Bucks-Hornets Game Preview and more thoughts on Scott

Before we get to the game preview, I wanted to comment on something Toney Blare said in his Hawks-Hornets game recap over at Slam Online.  I thought it was pretty profound and it set me to thinking:

In his press conference, Bower says they need everybody to win, that he doesn’t expect the rookies to make mistakes. It’s a telling change from the BScott era, when the coach treated young players as if he himself were a veteran, hazing them, making them worry over his approval.

Blare is absolutely right.  When JR Smith was a Hornet, Byron insisted on referring to him as “rook” all the time.  He participated gleefully in the hazing of JR and the next year to Armstrong, Simmons and Bass, particularly when it was being applied by his friend Bobby Jackson.  I can remember on several occasions where he was the one telling the rookies they needed to sing to entertain the team.

Now, that may not seem like a big thing.  Being hazed as a rookie is standard in the NBA, and handling it well is part of gaining the respect of your teammates.  There is, however, a problem with a coach being a major participant and instigator in it.  When veteran players haze a rookie, the rookie should have an avenue to even the scales:  by playing harder, running them ragged, and taking the old guy to the hole and dunking on him.  They earn respect by beating the veterans at their own game, and thereby impressing the head coach, who should be capable of being the impartial judge.

That dynamic changes, however, when a coach is actively participating in the denigration of the rookies.  A rookie can’t beat the head coach – they have all the cards.  There is no way to beat them at their own game, and typically no higher power to impress who can  change the dynamic.  The pattern is eventually established where the Head Coach can be a martinet if he feels like it, and the rookie is simply out of luck.  Thus, you get Brandon Bass, JR Smith, Arvydas Macijauskas, and for nine games, Collison and Thornton.

Of course, this would have been much more interesting if I thought about it before Scott was fired.  On to the game Preview.

Matchup: Milwaukee Bucks(8-4) @ New Orleans Hornets(6-9)

Off Efficiency: Bucks 102.3(20th), Hornets 104.7(13th)
Def Efficiency: Bucks 99.6(8th), Hornets 108.9(29th)

The Milwaukee Bucks have been one of the surprise teams of the league this year.  After trading Richard Jefferson for cap space and Michael Redd suffering his annual injury, the team was expected to be pretty awful, particularly on the offensive end.  The emergence of their rookie Brandon Jennings as a scoring guard, however, has managed to keep the Bucks from having a truly awful offense.  Currently, they stand 20th in the league, scoring 102.3 points per 100 possessions, which has been all that was required due to their stifling Scott Skiles-coached defense, which currently ranks 8th in the league.

That all said, and I’d hate to rain on what’s got to be a lot of excitement for Bucks fans, but I have a feeling the Bucks are merely a mediocre team again this year.  Yes, their record reads 8-4, but they have had, by far, the easiest schedule of any team in the league.  The combined winning percentage of the teams they have played has been an astonishingly weak .371, and so far the Bucks have only one quality win against Denver, while losing to Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas and San Antonio.

By way of contrast, the Hornets have played the toughest schedule so far, leading the league in number of games played and facing teams with a combined winning percentage of .611.  Of course, that does not mean the Hornets can take the Bucks lightly.  The Hornets are still fighting to rise to the level of mediocre and have been winning without Chris Paul largely because of hustle and grit.

At least the job of beating the Bucks has also been made a little bit easier as the starting Bucks center Andrew Bogut is out, and Michael Redd is struggling with getting back into game shape.


Bucks: Andrew Bogut is out with a leg contusion.
Hornets: Chris Paul is out with a sprained ankle.  Hilton and Marks are still struggling with their own injuries, though either may play.  Ike Diogu is out.

Positional Analysis

PG: Brandon Jennings v Darren Collison
Advantage: Bucks
Whatever I think about the mirage of the Bucks record, Brandon Jennings shows the potential to be special.  He’s already scored 55 in one game earlier this season, something that neither Chris Paul nor David West have ever approached.  That said, he is a barely adequate leading scorer, as he draws few free throws, resulting in only 1.23 points per shot on the 19 he takes per game.(You want your primary scorer to be above 1.3 shots per game)  His assist numbers are decent, sitting at 5.7, but he also turns the ball over at a high rate, giving him a pretty week pure point guard rating.  Those numbers do point to a guy who can turn into something amazing as he develops, but for right now, he does have holes in his game that can be taken advantage of.  The Hornets will try and match Jennings with Darren Collison, who has shown less scoring talent, but a tough ability to defend.  It should be fun to see which of the lightning-quick guards gets the edge tonight, though I lean towards Jennings and his 19 shots a game.

SG: Charlie Bell v Devin Brown
Advantage: Even
Bell will surrender the starting spot to Redd at some point, but he started here last game so I will go with this.  Bell has a better floor game – both in passing and driving.  However, Devin Brown is much more aggressive, and has been putting up similar numbers to Bell this season in fewer minutes.  In the end, it’s a bit of a draw.

SF: Carlos Delfino v Peja Stojakovic
Advantage: Even
Delfino is a decent shooter from range, though he’s a surprisingly weak finisher inside.  He does, however, do a lot of the little things; defending, rebounding, and passing that impact a game without scoring.  He’s a solid complimentary piece.  Peja has come on of late with his shooting, and if he continues at that rate, this position swings quickly in the Hornet’s favor.  If he’s not shooting well, it will go the other way entirely.

PF: Ersan Ilyasova v David West
Advantage: Even
Ersan is a stretch four, capable of stepping out and hitting the three at a high rate, yet still able to hustle inside and get rebounds.  His energy and perimeter game is going to hurt a bit, as Fluffy continues to be reluctant to play perimeter defense.  However, David West has a significant size advantage over Ilyasova and should get shots inside.  If he actually finishes them – something he hasn’t done yet this season, this position swings quickly in favor of the Hornets.

C: Dan Gadzuric v Emeka Okafor
Advantage: Hornets
This is where the injury to Bogut hurts the Bucks badly.  Gadzuric is terrible.  He’d have difficulty being in most teams rotations, much less starting at center.  Okafor should have his way with him.

Advantage: Hornets
Michael Redd, Kurt Thomas, Mbah A Moute, Hakim Warrick, Luke Ridnour v Thornton, Songaila, Posey, Marks, and B. Brown. 

The Bucks bench lacks scoring punch with Michael Redd struggling.  That could change, but for now, they have to ride Hakin Warrick’s scoring, which has been only moderately effective this season.  On the flip side, Mbah a Moute(especially) and Kurt Thomas form a pretty formidable defensive duo off the bench, keeping up the strong defensive play of the starters.  The Hornets, however, have the explosive Thornton, who is well complimented by Posey and Songaila. Unless Redd gets hot, I’d rather role with the Hornets bench crew.

Enjoy the game.

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