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?


  1. Zach Moreno

    October 17, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Great article.

  2. DownUnder

    October 17, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Nice article, Different perception to what will win games for the hornets this year as apposed to what others say as not enough help for Chris Paul. I’d be happy with a similar result as the bucks last year with hopefully with a better start.

  3. James Grayson

    October 17, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Good take on the whole “media bashing” that has occurred the past couple of seasons on the Hornets and how we may be better than many assume.

    I think we need to get over this notion that with Chris Paul getting 14 assits per 48 the team is fine when it comes to setting up others. Truth is, other than Chris Paul (and maybe David West) this team just cannot set others up, hopefully that changes though with a “systematic change.”

    • TopherPrice

      October 17, 2010 at 8:17 pm

      I don’t know what our new PG from San Antonio can do, but Marco has looked very nice so far this preseason in the assist category. He is pushing 4pg and I can think of at least two a game he doesn’t get when guys miss wide open shots. I don’t know the coaching staff’s aversion to the 3 guard rotation we are seeing, but having 4-5 assists from your SG spot per game this season will be a welcome addition even if they don’t let Marco try his hand at PG.

  4. HiMyNameisSteven

    October 17, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    didnt look at link yet but jerrells sounds most likely to me it is curtis jerrells second year man out of baylor. he was pretty big stud out of college as a scorer not much of a pg. dont know what we gave up but prob nothing special and i dont think jerrells will be anything super special either but ehhh whatever.

    and also @ michael- well i think the bucks are taking some pages out of our books as well by probably destroying their chances at making the next level by signing mid level aging players to huge contracts. although i like gooden and always thought he was under valued

  5. StefanC

    October 17, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    I wouldn’t mind being a team that’s set to make the playoffs and be destined to lose before the conference finals. That’s okay since at least I’d know we’re only 1 lob-sided trade away from becoming a true contender (Pau Gasol anyone?). I’ve seen enough rebuilding over the years. I want playoffs for 3+ seasons in a row!

  6. Mark

    October 17, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    There is another difference: we’re in the Western Conference. And I don’t think 2010’s player movements have affected the tide drastically, sans one cheat-code-active team.

    And if you remember last season, the game before Thanksgiving our Bees won against the Bucks in overtime (without Chris Paul). Just plugging that in there because it’s the only Hornets home game I’ve been to, haha

  7. Apple

    October 18, 2010 at 3:44 am

    Does anybody know why Wednesday’s game in Charlotte is at 10 a.m.?
    Is it a holiday?
    Do they expect anyone to buy a ticket?

  8. hewhorocks

    October 18, 2010 at 11:00 am

    The Eastern Conference central is not the South West. Were the Bucks the 6th most talented team in the east? Sure. Who else? After Cleveland and Boston the drop off seemed pretty steep. One might question whether Atlanta was the third most talented rather than Milwaukee was the sixth.

    My point is while the East has shifted some talent around, it still seems to be a lob-sided conference. West? No so much. If the Hornets improve by 12 wins this year (a pretty good improvement in most folks eyes) they dont make the grade in the west (if we go by last years standings.) In the east they would have needed just 4 games.

    Still can the Hornets make the playoffs and loose in the first round? Certainly, but I would hope for more.

    The National media just looks at the probabilities. The Hornets need a 13 game improvement for the 8th spot with a rookie coach, a new system with a bunch of new players and No new stars.

  9. Borginshorg

    October 18, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    You’re missing the fact that the Bucks were a very physical team who defended amazingly. Bogut became the best defensive center outside of Dwight Howard. Everyone else was very fast and versatile. We are lacking that because West and Peja are both slow footed and we have a lot of new pieces. They also were more balanced and didn’t rely on one player, so when Bogut went down it wasn’t really the end of the world. If CP goes down, well, it’s the end of the world

  10. 42

    October 18, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    We’ve made at least incremental improvements at every position except point guard, where we took a step back of questionable size, but at least a small one, until we know a good deal more more about Jerrells.

    We’ve also installed new coaches etc. The differences on defense have noticeable effects (Defense today > defense last year). Taken with other observations, I see the defensive improvements as a product of the systems to a great degree, but talent is certainly playing at least a minor role.

    How to describe the differences . . . someone else is going to have to do that. They are talking more, seem more active away from the ball, and seem to be rebounding more.

    On offense, I don’t see the dramatic difference, but I’m not sure I’m supposed to at this point since Monty clearly stated he was more worried about installing the defense.

    All that being said, can anyone tell me some things about this system. To this point, it’s lacked definition to me. Are we doing the Princeton Offense? Triangle?

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