Around the League: Milwaukee Bucks

As a kid growing up in Bloomington in the 80s, I was a Bucks fan. Yes kids, there was a time before the Timberwolves existed. The Wolves came into being as I headed off to college, and I immediately switched my allegiance and haven't turned back. Now I live in Wisconsin, so I can watch the Bucks most anytime I want to. I find that I rarely want to though, so what you'll read here is based much more on stats than watching their games. Should any actual Bucks fans read this, know that I wrote it with at least some residual affection for the team.

The Bucks made a big change during the year, swapping the size and defense of Andrew Bogut for the, um, opposite in Monta Ellis. They are 29-33 and will likely just miss the playoffs. Their Pythagorean record of 31.7 - 30.3 reflects the fact that they are a middle-of-the-pack team.

On to some tables that describe how they've played.

The table below contains the "four factors" and a little more. I was surprised to see that the Bucks play at the third highest pace in the league. Otherwise they look, as their record suggests, pretty mediocre across the board.

MIL 93.5 0.484 12.7 28.0 0.191 106.4 106.0 0.523 1.70
OPP 0.492 14.6 29.7 0.222 0.535 1.36
NBA Avg 91.2 0.487 13.8 27.0 0.209 104.6 104.6 0.527 1.44

The next table shows where the Bucks' shot locations, compared to their opponents and the league as a whole. They're a little better than average at getting to the rim, but they allow their opponents to do the same.

At Rim 3-9 Ft 10-15 Ft 16-23 Ft 3-Pt
MIL 31.6% 11.7% 9.0% 25.1% 22.7%
OPP 31.8% 12.6% 9.4% 22.8% 23.4%
NBA Avg 30.5% 13.4% 9.0% 24.5% 22.6%

The table below shows their field goal percentage by location. Though they do a decent job of getting to the rim, they don't do so well once they get there. They're a pretty average jump shooting team.

At Rim 3-9 Ft 10-15 Ft 16-23 Ft 3-Pt
MIL 0.606 0.349 0.407 0.388 0.348
OPP 0.602 0.379 0.403 0.396 0.349
NBA Avg 0.626 0.376 0.382 0.382 0.348

The table below shows their NBA rank for a variety of statistics (1 is always the best, not the highest). They are adjusted for pace where appropriate. They don't appear to be a very good defensive team and they are a bad defensive rebounding team. They do quite well on assists and turnovers.

TS% 19 20
ORB 8 27
DRB 27 22
TRB 24 25
AST 3 18
STL 10 4
BLK 19 5
TOV 3 5
PF 13 22
A/TO 2 6
Pace 3 n/a
Ortg 9 n/a
Drtg 18 n/a

The table below shows a range of statistics and 2012-3 salary status for the team.

Player Age G GS MP PER TS% WS/48 WP48 +/- per 100 poss 2012-3
Ersan Ilyasova 24 58 39 1585 20.2 0.575 0.177 0.236 -0.11 UFA
Mike Dunleavy 31 51 3 1352 17.1 0.607 0.151 0.201 9.93 $3.8m
Ekpe Udoh 24 19 3 381 13.9 0.477 0.107 0.145 6.17 $3.5m
Luc Mbah a Moute 25 42 21 966 14.2 0.548 0.112 0.134 1.26 $4.8m
Carlos Delfino 29 54 53 1537 11.7 0.515 0.071 0.104 -13.86 UFA
Jon Leuer 22 43 10 498 15.3 0.532 0.119 0.092 3.38 $0.8m NG
Shaun Livingston 26 54 24 989 11.6 0.531 0.063 0.087 -4.89 $3.5m, $1m G
Beno Udrih 29 55 0 995 13.6 0.495 0.068 0.085 15.89 $7.3m ETO
Brandon Jennings 22 62 62 2198 18.2 0.512 0.110 0.081 -11.12 $3.2m
Larry Sanders 23 50 0 587 13.4 0.473 0.076 0.080 12.51 $2m
Jon Brockman 24 33 0 201 7.9 0.391 0.044 0.067 3.87 $1m
Tobias Harris 19 39 7 394 14.3 0.535 0.087 0.063 3.31 $1.5m
Drew Gooden 30 54 44 1424 19.2 0.515 0.121 0.049 -11.95 $6.7m
Monta Ellis 26 19 19 684 15.9 0.499 0.068 0.038 2.98 $11m
Andrew Bogut 27 12 12 364 14.9 0.465 0.059 0.030 3.47 Traded
Stephen Jackson 33 26 13 712 9 0.459 -0.022 -0.063 -3.13 Traded
Darington Hobson 24 5 0 39 -3.3 0.154 -0.228 -0.337 11.28 Waived

Ilyasova has improved his stats considerably this year, and has been their best player by a few measures. Dunleavy has proven to be a very good free agent acquisition. Draft picks Harris and Leuer haven't been big factors (though Leuer made a very good early impression) and probably won't be in the future, either.

The plus/minus data are really interesting for the Bucks. It looks like the starters (primarily Gooden, Delfino, and Jennings) dig a huge hole that the reserves get them back out of. I checked and I don't see another team like that this year. Dunleavy, Udrih, and Sanders have some of the highest +/- values in the league. Delfino, Jennings, and Gooden have three of the lowest +/- values in the league. Strange things are happening in Milwaukee.

The Bucks are not in salary cap hell, with $45.8 million in guaranteed salary for next year. The big problem: Ilyasova will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. Also, Jennings is entering the last year of his contract, so they'll need to make a decision on him. Delfino will also be a UFA, but he may not be a big loss. Gooden is an amnesty candidate, with $20 million guaranteed to him over the next three seasons.

So for next year, they need to re-sign Ilyasova. They don't have a true center, with Gooden starting there now and a slew of skinny tall guys on the bench (Udoh, Leuer, Sanders). Jennings and Ellis form a dynamic, if not entirely effective backcourt. They will likely have a low lottery pick this year. I imagine that between the draft and free agency, they'll be looking hard at centers and small forwards.

This is the kind of team many CH posters dread rooting for. The Bucks are a decent team with some talent. They have no stars. They will probably not attract a top free agent. They will probably not pick at the top of the draft. Yet, they've been in the playoff race for a long time and could very well do the same next year. But no one would pick them to win a series, let alone two, or a title.

So what would you do if you ran the team? They could blow it up, tank for picks, and see what fate hands them for the next buildup. Or they could make the best of what they have and probably be a fringe playoff team. If you see a different, more optimistic path (i.e., making the current roster a real contender), I'd be interested in reading your ideas.

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