Sunday, November 30, 2014

The 15 - So Far, So Good

At the start of the season I was more bullish on the 2014-15 Milwaukee Bucks than most given that almost everyone outside of the organization viewed the Bucks as a lock for the lottery and most thought they would be one of the five worst teams in the NBA while I viewed them as a playoff team with an outside chance at the 5th or 6th seed.  With the Bucks currently 10-8 in the underwhelming Eastern Conference you would think I would be even more confident about my preseason pick but I am not quite ready to say I told you so given that most of their wins are over lackluster teams.  Of the 10 wins so far this season, their only impressive wins were at home over the Memphis Grizzlies and on the road over the Miami Heat.  There is no doubt that long-term the Bucks will only go as far as The Greek Freak and Jabari Parker take them but the more interesting thing is that some of the guys that I had low expectations for going into this season performed much better so far than I expected.  Here are my updated rankings to The 15:

5) Ersan Ilyasova (PF, LR 6): I've always been a fan of Ilysova's game, which is why I've affectionately referred to him as The Poor Man's Dirk but even in my wildest dreams I would not have predicted that Ilyasova would lead the team in PER at 18.6.  What makes that number even more impressive for Ilyasova is that he is an offense first stretch power forward that doesn't pass or rebound all that well so he can't even pad his PER with cheap rebounds or assists.  The reason that Ilyasova has such a high PER is that he is actually shooting over .500 (currently .503) from the field and .333 on three-pointers so far this season.  I am under no grand illusions that Ilyasova will turn into an All-Star but we are starting to see him thrive on the offensive end as his defensive liabilities are sufficiently covered up by all the other long/athletic guys on The 15.  Given how well Ilyasova played so far this season, it might make sense to sell high on him sooner rather than later.

The 15 2.0 for 2014-15
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo (SG/SF, LR 1)
2. Jabari Parker (SF/PF, LR 2)
3. Brandon Knight (PG, LR 3)
4. John Henson (PF/C, LR 4)
5. Ersan Ilyasova (PF, LR 6)
6. Larry Sanders (C, LR 5)
7. O.J. Mayo (SG, LR 11)
8. Jared Dudley (SG/SF, LR 9)
9. Khris Middleton (SF, LR 7)
10. Kendall Marshall (PG, LR 12)
11. Nate Wolters (PG, LR 8)
12. Jerryd Bayless (PG/SG, LR 10)
13. Zaza Pachulia (C, LR 13)
14. Johnny O'Bryant III (PF, LR 14)
15. Damien Inglis (SF, LR 15)
7) O.J. Mayo (SG, LR 11): The conventional wisdom is that when professional athletes are in the last year of their contract they have an incentive to preform to earn a contract extension but once they sign that extension their incentives can go out the window so they don't perform as well in the first season of their new deal.  Last off-season Mayo signed a three-year, $24 million contract and did just that.  The season got off to a brutal start for Mayo when he showed up out of shape and barely even played himself into shape by the end of the season.  I am not sure whether Mayo is preparing for his contract year next year but this season he not only showed up in shape but it looks like he worked on his game on both ends of the floor.  Suffice to say, Mayo's improvement is the biggest surprise on The 15 so far this season given that I would have traded Mayo for a bag of balls before the start of the season. Instead Mayo started a couple games recently and is currently 4th of the team in scoring, averaging 10.8 points per game.  Much like Ilyasova, I am torn on whether the Bucks should try to trade Mayo now to sell high on him.  Given all the back court depth on The 15, I would actually be more inclined to move Mayo than Ilyasova.

15) Damien Inglis (SF, LR 15): The Bucks are currently under the salary cap so they are NOT able to use the Disable Player Exception on Inglis even though he might not play for the Bucks this season.  I mention this because I've long taken issue with the fact that NBA does NOT employ a disabled list like they do in baseball.  Inglis is a great candidate since he is out with a broken foot until at least early 2015.  Although only 12 players can dress for each game, the Bucks were recently without Zaza Pachulia's services too, which meant the Bucks only had 12 healthy guys.  If anyone else got hurt that would leave the Bucks short.  I've long thought that NBA teams should be able to temporarily go above The 15 when they suffer a number of injuries, the question is when will the NBA actually do something about it?

Monday, December 15, 2014 is an important day on the NBA calendar because that is the first day that a player signed on or before Monday, September 15, 2014 can be traded.  It should actually officially be called NBA General Manger Buyer's Remorse Day.  We might even be able to get it sponsored by Christal or some other luxury good that NBA players blow money on once they sign a lucrative contract extension.  I will do my best to cobble together a couple realistic trades for Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond for NBA General Manager Buyer's Remorse Day.  I presume that advice will be ignored but if Hammond does make any moves on or before then, make sure to check back in this space for full coverage.

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