Friday, January 4, 2013

Milwaukee Bucks Quarter Season Recap

Who are the 2012-2013 Bucks?  They’re cerebral, clutch and potent. 

Not many experts had the Bucks in 2nd place a quarter’s way through the season, and fewer expected an opening night like they had in Boston to kick off the season, trumping the Celtics 99-88.  The next night would really spark the season as Brandon Jennings drained a game winning three pointer at the buzzer after the Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving tied the game with under two seconds on the clock. 

The Walking Dead
Milwaukee radio was buzzing and the team has showed its promise.  The Andrew Bogut for Monta Ellis trade has already justified itself as Bogut sits injured on the Golden State bench while Ellis has averaged 19.6 PPG through his first 30 games of the season.  The improvement of Larry Sanders as a defensive beast and the presence of Ekpe Udoh have filled the void of Bogut.  Simply put, the trade is looking like an absolute steal and Ellis leads the team in scoring and lives up to his scouting report as a dynamite transition player and lightning quick guard.  Meanwhile, in Golden State, Andy Bogut sits.  (Though we sincerely wish him the best of luck going forward, a former fan favorite).

Breaking Bad
The scary thing?  Ellis hasn’t even flashed his best looks yet; Ellis has not played up to his career norms from the shooting side.  He’s shot just 22% from 3-point territory, down from his career average of 32%, and he’s been less efficient from the field to date, too (39% in ’12, 46% career).  So where does Ellis go from here?  The Mississippi native needs to learn how to play with Jennings on the court—with efficiency.  Having two similar backcourt players on the court at the same time can sometimes negate the way they play.  Using Monta Ellis’ PER of 16.3 (Player Efficiency Rating statistic, used to measure per-minute production), he has been less “efficient” than his career norm of about 17.  The best is yet to come… 

Brandon Jennings, the Bucks fringe All-Star (currently 9th for Eastern backcourt stars), continues to improve each year in the league.  The 23-year old veteran has seen spikes in most all of his efficiency stats (3P%, FT%) and with Ellis at his side, has the ability to dish the ball and get his share of assists (6.1 APG—highest of his career).  Also following his career trend, Jennings has been a fourth quarter force, demanding the ball and putting up strong numbers in the game’s closing minutes.   

The Bucks have played solid at home—not incredible, but their 9-7 record will allow them to remain competitive as long as they play .500 on the road (just as they’ve done at 7-7).  Moreover, the Bucks backcourt is the highest scoring backcourt in the NBA, which is pretty impressive with duos like Ginobli and Parker, Kobe and Nash, and Deron Williams and Joe Johnson lighting it up. 

The Americans
Nobody had a tougher start to the season then Erysan Ilyasova, but after Coach Scott Skiles starting using him as the 6th man off the bench, Ilyasova has begun to replicate his breakout 2011-2012 season.   After a pitiful November where he shot under 35% from the field, Ilyasova countered by shooting 46%  since the calendar struck December and has been draining three pointers at a 52% clip.  While he went on an offensive vacation for most of November, his defense has continued to be top notch and its one of Ilyasova’s major assets to his game.  Coming into the season, we were worried that last year was a fluke, aberration for Ilysavoa, but the 25 year old Turkish Tornado has followed up with a great month of basketball and is on the right track to rebound after a disturbing first month.

Modern Family
The Bucks are really starting to come together and learn how to play together.  For the majority of the team, this is their second year together.  Mike Dunleavy and Larry Sanders deserve big ups and credit for much improvement (specifically on the defensive end) in their game this season, and a few masterful performance this season (Dunleavy’s 29 point outburst against the Cavs as the Bucks went to win by 2 in early December / Sanders’ evolution in becoming a one man SWAT team as supported by his league leading 3.0 blocks per game).

The Bucks Outlook: The Bucks have had a very adequate quarter+ to their season as they sit in the no. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference.  They remain one game behind the Chicago Bulls in the conference and while they’ve lost their last two (5-5 in their last 10), the Bucks have a realistic chance to get the no. 5 seed in conference and, if everything goes right, even a shot at the no. 4 seed (just 2 GB the Pacers).

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Sean Mahon (@SMahon2Go)

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