NBA PM: Bucks Riding Offense to Postseason?
The Milwaukee Bucks are currently two and a half games behind the New York Knicks for the final spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, but Scott Skiles’ team may have an inside track to the postseason.
The Knicks are looking at up to four weeks without Amar’e Stoudemire (bulging disc) and Jared Jeffries (knee) and up to six weeks without Jeremy Lin (torn meniscus in his left knee). But even more significant than that, the Bucks are confusing the heck out of opponents, one Western Conference source told HOOPSWORLD.
“That will be an interesting team as an eighth seed since they added Monta Ellis,” the source said.
The team is just 6-4 since they added Ellis and Ekpe Udoh from Golden State and both players have looked lost at times. Still, the offense they’re currently running is a big departure from Skiles’ usual program.
They’re playing without any post player (“Drew Gooden is playing facing the basket, but that wouldn’t be the case normally”) and the pace has picked up considerably. That means less “programmed plays” and far less movement offensively, which has been replaced with more urgency.
“The last coach to run this kind of a thing was Jim O’Brien in Indiana, but his was run more from the elbow,” the source said. “Skiles has taken it to a better level this time.
“Give Skiles credit,” he continued. “He’s a set-play kind of guy and he moved to this style pretty seamlessly.”
The player who may be benefitting the most is point guard Brandon Jennings, who averaged 20.5 points and 5.9 assists per game in March while shooting over 43% from the field (he’s a career 38.8% shooter, so yes, that’s an improvement). Furthermore, Jennings has turned the ball over only five times over his last three games, which is a sign he’s adjusting to the changes.
What makes the Bucks particularly dangerous is the volume of good shooters they have on their rosters. Jennings, Ellis, Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Delfino, Beno Udrih and even 6-10 bigs Ersan Ilyasova (“he’s played so well”) and Jon Leuer can shoot from the perimeter.
Milwaukee also has a versatile roster featuring no less than 10 players that can serve in multiple positions. Shaun Livingston, for instance, has moonlighted at point guard, shooting guard and small forward.
The only real concern for Milwaukee—and this was never a problem when Andrew Bogut was on the team and healthy—is defense. This is a team that gave up 99 points to the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday after yielding 125 points to the Indiana Pacers one week earlier.
“They’re not as good defensively,” the source said. “There’s more possessions per game, so they’re probably giving up more points. Skiles is a good defensive coach, but they don’t have the inside presence that they had in the past.
“(Udoh) doesn’t have a crazy effect,” he continued. “I think he’s a good player who adds to their depth, but I don’t think he really changes them defensively.”
You may believe that the Knicks are more talented than the Bucks, but you can’t argue with their respective schedules. While New York prepares to face the Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic and Chicago Bulls this week, Milwaukee gets the Washington Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers and the league’s worst team, the Charlotte Bobcats.
The Knicks are still in control of their own destiny for now, but the Bucks’ exotic new offense could be coming together at just the wrong time for New York fans.
Reggie Miller, Don Nelson, Jamaal Wilkes to be Enshrined at Hall of Fame
The Pro Basketball Hall of Fame has announced the latest class of enshrinees: Indiana Pacers legend Reggie Miller, veteran NBA coach Don Nelson, four-time NBA champion Jamaal Wilkes, two-time Olympic gold medalist Katrina McClain, former top overall pick Ralph Sampson, former NBA referee Hank Nichols as well as Nike co-found Phil Night, ABA star Mel Daniels, former All-Star Chet Walker and Olympians Don Barksdale and Lydija Alexeeva. The female version of the Harlem Globetrotters, the All-American Red Heads, will also be honored with the rest of the induction class on Sept. 7 in Springfield, MA.
(Information from the Associated Press was used in writing this report)
A Center-heavy NBA Draft Gets Another Center
Suspended Syracuse Orange center Fab Melo will enter the NBA Draft and has signed with agent Arn Tellem, Jonathan Givony of Draft Express wrote on his twitter account.
Melo missed the NCAA tournament because of academic ineligibility and there was some speculation that he wouldn’t be welcomed back to the school after possibly costing the orange a chance at a national title.
But while that suggests Melo has a problem with his work ethic, it’s worth noting that he shed a significant amount of weight before the season and has never been in better shape.
The native of Brazil’s numbers weren’t too impressive (7.8 points, 2.8 blocks and 5.8 rebounds per game) although his rebounding suffered because of coach Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone defense.
For franchises like the Miami HEAT, Cleveland Cavaliers or even the Oklahoma City Thunder (teams with late picks who might want to add a center), Melo’s inclusion in the draft is a big deal. Centers like UNC’s Tyler Zeller, Illinois’ Meyers Leonard and Mississippi State’s will probably be off the board by the time Cleveland uses the pick they got from the Los Angeles Lakers.
And even if Melo is selected earlier, St. Bonaventure big man Andrew Nicholson, Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli and even Bosnian product Ognjen Kuzmic or 7-4 Serbian center Dusan Cantekin will still be options in the late first or early second rounds.
In short, this promises to be a very helpful draft for teams looking for serviceable big men.
Check Out: There are several NBA games on tonight, but there’s only one thing that’s really worth watching and that’s the National Championship Game between The Kentucky Wildcats and the Kansas Jayhawks. The tip-off will be at 9:23 on CBS and there could be as many as eight players participating that will be first-round picks at in June’s NBA Draft.
Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Michel Kidd-Gilchrist are locks to be top-three picks while Kansas’ Thomas Robinson might be able to squeeze into the top three as well.
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