Sunday, January 23, 2011

Midseason Rankings of the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks

The 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks have been absolutely ravaged by injury. Only 41 games into the season the Bucks have already lost 155 player-games* because of illness or injury. That means the Bucks have missed on average 4 players per game, which has forced Milwaukee Bucks head coach Scott Skiles to use 13 different starting lineups. That has resulted in the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks putting together a disappointing record of 16-25 (only one game worse than they were last year). Let's not forget that the Bucks had zero expectations last year, but after making the playoffs, expectations were high heading into this year.

Before we jump into the rankings, here is how the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks stack up against the other 29 NBA teams:
- 30th in the NBA in points scored per game with 91.5 points
- 12th in the NBA in rebounds per game with 42.1 rebounds
- 30th in the NBA in assists per game with 18.0 assists
- 4th in the NBA is points allowed per game with 92.8 points
- 8th in the NBA in field goal percentage allowed with 44.6% shooting

Although I am starting to embrace NBA advance statistics** I will stick with a pretty simple one: if you only score 91.5 points per game but allow 92.8 points per game it is going to be hard to win games. Coming into the 2010-11 season most people thought the Bucks would have a hard time keeping everyone happy on the offensive side of the ball because there were more shooters than shots to go around. Ironically it is their defense that has kept the Bucks in games. When the Bucks score more than 100 points they are 7-2 but when they score less than 89 points they are 2-18. Unless the Bucks can figure out a way to score more points, they are lottery bound in 2011.

Let's take a quick mid-season look at the questions I posed about the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks before the season:

Will Bogut rebound from injury again?
It has been a mixed bag so far. It looks like Bogut's injury really has at least a year recovery time, which means Bogut probably won't be fully healthy till the 2011-12 NBA season.

How will the 8 new players mesh with the 7 holdovers from the 2009-10 team?
It is really too early to tell whether the players will mesh because they have not been at full strength all season.

Will Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings become an elite NBA point guard?
Jennings is just getting back into game shape after missing games since mid-December. Jennings looked on the cusp of being a top-10 point guard heading into the season, which is really saying something because the NBA has possibly the best crop of young point guards in league history right now.

How many players will Bucks head coach Scott Skiles use in his rotation?
Thanks to injuries, Skiles has been unable to develop a consistent rotation.

Will the Bucks move Michael Redd's expiring contract?
It looks like Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond is going to let Redd's contract expire because of a lack of takers and the labor uncertainty currently facing the NBA.

Rookie shooting guard/small forward Daringoton Hobson dropped out of the rankings because he was waived. Just to recap, Hammond traded shooting guard Jodie Meeks for a second round pick that he used to take Hobson. All along it looked like Hobson v. Meeks was going to take a few years to decide but Hammond settled that in less than a month...he should have just held onto Meeks.

As I do with all my Milwaukee Bucks player rankings, I am going to rank the players on the current Milwaukee Bucks roster from 15 to 1. In case you missed it, check out my initial rankings of the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks roster. There are a number of factors that determine each player's value: short-term expectations, long-term expectations, salary, relative strength at each position, and swagger. I know that some of those factors are subjective but it is my list. I will update the rankings at the end of the season. Without further ado, here is the initial list with their preseason rankings in parenthesis:

#15 (15) - Michael Redd (SG): With each passing day it looks like Michael Redd has played his last game in a Milwaukee Bucks uniform. The saddest indictment on Redd's career is that if you exclude his rookie season (played sparingly) and last year (out injured), Redd has only played on one Bucks team with a winning record. That sure does not sound like the impact you expect from a "max contract" player.

#14 (NR) - Anyone: I hate to pile on here but Bucks fans are really looking to turn the page on Redd. It is hard to say whether Jeff Suppan or Michael Redd signed the worst contract in recent Cheesehead sports history. At least with Suppan the Brewers did not do it at the expense of keeping a great veteran. In the case of Redd, the Bucks basically gave away Ray Allen to make way for Redd. Thank you very much Ernie Grunfeld. By the way, how is Ernie Grunfeld still an NBA executive? Back to this year, even if Redd is healthy by the end of the season the Bucks should tell him to stay away. The Bucks have not gotten comfortable with each other yet because of all the injuries they have suffered and Redd will only create more issues. The Bucks should consider buying out Redd and signing a few young guys that are hungry to contribute off the bench instead of trying to reintegrate Redd for 25 games.

#13 (10) Jon Brockman (PF): As the season wears on Brockman looks more and more like a warm body as opposed to a player with a big upside. Brockman has not seized his opportunities this year. Part of that could be blamed on the erratic playing time he has received but guys like Brockman need to capitalize on any opportunity they get if they want to play in the NBA as opposed to Europe.

#12 (11) Larry Sanders (PF): At the start of the season it looked like Sanders would essentially red-shirt this year and learn how to become a successful NBA power forward for the 2011-12 NBA season. Unfortunately Drew Gooden has been injured throughout the season so Sanders has been forced into action prematurely. Sanders has played alright but still has not proven worthy of being the 15th player selected in the 2010 NBA Draft.

#11 (12) Earl Boykins (PG): With Jennings out, Boykins has put together some impressive performances as a backup point guard behind Keyon Dooling. I highly recommend catching Boykins live at least one time because it defies all logic to see Boykins score on guys that are almost a foot taller that him.

#10 (13) Chris Douglas-Roberts (SG): Despite missing 16 games to an eye injury, CDR looks like a quality NBA scorer in the making. CDR has taken over a few games showing that he can create his own shot and finish around the rim with ease. CDR has a chance to crack the top-7 in the player rankings by the end of the season if he stays healthy and continues to score.

#9 (4) Carlos Delfino (SF): Unfortunately a concussion has forced Carlos Delfino to miss most of the 2010-11 NBA season. Delfino's post concussion symptoms are so bad that even watching television has caused Delfino problems. Professional sports are starting to take concussions much more seriously but I am still not too sure why it has taken so long. Delfino has struggled in the two games since he returned from the concussion. When Delfino gets back into game shape look for the Bucks to dramatically improve.

#8 (6) Drew Gooden (PF): This is more of an indictment on Gooden's inability to stay healthy as opposed to his production when he actually plays. When healthy, Gooden looks like a nice fit next to Andrew Bogut. Unfortunately Gooden has missed 16 games due to plantar fasciitis. Since Gooden is signed long-term, at some point the Bucks need to consider shutting down Gooden for the season since the 2010-11 season is looking like a lost season anyways.

#7 (5) Corey Maggette (SF): True to form, Maggette has put up numbers on a bad team. What is even more troublesome is that Maggette's post game comments have confirmed that he is a locker room cancer. I actually hesitate to put Maggette ahead of Delfino and Gooden but Maggette has been healthy so health alone earned Maggette the 7th spot.

#6 (9) Keyon Dooling (PG): With starting point guard Brandon Jennings out for an extended period of time, my assertion that having former back-up point guard Luke Ridnour on the roster has rung true. I am sure John Hammond regrets not re-signing Ridnour now, but the Bucks have to work with the players that are on the current roster. Dooling has played alright in place of Jennings but the Bucks sorely need Jennings in the lineup if they want to contend for a playoff spot.

#5 (7) Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (PF): The Prince continues to be a defensive stopper that is limited offensively. With the Bucks struggling to score, if The Prince could do anything on the offensive end he would garner even more playing time. Only time will tell but The Prince needs to huddle with CDR and Salmons to learn how to get better at creating his own shot.

#4 (8) Ersan Ilyasova (PF): I stand by my assertion at the beginning of the season that Ilyasova is a poor man's Dirk Nowitzki. Slowly Scott Skiles is starting to agree with me and give Ilyasova more playing time. Whether the increased playing time is because of injuries to other players or a renewed faith that Skiles has in Ilyasova is hard to tell. Either way Ilyasova belongs in the starting line-up.

#3 (3) John Salmons (SG): Unfortunately Salmons started off the season in a shooting slump. The boo-birds were out and some fans started to question whether Salmons was worth of the lengthy extension that he signed in the off-season. Salmons finally broke out of the funk and strung together some good shooting performances in December and early January. Unfortunately the injury bug recently claimed Salmons (surprise, surprise right). With CDR playing well, the Bucks are better off letting Salmons get healthy instead of forcing him back too early. Only time will tell whether Hammond overpaid Salmons but early indications are that Salmons is overpaid.

#2 (2) Brandon Jennings (PG): I made the assertion above that Brandon Jennings was on the cusp of being a top 10 point guard heading into the season. In my current point guard order of merit, here are the NBA point guards that are better than a healthy Brandon Jennings (worst to best) right now: John Wall, Devin Harris, Jason Kidd, Andre Miller, Jameer Nelson, Tony Parker, Steve Nash, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, and Derrick Rose. I know there are some notable names that are not on the list but some of the guys omitted are too old (i.e. Chauncey Billups) while other guys don't play as a true point guard (i.e. Gilbert Arenas). The line of where Jennings can jump over the next few seasons is between Nelson and Parker until Nash retires. Let's check in on the aforementioned list at the end of the season to see if Jennings has passed anyone.

#1 (1) Andrew Bogut (C): The Bucks built their offense around a healthy Andrew Bogut. Unfortunately centers are injury prone (think Yao Ming and Greg Oden) so the Bucks need to be versatile on offense because there is a good chance that Bogut is going to continue to miss games due to injury throughout his career. The Bucks need to work on running multiple offensive sets because the chances of Bogut finishing the season healthy are remote. Yes the whole last paragraph was me trying to reverse jinx Bogut into staying healthy for the rest of the season.

I know my rankings are subjective, feel free to leave a comment below on whether you agree or disagree with my rankings.

* - Carlos Delfino missed 32 games, Chris Douglas-Roberts missed 16 games, Drew Gooden missed 16 games, and Brandon Jennings missed 16 game.
** - I plan on incorporating advanced NBA statistics such as usage rate, win score, and player efficiency rating in my final rankings.

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