Analysts weigh in on Bucks' present, future
When looking at the stacks of statistics documenting the Bucks' 2011-12 season, there is one set of numbers that is the most glaring indicator of why Milwaukee didn't make the playoffs.
Against teams .500 or better on game day, the Bucks were 7-25, including 0-7 (0-4 vs. Chicago, 0-3 vs. Indiana) in their own division. A club that has a .219 winning percentage against decent squads has no place in the postseason tournament, yet the Bucks just missed getting into the NBA's Sweet 16, playing some remarkable basketball at times over the last two months of the season.
On March 7, Milwaukee was 15-24, nine games under .500 and headed for the league's nether regions populated by hopeless teams amassing more and more lottery pingpong balls with each passing setback. But on March 14, the Bucks traded Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson to Golden State for Monta Ellis, Epke Udoh and Kwame Brown.
Suddenly, a team that could not score consistently (topping 100 points in just four games in February) flew up and down the floor and from the All-Star break through the end of the season, increased their output by 10 points a game to an 105.0, the biggest postbreak improvement in the NBA. The Bucks won 16 of the next 25 games and made a bold run at the eighth spot in the East before falling short.
Milwaukee, which finished fifth in the league in points per game (99.02, the top total in the Eastern Conference trailing only Denver, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Utah) was 25-8 in games in which it scored 100 or more points. That's 25 of the team's 31 wins. Talk about a transformation.
There is a significant school of thought that if the Bucks had either had a healthy, available Bogut for more games early in the season or if Ellis had arrived a few weeks earlier that Milwaukee would have kept playing into May. So what did the Bucks do well this season? Where did they fall short? And what are their biggest needs going forward? I spoke with FOX Sports Wisconsin broadcasters and former NBA players Jon McGlocklin and Tony Smith about the state of the team, looking back at the season and ahead to the next one.
WHAT DID THE BUCKS DO RIGHT?
McGlocklin: "This was a very impressive team offensively. Just look at the assists (23.49 per game, third in the NBA behind Denver and Boston) There was great team play. They also had to adjust often this season with Bogut in and out with injury and then after the big trade. They were always adjusting. Ersan (Ilyasova) became a solid player (13.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg). Brandon (Jennings) continued to improve (19.1 ppg, 5.5 apg, 3.4 rpg). There was good coaching."
Smith: "The biggest positive had to be the emergence of Ersan. He became a force on the glass and a reliable scorer. Early on in the season, he was inconsistent at best. Mike Dunleavy and his production off the bench (12.3 ppg in 26 minutes per game) was another positive. Their ability to share the ball and capitalize off the opponents turnovers were also plus factors."
WHAT DID THE BUCKS DO WRONG?
McGlocklin: "The defense was below par because of size and no camp to set the guidelines. There was not enough consistency from individual players."
Smith: "Early on in the season, they struggled scoring the ball. Late in the season, it was a struggle on defense (e.g., giving up 121 points April 17 at Washington in a loss that seriously damaged Milwaukee's playoff hopes). I think interior defense was a challenge this year throughout. All these are size-related as well, so no surprise they didn't rebound the ball well."
WHAT ARE THE BUCKS' BIGGEST NEEDS?
McGlocklin: "The team must get back to better defense. They need more athleticism and size in the front court and a bigger shooter."
Smith: "They need a player who can score in the post and another big body to defend the paint and rebound with toughness."