletovic. “The Bucks and Mirza Teletovic, in consultation with team doctors and other physicians, have been working together since December to evaluate and manage Mirza’s situation,” said Bucks GM Jon Horst in a press release. “As a result of the overall evaluation that we’ve gone through, at this time we are both moving on.”

Apparently that’s the update. And apparently the Bucks and Mirza were not “working together” very well. Teletovic had been silent since the injury and hadn’t posted a tweet to his twitter account since September — until the afternoon of Feb. 28, when he denied statements by Racine Journal Times’ Gery Woelfel, who had said on 105.7 The Fan radio that his sources told him “Mirza Teletovic’s career is over.”

Mirza Teletovic, warming up before a game earlier this season. NBA photo. License: Standard non-commercial use.

Of course it was Woelfel, of course his source (s) weren’t named, and of course it wasn’t true. Later that afternoon, Teletovic denied it, tweeting that “it’s not over until I say it’s over recovery is going great”, punctuated by three smileys, all of them winking an eye. When asked specifically (on twitter) whether the report about his career being over was true, he said “No it is not, my friend.”

Ten days later and here we are, Teletovic waived, Muhammad signed for the rest of the season, and Jennings back to work in Milwaukee on a 10-day contract. Nobody lied, not Horst, not Woelfel, not Teletovic — it was just bullshit, to paraphrase Blues Brother Elwood J. Blues, just winking, smiley bullshit. Mirza and the Bucks were clearly not on the same page about his rehab or future plans — Mirza wants to play, wink wink; the Bucks hope he can’t play and that the NBA grants them a “Disabled Player” waiver next season. The Bucks will still have to pay Teletovic his guaranteed 2018-19 salary of $10.5 million, but with a medical waiver it won’t count as part of the Bucks “Team Salary” calculation.

Part of the medical waiver process is to waive the injured player, according to the NBA Collective Bargaining agreement (Article VII, Section 4 (h) on “Long Term Injuries”). The Bucks did that March 10. The next step is to apply for the waiver and then wait until Nov. 7, the one year anniversary of the last day Mirza played for the Bucks. The NBA process is to leave the determination to a doctor the NBA and the Players’ Union agree upon (which seems unlikely given the Bucks and Mirza’s disagreement about his ability to play) or go to a panel of three physicians, one for the player (union), one for the NBA and a 3rd doctor the other two agree upon (Article XXII, Sec. 11, CBA). The panel then decides whether Mirza’s career is over, and if the determination goes against him, he can appeal after nine months if his condition changes.

If he is cleared to play, his $10.5 million contract goes on the Team Salary ledger and the Bucks will pay luxury tax to have a roster, one way or another. The question is how much. Frank Madden, founder of Brewhoop, posted the following chart on twitter after the Bucks waived Mirza.

The $20.3 million assigned to Jabari Parker is not what he’ll be paid next season (that amount is unknown) but is the restricted free agent (RFA) cap hold Parker represents, which puts the Bucks $7.6 million under the luxury tax for 11 players (they’re required to have 14 but CBA rules encourage teams to maintain a full 15-man roster). Mirza’s $10.5 m + the low estimate for Parker puts the Bucks in the luxury tax zone, where, as a first time offender, they would pay $1 to the NBA for every $1 they’re over the luxury threshold. Without the waiver, the Bucks would pay a total of about $140 million or more for a roster that has yet to win a playoff series (barring any possible trades to improve the situation).

With the waiver, the Bucks could comfortably sign Parker, keep Tyler Zeller (not guaranteed for next season) and possibly maintain a 15-man roster around the luxury tax threshold. They’ll still pay Teletovic $10.5 — which will put their total costs for next year over $130 million, one way or another — but it wouldn’t cost them an additional $7-8 million in taxes. Mirza’s desire to play, and the real possibility that he and the Players’ Union will challenge the Bucks medical waiver request, could become a double-whammy for the Bucks.

The irony here is that Mirza was signed as a result of the Bucks projecting a player-friendly pose in their personnel decisions. Mirza’s value is in the role of stretch-4 forward capable of going on devastating 3-point hot streaks off the bench. That job was filled in Milwaukee until 2015 by veteran Ersan Ilyasova (who often started) but the Bucks also had Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker (coming back from his first knee surgery) at power forward — there wasn’t going to be much playing time in Milwaukee for Ersan, not the 27 mpg he was used to getting. So the Bucks traded Ilyasova to Detroit for basically nothing (soon-to-retire Caron Butler and forward Shawne Williams), the idea being that Ilyasova would prefer start at power forward for the Pistons, which he did.

After the Bucks floundered to a 33-win season, it was decided by coach Jason Kidd and GM John Hammond that they needed more 3-point shooting, and that while they had done the right thing finding Ersan a new home, it was time to fill the stretch-4 void the trade had created. Mirza Teletovic had played for Kidd in Brooklyn, coming off the bench to gun threes behind Paul Pierce. He had put up some good shooting numbers in Phoenix in 2016, and he was a client of Jeff Schwartz, who, as it happens, also represents Kidd on the speaking engagement circuit.

Mirza played for Jason Kidd in 2013-14, the season prior to Kidd taking the job as Bucks coach. Getty Images 2015. License: Standard non-commercial use.

Mirza signed a 3-year-$31.5 million contract, a bigger haul than the 2yrs-$16.3 million Ersan had left on his contract when the Bucks traded him, but that was water under the bridge, and well, the new TV deal was expected to create a lot of salary cap space to operate in, no reason to sweat the details. Unfortunately, when Mirza arrived, it was quickly discovered that all he could do was shoot threes, and was a liability in other facets of the game. He had, in fact, been Jon Leuer‘s backup in Phoenix after the Suns benched Markieff Morris. and then saw his playing time pick up when Leuer succumbed to nagging injuries. Kidd and Hammond had handed Jon Leuer’s backup $10.5 million a year.

Teletovic had his moments that first season with the Bucks — the Nov. 5 against the Kings in Milwaukee, where he shot 7 for 9 from three and poured in 22 points in 20 minutes in a Bucks blowout win; a game in Washington Dec. 10, where Mirza’s shooting (25 pts, 5 of 6 from three) had helped stake the Bucks to a 6-point lead in the 4th, only to see the Wizards dominate the Bucks starters in the final minutes. He scored 19 pts in 16 mins in Indiana Feb. 11 as the Bucks began to pull together after Jabari Parker was lost for the season. But those games were few and far between — after the win vs. the Pacers, Teletovic would score only 8 points over the next 8 games, going scoreless in four of those. He played just 26 mins in the 6-game playoff series against Toronto. No power forward in the NBA had played as much in the regular season and put up worse all around numbers — his 2016-17 BIER was -0.57, far below the median for NBA forwards.

The Bucks hardly noticed Teletovic’s struggles as they won 20 of their last 30, in large part because they had found another forward in the summer of 2016 — Michael Beasley, whose career had languished in Houston; and the Rockets were happy to let him go to the Bucks for the price of little-used Tyler Ennis. Beasley was instant offense off the Bucks bench last season, shooting 53% from the field and 42% from three, posting  a BIER of 7.97, 12th best among NBA small forwards.

Schwartz had taken Kidd and Hammond to the cleaners on the Teletovic deal, that much was clear, and the ramifications hit home in year 2 of his contract. The Bucks were unable to sign Beasley for this season, in part because they had $10.5 in Team Salary invested in Teletovic.  Mirza had laser surgery in the offseason to improve his eyesight and worked to come back a better player — and he actually was, making 21 of 45 threes (47%) in those first 10 games. But he is 32 years old, and it was too little, little too late to salvage his career. The hindsight realizations about what a bad deal the Teletovic contract was rose up again when his knee trouble surfaced.

Mirza’s NBA career was all but over after last season — and should have been — yet neither he or the Bucks were in a position to admit it, not with two years and $21 million in guaranteed money still left to be paid.  

Post-surgery pulmonary embolism is not uncommon, according to the Mayo Clinic, and can be life threatening if not diagnosed. Mirza’s was diagnosed. Embolism occurs when a body is immobile, seated for long hours of travel or bed-ridden after surgery, as blood clots form in the main artery running from the legs to the heart, and move to the heart/lungs.  Blood thinners and rest are the common treatment, according to the Mayo Clinic guide, and the clots usually break up and go away. Mirza says he’s coming along just fine, and hopefully he is.

None of which may have anything to do with whether or not Mirza can play next season. The Bucks released him from a job that he was only able to do every so often in Milwaukee when healthy. Now that the Bucks job is gone, is there another one out there for him in the NBA? Mirza will be 33 years old when doctors decide in November whether his injury and illness were career ending.

Probably not, but it may not matter. The Bucks will probably get their medical waiver (teams are usually granted such exceptions), and they will have dodged another Team Salary bullet. Whatever happens in November, nothing Jon Horst did last weekend is helping them tonight against the lowly Magic in Orlando.


  • Bucks news, official press releases –
  • Mayo clinic on pulmonary embolism –
  • NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) –

The Beard, the Brow, the Greek Freak, Lebron and Steph . . . NBA Basketball Impact and Efficiency Ratings (BIER) leaders at the break

Through games of Feb. 15, Giannis Antetokounmpo was the 3rd best player in the NBA behind only James Harden and Anthony Davis, according to Basketball Impact and Efficiency (BIER) positional ratings. Lebron James and Steph Curry rounded out the Top 5.

No one should be shocked and awed by these revelations, as the top spots in the BIER Rankings merely confirm what you and me and even casual NBA fans already know, while also confirming that BIER’s a reliable box score stats model that works. (For an explanation of BIER and its basics, see notes below this post, wherein the thorny question of whether or not the world really needs another advanced box score metric is also addressed).

Here’s the entire BIER Top 20 at the All-Star break (through games of Feb. 15):

The All-Star break made for a good stopping point for the compiling of things, so I found some time to crunch the 2017-18 season BIER numbers for every NBA player, then created a relative scoring system by position to rank the top 60-70 players (expressed as “median +”). For example: Giannis has a BIER rating of 15.91, which is 10.24 above the median (5.67) for all power forwards. James Harden’s rating is actually lower (due to missed shot volume and turnovers) but because the median for shooting guards this season is 3.005, he comes out on top in this “relative” ranking system at 11.52.

The non-centers in the first 16 are another affirmation that this BIER thing is no crackpot system — from Harden to Irving, the fans, players and coaches got the easy 12 All-Stars right, noting that Chris Paul didn’t make the mid-season party due to missed games (injury) earlier in the season.

Chris Paul (left) and James Harden have their sights set on the Warriors’ Western Conference title and a shot at winning it all this season in Houston. USA Today Sports photo. License: Standard non-commercial use.

James Harden will, in all likelihood, win the MVP this year and deserve it. A 14.53 BIER for a shooting guard is the territory of Michael Jordan, the only SG in history to record a career BIER greater than 14. That Harden doesn’t shoot as efficiently as Jordan hardly matters when the Beard is doing so much of everything else in the box score, and the Rockets have won 17 straight. And his 38% from three is the best he’s shot it since his 2012, his last year in OKC.

Anthony Davis edges out Antetokounmpo with better free throw shooting, offensive rebounding, blocked shots, fewer turnovers (the Brow doesn’t play point forward) and fewer fouls. Since I crunched these numbers, the Pelicans have won 7 straight and Davis has gone for 40+ points in three of the wins. Giannis and the Bucks have won 2, lost 6, and fallen to 8th in the East, though Giannis has been good enough to stay in the league’s top 5 or 6 rated players.

Lebron James, at age 33, is averaging 26 pts, 9 boards and 8 assists per game, feats that a 33-year-old Larry Bird nearly matched (24.3 pts – 9.5 rebs – 7.5 assists) — but Lebron is showing no signs of slowing down. The Oscar Robertson for modern times, however, turns it over a lot (4.3 per 36 – BIER is a per minute, pace adjusted model) and doesn’t rebound like the Brow or the Greek Freak — and those factors tend to offset his greater assist rate in the BIER rating. All three forwards were shooting 54% from the field at the break. 

Steph Curry laid a little low last season as he worked to integrate Kevin Durant into the Warriors offense, but Steph’s back to MVP form this season, shooting just one FG% point shy of the 50-40-90 Club — and how does he manage nearly 6 boards a game? In Houston, Chris Paul has quietly gone about his business (except for that craziness with the Clippers), and the business of Chris Paul  is to file top 5 All-Time BIER point guard numbers. CP3 is right there with John Stockton at No. 2 behind Magic Johnson, which means that Curry isn’t far behind on the All-Time list.

“Seventh? That can’t be right.” Jimmy Butler‘s having another great season, reunited with coach Thibs. T-wolves photo. License: Standard non-commercial use.

Jimmy Butler‘s career NBA offensive rating is 10th All-Time, believe it or not, and 3rd among active players (behind Paul and DeAndre Jordan). Kevin Durant is shooting 43% from three, but he’s a bit off this season — his true shooting percentage is down .04 points, from 65.1% to 64.7%. The numbers being filed by these top 9 players are unreal. (Russell Westbrook will get a full discussion below in the notes).

Rockets center Clint Capela represents part of the Frankenstein model for centers in the new NBA — “Frankenstein” because no player possesses all the many attributes found in the crop of young centers. Capela is quick, athletic, mobile enough to guard the 3-point line, a shot-blocker, rebounder and dunker of many lob passes — which means he doesn’t miss many shots and BIER loves that. Basketball-reference had a stat the other day about how Capela this season will become the youngest player in NBA history (age 23) to record a double-double season while shooting 65% or better. He also blocks 2.4 shots/36, 3rd among qualifying centers. (Capela also represents the part of the new NBA center model where the center doesn’t play full-time minutes, though he does qualify to be ranked here. The minimum qualification for BIER ranking is playing time of 25 mins per game, with a case-by-case minimum on number of games due to the crazy number of star players getting hurt this season).

Thought the Knicks most impactful player was Kristaps Porzingis? Nope, that guy is Enes Kanter, who’s been a high-efficiency brawler in the offensive paint in New York (his 5 OREBs per 36 is 3rd among NBA centers). Porzingis, despite the NY media glow and All-Star politics, won’t make the lists here, which should tell you there was a reason the Knicks weren’t winning before “the Unicorn” had season-ending knee surgery.

2017-18 has been Damien Lillard’s finest season, according to BIER. photo. License: Standard non-commercial use.

But let’s talk about the players who are on the list, like Damian Lillard, on fire of late and having his best season as a pro in Portland, according to BIER; and Victor Oladipo, having a breakout year leading the Pacers into the hunt for top-4 playoff seeding in the East.

Pistons center Andre Drummond edges out Hassan Whiteside of the Heat to rank 14th, and it’s not all about offensive rebounding, though Drummond leads the league on the O-glass; it’s also about Drummond’s better passing and his theft rate. Drummond leads all qualifying centers in steals per 36 mins (1.7) and his assist rate is double the median for centers. So despite not having quickness, mobility or shot-blocking ability (like Capela) Drummond’s got an all-around floor game that any box score-based advanced stat model would love. Whiteside is all of the above as an imposing defender and rebounder but doesn’t have all-around offensive skills like some “new centers”. Based on Miami’s winning ways in January, Whiteside probably would have been an All-Star had he not missed 18  games earlier this season, though who knows — the East coaches might’ve snubbed Whiteside too, as they did with Drummond in the first-seven reserves voting. Heat point guard Goran Dragic was selected.

Surprised that Kyrie Irving — who’s flirting with 50-40-90 Club shooting season and would be the 8th player in history to join that club — isn’t ranked higher? Irving has thrived in Boston, but it’s not as though he’s transformed into a wholly different player. Other point guards, even Lillard, pass the ball more, as Irving’s assist rate is about the league median for PGs (5.5 per 36). But Irving this season is well ahead (at 10.17) of his career BIER rate (8.49).

DeAndre Jordan, in his 10th season Clippers, may not have the quickness to defend the perimeter (like Capela) but he can dunk a lob pass like nobody’s business. 10 years in Lob City have put Jordan on the Top 20 All-TIme BIER center lists, and he’s quietly had another great year as L.A. battles down the stretch for a playoff spot. The rebounding numbers for Jordan, Drummond and Whiteside are off the charts – all three centers board at nearly 17 rebs per 36. Ridiculous, but also a reflection of the all-time low offensive rebounding rates in the NBA this season. Crashing the offensive glass is a feature of bygone days in the NBA.

Is it the player or the system? Whichever it is, Kyle Anderson of the Spurs made the BIER Top 20 at the All-Star break. Photo by Ronald Martinez, Getty Images. License: Standard non-commercial use.

Who is Kyle Anderson? He’s the 24-year-old forward for the Spurs who’s been starting in place of injured Kawhi Leonard (shoulder). Anderson doesn’t shoot a lot (8 times per 36 mins) but hits a high percentage (51%), and rebounds the small forward position like it was the 1980s (7.5 per 36), while dishing out  3.6 assists and coming up with 1.8 steals/36 (2nd among SFs). He’s filling up the box score without turning it over or fouling a lot — all of which has him in the Top 20, sneaking in just above the 25 minutes per game requirement. But there’s always the nagging question for the Spurs’ small forward — is it the player or the Popovich system?

Otto Porter is a super-efficient shooter at forward (49-40-84%) and one of the reasons the Wizards kept winning when John Wall went down with a knee injury at the end of January. In his 5th season, Porter’s a strong wing defender who rebounds his position (7.3 per 36) and has the 3rd-best SF steal rate (1.8/36). In the Wizards recent win in Milwaukee, Porter stole the ball three times while turning it over 0 times. The 0 turnovers were no happy accident — he rarely turns it over, just once per 36 mins while playing catch-and-shoot with the Wizards All-Star guards. Porter is averaging a career best 15.1 pts per game this season.

Karl Anthony Towns is one of the few centers in the league actually making a high enough % of his 3-point attempts to be out there shooting them. Towns was shooting 55-42-86% on FGs-3pt-FTs at the All-Star break and his numbers have actually improved slightly since then. No center in the history of the NBA has shot the ball from the outside as well as Towns, who is only going to get better.

That’s the Top 20, and here’s the next 20, where the BIER calculation didn’t fail to produce some surprises.

Orlando traded Elfrid Payton to Phoenix for a 2nd round pick, even though he’d found ways to minimize his poor outside shooting while maximizing the rest of his game. Photo by Zimbio. License: Standard non-commercial use.

Elfrid Payton and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson ahead of All-Stars like Paul George, Bradley Beal and Kemba Walker? They play NBA games in Orlando and Brooklyn, and there are some young players on those teams filling up box scores and finding their games in the league. The BIER formula does what it does.

Payton was easily the biggest surprise for me — and the Magic traded him to the Suns last month for a 2nd round pick, so I wasn’t expecting him to show up here. The problem with Payton (the marvel of his hairdo notwithstanding) is that he can’t shoot; but unlike a lot of guys who can’t shoot in the NBA, Payton has figured out how avoid throwing up bad shots. He shoots 50%, has made 35% of his threes this season, and as a taller point guard has high rebound and assist rates. Orlando just didn’t want to pay him this summer after his 4-year rookie contract expired, but Phoenix might be a good fit given the young guns on the Suns.

Steven Adams — the unsung hero on the Thunder — leads off “the next 20” rankings  and is having a monster season for OKC. Adams’ OREB rate is 2nd only to Drummond among centers, and OKC leads the NBA in offensive rebounding (28.3% rate). Somebody’s gotta save all those possessions Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo toss at the rim, and there are a lot of those — but it all evens out in the rebounding and 2nd chance points, where Adams is 3rd in the NBA at 4.6 per game. Adams gets 14 pts and 9 rebs a game in a full time (32 mpg) role. (He also joins Antetokounmpo, Porter, Rudy Gobert and Oladipo as players from the much-maligned 2013 draft who have steadily improved to the point where, now in their 5th seasons, they’re bonafide players to be reckoned with in the league.)

BIER says Ben Simmons of the 76ers should win Rookie of the Year (and he probably will), averaging an all-around 16.9 pts – 8 rebs – 7.6 assists/36. BIER likes even better the break-out shooting season Darren Collison is having for the Pacers, and Collison is the 3rd point guard in rankings flirting with a “50-40-90 Club” season. With Oladipo at No. 13 and Collison at No. 24, suddenly the Pacers have one of the most efficient and impactful backcourts in the league, so far rating better than Derozan-Lowry, Wall (injured)-Beal and Lillard-McCollum.

From there we see a string of All-Stars led by Demar Derozan, having another great season in Toronto, his running mate Kyle Lowry, and Kevin Love — eight All-Stars in all ranked 25th-39th. I didn’t have the heart to classify Kevin Love as a center, so I split the difference making him a half-center, half-power forward. Basketball-reference has Love playing center 98% of the time this season, but Love’s a center in name only — 40% of his shots were threes (before another injury sidelined him). I also split the difference with Draymond Green, who alternates between power forward and small forward with Kevin Durant (also spit). Few — if any — teams play “positionless basketball” but the Warriors are one that does with their forwards. And the Cavs? Let’s just say that deciding to play without a center doesn’t make Keven Love a center. He’s been a stretch 4 power forward his entire career.

At No. 29 Tyreke Evans in Memphis got back to the 20-5-5 numbers he put up when he beat out Steph Curry and Brandon Jennings for the 2010 Rookie of the Year award. Good numbers, though I can’t help but wonder if Evans will ever be able to put up those numbers for a team that wins games. In Brooklyn, BIER finds a player in the rough in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a steadily improving 3rd year forward who, if he ever learns to shoot the three (he’s hitting just 26% this season), could develop into a star given the strength of the rest of his game.

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic is No. 30 in the BIER rankings and joins the Clipper’s Lou Williams as the top Western Conference players snubbed in the 2018 All-Star selection. USA Today photo. License: Standard non-commercial use.

Nikola Jokic is another center to be reckoned within the new model for center play, representing the 7-footers with mad guard skills. Jokic posted the fastest triple double in NBA history in Milwaukee just before the All-Star break and has all-around numbers at 16.9 ppg, 10.6 rebs and 5.9 assists per game. He’s also one of only a handful of qualifying centers shooting in the neighborhood of the NBA avg. of 36.1% behind the arc. The Joker was shooting 36.3% at the break. Al Horford, Towns, Love and Pau Gasol are the others, a list of 5 that looks a bit too forward-ish to really reflect a “centers shooting threes” trend, if making the 3-pointers has anything to do with it. (This is a topic begging for a separate blog).

Paul George shows up here at No. 35, and relative to other small forwards he’s Top 4 — and shooting 43% from three this season in addition to being one of the best defenders in the league. He was the 8th reserve All-Star selected by the West coaches, and BIER confirms this a fair choice. Never has a borderline All-Star received as much media attention as George does, however, and I think nearly every NBA broadcaster who’s seen Lou Williams play lately has said that “Lou Williams should have been an All-Star”. BIER also confirms this, and Lou’s ahead of George at No. 26 in the BIER ranking.

Is Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas really shooting 44.6% from three and why is he on this list? Well, he’s not on the list really, and he’s taking fewer than one 3-pointer a game, so he’s not really on that list either, nor his he playing the minimum of 25 mins per game. I included both Valanciunas and Boston’s Greg Monroe (who also hasn’t qualified) because they have so much in common as so-called “dinosaur” centers and their BIER numbers are so nearly identical that it’s just interesting to look at. At the end of the day, Valanciunas and Monroe are more efficient scorers and better rebounders than the vast majority of the centers in the league; and when they’re in the game, they contribute big impact numbers despite neither Boston or Toronto prefers to play inside-out.

Jrue Holiday closes out the Top 40, which makes a lot of sense in light of Holiday finding a next level to his game in New Orleans playing with Rajon Rondo and Anthony Davis in the absence of injured DeMarcus Cousins. Holiday’s averaged 21.7 pts and 7.6 assists since Cousins season ended Jan. 26, and he’s raised his 3-point shooting to 35% on the season.

Where oh where, Boozy Bango the Bucks fan wants to know, are Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton? They appear in the next 20, with Bledsoe ranked No. 49 and Middleton at No. 58, which seems to point to where the Bucks are at — struggling to beat other playoff teams, falling to 8th in East, losing three out of 4 to the Pacers and all three of their scheduled games to the Heat. Not that Top 50 for Bledsoe isn’t good, or that No. 58 is a dishonor for Middleton — All-Stars Al Horford (53), John Wall (55) and Klay Thompson (56) populate the 41-60 rankings. It’s just that Horford, Wall and Thompson probably shouldn’t have been named All-Stars this season, according to BIER — and the Bucks have not been quite good enough. Here’s the the next 22:

Wait, what is this BIER thing?

And do we really need another advanced box score metric? Of course we don’t need it, not really, and it can be a real headache if you want to get down to the nitty-gritty of assist rates and other adjustments, like the horrific free throw shooting of so many centers. But you don’t have to worry about the headaches because the editorial board chains J.D. Mo to his laptop a few times a month and has him sort it all out until he’s got a headache. (Unfortunately, the board can’t always get him to write anything, or a blog like this one would have appeared last year at the All-Star break, the first time he ran the whole league through the BIER model).

All hubris noted, the justification for BIER can be found in the flaws of other models such as John Hollinger’s infamous PER (the one ESPN bought), NBA 2K, and a lot of the fantasy scoring systems, where volume scoring is valued over efficient scoring. PER commits a major statistical no-no in that it bases missed shot value on offensive rating (points per possession) instead of on basketball’s basic 2-point scoring system. The main factor defining the offensive rating is whether or not shots go in the bucket, so there’s a causal relationship there. If most of the league shoots poorly, which happened in the dead ball era, it follows that possession value drops (which it did, all the way down to 1.04 pts per possession) and a little less is deducted with each miss. Bad shooting is rewarded. Conversely, good shooting is punished in PER because good shooting leads to a higher offensive rating which results in a higher missed shot value.

Oh, the adjustments made to correct for this problem! But once those are done, PER remains relevant only within each season. When you hear NBA analysts criticizing advanced metrics for “tailoring” to the changing game, PER is what they’re talking about, to say nothing of the arbitrary downgrading of all things rebounding that occurs within the PER formula. It’s as though Hollinger chose Kobe’s side in the Kobe-Shaq conflict of the early 2000s and form-fit his formula to justify it, at a time when Shaq was so dominant it was almost boring. One hears less talk of PER now as advanced stats geeks and saber-metrics pros have moved on to better measures, and the search for the Holy Grail model of Basketball analytics goes ever onward.

Why not simply keep shooting independent of the offensive rating and create a scoring system that conforms to basketball’s 2-point basic scoring system? BIER does this by letting the rebounding rate decide what to deduct for a missed shot and multiplying by two to create 2-point values out of the percentages, similar to the Win Score/Game Score model used at — but also uses some of the genius parts parts PER (specifically the assist adjustment for made shots). BIER is Frankenstein, constructed off of the best parts of PER and the more sensible WS game score formulae.

For example: The current leaguewide rate for the defense rebounding missed shots is 77.6%, the all-time high in the NBA. Because percentages are on a whole-of-one value, multiply .776 x 2 to conform to basketball’s 2-point scoring base and get 1.552 — this is the hit a shooter takes when he (or she) misses a shot in the 2017-18 season. The defensive rebounder is awarded (2 – 1.552 = 0.448), and the possession ends. Conversely, if the offense grabs the miss, the rebounder who saved the possession is effectively canceling out the missed shot, so that’s + 1.552 for the rebounding player but the -1.55 stays with the shooter as the possession continues. A -1.55 seems like a big deduction for a missed shot, but with offensive rebounding at an all-time low, the numbers are only a reflection of the changing game. A shooter who misses 2/3 three-pointers will end up in the negative, but that’s OK. 33% 3-point shooting does not usually win games given the league average at 36.1%. The game itself says the 33% shooter is digging his (or her) team a hole.

In practice (using current league-wide numbers), if a shooter goes 3 out of 10 from 3-point-land, the shooter scores +7.782 in both PER and BIER (after a basic assist adjust), but PER deducts only 5.9 for the misses to keep our volume shooter ahead + 1.88 even though the shooter is (probably) losing the game for his team. BIER deducts 7 x 1.55 for the misses, or 10.85, leaving our volume shooter minus – 3.07. By then, the shooter is probably on the bench or, if still in the game, being frozen out by his point guard, who’s looking for more efficient scoring. Kobe Bryant shot like this often, but Kobe got to the line 8-10 times a game in his prime and did a lot of other things on the court to help his Lakers win. Still, PER helped the volume shooters of the deadball era (Kobe, Tracy McGrady, Paul Pierce, Michael Redd et. al) look a lot better than they were.

The rates are adjustable within BIER, of course, and Russell Westbrook and the OKC Thunder are a great example of this — the Thunder lead the league in offensive rebounding at 28.1%, so when Westbrook misses, J.D. Mo uses the OKC rebounding number (minus-1.44) instead of the leaguewide number. About 64% of Westbrook’s shots are unassisted, so when the assist adjustment in BIER is applied to Westbrook (as part of the 2-point system), the assist rate of (1 – .6325 = 0.3675) is used, the lowest assisted basket rate I’ve seen this season.

But let’s not get ahead of things. At this point it should be noted that BIER in-season numbers are adjusted for both the pace and the assist rates of each team, and are expressed per 36 mins. It’s not a good idea to adjust for rebounding rates except in rare circumstances such as OKC, where the rebounding is part of their offensive strategy. Most teams don’t do this, and it would be another statistical no-no to reward good offensive rebounders with a lower OREB value, so the leaguewide rates for rebounds are always used and missed shot value adjusted only in rare cases (again, missed shot value = DREB rate x 2, and missed shot value = OREB value). Let’s introduce some terms and the first part of the formula.

  • Made shot value = 2 or (3 for 3-point shots), one for free throws
  • Point value (or scoring) is expressed at the beginning of the equation as ptsper36
  • Missed shot value is 1.55
  • First part of the equation is: ptsper36 – [(field goal attempts – field goals made) x 1.55]

Why points per 36? The purpose of BIER is to compare players within a season, and also to compare players’ career numbers. Who’s better, Lebron or Bird? Who’s having the better season, Lebron or Giannis? Is Anthony Davis putting up better all around numbers than James Harden? And so on. The super-duper stars play about 36 mins per game, so using per36 stats just makes sense. Also, by equalizing every player to 36, BIER shows which part-time players are having the highest impact, and impact is an important part of BIER. There is an additional calculation J.D. Mo has been making lately to undo the per36 numbers and get a real-BIER based on how many minutes players are actually on the court, but typically when BIER is used in the blog (as in the rankings above) it is expressed as the per36 BIER number. Yes, everything is adjusted for pace, equalized at 100 possessions per game.

The assist adjustment is Hollinger’s PER adjustment, which enables any stat geek to run the numbers using the box score stats, avoiding the problem of needing to know which made shots were assisted and which were unassisted. An assist has a value of 0.7 in BIER (and PER), with the idea that the assist value is taken away from the scorer and given to the passer within the 2-point model. Many assists aren’t worth 0.7 points, being the result of the ball moving around the perimeter to the open shooter or simply an exercise of typical team offense, but some assists (like lob passes to dunking 7-footers or behind-the-back passes on the break) are worth the price of admission, so the hope is that it balances out. The 0.7 value seems sensible and fair, and it’s the standard value used in other systems, so I adopted for BIER.

Not knowing which baskets in a box score are assisted or unassisted means the formula has to assign an assist rate to calculate an average assist adjustment for every made shot. This can be the leaguewide 2017-18 assist rate of 0.58, a basic 0.6 or a more detailed rate depending on how much work one feels like doing. This is why the editorial board chains J.D. Mo to his laptop and has him calculate the assist rates for each team as well a special assist rate for point guards. Each point guard or high assist player (like point forwards Lebron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Draymond Green) in the charts above has a separately calculated assist rate, which is how Westbrook’s 0.3675 assist rate was arrived at.

The calculation of the assist adjust = made shots x 0.7 x assist rate. Westbrook makes 9.5 shots per 36, so multiply 9.5 x 0.7 x 03675 = 2.444. This is subtracted from Westbrook’s points per 36 at the start of the equation:

25.3 – (assist adjust of 2.444) – [(FGA 21.4 – Made FGs 9.5) x 1.44] = 5.724

Because Westbrook misses a lot of shots (11.9 per 36) and shoots just 44.4%, he’s doing a lot of work to end up +5.724, while a 55% shooter like Lebron James, Anthony Davis or Giannis Antetokounmpo will generate a higher + value given fewer shot attempts. This is the efficiency side of BIER. All three forwards ranked higher than Westbrook on the above BIER Top 20.

How are three point shots calculated in BIER? Missed or made threes are not part of the formula because they are accounted for in the per36 points scored at the beginning of the formula. In the BIER spreadsheets, columns for 3-pointers made, attempted and the % are included because it’s instructive to see what a player’s shooting from downtown, but there’s no need to treat missed 3-pointers any differently than a missed layup. Both the points and the made FGs are already accounted for in the formula, and missed threes are calculated along with the 2-point misses in FGA-FGs.

Free throws attempted and made are divided by two, right? Yep, and the next step after figuring out the assist adjust and the missed shot deduction is to calculate the missed free throws deduction. A first missed FT, however, is always rebounded by the team offense and a 2nd (or 3rd) missed FT is almost always rebounded by the defense — so how do we account for this in the rebound rate/missed shot value? The only available source out there seems to be a study by that said 86.1% of missed free throws are rebounded by the defense. That’s a rate for a contested missed free throw rebound, obviously, and it’s an older study from the early 2000s — but it’s the only research I’ve found. I also couldn’t think of any justification for reducing the deduction of a missed free throw by taking into account the unknown % of missed first FTs, so the 86.1% rebound rate is applied in BIER for all missed free throws.

Here’s what the free throw calculation looks like:

(Free throws attempted – Free throws made)/2 x (2 x 0.861) or (FTA – FTM)/2 x 1.722

Westbrook attempted 6.9 FTs per 36 and made 5 through games of Feb. 15, so we calculate his misses, divide by two to convert one point FTs to the basic 2-point framework of the game, then multiply the misses by the 2-point scale defensive rebounding rate (FTA 6.9 – FTM 5) = 1.9 / 2 to get 0.95 x 1.722 = 1.636

The missed FT value is also subtracted from the points per 36 at the beginning of the formula. Westbrook’s scoring per36 gets cut down to a + 4.088. Put it all together and the scoring efficiency part of the formula looks like this (using leaguewide rebounding rates):

PTSper36 – (FGM x 0.7 x team AssistRate) – [(FGA – FGM) x 1.55] – [(FTA-FTM)/2 x 1.722]

The rest of the formula is fairly straightforward. Values of offensive and defensive rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots are added — turnovers and fouls are subtracted.

  • Offensive rebounds (OREBs): 1.55
  • Defensive rebounds (DREBs): 0.45
  • Assists: 0.7
  • Steals: leaguewide points per possession (1.086)
  • Blocked shots: 0.57 x leaguewide pts per possession = 0.61 or just 0.6
  • Turnovers: – leaguewide pts per possession -(1.086)
  • Fouls: For ever foul committed, the opponent ends up shooting 0.852 free throws. Remarkably, this rate has changed only by one-thousandths over the last 40 NBA seasons.

Here’s the entire formula:

PTSper36 – (FGM x 0.7 x team AssistRate) – [(FGA – FGM) x 1.55] – [(FTA-FTM)/2 x 1.722] + OREBs x 1.55 + DREBs x 0.45 + Assists x 0.7 + STLS x 1.086 + Blocks x 0.6 – TOVs x 1.086 – PFs x 0.852 = BIER unadjusted for pace.

All BIER ratings are pace-adjusted to 100 possessions per game, so a player who plays at a pace of 95 will adjust up 100/95 — the pace played is the denominator. This number (1.05 in this example) is multiplied by “unadjusted BIER” arrived at above. Westbrook’s unadjusted BIER through Feb. 15 was 11.38. The Thunder play at a 96.1 possessions per game rate, so to get to BIER100 multiply 11.38 x 100/96.1 = 11.84, the number in the Top 20 chart above.

The highest career BIER player rating in NBA history is an estimated 18.98 recorded by Wilt Chamberlain (1960-1973), estimated because box score stats were not complete until 1977 when turnovers were added. Offensive/Defensive rebounds, blocked shots and steals were added to box scores in 1974. The highest career BIER since 1977 belongs to Magic Johnson at 17.49 and then Charles Barkley with a 17.18, the best career rating for a forward in NBA history. Sir Charles was a highly efficient scorer who passed the ball more than most remember and really was the Round Mound of Rebound (his 3.9 OREBS per 36 were absurdly great).

Michael Jordan finished his career at 14.58. No other shooting guard comes close. Larry Bird (14.51) and Lebron James (13.95 at the start of this season), the never-ending comparison, lead the small forwards of NBA history (though both did/have done time at power forward) with Lebron due to close the gap with a 15+ BIER this season. Kevin Durant (12.68 entering 2017-18) is so far a Top 5 BIER small forward in NBA history, just ahead of great mid-range shooter Adrian Dantley but still a full point behind Julius “Dr. J” Erving (13.59).

Chris Paul (13.8 – 2nd pg behind Magic), James Harden (11.16 – 5th, sg) and Anthony Davis (14.65 – 2nd pf behind Barkley) are the other current players who began the season in the Top 5 All-Time career BIER at their respective positions, though Davis in just his 5th year hasn’t played long enough to be ranked All-Time. Steph Curry (career 11. 49) in his 9th year has the tenure, and could possibly move ahead of Oscar “the Big O” Robinson in 5th on the All-Time point guards list, for the time being anyway.

BIER may be tough on players who don’t make shots or do much other than shoot, due to the current high 1.55 deduction for missed shots, but isn’t that what an advanced box score rating system should be? The NBA’s very best players are having no trouble posting historic numbers in BIER — or any other metric — and if the average and below average players score low, then the system is doing its job.

— J.D. Mo

Young Buck returns to Wisconsin older, wiser, healthier . . . “a world hooper”

Jennings was often a human highlight film off the bench in NY last season, and led the Knicks in assists per game, dishing out 4.9 per game in 24.6 minutes. Jennings played 58 games with NY and 36 for the Washington Wizards, including 13 playoff games. NY Times photo found at Baller brand website. License: Standard noncommercial use.

GM Jon Horst had been tracking the global basketball economy for weeks, and was ready to make his move when China’s CBA wrapped its season up on Monday. It’s just that nobody expected the Bucks Chinese import to be Brandon Jennings, the young Buck of the 2010 “Fear the Deer” season.

Mass confusion erupted Tuesday at General Mitchell Airport as Brandon Jennings strolled through the Far East gate, looking nothing at all like a 7-foot behemoth to fill the Bucks biggest need for the stretch run and playoffs. The ensuing near riot was a happy event, according to baggage handlers who witnessed it, as nine out of 10 Bucks fans agreed that having Jennings back in Wisconsin was a good thing, a very good thing indeed. He’s not a Buck yet, having signed with the Wisconsin Herd, the Bucks G-League affiliate in Oshkosh, but there’s at least some expectation he may soon be if all goes well in Oshkosh.

Jennings, went to China this season to clear his head, to hit the reset button at age 28 after bouncing around from Orlando to New York and Washington while trying to fully recover from a gruesome torn Achilles injury that derailed him in Detroit three years ago. It was a decision made quickly last summer after a disappointing playoffs with the Wizards, where his playing time dwindled and he averaged but 1 point and 1 assist per game in the 7-game series against Boston.

“I just packed my bags and I was gone,” he told USA Today upon returning to the U.S. earlier this month.  Jennings’ Shanxi Brave Dragons didn’t make the Chinese Basketball Association playoffs, despite his 27.9 pts and 6.8 assists per game, but the experience helped him “grow up and mature and realize what was important in life,” he said. The interviewer didn’t ask what, specifically, was important because a discussion about the wonders of Chinese cuisine (Jennings’ favorite) ensued. Jennings said he was fully recovered from the injury and “back to the person that I was before I got hurt, the person that I was in Detroit.”

That person in Detroit was a very good NBA point guard, on the edge of being an All-star. The Pistons got off to a miserable 5-and-23 start to the 2014-15 season, losing 13 in a row at one point, until they waived madly individualistic power forward, Josh Smith. They gelled almost immediately after Smith exited, winning 12 out of the next 15 games. Jennings was brilliant during the Detroit winning streak, scoring 20 pts per game, dishing out 7.2 assists and shooting 40% from three. But Detroit’s winning ways and Jennings’ 2015 season ended abruptly in Milwaukee Jan. 24, when his Achilles tendon snapped as he tried to recover a steal by Brandon Knight under the Detroit basket.

Brandon Jennings, 15 games 12/26/14 to 01/21/15

He made it back in 2016, but his starting point guard job had been handed over to Reggie Jackson, who had enjoyed a good run in Jennings’ absence. The Pistons traded him in February of 2016 to Orlando in a swap of ex-Bucks — Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova for Tobias Harris. The move reunited Jennings and Ilyasova with Magic coach Scott Skiles, their coach for 3-and-a-half years in Milwaukee.

The reunion with Skiles was short-lived, however, thanks to the ill-fated player personnel schemes of Orlando GM Rob Hennigan, who had no plans to resign Jennings or exercise the team option on Ilyasova’s 2016-17 guarantee. A few weeks after the 2016 ended, Skiles abruptly quit the coaching job. A month later, Hennigan traded Ilyasova, Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to the OKC Thunder for Serge Ibaka, a dumbfounding move that left little doubt about why Skiles decided to walk. Ilyasova was left in contract limbo and, while sorting it out, missed the Turkish national team’s Olympic qualifying tournament.  Jennings, meanwhile, signed a one-year, $4.83 million deal with the Knicks. The Magic, after a 29-win season in 2017, sacked Hennigan in April (and, weirdly enough, replaced him with John Hammond and Jeff Weltman, the guys who drafted Jennings for the Bucks in 2009).

Had Hennigan been competent and the Magic better employers, Jennings and Skiles would likely be in Orlando still, building on what they had begun in Milwaukee. Ilyasova, Oladipo and Sabonis? Who knows — but the success Oladipo and Sabonis are having this season with the Pacers suggests that Skiles would likely have made things work in Orlando.

Jennings went on to New York, where he played back-up to Derrick Rose at point, bringing speed and highlight film passing off the bench, even if his shot hadn’t quite returned to pre-injury form. Jennings easily led the team with 7.2 assists per 36, but the Knicks dropped out of the playoff hunt and bought Jennings’ contract out in late February, just in time for him to join the Wizards and back Wall up in the playoffs. His playing time steadily declined as the playoffs wore on. When the Wizards lost game 7 in Boston, they did so largely without Jennings, who played all of 5:40 in the game and didn’t attempt a shot.

Bucks social media photo and artwork,

“I went to China for myself – it was a personal decision,” Jenning explained to Jim Paschke, television voice of the Bucks, in an interview this week. (Watch full interview HERE.) “I just wanted to get away for a minute to focus and get my rhythm back to playing basketball.”

Just as his decision to sign with Shanxi was made quickly, all it took was a phone call from Wisconsin Herd GM Dave Dean to bring him back to Wisconsin. Dean asked if he wanted to come play, Jennings said “of course” and packed his bags again and flew to Milwaukee. His return may not even be part of any plan by the Bucks, and more the natural course of Brandon Jennings being Brandon Jennings, “world hooper”

Jennings can help the Bucks

Ever since Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas destroyed the Bucks in Milwaukee Jan. 5,  scoring 20 points in one quarter against helpless Bucks centers John Henson and Thon Maker, the Bucks have been on the lookout for a defensive minded big man. They picked up Tyler Zeller from Brooklyn during Trade Deadline week, but Zeller’s more power forward than intimidating force in the paint. He wasn’t the solution to the big man problem, not with the likes of Andrew Bogut and Miroslav Raduljica and other free agent bigs out there.

But then the Bucks point guards broke. Malcolm Brogdon‘s left quad tendon tore apart (partially) in Minneapolis, sidelining him for 6 to 8 weeks. And a couple of days later, his backup, Matthew Dellavedova, sprained an ankle against the Nets in Brooklyn and won’t be back until after the All-Star break. The Bucks at point are down to Eric Bledsoe, whose chaotic dynamism is more suited to freelancing on the break or from the wings than running a half-court offense. There’s no guarantee Brogdon will make it back to playoff shape this season, no guarantee Dellavedova will step up, and suddenly the Bucks are very thin at point, a precarious position to be in this late in the season.

Jennings can help. He’s quicker than Brogdon or Delly and has a higher career assist rate — in his brief time with the Wizards, his regular season assist rate was a career high 10.4 per 36 minutes. His steals rate is also the highest of the Wizards three point guards, and he tends to get to the line more. Plus he has 50% more NBA experience than Delly or Brogdon combined.

What he is not is a reliable shooter, but then neither is Delly. Jennings’ three-point shooting tends to come and go in streaks, where he’s either putting on a show or getting frustrated by the misses. In Detroit, he shot progressively less and passed more as the team chemistry came together. The season of his injury, 2014-15, he was down to 13.2 shots per game, while scoring at the same 15 ppg rate. He averaged 15 pts and 7 assists per game through 121 games with the Pistons — before the Achilles injury. If he truly is back to the player he was then, he could help a number of teams. At age 28, he’s still in his basketball prime.

And who can forget the 55-point game in Jennings’ “Fear the Deer” rookie season?

Welcome back to Wisconsin, Brandon Jennings.

Bucks Weekend: Khris Middleton led the Bucks on the boards in Orlando, and it almost made up for Miami

Middleton rebounds against the Hornets last season. AP photo. License: Standard non-commercial use.

It doesn’t happen very often, and when it does it’s worthy of note. Khris Middleton led the Bucks in rebounding in their 111-104 win over Orlando Saturday, their sixth straight win on the second night of back-to-back games (they lost 91-85 in D-Wade’s “return to Miami” game on Friday.)*¹

Middleton had 9 boards in Orlando, all of them on the defensive end, a couple of them big in the 4th quarter. He also made a lot of other plays, like the beautiful half-fast break he ran to set up Jason Terry for a three as the Bucks edged ahead in the 3rd quarter. Khris had 7 assists on the night to go with the 9 rebounds and 21 points. It was only the 8th time in 325 games as a Buck that Middleton alone has led the team in rebounding.

And it was quite a difference from the night before in Miami, when nobody on the Bucks side had a good game, including coach Joe Prunty, whose rotations had Giannis Antetokounmpo on the bench for 4 minutes when Heat center Hassan Whiteside picked up his 4th foul in the 3rd Quarter.*² You can get away with mismanaging your star player’s minutes against Brooklyn, but Miami took advantage. Jabari Parker played tentatively and appeared to bothered by the aggressive energy of the game. Giannis thrives under those conditions, as does Eric Bledsoe, and they led the Bucks back in the 4th but ran out of game clock. They had finally become ticked off enough about what was going on to take over.

Middleton shot 5 for 14 and had one lonely rebound as the Bucks got worked by the Heat on the glass, 51-37, a glaring example of when rebounding beats better shooting. The Bucks checked the Heat to 42% EFG%.

The concern of many who follow the Bucks is that, right now, they look like one of those mediocre 46- or 47-win teams, great at padding their stats when beating up on the bad teams, but continually falling short against the good teams. Since Jan. 1, the Bucks record against teams currently in playoff spots is 3-and-9, and Prunty is 0-and-2. (No, I’m not counting the victory over the Embiid-less Sixers as a win against a playoff team). Miami beat the Bucks three times in that period, which is why Friday’s game mattered — it was the Bucks last chance during the regular season to take a game from the Heat.

Chalk it up to the evil genius of coach Erik Spoelstra and the dominating, intimidating presence of Whiteside, who averaged 18 pts, 13.3 rebs and 3.67 blocked shots vs. the Bucks. In the wake of Whiteside’s eight offensive rebounds in game 3, Bucks center John Henson missed the Orlando game and will probably be out of action until after the All-Star break, nursing a bum hamstring and what’s left of his pride. (Bucks have until March 1 to sign some free agent big man help).

Are the Bucks a good team, or are they Giannis Antetokounmpo and a bunch of future trades who helped get their coach fired last month? I guess we’ll find out over the next two-and-a-half months.

Middleton leading the Bucks in rebounding in Orlando was a lot more interesting when I didn’t realize he had but one lonely defensive rebound in Miami. Five or six defensive rebounds a game by the small forward used to be business as usual around here (Luc Mbah a Moute, Glenn Robinson et al., going all the way back to Marques Johnson and Bobby Dandridge). The idea is to get 5 or 6 D-rebs every game and hit the offensive glass for one or two possession-saving rebounds. The latter has happened less and less for the Bucks this season. Friday in Miami, they had all of two offensive rebounds in the game. Two. The Heat had 13.

The Bucks D-rebounding has improved this season, up to 17th in the NBA from 25th last season. But if not for Dallas, the Bucks would be dead last in offensive rebounding in the league, with an OREB% of 19.2 (Dallas is at 17.9). Cleveland is 28th at 19.3%, a function of Kevin Love playing center, Tristan Thompson‘s playing time being cut, Love breaking his hand and Lebron James either playing on the perimeter or simply electing to not rebound. Lebron has always been a disinterested rebounder, in contrast to Kevin Durant or Giannis, who lead their teams on the boards.

Michael Beasley, currently leading the Knicks in scoring off the bench, has been missed. NY Times photo. License: Standard non-commercial use.

The Bucks have similar personnel issues — they traded their best rebounder, Greg Monroe, were unable to resign Michael Beasley over the summer and Jabari Parker missed the first 50 games rehabbing from knee surgery. Beasley and Parker are small forwards in the classic sense — natural scorers with sweet shooting touch and instinctual drives for the ball on offense. They’ll hit the offensive glass even as the coaches are yelling at them to get back on defense, defense being something that neither is good at, but neither was the Big Dog or any number of good and great small forwards in NBA history. Dr. J didn’t care much about D until he realized he might never win a title if he didn’t pick it up, which he did.

Middleton’s no shutdown defender either, and he’s played most of his career with better rebounders — Giannis, Greg Monroe, Parker — so, like Lebron, he’s content to stay on the perimeter and take what rebounds come his way. To be fair (and the editorial board here at Bob Boozer Jinx does insist on fairness), part of it is a matter of coaching, and part the changing NBA game. Offensive rebounding is at an all-time low in the league at 22.3%. Small forwards don’t crash for rebounds like they used to, especially if they’re setting up at the 3-point line much of the game; and coaches often demand that they “get back” to defend against the fast break.

Yet neither changes in the game nor coaching mores have prevented the OKC Thunder from leading the NBA in OREB% by a mile at 28.1% while also rating 5th in defense. Russell Westbrook simply wants the rebounds more than his opponents do. His center, Steven Adams, is having a great year, emerging as one of the Top 5 impact centers in the league and leading the NBA in individual OREB% at 17.3%. Henson’s actually 18th in the league (9.5%) which isn’t so bad for J-Hook. It’s almost stunning to think that over the course of 100 missed shots on offense, OKC’s Adams will get to eight more rebounds than Henson, and six more than Dwight Howard or LaMarcus Aldridge. Westbrook and Adams are clearly reading from the same page in OKC.

Unlike Henson, who’s doing all he can, truly, and deserves at least some merit for having his best season as a pro, Middleton can hunt rebounds whenever he wants to, or when called upon to do so. The nine rebounds he pulled down in Orlando were well short of his career high of 14, set last month in Philly, and was the 3rd time this season Middleton has led the Bucks in rebounding. The Orlando game was the first time this season Middleton led the Bucks on the boards in a game where Giannis played. Here’s a look at the other two.

  • 01/20/18 vs. the Sixers in Philly. A dreadful loss as the Bucks played without Antetokounmpo, who stayed in Milwaukee to rest recurring soreness in his right knee — also the last Bucks game coached by Jason Kidd. Middleton posted the first triple double of his career AND his career high in rebounds — 14 — to go with 23 points and 10 assists. (There’s an irony in there, to Middleton’s first triple double being Kidd’s last game, if only because there isn’t another word to aptly describe it. Giannis not playing in the game might qualify it as one of those rare double ironies.) The Sixers blew the Bucks out, 116-94. The Bucks fired Kidd two days later. Here are Middleton’s ironic highlights.

  • 11/22/2017, Bucks vs. the Suns in Phoenix  Giannis sat out to rest his knee and Middleton dropped 40 points on the Suns and led the Bucks with 9 rebs. The Bucks won this sloppy, turnover-riddled game in overtime, 113-107.

Giannis has missed four games so far this season, all due to soreness in his right knee, a problem that cropped up over the summer and forced him to drop out of international play with Team Greece. The Bucks split those four games (they lost in Charlotte 12/23/17 and beat the Suns in Milwaukee Jan. 22). Middleton put up some superstar per game numbers,  32.3 pts – 8.2 rebs – 5 assists – 2 steals. He shot a ton — 89 times in the four games — and made 53%, hitting 10 of 28 from 3-point-land. 

I’m beginning to get a better sense of how Middleton arrived at the rather off-the-wall idea that the Bucks should have two All-Stars this year, and maybe he did get a vote or two. I’m also reminded that his 18.2 pts per game led the Bucks in scoring in the 2016-17 season. Over the 17 games Prunty coached that season while Kidd was recovering from back surgery, Middleton scored more, at a clip of 22.7 ppg.

Had the Bucks been winning (they won only 33 games), Middleton might have earned an All-Star nod with stats like those above — he was shooting close to 50-40-90. Middleton’s a bargain now and is due $13 million next season, and can (and almost surely will) opt out of the final year of his contract 2019-20. Sooner than later, the Bucks will be paying Giannis, Bledsoe and Parker more than Middleton, assuming the Bucks are able to resign Parker, which GM Jon Horst says he plans to do.

With Parker back from rehab and the Bucks (and Middleton) continuing to log games like Friday’s loss to the Heat, time is suddenly moving fast for this team. Or, as Steve McQueen so succinctly put it in the crime film classic, Bullitt,  “Time starts now.” 

In 322 games as a Buck, Middleton has led the team in rebounding a total of eight times. The three games this season were noted above. Here are the box scores from the other five, starting with the most recent first, in chronological order back to 2014.

  • 03/11/17 vs. the T-Wolves in Milwaukee. Karl-Anthony Towns had a big game but Monroe and Henson battled him well off the bench. Middleton led with 9 rebounds. Giannis played 40 mins yet somehow got to only 4 rebounds. Bucks won 102-95.
  • 11/07/15 vs. the Nets in Milwaukee. Middleton took only six shots in the Bucks 94-86 win, but led with 9 rebounds and 7 assists.
  • 03/07/2015 vs the Wizards in Milwaukee. Middleton led in scoring (30) and rebounding (9) as the Bucks won a close one to pull within a game-and-a-half of WAS in the East standings. Giannis, Middleton and Henson are the only current Bucks in the box score. Parker was out rehabbing from his first ACL surgery.
  • 02/11/15 vs. the Kings in Milwaukee. Bucks lose the rebounding battle to DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson but win the game, 111-103, pushing their record to 30-23. Middleton led the Bucks with 10 rebs, three on offense. Whatever happened to Jason Thompson?*³
  • 01/04/14 vs. the Suns in Phoenix. The Bucks shot 54% but turned it over 25 times to lose 116-100. Middleton came off the bench to score 7 and pull down 8 defensive boards in 22 minutes.

*¹ Referee Tyler Ford (he’s on pg. 42 of the 2017-18 Officials Guide), in his 3rd NBA season, is a former Big Ten ref from that part of west Ohio that’s more like Indiana and Ford is every bit that fresh faced Midwestern kid with big ears who’s in every Hollywood army unit. Ford called 23 fouls — 11 in the 4th quarter, of the Bucks-Heat game Friday. The Heat actually got the worst of it, but not until after the Bucks fell behind by 18 in the 4th after consecutive Wayne Ellington threes. The Heat could do little wrong for the first 15 minutes of the 2nd half, despite hacking at Bucks anytime the drove near the basket. I suppose by the 4th quarter Ford had realized that Aaron Smith, the ref under the Heat basket, wasn’t going to police the Heat defense, so he took it upon himself to make Smith’s calls for him, apparently unconcerned that his hyper-active whistle made him appear insane – on TV no less. I’ll salute anybody willing and unafraid to appear insane in the course of righting wrongs being committed all around him in Miami on Friday. Here’s to Tyler Ford.

  Prunty tied to trick the rotations by pulling Giannis out of any 3rd quarter after just 4:34. If the justification is to get the rotations started early, around the 5 minute mark, Giannis is the last guy you want coming out of the game. Add to this the fact that the game was close, 53-50, and Miami center Whiteside had three fouls when Prunty sent Giannis to the bench, and picked up his 4th a minute later and was taken out of the game. Giannis was not in the game to take advantage of Whiteside’s absence, obviously, and the deficit was 12 by the time Prunty subbed Giannis back in with about 3:40 left in the quarter. The Bucks scored a measly 8 pts in the quarter.

  • *² The tried and true strategy is to have the superstar play continuously for about 10 minutes in the 3rd quarter, then pull him inside of 2 minutes to go to steal some extra rest over the quarter change. Here’s a Pelicans – Pistons play-by-play from Monday night where coach Alvin Gentry manages to do exactly this with Anthony Davis’ minutes. The Pelicans won by 15.  

*³ Jason Thompson left the NBA for the Chinese league Shandong Golden Stars in 2016, and is currently playing pro ball in Turkey with Fenerbahce Dogus Instanbul. There are big men out there, playing in all four corners of the globe. I can’t imagine the Bucks billionaire owners having too much difficulty buying out the contracts of big centers like Thompson or former Buck Miroslav Raduljica, the tough Serb who powered Team Serbia past Andrew Bogut and the Aussie Boomers to the silver medal in the last Olympics. Raduljica’s now playing for the Jiangsu Dragons of the Chinese Basketball Assoc. — and it looks like their season has come to an end. (edit: I’m beginning to think that if the Bucks were going to sign Bogut, it would’ve happened already. The Bucks may not be on his list.)

Sourcerole – Gamebook, Bucks vs. Miami, 02/09/18. The Bucks regular season series against the Heat has turned out to be an important measuring stick for “how things are going”, and this final game of series was no different.

Khris Middleton an All-Star? Not this year, the Eastern Conference coaches say, for the 3rd time . . . The Miami effect . . . Kemba Walker

Goran Dragic didn’t quite have All-Star numbers this season, but his Miami Heat did, going 6-0 against the Bucks and the Hornets and vaulting to 4th in East with a 27-20 record just in time for the coaches reserve All-Star voting. The Bucks face the Heat in Miami tonight in the teams’ last regular season meeting. Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Minn. Star Tribune. License: Standard non-commercial use.

Bucks forward Khris Middleton felt “disrespected” when Miami point guard Goran Dragic was selected to replace injured Kevin Love in the All-Star game. He was disappointed again this week as Charlotte point guard Kemba Walker was chosen to take Kristaps Porzingis‘ place in the Feb. 18 game.

Porzingis tore the ACL in his left knee earlier this week in the Knicks 103-89 loss to Middleton’s Bucks. Funny, just before the game Middleton was talking to JS reporter Matt Velazquez about how it really did kind of bother him that he was passed up — not once, but twice — to replace injured All-Stars (Detroit center Andre Drummond was tabbed to replace injured John Wall Jan. 30).

“I definitely feel disrespected because of the numbers that I had and we had a good record,” Middleton said before the Knicks game, not specifically referring to Dragic or Drummond. [Drummond shoots 55% from the floor and is leading the league in rebounding; to this point in the season (Feb. 8), he’s been the 3rd most statistically impactful player in the NBA, according to BIER* — so it was most likely the selection of Dragic that left Middleton feeling dissed.] 

Drummond  was 13th in the coaches vote, so he was next in line. Dragic was next in line after Drummond, according to

How did Dragic end up with more votes than Middleton or Kemba Walker? The coaches voted after the announcement of the starting All-Stars  Thursday Jan. 18 on TNT. The All-Star reserves were announced Tuesday Jan. 23, so the votes were cast that weekend, Jan. 19- 22. I seem to recall that Bucks GM Jon Horst sacked coach Jason Kidd on Jan. 22, and that Middleton was not playing particularly well at the time — but this is about Dragic and the Heat.

The Heat were 27-20 on Jan. 18, and winners of 8 of their last 9 games, including two wins against the Bucks in four days. Dragic had dropped 25 on the Bucks in a blowout in Miami and 16 in a down-to-the wire 106-101 win in Milwaukee. The Heat were alone in 4th place in the East.

The Bucks were in a different place altogether, and had lost four of their last six games, including the two they lost to the Heat, and had fallen to 7th in the East with a 24-22 record. Over those 6 games, Middleton scored 18.2 pts per game but shot just 42.6% and 7 for 31 on threes (22.6%). Not to pick on Khris — Eric Bledsoe was mired in a shooting slump and the entire team looked gassed vs. Miami Jan. 17, their 13th game in 23 days — but the two losses in four days to the Heat became kind of memorable when Kidd was fired just a few days later.

It’s a strange disconnect. Middleton may have had “All-Star-like” numbers but they were slipping. The Bucks weren’t winning when the coaches were casting their ballots and Giannis Antetokounmpo had won a starter’s spot, so the idea of a 2nd Bucks All-Star was pretty far-fetched, no matter how much anybody loves the team. If a Bucks player got any reserve All-Star votes from the coaches, chances are it was Bledsoe, who had higher impact numbers (6.74 BIER) than Middleton (5.37 BIER) at the half-way point, before wearing down mid-January.

Middleton’s numbers are looking better now (20.1 pts, 5.3 rebs, 4.2 assists, 5.78 BIER) than they did then; he won Eastern Conference Player of the Week Jan. 22-28, and the Bucks have won 7 of 8.

In those 8 games (Jan. 22-Feb. 6) since Kidd was fired, Middleton has played like an All-Star, scoring 20.1 pts per game and shooting 42% from three and 50.4% overall, a BIER of 8.57, more than double the average for a small forward. But those games were played AFTER the All-Star ballots were cast.

(The non-reality of the Velazquez’s story yesterday deserves a note, here — none of it was real.)

“It wasn’t lies, it was just bullshit.” — Elwood Blues, circa 1979.

Put the shooting slump and the good shooting together and you’ve got Khris Middleton’s season – prolonged lows mixed with All-Star highs, a borderline All-Star with no cool shoe commercial running 24 hours on ESPN (yeah, that’s a crack at Paul George).

Below are the 2017-18 per game stats of Middleton and Kemba Walker, plus Ben Simmons, Blake Griffin and Otto Porter. Simmons’ name was mentioned as a possible choice to replace Porzingis. Griffin’s a bonafide All-Star suddenly playing in the East after being traded to Detroit. Wizards forward Porter plays the same wing-small forward position as Middleton. And there’s Dragic, picked ahead of the other five for this year’s All-Star game.

Per Game Table
Goran Dragic 50 31.9 6.5 14.7 .443 .356 .493 2.9 .762 4.1 4.8 0.9 0.2 2.4 2.3 17.4
Blake Griffin 37 34.4 7.7 17.5 .439 .337 .493 5.2 .790 7.9 5.5 0.9 0.3 2.9 2.4 22.5
Khris Middleton 53 36.9 7.4 15.9 .464 .348 .522 3.5 .864 5.3 4.2 1.3 0.2 2.3 3.2 20.1
Otto Porter 50 31.6 5.5 11.2 .489 .410 .562 1.4 .831 6.2 2.0 1.6 0.5 0.9 2.1 14.0
Ben Simmons 50 35.1 7.0 13.3 .529 .000 .529 2.6 .564 7.8 7.2 1.8 0.9 3.7 2.8 16.6
Kemba Walker 51 35.0 7.5 17.7 .424 .367 .502 4.9 .846 3.4 5.8 1.1 0.3 2.2 1.4 22.6
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 2/8/2018.


It’s a tough call, sort of. At first glance, I wouldn’t cast an All-Star vote for any of them. Blake Griffin’s not having a good shooting year and has missed some games due to injury, but his numbers still say “All-Star” (he wasn’t eligible as an East reserve, anyway). Simmons’ numbers look great – 7.8 rebs, 7 assists, 53% shooting – from a rookie! But he is a rookie, and at last check his team was 2-8 without center Joel Embiid, an All-Star starter. Maybe next year for Simmons, if the Sixers continue to improve.

Otto Porter’s efficiency numbers are fantastic, and he’s a tough defender — he battled Middleton to a 5-13 shooting night, 0 for 4 on threes, in Milwaukee earlier this year. The Wizards have been winning without John Wall, and Porter has a lot to do with that — but he just doesn’t score enough at 14.0 pts per game.

Middleton does have a point — Dragic’s numbers aren’t that hot, and his BIER* checks in at 4.42, just 0.36 above the average for an NBA point guard. Miami’s All-Star is Hassan Whiteside, the center, but Whiteside hasn’t played enough this year to merit All-Star consideration. So it fell to Dragic, proof that coaches value winning more than numbers when choosing All-Stars.  Whiteside, Dragic and the Heat are 6-0 against Walker’s Hornets and Middleton’s Bucks. Enuff said.

Middleton’s numbers are nearly good enough, and the BIER works out to 5.84, his best season. His 3-point % is down — 34.8% is below the league average. There are 25 teams that have shot the three better than Khris this year, and his teammates are one of them. On the other hand, he’s 2nd to only Steph Curry in mid-range shootings this season at 52.3%.  The bag tends to be mixed with Middleton. One of the issues during his slump was that Jason Kidd was guilty of overplaying him, insisting on big minutes on nights when Middleton didn’t have it.

The Bucks face the Heat for the last time this season tonight in Miami. Winning a game against the Heat this season might help Middleton’s argument, though the point itself is moot. The Heat have lost five in a row, and Kelly Olynyk‘s not expected to play (out with a shoulder strain). The Bucks have a chance to steal one on the road. (Ed. note – it didn’t happen, as the Bucks played a miserable 3rd quarter, scoring only 8 points, and their 4th quarter comeback fell short 91-85.) 

Kemba Walker actually has a better Impact and Efficiency rating (7.26) than John Wall (6.20) this season — it was a down year for Wall even before he hurt his knee, which made his All-Star selection a bit of a surprise. Walker could be more efficient as a shooter, and his good and bad shooting tends to come in streaks. Charlotte’s troubles as a team shooting the ball (they’re 29th in the league) and the difficulties they’ve had winning close games made Wall an easier choice by default (and Drummond and Dragic, too, based on the results).

The Miami-Dragic effect on Kemba Walker’s season was far more dire than an All-Star snub. The Hornets lost all four of their games with the Heat this season, all the difference between being in the playoff hunt or out of it at 23-31. The season in shambles, the Hornets front office was scouting trade offers for Walker up until the deadline yesterday at 3 p.m., hoping the lure of Walker would get other teams to take some of their bad contracts with him. Within hours, Walker went from the trading block to being named the All-Star replacement for Porzingis. Then the Hornets went out and lost an overtime game in Portland.

It’s been that kind of season for Charlotte — a dozen losses by 5 points or less or in OT, three of them to the Heat (the 4th loss was by six). None were more poignant than the 106-105 loss on Jan. 20, the weekend the East coaches were clutching their All-Star reserve ballots. Dragic didn’t play due to a bruised knee. The Hornets had control of the game, a ten point lead at the end of the 3rd quarter. Walker was playing like an All-Star — 20 pts and 6 assists through three quarters. But two costly turnovers by Charlotte’s Nic Batum and a controversial call by the refs handed the game to the Heat.

In the 4th and final Heat-Hornets game, Jan. 27, Charlotte blew a 15 point lead and shot a horrendous 4 for 20 in the 4th Quarter. Walker was again playing All-Star basketball through three quarters (26 pts) but went cold in the 4th, shot 1 for 8 from the floor and 1 for 5 from three. Dragic played, and had all of five points, missing 6 of the 8 shots he took. It’s been that kind of year in Charlotte.

*Basketball Impact & Efficiency Rating (BIER) numbers (current)

  • Greg Drummond – 17.36 – leads the league.
  • Giannis Antetokounmp – 16.34 – 3rd in NBA. Anthony Davis is 2nd at 16.82
  • Ben Simmons – 8.98
  • Blake Griffin – 8.40
  • Kemba Walker – 7.26
  • Paul George – 6.86
  • John Wall – 6.20
  • Khris Middleton – 5.84
  • Kristaps Porzingis – 5.69
  • Eric Bledsoe – 5.61
  • Goran Dragic – 4.42

NBA Trade Deadline: Another aimless trade blog to kill some time while waiting for something interesting to happen

The day’s last tweets from Adrian Wojnarowski went out just before 2 AM, 13 hours before today’s 3pm EST deadline. He sounded oh so bored and tired of this year’s edition of “NBA Trade Deadline”.

All’s (not quite) quiet on the DeAndre Jordan trade front, and it’s probably a good thing.

(Edit: Six hours later, Woj took it back of course, the Cavs-Clipper talks r.e. DeAndre Jordan being the big story churning today over at ESPN, employer of Woj).

Interest in Clippers center DeAndre Jordan has dropped off with word that Jordan isn’t willing to opt in for next season as part of any deal. Cleveland won’t give up its Brooklyn pick in a deal for Jordan or any other player. Stalemate. Lou Williams just signed a contract to stay with the Clippers, so Williams-related rumors are dead. Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond have won five straight in Detroit.

There have been all of four trades made this year and the trade deadline is just hours away. If I were you, I would just stop reading this and find something more interesting to do until NBA Trading Deadline 2018 has passed us all by.

Cleveland just blew up its roster — first a trade with the Lakers, then a 3-team deal with the Kings and Jazz; and the Cavs sent Dwyane Wade back to Miami for a draft pick so he could finish his career with the Heat. — 11:44 AM (something did finally happen)

So far no teams have been willing to give up a first round draft pick to help move their contract mistakes (this applies to the Bucks and their group of $10 million a year investments).  Over at ESPN, Zach Lowe has figured out that it makes a lot more sense to do a sign and trade deal for Jordan after the season ends than to trade for him now. The Bucks were mentioned once in the ESPN article, something about “poking around” r.e. DeAndre Jordan, nothing more.

I looked up my old “survival guide” to the NBA trading deadline (from last year) and made sure I wasn’t breaking any rules and realized I’m probably taking this year’s episode too seriously. 

I ran through all the deals John Hammond made while he was in the Bucks front office, 2008-2007, and found nothing involving Miami. In fact, I can’t remember any trade between the Bucks and the Heat, ever. Apparently Miami GM Pat Riley doesn’t do business with the Bucks, and Riley’s been in Miami a long, long time. The only thing I can recall is Riley jacking up the Bucks signing price of Charlie Bell back in 2007 by proffering an offer sheet to Bell. Remembering that took a lot out of me.

If the Heat were ever serious about trading Hassan Whiteside, which they aren’t, winning 9 out of 11 games Dec. 30 – Jan. 20 changed their minds. Since then, the Heat have lost 7 out 9, and they’re still not serious about trading Whiteside. But just for argument’s sake in the universe of made up trade possibilities, Riley probably wouldn’t take Bucks GM Jon Horst’s calls.

Horst might want to call his old boss Hammond over in Orlando. Hammond is sure to take the call, and nearly the entire Magic roster is on the trading block, including Jonathon Simmons, who made his mark with the Spurs last season during the playoffs. Simmons is known for toughness and defense on the perimeter, but he can score it too, pouring in 34 pts in the Magic win vs. the Cavs on Tuesday. The Bucks could use all they help they can get at guard with Malcolm Brogdon out of action for another six or seven weeks.

Jonathon Simmons flushed the Cavs Tuesday night, scoring 34 pts on 12 of 17 shooting in the Magic’s 116-98 win. Orlando GM John Hammond was entertaining offers on Simmons and most of the Magic roster this week. Photo license: Standard non-commercial use.

There are many shooting/combo guards for sale (Rodney Hood, Simmons, Avery Bradley, Kemba WalkerMarcus Smart) but teams aren’t jumping at the opportunity to spend a first round pick on one, not even for Tyreke Evans, who finally got back to his 2010 rookie-of-the-year form in Memphis this season, averaging 19.5 pts, 5 rebs, 5 assists. Evans will be traded somewhere, the consensus says, and seven teams are in the mix, including Boston and Philly. I don’t know why the Celtics would give up battle-tested Smart in an attempt to acquire Evans, who has little playoff experience — but it’s the NBA trading deadline — nothing has to make sense and it gives NBA media a chance to talk about the Celtics, which NBA media likes to do.

Philly is in “buy” mode — the Sixers want to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, Detroit has won five straight since trading their shooting guard, Avery Bradley, for power forward Blake Griffin, and will have something to say about the Sixers chances of making the playoffs. The pairing of Griffin and All-Star center Andre Drummond (and giving up Bradley and Tobias Harris to do it) was considered by many a bold but futile move in today’s 3-happy NBA, but Griffin’s ability to push the offense into the paint, where Drummond can clean up, is proving pretty effective.

Drummond’s been on a roll since the Pistons acquired Griffin and it’s pushed his impact numbers past Anthony Davis‘ and Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s and into the NBA lead, with a BIER rating of 17.36. Score one for big-man-centric basketball in Detroit. … So far. Griffin has a habit of not staying healthy.

There were no trades on Tuesday and only one yesterday: The Knicks traded Willy Hernangomez to Charlotte. Hernangomez had asked to be traded because he wasn’t getting any minutes in NY, and it looks like that request came more recently than this week, according to ESPN. Did the Bucks make an offer for Hernangomez before trading for Zeller? Were the Bucks even aware the young center had requested a trade, or was it too late?

Hernangomez, from Spain, was an All-Rookie selection last season and is a quick, athletic 23-year-old center who’s kind of like Zeller with bounce – a lot more bounce. He’s ideal in many ways for today’s game. Charlotte acquired him for forward Johnny O’Bryant and 2020 and 2021 second round draft picks. The Bucks might have offered Rashad Vaughn and the rest of the protections on the 2018 2nd round pick, same deal they made with Brooklyn – but Charlotte picks are better picks than Milwaukee picks these days.

Thon Maker for Hernangomez? Would the Knicks have gone for that? The Bucks aren’t there yet. Probably not even close.

And none of this ever happened.

Tyler Zeller really is all there is.

I almost forgot: Ersan Ilyasova, the most tradeable man in the NBA, is once again on the trading block, and it’s still funny. He’s having a decent year in Atlanta despite the Hawks’ losing ways — his 56.5% True Shooting % is the 2nd best of his career (his career best was 57.7% with the Bucks in 2012) and he’s averaging 7.7 rebs per 36 mins. Overall, his Impact and Efficiency (BIER) rating is 7.16, higher than a few players named All-Stars and a few more being talking about as the replacement for injured Kristaps Porzingis. He has played 26 mins per game in Atlanta.

Ersan’s playing on a one-year $6 million contract. The Hawks have shopped Ilyasova and another shooting guard for the field, Marco Belinelli.


Trade Deadline: Bucks still need help at center . . . Hassan Whiteside is not named Zeller or Plumlee . . . The Stepien rule and the Bucks 2018 pick

“Is anybody going to actually read this trade deadline ^%@#?” Tyler Zeller (left) and John Henson, who were college teammates at North Carolina, discuss future possible trades and possibly the finer points of retro disco (when Zeller was still a Celtic, obviously). Photo from USA Today. License: Standard non-commercial use.

John Henson hauled down 15 rebounds against the Nets Sunday night, but nobody’s fooled. The Nets are the Nets. They start rookie Jarrett Allen at center and play the worst kind of small ball — where everybody shoots 1 for 6 from three and wishes they were Golden State or Houston.

The Bucks brass couldn’t help but notice the Nets weren’t playing center Tyler Zeller, so Zeller became a Buck on Monday, traded for Rashad Vaughn and a 2nd round pick. A nice pick-up because Vaughn, the beleaguered 1st round bust from the 2015 draft, had little more than a cheerleaders’ role on the Bucks — and still, nobody was fooled.

The Bucks need bigger and better help in the middle than anybody named Zeller or Plumlee or Henson or Maker can provide, and the Feb. 8 trade deadline is fast approaching, just two days away. If five January losses to teams with Bucks-destroying big men — Toronto (Jonas Valanciunas), Philly (Joel Embiid) and Miami (Hassan Whiteside) — didn’t sufficiently freak out Bucks GM Jon Horst, news of the Celtics acquisition of the Moose, Greg Monroe, had to come on like a bad dream. The centers may be dinosaurs in the West the Warriors made, but can the Bucks survive the Jurassic Age of the Eastern Conference playoffs with their current crew of average-at-best big men?

[They’re ecstatic about Monroe in Boston. See “Monroe Doctrine: Celtics Rx for ‘man, we could really use 2 points right now'”. They haven’t yet realized what a good passer out of the post the Moose is (7th-best assist rate among qualifying centers last season). Or that he really can’t jump, but the easy offense off the bench he brings has been missed badly in Milwaukee since the trade. And we miss the “Moooose” call too – but that goes without saying – edit]. 

The Raptors, Heat and Celtics are very possible playoff opponents for the Bucks, so a defensive-minded big man is the Bucks Rx for “why can’t we grab a rebound?”

The Buck “most likely” to be traded, says Yahoo sports, is John Henson. Henson’s got two more years guaranteed after this season at $10.6m and $9.7 million, not a terrible salary bite for an average center, and, as such he’s the most appealing of the Bucks four $10-million-a-year guaranteed players. Trade rumors are buzzing around a bunch of NBA big men – DeAndre Jordan, Robin Lopez, Tyson Chandler and Whiteside, so there’s certain logic to this. But are any of these trades doable for the Bucks?

Robin Lopez is a real NBA center who wonders why referees don’t like him more. Lopez got kicked out the Bulls-Kings game last night, apparently for gestures less thought-provoking than this one during his days in Portland. Photo license: Standard non-commercial use.

A Robin Lopez trade with Chicago seems pretty easy salary-wise, and the Bulls are in “sellers” mode after trading Mirotic to New Orleans. But the Bucks have one too many of those $10 million contracts guaranteed next season-and-beyond and want to reduce salary load next season if they can (ostensibly to pay Jabari Parker). Lopez’s salary next season is $3.8 million more than Henson’s. The Bucks could add in rookie D.J. Wilson to reduce the load next season. But even with Wilson off the books they’d be adding $1.5 next season in a Lopez-Henson deal. And it doesn’t sound like the Bulls want to add a contract like Henson’s, guaranteed through 2020

Trading with the Bucks is difficult – they have no sizable expiring contracts but Jabari Parker, just now coming back from his second ACL surgery. Bucks GM Jon Horst says he wants to resign Parker after this season, but the Bucks don’t have the money to get it done without jumping into the luxury tax zone, which may be unavoidable at this point, given the Bucks “win a championship” mindset. Parker’s clearly an asset, not a salary dump, one the Bucks should hang on to, but I’m not sure I believe Horst isn’t considering trade options for everybody but Giannis Antetokounmpo and maybe Malcolm Brogdon and Eric Bledsoe, the last regular guard standing now that both Brogdon and backup Matthew Dellavedova are sidelined. 

It would be totally insane for the Bucks to trade for Jordan, who can opt out of his contract at the end of the season, but writing about it was a good excuse to bring up “the Stepien rule”, and whether the Bucks can trade their 2018 1st Round draft pick. Photo from USA Today. License: Standard non-commercial use.

DeAndre Jordan can opt out and become a restricted free agent after this season, and the Clippers would want Jabari Parker in any Henson deal, not Khris Middleton. They would go for Henson, Parker and the Bucks 2018 1st round draft pick, but including that pick gets complicated because of “the Stepien rule” about trading future draft picks. Besides, the latest reports are that the Clippers are balking at taking Cleveland’s 2018 1st round pick. They want the Brooklyn pick the Cavs received in the Kyrie Irving trade last summer, but the Cavs are worried about rebuilding if Lebron leaves, so they’re loathe to part with the Brooklyn pick.

If they don’t want the Cavs own pick, how much interest in the Bucks 2018 pick would they have, realizing that the Bucks would have to put conditions on the pick in order to trade it? Technically, and as far as I can tell after reading up on “the Stepien rule”, the Bucks CAN trade the 2018 pick, but would have to get another team to agree to hand over a 2019 pick in the event the Bucks don’t win next season. “The Stepien rule” prevents any team from trading two consecutive future 1st round draft picks. The Bucks pick would go to Phoenix as part of the Monroe-Bledsoe deal if the Bucks finish 15th in the league or worse this season or next season, not something that appears to be in the cards, but that doesn’t matter. There are conditions on the Bucks first round picks through 2021, and the rules say each of those picks are already traded until the Bucks actually convey a pick to Phoenix, which will most likely happen in 2020. Getting a conditional replacement for the next season’s pick is the loophole for trading this season’s pick.

To do anything, the Bucks may need to find the extra pick first, and then see whether they can put together a deal. Too complicated? Probably — and, of course the Clippers would love to have Jabari Parker, knee surgeries and all, in exchange for a 33-year-old free-agent-to-be DeAndre Jordan. It’s not happening. Jordan has a new agent, Jason Kidd‘s guy Jeff Schwartz, and they’re not open to Jordan opting in with anybody as part of the trade, which the Wizards are finding out. Anyway, there’s a better deal out there for the Bucks.

Hassan Whiteside was scratching his head over the Heat’s loss to Orlando last night, wondering why he didn’t get more touches in the game. He may also be questioning the shot selection of his teammates or the Orlando point guard, Elfrid Payton. It’s like that for big men in the NBA these days. Photo from the Miami Herald. License: Standard non-commercial use.

A Hassan Whiteside trade may be less on Miami GM Pat Riley‘s mind these days than it was before the Heat won 8 out of 9 games, culminating in their 106-101 defeat of the worn out Bucks in Milwaukee Jan. 17, just days before coach Jason Kidd was fired. Oh, the trouble the Heat have stirred up in the East. The Milwaukee game had implications, and so did two down-to-the-wire Miami wins against Charlotte during that stretch — the Hornets went a winless 0-4 against the Heat this season, a season in shambles, and now Kemba Walker‘s on the trading block because there’s nobody else on the Hornets roster of much interest to other teams.

Since that win in Milwaukee, however, the Heat have lost 7 out of 10 games, including losses to Cleveland, Philly and Detroit. They’ve fallen to 7th in the East behind the Bucks and Pacers after losing to Orlando at home Monday night. The Heat may reassess where they’re really at, given how close so many of their recent victories have been. Have they been lucky or good? Erik Spoelstra’s one of the savviest coaches in the league and Whiteside’s arguably the most impactful center in the game — but he’s a part-time player in Miami right now, averaging 26 mins per game. The rest of the roster seems to get it done with mirrors, and, in the view of Hornets, a lot help from the referees.

Henson ($11.4m) and Khris Middleton ($14.1m) for Whiteside ($23.8m) is nice and neat salary-wise, and a good return for both teams. Miami gets a 20-pt per games scorer in Middleton, who doesn’t seem happy playing second fiddle to Giannis in Milwaukee, and a less expensive part-time center in Henson. Middleton is more reliable and efficient than the Grizzlies’ Tyreke Evans, the scorer Miami is rumored to be targeting. For the Bucks, a lineup of Giannis, Whiteside, Parker and Eric Bledsoe is scary good, plus factor in injured Malcolm Brogdon for the playoffs with Zeller and Tony Snell (Zelly, Snelly and Delly?). The Bucks would likely contend, not just this season but next. They would almost surely be paying luxury tax next season for that group, assuming they resign Parker, but the tax would happen anyway if the Bucks do nothing with the current roster.

If paying luxury taxes in either scenario, what’s the better buy? The team with Hassan Whiteside at center or the team with John Henson at center?

Tyson Chandler was assumed to be on Jason Kidd’s wish list, but if a Henson-Chandler deal was going to happen, it would have happened by now. The Bucks really could have used Chandler in January. Another dead end.

Andrew Bogut is still out there, sitting around the house, sending out tweets about Australian rules football and political correctness.  #Bogut  Whatever happens at the trade deadline this week, the Bucks have until March 1 to sign Bogut for the stretch run and playoffs.

And the Lakers have been fined $50,000 because Magic Johnson said nice things about Giannis in an ESPN article. Because Magic is the Lakers GM, that’s “tampering”. ESPN received no fine for pandering to Magic’s need to be talked to in an article about Giannis.

Things seem awfully quiet for the Bucks, with the deadline two days away. And remember, none of this is real until it actually happens, and don’t believe a word of this or any other blog during trade deadline week.

The Stepien Rule

“The Stepien rule” prevents any team from trading two consecutive future 1st round draft picks. The rule was named after Ted Stepien, owner of the Cavs in the early 1980s who traded his 1982-85 first rounders in repeated attempts to win with “veterans” like Mike Bratz and Bill Robinzine, while trying to build teams that were, in his view “racially balanced” – half white, half black, to better reflect the NBA audience. While those were real enough issues at the time, Stepien’s efforts to build a winner were more half-assed than anything else and the league froze his ability to make trades while it sought a new buyer for the team. Stepien sold the team in 1983.

But the damage to the league’s competitive balance had been done. Dallas was able to build a contender on draft picks acquired from Cleveland (Derek Harper, Sam Perkins, Roy Tarpley and Detlef Schrempf). Not that it got the Mavs to the NBA Finals in the 1980s with the Lakers dominating the West, and Stepien playing a role in building the Lakers juggernaut. The Lakers won the 1982 NBA championship and, thanks to a Stepien trade, ended up with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1982 draft. They used it to take Hall of Fame forward James Worthy, then the can’t miss star forward on North Carolina’s 1982 NCAA championship team. Their dynasty would have to wait a couple of years for Worthy to catch up, and Moses Malone‘s Sixers and Larry Bird‘s Celtics took the 1983 and 1984 titles, respectively. The Lakers circa 1985-87 are considered by many the greatest team in NBA history during a time of greatest teams (the 1983 Sixers and the 1986 Celtics also being in the conversation).


  • Yahoo sports, one player on every NBA team likely to be traded:
  • The Sporting News, 02/05/18, “Don’t expect Whiteside deal”:
  • The Sporting News: Deandre Jordan to the Cavs?
  •, best explanation of the Stepian rule I could find:
  • Fox sports Australia: “Ted Stepien rule” inspires Australian football changes on future draft picks, including history of how the Stepien rule came to be, complete with a ridiculously huge picture of James Worthy.

Jason Kidd firing: When “win now” becomes impatience . . . the #FireKidd summer ale . . . It’s the schedule, stupid

Jason Kidd during the Bucks-Wizards game 1/15/18. AP photo by Nick Wass. License: Standard non-commercial use.

Maybe it was worth it. The Bucks were 3-0 last week after firing coach Jason Kidd (along with three of his assistants), a sudden move that upset Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo but had at least some positive effect on his teammates. Kidd assistant Joe Prunty took over as interim head coach, and Khris Middleton, the Bucks’ up-again, down-again No. 2 scorer, was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the week Jan. 22-28.

Maybe it could have waited. Given the choices of making Antetokounmpo less than happy or “uncomfortable”, as he put itor maintaining the coach’s uneasy status quo with some of Giannis’ under-performing teammates, it’s difficult to say that sacking Kidd mid-season was the right one for Bucks first-year GM Jon Horst. The three opponents the Bucks beat last week (the Suns, Nets and Bulls) had a combined winning percentage of .353 (a 53-97 record), a bad sample group to conclude much of anything about the state of the Bucks.

The Bucks opened this week with a 107-95 win against the Joel Embiid-less Sixers. The Sixers without Embiid have been even less successful than the Suns, Nets and Bulls, winning only twice in ten tries. Embiid scored 29 points in the Sixers’ 116-94 drubbing of the Bucks Jan. 20 in Philly, Kidd’s last game as Bucks coach. (Giannis was held out of action in that game to rest his sore right knee. Malcolm Brogdon also did not play due to a personal matter.)

But then Horst’s decision to sack Kidd was less a reasoned choice, apparently, and more so the final say in a nasty confrontation between Horst and Kidd at the Bucks practice facility on that fateful Monday. This explains a lot, like the hurried press conference later that day, wherein Horst offered few details to justify the firing, beyond overall team performance. The Bucks lost 5 of the last 7 games coached by Kidd, the tail end of a brutal stretch — 13 games in 23 days, all but two against teams now in playoff spots. Bucks won 6 of the 13, then lost to the Embiid-ful Sixers.

Jon Horst, the Bucks 34-year-old GM. Bucks media photo. License: Standard non-commercial use.

“We just felt that we’d gotten to the point in the season where this team could do more; it could perform at different level in a different way,” Horst said, adding that the Bucks were “looking for a fresh approach and a different voice in leadership for the team.”

There’s no question they had reached a point where things would be different with the toughest part of the schedule behind them. The softest part of the 2017-18 schedule began Jan. 23, the day after Kidd was fired — three off-days followed by 11 games to the Feb. 16 All-Star break, only two of the games against sure-fire playoff teams (the T-Wolves Feb. 1 and the Heat Feb. 9).

So whether Horst had terminated Kidd’s employment then and there or waited to make an evaluation in the summer, the Bucks were going to get some time to recuperate and (hopefully) stockpile some wins. For a while, at least, they would not be as exhausted as they looked losing at home to Miami on Jan. 17. The Bucks weren’t going to hover around .500 for long. Horst didn’t offer much detail about other “differences” beyond the coaching change. Different from what?

The Bucks offense has been in the NBA’s top 10 all season, and is rated 9th as of this writing. Under Kidd these last four seasons, the Bucks have been a habitual “smart shot selection” team that tends to play unselfishly but has resorted to more isolation sets with Antetokounmpo’s rise to stardom. Giannis is 2nd in the league in scoring at 28.5 ppg and will start in his 2nd All-Star game. The Bucks rank 5th in both True Shooting and Effective Shooting % this season, and with Jabari Parker cleared to play this week and set to suit up Friday against the Knicks, the Bucks offense looked to be formidable in the stretch run no matter who was coaching. The job fell to Prunty, Kidd’s top assistant, who posted an 8-9 record in 2015-16 when Kidd was out having hip surgery.

The defense is a different story — good in spots, sluggish in general and too often dreadful and foul prone. Only Memphis has been hit with more fouls per 100 possessions than the Bucks this season; and Bucks opponents get three more trips to the free throw line per game than the NBA average. Some of the trouble is referee-induced (the Cavs shot an absurd 38 FTs in Cleveland Nov. 7; the Rockets shot 42 in Houston Dec. 16).

But some of it is roster-induced. The Bucks play two slow footed guards, Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova, and their centers (John Henson and Thon Maker) are foul prone, among other deficiencies. (Those four lead the regular rotation players in fouls per 36 minutes.) And there is no defensive-minded, shut down forward on the Bucks bench (think Andre Iguodala, P.J. TuckerJared Dudley). Oddly enough, since the Bucks lost Mirza Teletovic to health issues, there are usually no forwards on the bench at all other than rookie D. J. Wilson, and he’s rarely played.

Some of it probably was on coach Kidd. Since ranking 3rd in defensive rating in 2015, Kidd’s first season, the Bucks slipped to 23rd in 2016, 19th last year and 24th this season, despite improved rebounding. [The Bucks defensive rebounding is about average this season (17th), after being worst in the NBA most of last season.]  The Bucks are a long-armed defensive squad that likes to double team the ball and force turnovers (5th best TOV% in the league), but they’re also on the “soft” side — most of whatever toughness they have is defined by Antetokounmpo. The roster constants during Kidd’s tenure have been Giannis and Middleton, and Henson, each of whom carries some semblance of a “good defender” reputation despite the results. Parker’s return isn’t likely to help, the D end of the court often becoming his personal Land of the Lost when he’s been able to play.

A common refrain since coaching change is that the Bucks “inexplicably awful” defense — as ever-intrepid writer David Aldridge described it — ultimately cost Kidd his job. But Horst hasn’t offered up the D in explanation, and did not do so again in a one-on-one interview with Aldridge. The fewer the details the better for the Bucks front office these days. And the young GM (he’s 34) said he loves the Bucks roster, “loves our young core,” so no recognition yet – publicly – of any need to make roster changes.

At the initial press conference, Horst did explain that the firing decision was made “relatively quickly” and wasn’t “premeditated” and it came off as an “I’m in charge and I’ve made a decision” sort of thing. There was no careful evaluation done, other than to say evaluations are “ongoing” within the long-term goal of winning a championship. It’s great to set goals, but today the “win now” attitude the Bucks are trying to instill in their culture reads more like impatience, and the abrupt, mid-season firing didn’t cast the Bucks in the more flattering lights of league-wide media perception. There was a lot of that last week.

Yes, it has been tedious and irritating. On the home front, fans became distressed back in December after the Bucks lost twice in five games to a suddenly hot Bulls team. The #FireKidd online movement has simmered right along on the boiler plates of Bucks Brew-town diehards — but theirs was always a brew better-served in summer, after the Bucks had evaluated their roster with a healthy Parker in the fold. 

Parker’s impending return made the timing of the firing questionable at best, and a little weird. This led to speculation about whether or not and Kidd and Parker were speaking. Questions about the struggles of Bucks ownership were raised. The easy speculation about who believed they should be in charge of player personnel decisions, Kidd or Horst, was a given. And so it went as the mid-season mess made in Milwaukee rolled on through the week. The #FireKidd brand might have been a half-way decent summer ale, but it’s many parts too bitter for January.

Bledsoe (at left) slumped in January, shooting 37% overall and 22% from three in the 7 games Jan. 8-20. The coaching change hasn’t stopped the slump, and Bledsoe left the Sixers game Jan. 29 after playing just three minutes and did not return. The Bucks reported that he’s been playing on a sore left ankle and is not expected to play Thursday against the T-Wolves. Image license: Standard noncommercial use.

Lost in all this has been Eric Bledsoe‘s recent shooting slump — 37% and 23% from 3-point-land in the 7 games Jan. 8-20. The Bucks were 2-5 in those games (see full stat line below). In the Miami and Philly losses in the days before Kidd was sacked, Bledsoe shot a combined 7 for 31 from the floor (22.5%) and missed 11 of 12 from 3-point land. Bledsoe was more often than not a victim of his own bad decision-making, not Kidd’s coaching. He was as sluggish as the rest of team against the Heat. And his shot wasn’t falling.

Were the big expectations that arrived in Milwaukee last fall when the Bucks traded center Greg Monroe for Bledsoe overblown? Horst isn’t going there.

Will there be some nod from the Bucks front office that Monroe’s replacements (Henson and Maker) have been helpless against the likes of Embiid, Miami’s Hassan Whiteside and Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas? Not so far, with the trade deadline fast approaching and the Bucks needing help inside.

Instead, Horst got into it with Kidd and, well, here we are. Jon Horst is in charge. He loves the Bucks roster and its young core. Joe Prunty is interim head coach. And the Bucks have feasted on lottery teams and the Embiid-less Sixers for eight days.

Bledsoe’s slump dragged on after Kidd was gone (he’s shooting 33% overall and 20% from three in the last six games), and his scoring dipped to 12.6 ppg. Against the Sixers in Milwaukee Monday, Bledsoe played three minutes and left the game for good. The Bucks reported that he’d been playing on a sore left ankle and is not expected to play Thursday in Minnesota.


After the Bucks on Sunday beat the Bulls for the first time in three tries, Giannis offered at least implicit support for Kidd when asked how the team was responding.

”I see that guys are playing harder. Some guys – I don’t know what they’re thinking in their heads. Maybe (they were) not OK with what happened. I just see guys playing hard.” — Giannis Antetokounmpo

Khris Middleton had a different take, and talked about how the Bucks were “a little bit looser” and “much more relaxed” playing for coach Prunty; and how teams “usually take on the personality of their coach.” He also praised Prunty’s “side-to-side” passing offense in the wake of Kidd’s preference to isolate mismatches and have the team “playing off one match-up”.

It’s the schedule, Khris. 

Coach Kidd, too, would doubtlessly agree that the Bucks latest opponents were more relaxing than Toronto was in two January meetings, or Miami on Jan. 17.  The Miami game was the Bucks 13th game in 23 days, the Bucks toughest, most unforgiving stretch of the season — three back-to-backs and 11 of the 13 opponents now holding playoff spots. Over the final 10 games of the stretch, they had no more than a single off-day between the games.

But the Bucks won 6 and lost 7, beating the Wizards twice on the second nights of back-to-back games. They lost twice to the Raptors and twice to the Heat, but beat Minnesota and OKC back-to-back, no easy task. They split with Indiana. In the 13th game, the Bucks were visibly exhausted against the Heat, as Giannis missed 7 free throws and Bledsoe shot 2 for 13 in the 106-101 loss.

They didn’t make it through unscathed. When it was over, Giannis sat out the next two games to relieve soreness in his right knee, a recurring problem that forced him to miss two games earlier this season and summer international play with Team Greece. Malcolm Brogdon also missed the game in Philly, and two more since, with a calf injury. Bledsoe was playing on a bum left ankle, and isn’t expected to play against the T-wolves Thursday. And Jason Kidd lost his job.

The scheduling reality and the mid-season wear on tear on the team beg the “what if” question. A win here, a win there, a timely extra day off — would Horst and Kidd have had a problem? Should they have had a problem as it stood, the Bucks record at 23-22, given the grueling schedule?

Contrast all that with the three-day break the Bucks enjoyed after beating the Suns the day Kidd was fired. They were able to rest and recharge, to recuperate Giannis’ aching knee and other team ailments; and Prunty had plenty of time to prepare the team for the 3-games-in-4 days stretch against lesser teams of the East. The Bucks have a two-day break this week before meeting the T-Wolves in Minneapolis Thursday.

What a difference the schedule makes: A four game win streak built on the bottom feeders of the East, then five more lottery-bound opponents before the All-Star Break Feb. 16, and 7 off-days in two weeks (Feb. 2-15). 

The Bucks are 27-22 and in 6th place in the East as of this writing. They remain on track, maybe not to win 50 games, but to at least challenge for the No. 3 or No. 4 spot in the East and fulfill their goal of winning a first round playoff series, something Bucks teams have done only twice in the last three decades. Jabari Parker is due back on Friday, right on schedule.

Funny, it’s pretty much the same situation they Bucks were in when they fired Kidd, give or take a few wins against the patsies of the East.


Who the heck is Jon Horst?

  • Excellent feature 6/18/17 on Jon Horst in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: -
  • Brewhoop on the weird process of Horst’s hiring:
  • on Justin Zanik, the GM candidate the Bucks owners couldn’t agree to hire:

Bledsoe stats per 36 minutes in 7 games Jan. 8-20. The Bucks fired Jason Kidd Jan. 22. 

16.8 6.2 16.8 37% 1.4 23% 2.88 82% 3.2 3.8 3.4 0.6 3.2 3.5 0.115

Notes: The 3.4 steals per 36 are great, the 3.2 turnovers normal for Bledsoe, but he’s had some awful shooting games in the last seven before the Suns game Jan. 22. The Bucks posted a 2-5 record in those games.  A BIER100 of 0.115 is a very low impact and efficiency rating — well below average for a shooting guard (the SG median last season was 3.4). It’s tough to beat good teams when your star guard is suddenly playing like a replacement player or worse. Bledsoe BIER rating was about double the BIER median (6.74) at the midway point of the season (game 41), so his numbers have fallen off a cliff this month. 


The Bucks sign Plumlee #3 and it may have no bearing on anything else whatsoever (such as Andrew Bogut)

Well, he’s not a client of agent Jeff Schwartz, at least not according to this updated list of Schwartz clients, which includes recent addition DeAndre Jordan and still includes Jason Kidd. The Bucks coach has made roster moves to acquire Schwartz clients before (Michael Carter-Williams, Tyler Ennis, Rashad Vaughn, Mirza Teletovic), so one couldn’t help but wonder whether Schwartz was behind the Bucks signing of Marshall Plumlee to a two-way contract earlier this week. But there appears to be no Schwartz connection this time.

And the Plumlee signing doesn’t seem to have much to do with Andrew Bogut and the will-they or won’t-they talk about adding the onetime Buck All-Pro center to the roster for the stretch run and the playoffs (assuming no catastrophic collapse). The rumor mill is churning but neither the Bucks nor Bogut have said anything to indicate his return to Milwaukee is a real possibility. This is, after all, Marshall Plumlee the Bucks just signed, not Tyson Chandler, which the Knicks highlights below from last season prove inconclusively.

The look on Phil Jackson‘s face after Plumlee hits that old school Dave DeBusschere style 18-foot set shot says it all. There’s no denying Marshall Plumlee looks just like a Plumlee. At first glance, the Bucks signing of Plumlee #3, did seem to suggest that Kidd wasn’t too interested in Bogut; or that Bogues didn’t think a move to Milwaukee in the dead of winter to play for Kidd and his big men coach Greg Foster (with help from notorious Bogut antagonist Kevin Garnett as consultant), was such a bright idea. But timing isn’t everything.

Jan. 15, the day the Bucks signed Plumlee, was the last day teams could sign players to two-way contracts, a new arrangement this season where a player can play up to 45 days in the NBA (one-fourth of the season) at a pro-rated NBA minimum salary ($1.3 million in Plumlee’s case) and the rest of his time in the G-league. (Source: Article II, Section 11 (f) of NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, “Two-way Contracts”, pp: 49-56).

With half the season gone, the most Plumlee can earn in NBA salary is $328,000, but whatever he makes it will not count toward Team Salary (pg. 192 of the CBA). Two-way players are not included in the roster while they are with a G-league team and are not eligible for the playoffs unless their deal is converted to a regular NBA contract. The Bucks have not converted any of this season’s two-way players (Gary Payton III, Joel Bolomboy, Xavier Munford).

No team salary hit, no roster spot, no playoff eligibility — hardly the stuff of great meaning in the context of Andrew Bogut and the Bucks, who need all the help they can get in the middle.  This much was painfully obvious Jan. 5 when Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas humbled the Bucks big men with 20 points and 9 rebounds in the 3rd quarter as the Raptors blew the Bucks out of their own building. The destruction was ruthless and complete. Bucks centers John Henson and Thon Maker responded with 0 points, one rebound and 5 fouls in the quarter.

In a fit of perfect timing, the Lakers waived Bogut the very next dayIt’s not inconceivable that the Lakers brass caught the overnight Bucks-Raptors highlights and thought they might as well do the Bucks and Bogut a favor by releasing AB to play out his swan song with the team that drafted him.

Yet no one has confirmed since then that the Bucks are actually interested, only that the Bucks had “thoroughly discussed the pros and cons of signing Bogut.” This came from a routinely unreliable Bucks beat writer down in Racine who quoted no sources for the record and could not get official comment from the office of Bucks GM Jon Horst, who’s not exactly unavailable to media.

The Bucks should want Bogues back, if only to entertain the fans before he leaves the NBA for good, which will happen in the near future. Bogut was the Bucks No. 1 overall draft pick in 2005, the heart and soul of the “Fear the Deer” team in 2010, the Bucks only All-Pro in 12 seasons 2005 to 2016, and the founder of the fan section that still rocks the Bradley Center. There’s almost too much symmetry given the Bucks screaming need for HELP in the paint.

The Bucks defense has been among the worst in the league this season, 25th entering last night’s (Jan. 17) Miami game.

Western Conference fans and media may not know it, but in the East, dinosaur centers yet walk the earth.

The Heat’s Hassan Whiteside has become a more recent opposing-center-dominates-our-guys problem. Whiteside had a strong game (15 pts, 10 rebs, 4 blocks) against the Bucks Jan. 14 in a blowout win by the Heat, and was downright dominant in the rematch in Milwaukee a few says later (Jan. 17), won by the Heat 106-101. Defensively, he blocked six shots, grabbed 12 rebounds and kept Giannis Antetokounmpo and guards Malcolm Brogdon and Eric Bledsoe out of the lane (the Bucks starting guards shot a combined 4 for 20 from the field, while Giannis was 6 for 15).

Offensively, Whiteside scored 27 pts while his backup, Kelly Olynyk, added 15 — 42 combined points, all too much for the Bucks on a night when Bledsoe was even more chaotic than usual.  Miami has won 8 out 9 games and moved up to 4th in the East, which means they’re another possible playoff match-up for the Bucks, and the Bucks have two more Heat games on the regular season schedule.

42 points from the center spot is almost unheard of in today’s NBA. The last time it happened was Nov. 15 when the Sixers Joel Embiid dropped a career high 46 on the Lakers. Bogut played 20 minutes in that game and actually slowed Embiid down, blocking his shot once and grabbing 10 rebounds to help the Lakers take the lead after 3 quarters. Embiid poured in 19 pts in the 4th, most of them (14) after Bogut checked out of the game with 7 mins to play. When he was on the court, the battle between the young star and the aging defender was real enough, and both players delivered in a wildly entertaining game. Lakers coach Luke Walton benched starter Brook Lopez in the second half. Embiid ruled the day, but Bogut had proven he wasn’t finished yet in the NBA.

The Bucks have yet to see Embiid and the Sixers this season (4 games coming up); and while there’s only one game left on the schedule against Boston, the Bucks might see the Celtics and centers Al Horford and Aron Baynes, who gave Henson and Maker trouble early this season, in the playoffs.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar was in attendance for the Heat game as part of the Bucks ongoing 50th Anniversary celebration, and, right on cue, he talked about the Bucks lack of “inside defense”. The centers may be “dinosaurs” in the new NBA, yet you need them to beat the teams that feature good big men. This makes no sense, but the basketball universe is howling now for Jason Kidd and Jon Horst to make a move, which signing Plumlee is not.

As for Bogut, there’s no news but speculation, even so far as a suggestion in the Daily Telegraph of Australia that one option is for him to return home and work for the Sidney Kings, the Aussie pro team he supported as a kid. Bogut negotiated to play for Sidney during the NBA lockout 2011-12 but those plans fell apart over insurance issues, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Bogut would probably prefer to return to the Warriors to relive a championship run but, barring injuries to the Warriors versatile crew of big men, he may no longer be a good fit.  The Warriors don’t have the problems the Bucks, Cavs or other potential Bogut suitors have. Realistically, it’s probably too soon to expect a move for Bogut, whose destination may not be decided until after the trading deadline Feb. 8 or All-Star break Feb. 16-18. The last day to sign playoff eligible players off the waiver wire is March 1.

The Bucks have just finished their toughest stretch of the season — 13 games in 23 days, of which the Bucks lost 8, won 5 and fell to 7th in the East with a 23-21 record. If the playoffs began today, the Bucks would get a rematch of last year’s 6-game series against the Raptors. But there’s no reason to panic yet — a much softer schedule lies ahead in the 13 games between now and the All-Star break Feb. 16.

In case of fire, call Bogut.


  • The NBA collective Bargaining agreement is a supremely over-written document but it can be a fairly interesting read, really:
  • Gamebooks and misc. stats: and
  • Key NBA dates, 2017-18 season:
  • the Australian news service:

The Big Trade: Notes on Eric Bledsoe, a guy named Moose, bad knees and luxury taxes, and Jason Kidd

Eric Bledsoe made his debut with the Milwaukee Bucks last weekend, after being traded from the Phoenix Suns for Greg “Moose” Monroe. Licences: Standard non-commercial use.

With Eric Bledsoe in the backcourt, the Bucks have a legitimate No. 2 scoring option at guard to complement Giannis Antetokounmpo, three wins under their belt already and are poised to take the next to step to become contenders in the East. Sounds good, doesn’t it? It was good national story spin for the Bucks last week when the trade of Bledsoe for Greg Monroe (and two draft picks) went down. And why not? It’s nice to see the NBA media paying attention to the pro basketball team from Milwaukee.

But the trade didn’t sit quite right during the week, like that feeling you had after trying the “secret sake” at Jerry’s Sushi Hut on ’80s Flashback Night. The feeling didn’t go away after watching Bledsoe’s first two games with the Bucks over the weekend. Maybe it was the Lakers game on Saturday, a rough night for the Bucks starting guards and Khris Middleton. They shot 7 for 28 on the night, Bledsoe going 0 for 6 from 3-point-land and 4 of 12 for the game). In the mix of misses were a bunch of “bad” shots — bad form for the Bucks, usually a very good shot selection team. Malcolm Brogdon, who gave up his starting point guard job in the Bledsoe trade, played smart off the bench and Giannis was Giannis the MVP with 33 pts and 15 rebounds.

But the Lakers game was one game, a sloppy win on the 2nd night of a back-to-back (only 12 more of those left boys) against a young team. Monday against Memphis, the Bucks and their coach showed that not much had changed in Milwaukee from the week before. When Kidd went to his bench in the 3rd quarter, the offense stalled, scoring just 7 points in six minutes. Still, the Bucks built an 80-72 lead with 3:02 left in the quarter, but were outscored 22-9 over the next 7:23 to fall behind by five, 89-94. The shots weren’t falling, the Grizzlies had control of the game, and Bucks coach Jason Kidd had managed to rest Antetokounmpo for only a quick breather before the quarter change.

These were precisely the minutes that were Monroe’s. The Moose came off the bench to provide a steady supply of easy offense in the post, good rebounding and slick passing to open teammates as the Bucks played inside-out, a rare thing in the NBA these days, but as effective as ever. After the trade, one idea was that some of these minutes would go to Bledsoe, who could lead the offense while Kidd rested Giannis a few minutes. But Kidd has yet to play Bledsoe without Giannis in the game. Bledsoe sat on the bench through the entire Memphis run, watching his new teammates fall apart in his Milwaukee debut.

Enter Bledsoe and starters Tony Snell and Khris Middleton after a Bucks timeout inside of 8 minutes to go. The Bucks suddenly went on a 14-3 run, then closed out the game with solid defense. Bledsoe was everything advertised — the quickest man on the court. He drew fouls, eventually fouling Mario Chalmers out of the game. He grabbed rebounds (4), he turned the ball over (1), he had a nice assist to John Henson (1), the Bucks center by default. He caught the Grizzlies sleeping by bolting to the hoop for a layup while they were setting up on D. The Grizz promptly called time out, victims of an 11-2 Bucks run in the space of 2:41. Bledsoe had capped it with a show of speed, quickness, basketball savvy and ability to get to the hoop and finish. And he showed, to anyone who cared — why the Bucks made the trade.

If the Lakers game was one game, so too was the Memphis game.

Bad knees

It wasn’t too long ago, just a few months, that the Phoenix Suns shut Bledsoe down for the final month of their 2016-17 schedule, reporting that “Bled” had been playing through knee soreness. It was his left knee, the one surgically repaired in Dec. of 2015, the third major knee surgery of his career. A meniscus tear in his right knee, the other knee, was surgically repaired in Oct. 2011, and then the cartilage removed altogether in 2014.

Three major knee surgeries in four years and a sore knee last season. But you wouldn’t know it from the coverage of this trade — no mention in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel coverage by Matt Velazquez, nor many other places. The story in The Sporting News was the only one that focused on Bledsoe’s injury history, deciding that Kidd was taking a risk to win now, without risking too much. Bledsoe’s tweeted request to be anywhere but Phoenix can be viewed as a form of self-preservation. What player wants to grind away what’s left of their knees and career on a team just now adopting Philly’s “trust the process” motto?

Suddenly he’s a Buck, and being a Buck is great for Bledsoe. Milwaukee wants to win now, make the playoffs and win in the playoffs, all the while touting 22-year-old Giannis as the first or (depending how you describe Lebron) second coming of Wilt Chamberlain meets Michael Jordan. The superstar needs a quick point guard who can help him destroy NBA defenses. It’ll be a good match.

It’s not so bad either for the Suns, who cleared out Bledsoe’s $15 million salary next season to stay about $12-$15 million under the salary cap while they develop as many as three 1st Round draft picks. One of those could be the Bucks pick, but the Suns will only get the pick next season if it’s in the range of 11th to 16th. Based on team expectations and the unique way the pick is protected, the Bucks probably won’t convey the pick to Phoenix until 2020. Phoenix also gets the Bucks 2018 2nd round pick if 48th or lower.

Added bonus for Suns fans: They get to do the MOOOOOSE call for a few months if Monroe plays in Phoenix (looks like he might not).

Greg Monroe and P.J. Tucker grapple during the Bucks playoffs series last April against the Toronto Raptors. License: Standard non-commercial use.

The Bucks in this trade lost their most reliable scorer off the bench, Monroe, whose inspired play last March when his playing time increased helped drive the Bucks strong finish. The Bucks run to the playoffs featured an 18 wins – 6 losses streak where Monroe played 25.5 mins per game, the most he had all season, and scored 13.9 pts per game on 55.3% shooting, and hauled in 6.8 rebs and dished 3 assists per game.

Monroe’s production went up in the playoffs to 15.5 pts and 8.8 rebs per game through the first 4 games, the message wasn’t lost on coach Kidd. He had all but benched current starting-center-by-default Henson — until the fateful and still controversial game 6, when Kidd pulled Monroe for Henson after Moose was hit with a 2nd foul in the first half. The Raptors didn’t look back until the 4th quarter when the Bucks were dominating the game and it looked like a Game 7 in Toronto was inevitable. It wasn’t.

So naturally, when the 2017-18 season opened with Matthew Dellavedova — who lost the starting point guard job to Brogdon — and Henson getting more playing time than Monroe, there were rumblings all over town about “same old Kidd, still can’t manage a game”; and the Bucks were “playing the bad contracts they’re stuck with”. No coach in their right mind would play “Delly” the minutes Kidd gives him, and why was Kidd bothering people with Henson after benching him last year? Where was Monroe?

Giannis was making headlines, scoring 208 points in the first six and the Bucks had a 4-2 record, not bad for a bunch of guys who weren’t really playing well. But something wasn’t right in the Bucks camp, possibly very wrong as they lost four straight with Moose on the sidelines with a calf muscle injury. The Bucks looked like a team that would again have to fight to get into the playoffs, not the East contender they imagined themselves to be.

And then the trade went down. Coach Kidd hadn’t lost his mind after all — he didn’t want to be stuck playing Delly and Henson. Maybe one, but not both. He decided to roll the dice on Henson being able to play his best basketball; and I guess this means that Kidd really has been on the lookout for a better point guard all this time. And here is Bledsoe, a super-quick, attacking point guard who rebounds, too. The simple math looks something like this:

Bledsoe + Henson + Brogdon > Monroe + Brogdon + Delly

… and if not, Monroe’s $17.9 million contract was expiring at the end of this season anyway, and there was no evidence to say that Kidd was ever going to stop tinkering with Moose’s minutes and match-ups. In making the trade, Kidd eliminated a personal negative the fans were ready to gnaw on like a hambone, potentially a savage mess for the coach, the players, everyone involved.

In case of some unforeseen calamity or if Bledsoe’s knees don’t hold up, the Bucks still have Brogdon and Delly and the pit bull defense of super-sub DeAndre Liggins, plus a few million dollars created by the trade to find a big man to help out during the playoff push, if it comes to that (and it should). They’ve got $3.44 million to be exact, a rather big deal for the Bucks, whose noses were right up to the luxury tax line before they made the trade.

And let’s not forget that the Bucks expect the return of their injured 20.1 points per game forward, Jabari Parker, in February.

Luxury taxes and Jabari Parker

The Bucks in this trade lost the expiring $17.9 million contract of Monroe, which was expected to come in handy next summer when the Bucks hoped to resign Parker. Bledsoe’s $15 million contract next season will eat all but $2.9 million of the Monroe clearance, leaving their player payroll at $105 million. See Bucks contracts here.

The current luxury tax gate, where teams pay $2 for each dollar spent on the “over” side of the gate, is at $119.266 million. Assuming a 3 to 5% increase in the salary cap next season, the luxury tax gate would move to $123-$125 million (estimated). The Bucks have $105 million committed to the 11 players currently under contract for 2018-19, which includes Bledsoe and the $3.9 million to be paid to Larry Sanders and Spencer Hawes.

The math says this leaves $18-$20 million to pay Parker and two new players to make the required 14-man roster. Supposedly Parker turned down an offer from the Bucks to play for more than that, but sources also said Parker recently held up a bank in Saginaw, Mich., and was believed to be holed up at Michael Redd‘s house in the Columbus, Ohio, area. Redd is said to be an expert X-Box baller.

What really happened is that Parker talked to writer Steve Aschburner (who used to work in Milwaukee for the old Sentinel) and Aschurner wrote an  in-depth update on Parker last week. It’s another fine article from Aschburner, featuring interviews with Parker, Paul George, Andrew Wiggins and knee surgery rehab expert Derrick Rose.

When Aschburner asked Parker about whether the Bucks coaches had given him any work “to draw him close” to the team to prepare for his return, Parker had this to say: 

“Next question.”

In other words, the Bucks offered less, probably much less than the going rate — the maximum $148 million contract signed by Parker’s “top 3 pick” 2014 draft-mates, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. Parker, of course, turned them down.

And what Kidd wanted more than anything was not Parker but one of those “real point guards” basketball nuts in Milwaukee have heard so much about ever since the previous owners’ Bucks traded Sam Cassell to Minnesota in 2003. So the Bucks jumped to it when Bledsoe became available, and now they have more than just a point guard — they’ve got a guy who can beat Parker in any sanctioned knee surgery scar showdown.

Now that Kidd has Bledsoe and Giannis, the Bucks would sooner trade Parker than hand him anything resembling $148 for five years. Yes, Parker is on the trading block, more likely than not, and it’s a safe bet that every Buck not named Giannis Antetokounmpo, Malcolm Brogdon, Thon Maker or Eric Bledsoe are right there with him.

Shouldn’t have had that “secret sake” at Jerry’s Sushi Hut.

Bledsoe vs. the Bucks guards,

… or the start of a very long stat analysis of Bledsoe and the Bucks 2016-17 guards that will be in the next post down, but below is a chart made at which illustrates some major topics to be addressed during what I’m sure will be an amazing journey into the Valley of Sensory Deprivation by NBA statistical analysis. (ed. note)

“Dynamic” was the word of the week at Bucks headquarters when describing Bledsoe. The new Bucks GM, Jon Horst, used it a couple of times in announcing the deal, and NBA-TV analysts Greg Anthony and Dennis Scott both picked up on it. Scott even added “dynamism” to the vocabulary.

Dynamic is defined by “constant change, activity or progress” Dynamic is a good thing, and Bledsoe’s numbers reflect a player who is active in all facets of the game, has a nose for the ball, likes contact, beats defenders off the dribble, gets to the rim and the free throw line, and moves the ball around better than the average NBA point guard.

There’s no question about whether or not Bledsoe is an instant upgrade to the Bucks backcourt. He can create his own shots and draw fouls by getting into the D past the first defender, something the Bucks guards struggle to do almost every game.

  • Bledsoe goes to the free throw line more often than all three of the Bucks guard starters from last season COMBINED.
  • He was nearly a 20-5-5 player in Phoenix during his four+ seasons there, averaging 18.8 points, 6.0 assists and 4.8 rebs.
  • He turns the ball over a lot – 4th in the NBA among starting point guards last season.

Here’s that chart: “Per 36 minutes” stats for Bledsoe and former starting point guards Brogdon and Dellavedova, plus starting shooting guard Tony Snell.

Per 36 Minutes Table
Eric Bledsoe 2010 421 7.40 6.1 13.7 .444 .334 5.2 .800 5.0 6.1 1.9 0.7 3.6 2.6 17.5
Malcolm Brogdon 2016 84 6.80 5.4 11.7 .464 .419 2.3 .856 3.7 5.7 1.5 0.2 2.0 2.6 14.4
Matthew Dellavedova 2013 301 2.81 3.6 9.1 .392 .388 1.4 .834 3.1 6.0 0.8 0.1 2.1 3.3 9.9
Tony Snell 2013 303 2.34 3.8 9.0 .422 .380 1.0 .818 4.2 1.7 0.8 0.3 1.1 2.3 10.3
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/9/2017.


BIER = Basketball Impact and Efficiency Rating (also means “beer” in German).

Also Note: “Turnovers in basketball games” though not found in any dictionary definition of “dynamic” may be considered part of its noun variation, “dynamism”, which, thanks to Dennis Scott, was included with Bledsoe in “the big trade.”


  • Sporting News was the only media about the trade interested in Bledsoe’s injury history:
  • ESPN and on Bledsoe’s past injuries: –
  • news on the trade:
  • NBA contract numbers:
    • for the Bucks: contracts/MIL.html
  • – Steve Aschburner’s really really good feature on Jabari Parker:
  • Deadspin on Bledsoe’s tweet: “One of the best athlete tweets ever” –
  • Gamebooks at, Bucks-Lakers, Bucks Memphis, Bucks-Cavs
  • for all basic stats, tables, per 36 stats, player info linker, etc.