It Would Bee-Hoove the Hornets to Follow Milwaukee’s Model

Published: October 17, 2010

When John Thompson III left from Princeton to take over the Head Coaching job at Georgetown, his philosophy was simple: If a great system plus mediocre players equals a good team, then a great system plus great players would result in an exceptional team. Because of this he brought the Princeton offense to the rugged Big East and three years later the Georgetown Hoyas were in the Final Four.

As the Hornets start out their journey to finding their identity as a team under new Head Coach Monty Williams, they might want to take this example to heart. And it just so happens that the team the Hornets play the first game of the upcoming season provides a good model for the Hornets to follow.

Last season the Milwaukee Bucks were deemed by most experts as the odds on favorite to be the worst team in the Eastern Conference. Their roster consisted of two quasi All Stars who always seemed to be injured, a rookie point guard who couldn’t even be a constant part of the rotation for an overseas team, and a bunch of journeymen that the average NBA fan could not identify.

Despite their apparent lack of skill, the Milwaukee Bucks finished sixth in the Eastern Conference with a 46-36 record and pushed the third seed Atlanta Hawks to seven games in the first round.  And they did all of that despite only getting 18 games from arguably their best player Michael Redd and 69 from their center Andrew Bogut, who missed the final game of the season and the playoffs entirely.

The team got key contributions from guys like Ersan Illysova, Luc Mbah a Moute, and ageless wonders like Jerry Stackhouse and Kurt Thomas. The point is that there are holes on this Hornets roster and New Orleans is by no means the most talented team in the Western Conference- but were the Bucks the 6th most talented team in the East last year heading into the season? After losing Michael Redd and Bogut, were they even half as talented as the Atlanta Hawks team they pushed to the brink of elimination?

Like Princeton, the Bucks made up for their lack of talent with attention to detail, defense, heart, and a great system.  Because the 2010-11 Hornets have more talent, you would think that if those things could be transplanted into this team that it is possible that John Thompson’s theory would hold true for these New Orleans Hornets. Take what the Bucks did last year and add more talent to the equation and it should produce even better results.

At point guard the Bucks had a combo of Brandon Jennings and Luke Ridnoir, neither of whom will ever be mistaken for Chris Paul. Collectively they shot 42 percent from the field and produced 9.7 assists per game over the 54 minutes that they averaged on the court over the duration of the season. CP3 has shown when healthy that he will shoot over 50 percent from the field and averages nearly 14 assists per 48 minutes.

David West and Marcus Thornton are both capable of stepping into the role that John Salmons provided last season- that of a fairly efficient leading scorer who doesn’t really bring much else to the table stat wise. Salmons averaged twenty points per game, something both West and Thornton did over the second half of last season and had the ability to get hot on a given night and go for thirty, or on the rare occasion, forty points.

Trevor Ariza is without question a rich man’s Mbah a Moute, as he has the ability to guard multiple position and add energy to any unit he is on the floor with. Unlike Mbah a Moute however, he is not a liability offensively and he can be just as deadly on that end of the floor when he doesn’t have to create for himself.  Other similarities can be seen between Peja and Stackhouse, Pops and Kurt Thomas, and Delfino and Belinelli.

A skeptic might point out the advantage Milwaukee has at the center position with Andrew Bogut- but remember we are talking about the perception of the Bucks going into last year, just like we are talking about the perception of the Hornets going into this year. Since that is the case, if we look at the numbers there is nothing to say that Bogut prior to last year was any different from the Emeka Okafor we have seen.  In 2008-09, for example, Bogut averaged 11 and 10 with 1 block per game and shot 57 percent from the line. Those stats are on par with what Emeka has produced the last 2-3 years.

So across the board the Hornets have more talent than those Milwaukee Bucks and yet the perception around the country is that it is doubtful the Hornets will produce superior results. Why is that? It has to be because there has been no evidence to support the belief that the Hornets can play with that level of discipline, that level of heart, and that level of tenacity. It is because nobody knows what to expect from Monty Williams and his system. It is because people assume that at the end of the day it is talent and talent alone that wins basketball games.

The Bucks proved that theory wrong last year. Can the Hornets do the same this year?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.