Knockin’ ’em Down in Brewtown

By:
Published: February 13, 2008

Last game before the All-Star festivities commence this weekend!  The Hornets are visiting Milwaukee after beating the Bulls last night, hoping to close out strong before they start a hellacious stretch of schedule after the break.

Since Milwaukee isn't LA and doesn't get 72 articles a day written about them, I figured I'd ask some Bucks Bloggers questions about their team.  Here's Frank from the excellent Brewhoop:

Hornets247: Like last year, there was optimism in Milwaukee at the start of the year, but again the Bucks have struggled with injuries and consistency.  If this roster was even mostly healthy all season, are they a .500 team?  Higher?

Brewhoop: If you look at the numbers they're probably lucky to even be 19-33, so given that injuries haven't been that bad this year I'd say they don't have much right to complain. Redd has missed 10 games, but the Bucks were 5-5 in that span. Desmond Mason missed 22 games, in which the team went 8-14, and obviously Desmond's not the kind of guy who should make or break a team anyway.  The majority of players have been below-average for most of the season and Larry Krystkowiak has taken his lumps as a rookie coach, but I'm not sure there's any one thing that's responsible for the mediocrity. 

Though I think if we had Chris Paul we'd definitely be a .500 or better team 🙂
 
Hornets247: You've got a pair of young, sweet-shooting Power Forwards in Yi and Charlie.  Which would do you prefer long-term.  Would you like to keep both, or is one redundant and expendable?

Brewhoop: The going assumption is that CV will be dealt this summer if he isn't shipped out before the deadline, and I think that's probably in the best interests of all parties.  He'll miss tonight's game with an ankle injury, but he had finally woken up in the three prior games that he started in Yi's absence.   Which is nice because  it helps his trade value, but it's also frustrating: why does a guy have to start to be a positive contributor?  It's probably been difficult for him knowing that Yi was drafted to replace him, but the bottom line is that he hasn't really improved much since his rookie year, when he might have been a little overhyped anyway scoring a lot of points on a bad Raptor team.  As a fan, I like to root for the guy, but the truth is that his offensive talents overshadow the fact that he's not a high-efficiency scorer (going to the line infrequently and shooting threes at such a low conversion rate hurts). And while he rebounds well, he's a poor defender.  So for a guy in his third year I just don't think he's shown the total package that you'd want to necessarily build around.  Hopefully a change of scenery lights a fire under him.

While Yi still has a lot to prove, the team has a huge investment in him that goes beyond basketball.  All of a sudden every business in Wisconsin sees the Bucks as their window to doing business in China, and while it's difficult to quantify what sort of economic impact Yi will have, the Bucks are no doubt keen to build up some economic/political goodwill given they have the third-oldest arena in the NBA and are perennially stuck behind the Packers and Brewers in terms of fan interest.

On the court (almost forgot about that part), Yi isn't the developed scorer that Villanueva is, but he has plenty of offensive upside, plays defense, has zero work ethic questions and is on a rookie contract for three more years after this, so it's kind of a no-brainer who the Bucks will want to keep.
 
Hornets247: I've heard rumbling that Michael Redd may end up on the trade market this offseason.  Is that all hot air, or could it be true?  And if it does happen, how do you feel about it?

Brewhoop: Unless there's a dramatic and altogether unforeseeable second half turnaround coming, I'd say it's true.  I've always been torn on this topic, because on the one hand it seems stupid to trade the one player on the team that has actually played at an all-star caliber level, yet on the other hand he's clearly not in that upper echelon of guards despite making max dollars.  This year he's made a visible effort to pass more and shoot less, but you still hear stuff about teammates not liking his late-game shot selection or questioning his leadership.  And it's not just whether Redd is worth keeping, but also whether Redd complements guys like Mo, Bogut and Yi in the longer term.

As good as Redd has been over the years, there's so much frustration with the Bucks' lack of success in recent years that the team will have little choice but to see what Redd might be able to fetch in a trade.  Clearly something needs to change, and I'm not sure the Bucks' shoot-first, play defense later backcourt makes sense in the long term.
 
Hornets247: In the Bucks games I've watched, Mo seems to be more shameless gunner(if very efficient) than point man.  So make the call: Mo Williams, starting point guard, starting shooting guard or sixth man combo guard?

Brewhoop: Well, this has long been a debate among Bucks fans.

Mo's been forced to adapt a bit throughout the season, as he started the year passing more and shooting less.  But he has gradually shot more as the season has gone on, in part because most everyone else has proven incapable of scoring (especially when Redd has been hurt).  Overall I don't really fault him too much for his shot selection because the Bucks' supporting cast has generally been atrocious at putting the ball in the hoop.  So on this team, yes, he's the starting PG, but that obviously doesn't mean the same would be true if he was on a contending team.

Jason Terry's transition to sixth man combo guard is probably one of the more compelling arguments for that role, but unfortunately the Bucks don't have the luxury of playing Mo reduced minutes, nor does his new $51 million contract make that very feasible from a political standpoint.  But in general his strength as a scorer doesn't always complement Redd very well, who clearly has similar talents.  I think Mo would be fine taking on a role as more of a passer, but it's also a matter of letting a guy do what he does best, and he clearly doesn't have the natural passing instincts of a guy like Chris Paul.

My biggest complaint about Mo isn't his shooting so much as his defense–as a team we just get killed on the defensive end no matter what we do, and our perimeter defenders are a big reason for that.  In New Orleans we switched a lot because we can't guard pick/roll at all, while lately we've been playing a ton of zone, essentially conceding that man defense is beyond us.  We started the season trying to play more of a halfcourt game to focus on defense, but it's been another poor year defensively (28th in defensive efficiency) that's been made worse by a below average offense too.  As I noted earlier, defense is another reason why the Mo/Redd backcourt leaves a lot to be desired.
 
Hornets247: I've been impressed by Bogut this year.  He seems more agile and explosive than he once was.  Do you see him as a potential 20 and 10 guy for an entire season?
 
Brewhoop: Bogut's been one of the few sort of bright spots this year, but he still has some major roadblocks to becoming a real star.  His first two seasons he had periods where his intensity wasn't quite there, and he's always had stretches where he's lacked confidence offensively.  But he came into camp stronger and that's really helped him be a better man defender, and there really hasn't been any period this year where I've questioned his effort.  More surprisingly he's added a shot-blocking component to his game, which I really hadn't expected.

I don't think there's any way he can come close to 20/10 numbers unless he drastically improves his shot and gets his free throw percentage closer to 70%.  The amazing (read: agonizing) part about Bogut is that he was a 67% foul shooter his last year in college and he was supposed to have something of a mid-range game.  But his free throw shooting has gotten worse every year in the pros and there's no consistency to his 15-17 foot shot, to the point that he doesn't think about that shot unless the 24-second clock requires him to.  He has nice baby hooks with both hands and he's pretty crafty down low, but unless you're Shaq or Dwight it's awfully tough to be a big-time scorer when you make a living exclusively within eight feet of the rim.  After a career month in January (16/10), he's come back down to earth more recently as teams have been doubling him more and generally paying closer attention to him. That's the real question to me–can he adapt and change his game appropriately now that teams are beginning to gameplan him a bit? 


Thanks to Frank for his thoughtful answers, and here's some highlights for tonights game:

Bucks(19-33):

  • Former Hornet Desmond Mason is no longer injured and should be playing tonight.  Can't wait until he gets to the free throw line and we can all giggle about his form.
  • Leading Bucks Scorer Michael Redd has recently returned from injury, but struggled last game.
  • Andrew Bogut, after a strong January, has come down to earth a little. Still, we clearly took him lightly last game and he gave us a some trouble.  Chandler needs to close him down.
  • Charlie Villaneuva will not play with a sprained ankle.
  • Offensive Efficiency: 100.8(20th)
  • Defensive Efficiency: 107.8(28th)

Hornets(35-15)

  • Peja is on fire, even without the Evil Peja Goatee he hit 6-9 from deep.  I've got to say, I've never enjoyed watching him more than now.
  • It's funny.  I'm more surprised now when Paul has less than a dozen assists than when he has more than that.  I remember thinking 10 assists from a PG was awesome.  Now that seems kinda ordinary.
  • West should eat Yi Jianlin and Charlie Villaneuva alive.  Especially since Charlie isn't playing.  I predict West will hold him to 0 points.
  • Mo Pete will probably not play with his bad back.
  • Our Bench sucked the last couple games.  Hopefully Pargo isn't about to go ice-cold for a month again.
  • Offensive Efficiency: 107.7(8th)
  • Defensive Efficiency: 101.1(6th)

Hornets win 110-95.

0 comments