Tag Archives: Jodie Meeks

None of the Above: The ultimate Milwaukee Bucks draft blog

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

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

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

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

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

In this draft, trust no GM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott Skiles apologizes for 35-win season … GM Hammond plays injury card

Asked by Bucks beat writers what his message to fans was with the Bucks disappointing season coming to a close, coach Scott Skiles made an apology:

“I would apologize. Look, I’m responsible for this. I understand that. I would never run from that. It’s my responsibility to get the team to play at the highest level they can play at, and obviously I failed at that. This has been a very difficult season and it’s going to stay with me for a long time. We’re going to try and get better. Do our best to get better. For all of us, that’s not a good feeling.” — Scott Skiles’ season post-script.

Given that the Bucks by the end were just an April Fool’s Day buzzer-beater in Indiana away from the 8th playoff spot in the East, one can say that the coach’s sometimes baffling player personnel decisions are partly responsible for his team not making the playoffs.  The Bucks should be preparing for a Round 1 series with the Bulls, and, as I wrote earlier this week, it was a blown, easy opportunity to fuel the rivalry with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Chicago.

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Quote to note, GM John Hammond: “We’re just not playing pro basketball at the moment. We have injuries. Big deal. Every team has injuries. It’s getting to the point where there’s no excuse for the way we played tonight. No excuse whatsoever.” — Andrew Bogut, the Bucks 2011 nominee for Defensive Player of the Year, after one of the Bucks worst performances of the year, an 11-point Saturday night home loss Feb. 5 to coach John Kuester’s mutinous Detroit Pistons.

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Bucks GM John Hammond, in a lengthy interview aired during the final Bucks broadcast, was not in the apologetic mood that the press found Scott Skiles in at seasons end.  Hammond was anything but, in fact, as he was feisty in defending his history of winning — “I’ve always won.”  And, as expected, Hammond played the injury card.

Bucks players missed 277 total games last season, and, that of course, explains their poor record.  But not everything.

The injuries do not explain the Bucks’ Jekyll and Hyde management of them, which varied from pushing players back too soon early on to the opposite approach in the 2nd half.   The Bucks didn’t realize Brandon Jennings had a fractured foot until he had played five quarters on it, for example.  They then monitored his minutes a bit too much for his (or anybody else’s) liking when he returned.

The injuries do not explain the chemistry lost from last season due to Hammond’s offseason moves.

In particular and most importantly, the injuries do not fully explain the Bucks’ abysmal backcourt play.  Nor do the injuries change the fact that Hammond in the offseason cleared from the Bucks 2010 bench every last guard who played behind Jennings or John Salmons.

Salmons and Jennings were healthy at the same time for less than half of the season, and as a result both players struggled mightily to find an offensive groove.   Behind them, it took about half a season for the Bucks to realize that Keyon Dooling wasn’t competent to run the point.  Beyond Dooling there was the ever-entertaining, yet often-aggravating adventure that is pint-sized veteran Earl Boykins.  Other than Earl, the Bucks were forced to sign Garrett Temple to two short term contracts.  Shooting guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, acquired from New Jersey in the offseason, had some moments but rode the bench.  CD-R doesn’t think he’ll be back next year, no hard feelings.

Gone were Luke Ridnour, Royal Ivey and Jerry Stackhouse in free agency.  Gone was Charlie Bell to Golden State in the Corey Maggette deal.  Gone was Jodie Meeks to the 76ers last February in a trade for Ivey, center Primoz Brezec and a draft pick (injured Darington Hobson) who the Bucks cut in December.

Gone was any sense of backcourt continuity or bench experience with Skiles’ offensive and defensive demands.  This was painfully obvious in December and January while Jennings was sidelined with the foot fracture.

Gone was a spot in the playoffs.

The honest approach for the 2010 NBA Executive of the Year would be to own up — like Skiles did — to his share of the responsibility, but that would run against the grain of Hammond’s past practice with the press (and, by extension, the fan base); and he apparently doesn’t believe it’s in his best interest.

(It seems that I forgot all about Michael Redd, who tried unsuccessfully to mesh with Jennings/Ridnour/Bell last season. The Bucks were 12-18 in the games that Redd played.  Redd missed the first 72 games this season, but, sorry about the omission.  It does occur to me that Jennings probably thinks his GM is nuts, or, in the very least that he doesn’t care much for cohesion.)

Notes: Sixers shooting guard Meeks will be the lone member of the 2010 Bucks starting for a 2011 playoff team. … Kurt Thomas remains on the Chicago bench but seems to have lost his backup center minutes to (too lazy to look up his first name) Asik. …  Guard Ivey is the 10th man on the Thunder bench.

Settling for Jump Shots: The Skiles system and the Bucks on-court decisions in the pick and roll analyzed

John Salmons, looking for better options than his jump shot.

Basketball Prospectus this week published a great analysis of the Bucks offensive tendencies, commonly referred to these days as “the Bucks offensive woes.”

LINK to Basketball Prospectus article “The Bucks Stop There.”

It’s no secret that Bucks GM John Hammond and his coach, Scott Skiles, have not made good shooting a roster priority and have either traded away (Jodie Meeks) or let go (Luke Ridnour) of the decent shooters the Bucks did have.  But given this well known deficiency, why do the Bucks so often insist on settling for jump shots?

And why is the Skiles offense determined to result in spot-up jumpshots?

According the Basketball Prospectus analysis, the Bucks run plays that result in spot-up jumpers 23.4 % of the time — 2nd in the NBA.  That’s incredible given the lack of shooting on the roster.  The Bucks make 38.4 % of their spot up jumpers — 22nd in the league.

That’s “not good enough to justify taking the shots,” the article notes.  Yet that’s what the Skiles offense dictates, just as it did during his four-plus seasons coaching in Chicago, when the Bulls offense featured Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni.  The Bucks, unfortunately, don’t shoot as well as those former Bulls, not here in Milwaukee, and not prior to joining the Bucks.

Brandon Jennings, we learn, isn’t as horrible running the pick and roll as some perceive.  He’s actually “average” – delivering 91 points per 100 possessions coming off ball screens and shooting 41.8% out of the pick and roll — not great, but average in the NBA, according to Basketball Prosepectus.

John Salmons, on the other hand, has been as bad as perceived this season.  When he’s settling for jumpers off the dribble on ball screens, he’s scoring a meek 75.5 points per 100 possessions and shooting a god-awful 33.3 percent.  This is both by offensive design (Skiles and Boylan) and player choice (Salmons).

Were Salmons to simply become “average” shooting off of ball screens, he would have to hit about one more shot per game than he normally makes.  That’s two points, three if it’s from Downtown, where he has continued to shoot well; it’s his jump-shooting inside the arc that seems to have left him.  The Bucks have needed more than a three-point bump from Salmons to win, so, ideally, what the team needs him to do is stop settling for jumpers off the pick and roll and take it to the rim.

In the paint, Salmons stands a much better chance of generating the 4 or 5 points per game — either by scoring, drawing fouls and defenders, or opening up weak side rebounding opportunities for the Bucks front court — that the Bucks need to get over the top in these games down the stretch.

Up to this point, Salmons as been settling for the jump shot off the ball screen 78% of the time.  That’s OK if you’re Ray Allen and shooting 50 percent from the floor and 46.6 percent from 3-point-land (yes, those are his current shooting numbers in Miami) but it’s clearly not what the 2011 Bucks need now from Salmons.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE, and I hope you do. It’s well worth the read and includes play-by-play video to illustrate the Bucks’ offensive tendencies.

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Salmons, Delfino on fire against the Nets

With Bogut still struggling with offensive efficiency and needing more arm surgery in the off-season, the Bucks in their game tonight at the BC against the Nets needed a smart floor game from point guard Brandon Jennings and some efficient offense from their top scoring options, Salmons and Carlos Delfino.

They got it.   Jennings had eight assists and one turnover in 40 minutes.  Salmons and Delfino shot the lights out, rippling the nets with a combined 20 of 29 shooting and 51 points.  Delfino shot 8-11 from downtown and led the scoring with 26.

The game wasn’t televised in Milwaukee, but we know that 13 of Salmons’ 16 shots were from inside the arc, a good sign for a Bucks offense that has desperately needed smart shot selection and efficient offense to stay in the playoff hunt.

The Bucks stay home to play the Knicks Sunday afternoon.