Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We're Moving! New Blog...

After spending a great summer and start of fall here I am moving on to a new project: Brew Hoop.

The new site is a boederbucks/Just Another Bucks Fan collaboration, so I'm excited to join forces with Frank, who has already written a welcome message and Wednesday notes.

Brew Hoop is also a part of SB Nation, a network which already includes some of the top basketball blogs like Blog A Bull, Blazers Edge, and Golden State Of Mind.

boederbucks will stay here as a reference. And here's an RSS Feed for the new blog... Hope to see you there.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Mason, Yi To Start

The big news is that Desmond Mason and Yi Jianlian will start for the Bucks in the opener, as reported in the Journal Sentinel.
Throughout the exhibition season, Krystkowiak downplayed the importance of starting. In fact, he didn't make a big deal of informing his players as to who would be starting, merely mentioning it in an off-handed way, during a drill in which the Bucks were playing defense against some of the things Orlando does on offense.

"I remember playing," Krystkowiak said. "So I understand the starting talk. But the five starters don't mean they're our best five players. It's not a horse race to see which guy started, which guy had the most effective preseason. There's been hundreds of cases where a guy just makes sense to get out there and start.
I've been pretty consistent in my support of Villanueva starting at power forward because he's the superior player as things stand right now and Yi has enough pressure to perform as it is. However, both will see similar minutes and Coach Krystkowiak seems to be going out of his way to explain Yi and Villanueva are in this together and who starts isn't of huge importance. If Yi struggles, we'll probably see that who starts becomes a little more important but at this point I'm not terribly worried about it.

Commenting On A Preview

The Bratwurst spent some time giving a rundown of the Bucks' roster with player-by-player previews.

A sample:
"Mo Williams: I’ve never really bought into the whole “pure point guard” vs. “shoot-first point guard” thing for two reasons: first, the most important thing is for the team to score more points than the opposition and, second, there isnt really any good way to objectively measure how good a passer a player is. Assists, for example, has as much to do with the point guards’ pass as it does with the finishing ability of the recipient and the decision of the official scorer. So does Mo shoot too much? Last season he took the 5th most shots per 40 minutes of all point guards (behind Arenas, Parker, Cassell and Davis) with 16.87, but the difference between him and the #21 point guard (Stephon Marbury) was only 2.81 shots per 40! That’s less than 1 per quarter! Also, Mo had several games where he was the only starter in uniform, so his scoring was necessary. No, his shooting was fine. Mo’s new contract is reasonable given his production and age, and he still has room to improve. Point guards often take years and years to reach their peaks, so while Williams will most likely plateau as a slightly below-all-star level player, there is always the outside chance that he could have a Chanuncey Billups-like career."
Good stuff as always. I tend to agree that while there are different types of players at every position who possess different strengths and weaknesses, and point guard is no different, it is sometimes an exaggerated concept. If Williams is going to help the team score, and use his strengths to do so, he shouldn't be condemned. Not everyone can be like Jason Kidd or Steve Nash and I'd sure rather have Williams than Brevin Knight, or a number of other "pure point guards" running Milwaukee's show.

That said, hopefully he will continue to play to his strengths while developing better distribution skills. Like it was noted, point guards take time to progress, so it's certainly not out of the question, and in fact is likely that Williams will develop as a passer. That shows that players shouldn't be labeled so generically, because labels stick, but players change.

Adjusted Plus-Minus Scores's Steve Ilardi unveils adjusted plus-minus scores for the 2006-07 season.

"This is exactly what the adjusted plus-minus stat does: it reflects the impact of each player on his team's bottom line (scoring margin), after controlling statistically for the strength of every teammate and every opponent during each minute he's on the court."
That's just a very small part of the explanation, so it's worth reading some of the details. For instance, the 2005-06 season is given some weight and last year's playoffs were doubly weighted.

Michael Redd is ranked 20th among players who played at least 20 minutes per game out of 175 qualified players.

Others of note:

63/175. Andrew Bogut
115/175. Charlie Bell
124/175. Mo Williams
170/175. Desmond Mason

And some from the under-20 minute group:

16/167. Charlie Villanueva
66/167. Jake Voskuhl
82/167. Dan Gadzuric
163/167. David Noel

There are noted error margins which Ilardi goes into detail about and might help explain some of the more questionable ratings, such as:

17/175. Rajon Rondo
30/175. Brad Miller
41/175. Tim Thomas
80/175. Carmelo Anthony
150/175. Richard Jefferson

Like all mathematical statistical measurements, this one doesn't quite answer definitively questions about player rankings, despite what Ilardi says. Adjusted plus-minus ratings are however another valuable tool that one can use in player comparisons.

In considering the Bucks' ratings, one that jumps out right away is Mason's, who also had a low, -4.9 Roland Rating last year. Perhaps more surprising is Williams' low rating, which contrats his solid 1.4 Roland Rating.

Odds And Wins

The Painted Area recently made some over/under picks based on Sportsbook. Considering they went 6-1 in their picks last year, it’s probably worth taking a look.

Here’s a sample:

"San Antonio: Over 54.5 (58 wins last year)
Just look here. Since Tim Duncan entered the NBA in 1997, the Spurs have won at least 56 every year (if you pro-rate the lockout season) except 1999-00, when they won 53. Further, they have won at least 58 for seven straight seasons. I'm gonna keep riding this horse until I get thrown off."

The author doesn’t make a pick for the Bucks, who are listed as 36.5 in the article but are now at 35.5.

Here are a few other Bucks' mentions:

  • Michael Redd is 15-1 to win the scoring title and 75-1 to win the MVP.
  • Andrew Bogut is 35-1 to lead the league in rebounding.
  • The Bucks are 35-1 to win the Eastern Conference and 100-1 to win the NBA Championship.

My picks on the over/under:

  • Los Angeles Lakers Under 44.5
  • Is this assuming they are going to land Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, and Tyrus Thomas?

  • Milwaukee Bucks Over 35.5
  • A Bucks blog taking the over on the Bucks? (elaboration on predictions coming soon)
  • Orlando Magic Under 47.5
  • Who inspires confidence other than Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis here?
  • Seattle Supersonics Under 27.5
  • In the last five years, an average of four teams per year have finished with 27 wins or fewer. How do they not fit in that equation?
  • Toronto Raptors Over 41.5
  • Chris Bosh, T.J. Ford, Jose Calderon, and Andrea Bargnani are on the way up, not down, right?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

HoopsWorld Interviews Redd

HoopsWorld interviewed Michael Redd after the Bucksfinal preseason game.

Perhaps the most interesting part:
So, of course, what's this team's biggest weakness right now?

"Weakness? Obviously, I think our offense still needs a lot of work. We haven't put all of our sets in yet, so we're still working on our offense. Playing hard and playing defense will cover up the offense on a lot of nights."
Well, okay. There have been some offensively challenged preseason games to be sure, but that’s definitely a new take on Bucks basketball. Here’s to hoping that the offense is indeed the team’s biggest worry.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Preseason Game #8: Timberwolves Blow Out Bucks

The Minnesota Timberwolves rocked the Milwaukee Bucks 106-85 to conclude the Bucks' preseason schedule.

Michael Redd and Mo Williams returned in backup roles, and played team-leading 27 minutes each. Andrew Bogut sat out again with a sprained left wrist.

Six stats:
  1. Dan Gadzuric started and scored a team-high 16 points and pulled down eight rebounds, four off the offensive glass.
  2. Charlie Bell started and scored 10 points on 3-4 shooting in nine minutes.
  3. Charlie Villanueva scored six points on 2-7 shooting along with two rebounds in 22 minutes. He had a team-high three steals.
  4. The Bucks only had one block total, courtesy of Michael Redd. The Timberwolves only had two blocks as a team.
  5. Mo Williams scored eight points and had six assists and two steals in 27 points. He turned the ball over five times.
  6. The Timberwolves shot 32-49 (.653) from the field and 4-6 (.667) from the three-point line.

More Rookie Rankings's Dave McMenamin got into the rookie rankings party with a top ten, plus ten.

It's a very different list than Burns', as McMenamin based his rankings only off preseason performances. As such, he is forced to make some interesting choices, like ranking Aaron Gray fifth.

Yi Jianlian doesn't make the first ten, instead falling into the alphabetically listed "next ten."

Rookie Rankings's Marty Burns ranked ten impact rookies for this year. It's not exactly a preseason Rookie of the Year list, because he said that his number one, Luis Scola, probably won't win the award. He rates Yi Jianlian number nine.

A sample:
"But he's been up and down in preseason, and the Bucks already have Charlie Villanueva at the power forward position. With the Bucks seeking to return to the playoffs, the guess here is that Yi finds himself in the same limited role as Law."
While that's not quite what voters on this site think, judging by the last couple games, Yi does seem most likely to come off the bench. But he's going to see at least 20 minutes per game, which is probably more of an impact than Burns' number eight choice, Joakim Noah.

Roster Talk

HoopsHype found a couple articles speculating about the Bucks' looming roster decisions:

The Charlotte Observer noted the Bucks might cut Michael Ruffin.
"NBA teams have until Friday to trim their rosters to 15 or fewer players. There's been some speculation the Milwaukee Bucks might cut Michael Ruffin, a player Vincent wanted over the summer. Still, no roster spot means no wiggle room for the Bobcats."
With the tough-luck Bobcats already witnessing big injuries to Sean May and Adam Morrison, they could use a forward. Ruffin has played about as well as Jake Voskuhl this preseason, which is to say he's been borderline adequate.

Meanwhile, Gery Woelfel writes about Ramon Sessions' possible future with the Bucks.
The Bucks are expected to keep second-round draft pick Ramon Sessions. Sessions, a point guard, has been solid throughout training camp.

"It is believed Sessions will start the season with the Bucks and then around the second week of November will likely be assigned to Tulsa, the Bucks' D-League affiliate."

I liked the Sessions pick on draft day and nothing I've seen so far has dissuaded me of that opinion. Then again, Royal Ivey has been one of the most pleasant preseason surprises so there doesn't appear to be a lot of point guard minutes available for Sessions yet. Sessions is averaging the fewest minutes per game of any Buck this preseason.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Preseason Game #7: Bulls Defeat Bucks

The Chicago Bulls beat the Milwaukee Bucks 97-81 on Thursday night.

The Bucks tried a very different rotation, with Michael Redd, Mo Williams, Andrew Bogut, Awvee Storey, and Michael Ruffin not playing.

Six statistics:
  1. Charlie Villanueva started and scored a team-high 19 points on 6-10 shooting in 27 minutes. He also led the team in rebounds with eight and blocks with two.
  2. Bobby Simmons scored just three points on 1-5 shooting in 28 minutes. He committed a team-high four turnovers.
  3. The Bucks did not win any quarters, tying the second quarter 22-22 and losing the other three quarters.
  4. David Noel played 25 minutes off the bench and scored five points on 2-7 shooting. He was the only Buck to not turn the ball over.
  5. The Bucks had fewer team rebounds (38-32), assists (24-18), steals (10-4), blocks (8-3), and committed more turnovers (20-15). They also shot a worse percentage from the field (.494-.433), and from the free-throw line (.684-.621).
  6. The Bucks shot 5-11 (.455) on three-pointers.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Preseason Game #6: Nuggets Top Bucks

The Denver Nuggets beat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-102 on Tuesday night. If the team’s previous game was characterized by Yi Jianlian’s impressive performance, then last night spotlighted the other previously struggling power forward, Charlie Villanueva.

Yi currently leads Villanueva by a pretty fair margin in the poll asking who should start at power forward. Most of the votes came after Yi’s big game and before Villanueva’s however. I've maintained Villanueva should get the nod. Let’s just hope they both play well at the same time eventually because the up-and-down performances don't distinguish either of them, and make it hard to tell if the Bucks have no starting power forwards on the roster or two.

Six stats:

  1. Villanueva shot 9-16 from the field and scored a team-high 21 points in 29 minutes off the bench. He also grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out five assists. His only struggle came from outside, making 1-5 three-pointers. After hitting two out of three from outside in the first preseason game, Villanueva has made only 3-20 since.
  2. The Bucks scored 37 points and allowed 34 in the second quarter, their highest offensive and defensive quarter of the preseason.
  3. Desmond Mason got to the free-throw line 11 times, after getting to the line 12 times in the previous game. He’s 16-23 in the two games.
  4. Mo Williams shot 0-5 from the field in 17 minutes before being ejected in the third quarter.
  5. Michael Redd scored 19 points and had a team-high seven assists and 38 minutes played.
  6. Royal Ivey scored 10 points, shot 5-6 from the free-throw line, dished out two assists, and didn’t turn the ball over in 22 minutes.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Preseason Game #5: Bucks Defeat Timberwolves

The Milwaukee Bucks topped the Minnesota Timberwolves 106-97 to win the 31st annual MACC Fund game on Saturday night.

On cue, after I attempted to anoint Charlie Villanueva the starting power forward, Yi Jianlian delivered easily his best performance since coming to Milwaukee.

As I'll detail below, he had a very good game statistically and all indications are that the numbers aren't lying in this case. We must remember, even though the starters played big minutes last night, that it's still preseason. A lot of young players around the league have put up big numbers in a game here and there this preseason. It is worth getting excited about, just with a little caution. Last night's performance shows that Yi has the potential to be a very capable player on the NBA level. It's safe to say we'll be seeing a lot of Villanueva, Yi, and Dan Gadzuric on the court (probably not at the same time) this season.

Six more stats:
  1. Yi Jianlian scored 15 points on only nine shots from the field in 27 minutes. He also pulled down 12 rebounds and committed just one turnover.
  2. Charlie Villanueva scored eight points on 15 shots from the field in 21 minutes and missed all five of his three-point attempts. However, he grabbed 11 rebounds, including six on the offensive glass.
  3. The Bucks made twice as many free throws (32) as the Timberwolves (16).
  4. The bench (Desmond Mason, Charlie Bell, Dan Gadzuric, Royal Ivey, and Villanueva) shot a combined 7-31 (.226) from the field with four assists and eight turnovers.
  5. Mo Williams scored 20 points, made all three of his three-point attempts, dished out 12 assists, and committed only one turnover.
  6. Desmond Mason shot just 3-10 from the field but got to the free-throw line 12 times, making eight, in 24 minutes.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ranking The Bucks' Options At Power Forward

There’s some debate about who should start at power forward this season, and who should even be called one. Michael Ruffin is the fourth choice, but despite his willingness to the dirty work, there isn’t quite enough of a case to make for him. The latest is that there are three contenders, so my task is to rank them:

  • 1. Charlie Villanueva

One could argue he shouldn’t start. His versatility and lack of go-to game make him a natural to come off the bench. Further, his shooting percentages were better across the board not starting last year:

"Starting: FG: .469 FT: .735 3PT: .265

Off Bench: FG: .471 FT: .925 3PT: .385"

Just twenty-three years old, he would only now be a rookie if he had stayed in school four years at Connecticut. But he was NBA-ready out of college as evidenced by his easy second place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2005.

Many were encouraged when Larry Harris traded away T.J. Ford because of his deficiencies and injuries. Villanueva proved there were two similar sides of that coin. Injuries stunted his growth last season, but he says his shoulder is “100 % ready.” Entering his third year in the NBA, the next step is develop more consistency. The injuries are out of his control, but the Bucks can’t afford to rotate starting lineups so frequently this season. It's important to have a variety of capable lineups, but the starting one should be have consistency.

In the end, he’s the most logical choice to start alongside Andrew Bogut in the frontcourt given his superior talent. Villanueva’s youthful athleticism makes him a good fit on a first-string that will push the ball early and often. His all-around skill set exceeds the other competitors. While others have some specific areas of strength, Villanueva can do a little of everything: rebound, run the floor, and shoot from outside. The realistic best-case scenario for Yi Jianlian is to duplicate Villanueva’s rookie season. Granted, Villanueva has yet to take a firm step forward since his rookie year, but there’s little chance he’ll regress now in his third year.

Keep in mind, injuries marred a strong start last year by Villanueva. In November, he averaged 14.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.3 steals and shot .495 from the field. He didn’t match any of those statistics in any other month the rest of the season. A fresh beginning and the confidence that comes with a starting role will help him find the fast track he has been on intermittently the last couple years.

  • 2. Yi Jianlian

At 6'11" and 238 pounds, he’s virtually the identical size of Villanueva. Contrary to official records, there are some whispers that he might be the about the same age too. One thing we do know is that he’s played four accomplished years of professional basketball in the Chinese Basketball Association. Last year, he averaged 24.9 points and 11.5 rebounds.

The question is how those numbers will translate to the NBA. If the open scrimmage and preseason is any indication, Yi has some ability to score on this new level (though not more than Villanueva at present), but will frequently be overmatched defensively. In the open scrimmage, he didn't provide any real resistance guarding Bogut. It's not as though Villanueva's expertise is defense either, but he's at least had some experience. Yi won’t have to guard centers, but consider some Eastern Conference power forwards that he’d be forced to defend: Kevin Garnett, Chris Bosh, and Jermaine O’Neal. While they are lean, they are premier rebounders and aren’t hesitant to attack the basket. Yi's tendency to pick up fouls and turnovers at a high rate so far doesn't inspire confidence either.

The Bucks have a powerful offense, but can’t afford to fall behind in the first quarter each night because they have below-average defenders all over the court at the same time. Again, Villanueva is no defensive star, but letting Yi start and pick up fouls quickly will slow down the tempo of the game, which won’t work in the Bucks’ favor. He’s best served to come off the bench, where he can get more playing time against opposing team’s backups. With the pressure of potentially 1.3 billion onlookers back home and a skeptical American media, the Bucks need to allow Yi some comfort and room to grow initially. That will ultimately expedite the process of Yi’s ascent to legitimate starting-caliber power forward status anyway. And then we can more seriously revisit this debate.

  • 3. Dan Gadzuric

If Gadzuric would have progressed even moderately since his solid 2004-05 campaign, he’d have a decent case to start, like he did 81 times that year for the Bucks.

Unfortunately, he’s inexplicably regressed in what should be his prime years. Even his old strengths, like activity on the offensive glass and a high shooting percentage, have taken a turn for the worse.

Then again, his preseason performances give some reason to believe he’s ready to return to form. And coming off a defensively-challenged season, a frontcourt of Bogut and Gadzuric is the team’s best bet to create some semblance of a defensive identity. Bogut looks ready to step up as a more consistent scorer, further minimizing the problem of Gadzuric’s offensive limitations. Plus, unlike Villanueva, he played better as a starter last year, averaging 10.0 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.75 blocks, and 1.13 steals on .508 shooting from the field.

However, those statistics need some context. They came at the end of the year and against teams with a combined record of 249-413 (.376). And the Bucks only went 2-6 in the games.

The Bucks have more depth at power forward than center, making Gadzuric more valuable serving as the team’s primary backup center. A Bogut/Gadzuric pairing makes sense depending on matchups and circumstance, and Yi looks poised to mature into a starting-worthy player before too long, but for now at least, Villanueva is the best power forward available. That might not be ideal, or exciting, but it's reality.

Bucks Host Timberwolves In MACC Fund Game

The Milwaukee Bucks welcome the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Bradley Center tonight for the 31st annual MACC Fund Game. The game starts at 7:30 p.m. central time.

The MACC Fund, with the support of the Bucks, has raised huge amounts of money and awareness in an effort to combat cancer. It’s truly a great cause, something the team and city should be very proud of.

Just Another Bucks Fan has a lot more information about the the MACC Fund, the event/game, and how you can make a donation.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Players Visit MPS

(Photo by Gary Dineen - Getty Images/NBAE)

Andrew Bogut, Yi Jianlian, and Ramon Sessions visited three Milwaukee Public Schools and delivered school supplies on October 18 according to

The visit was a key element of the Bucks Read to Achieve program, which encourages students to maintain good attendance and develop a life-long habit of reading.

It's always good to see such notable figures in the city serving the community in multiple ways. Good stuff, guys.

Team USA Talk’s Chris Mannix speculates about one of my favorite subjects: USA Basketball.

After a stellar performance at the FIBA Americas tournament, the opportunity to reclaim the Olympic gold medal is well within the United States' grasp. Players recognize it too, which is why the competition for spots on the U.S. team is going to be as fierce as it has ever been.

"It's going to be a battle," Bucks guard Michael Redd told me last week. "This is a big Olympics, a big chance for everyone. But I welcome the competition. It's going to make everyone who makes the team better."

The gist of the article is that roster spots for Beijing are in high demand. And there are some big names that are potentially going to be in the mix that didn’t play this summer, like Dwyane Wade, Gilbert Arenas, Carlos Boozer, and Elton Brand.

Michael Redd’s spot should be safe after delivering excellent numbers in his shooting specialty role:

FG%: .667
3PT%: .453
FT%: 1.000

Tyson Chandler and Mike Miller are the popular picks to not return. Dwyane Wade and Carlos Boozer are the likeliest choices to replace them. Tayshaun Prince, Chauncey Billups, and Deron Williams are probably the only others who are in realdanger, and all three of them played well.

If there isn’t room for three points guards, Billups might be the one to go, as Williams picked up where he left off in his coming out party in the playoffs, accumulating as many assists as Jason Kidd (46) in 16 fewer minutes in the FIBA’s. Billups has high-pressure experience and success including a Finals MVP, and his reputation as a tough defender working in his favor, but Team USA obviously isn't afraid to go young and Williams might be the better choice, especially after another year of improvement.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Making Up A Bryant Trade

The headline intends to stress the fact there is no actual rumor or reason that indicates Kobe Bryant would come to Milwaukee before November 21 when the Los Angeles Lakers visit the Bradley Center.

Mostly inspired by Rob Peterson’s post on’s great new blog, The Court Reporters, I decided to use’s Trade Machine to put together a perfectly impossible and ridiculous trade (because that's what the machine was made for, I think): Michael Redd and Charlie Villanueva (plus draft picks) for Kobe Bryant.

Here’s how the new Bucks lineup would look:

C- Andrew Bogut
PF- Yi Jianlian
SF- Bobby Simmons
SG- Kobe Bryant
PG- Mo Williams

Something tells me that offer wouldn’t exactly floor the Lakers, and that the Bucks aren’t on Bryant’s “list.” Perhaps a Redd/Bogut/Yi (plus draft picks) for Bryant and Vladimir Radmanovich would be juicier, Rob? Well, I tried...

I like Redd and Villanueva anyway.

Williams Interviewed

Gery Woelfel interviewed Milwaukee Bucks guard Mo Williams and it’s up on HoopsHype.

He doesn’t exactly dismiss being a shoot-first point guard, which is truthful, and says his shoulder is fine, which is good.
“The Bucks were decimated by injuries last season and you missed 14 games, mostly because of an injured left shoulder. On the first day of practice this season, you dinged your shoulder and started wearing a protective shoulder pad. How is your shoulder now?

MW: It’s fine. It’s just part of the game, part of training camp. You get banged up. This is the most physical action I’ve had since last season, so the shoulder hasn’t had that physical element since then.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Villanueva Blogs For

Forward Charlie Villanueva blogged for on October 10. It's worth reading in its entirety. I've quoted one section where he spoke very kindly about Yi Jianlian, in addition to a lineup he recommends the Bucks use this year.
"I like Yi a lot. He is a good ball handler who has no problem taking opposing defenders off the dribble. He is a great finisher around the basket. He has a great understanding of the game and good court awareness. Rarely does Yi force the play. Instead he lets the game come to him naturally. Yi's game reminds me a bit of myself. I think Yi and I play similarly. We both have good offensive outside and inside games. And we both can create mismatch problems on any given night. It's going to be a great year for us. Coach K (Larry Krystkowiak) has a lot of good options on the frontcourt. The addition of Desmond Mason gives our frontcourt immediate hard defense. Mason is an awesome athlete. He can not only dunk it on you, but his jumpshot has improved as well. You may also possibly see all bigs on the frontcourt, having me at the 3-spot, Yi at the 4 and Bogut at the 5. That's a nice big lineup. I played the Small Forward position the majority of the time while I was with the Toronto Raptors. I love playing both the Small & Power Forward positions."
There are certainly times when that big lineup could work, and of course many other times when it wouldn't. It's definitely worth trying in some situations, but with Bobby Simmons and Desmond Mason in town, the best spot for Villanueva is at power forward, an argument which I'll elaborate on soon.

Preseason Game #4: Bucks Lose To Nuggets

The Milwaukee Bucks fell to the Denver Nuggets 104-78 last night, subduing any unfounded optimism that resulted from winning the first two preseason games.

Anyway, six stats from the game:

  1. The Bucks were outscored in each quarter of the game including a particularly damaging 33-15 third quarter.
  2. Guard Royal Ivey came off the bench to play a team-high 32 minutes and scored 11 points, grabbed five rebounds, but didn’t dish out any assists.
  3. Yi Jianlian scored six points along with six rebounds in the first quarter.
  4. The Bucks tallied 19 offensive rebounds compared to just nine for the Nuggets.
  5. Starters Dan Gadzuric, Yi Jianlian, Desmond Mason, Charlie Bell, and Mo Williams totaled just three assists in 105 minutes combined.
  6. Jake Voskuhl grabbed seven rebounds in just 15 minutes but turned the ball over four times and didn’t score.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Preseason Game #3: Bucks Fall To Jazz

Six stats from Saturday’s 92-78 preseason loss to the Utah Jazz:
  1. Jazz guard Ronnie Brewer scored 28 points off the bench, four more points than the entire Bucks bench totaled.
  2. Desmond Mason shot 0-4 from the field and scored one point in 22 minutes in a starting role.
  3. After holding the Jazz to nine fourth quarter points in their first preseason meeting, they allowed 31 points in the fourth quarter.
  4. Dan Gadzuric’s three assists placed him in the top two on the team for the second consecutive preseason game.
  5. Yi Jianlian’s first start resulted in some pretty big numbers: 29 minutes, 13 points, 13 shots, eight turnovers, and five fouls.
  6. The Bucks shot 2-15 (.133) on three-pointers, but 20-24 (.833) from the free-throw line.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Preseason Game #2: Bucks Defeat Jazz

The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Utah Jazz 90-81 to improve to 2-0 in the preseason.

Staying with the preseason six stats theme:
  1. The Bucks won despite starting and ending slowly, scoring 13 and 18 points in the first and fourth quarters respectively.
  2. Yi Jianlian scored 11 of his 12 points in the second quarter.
  3. Dan Gadzuric tied Royal Ivey for the team lead with three assists.
  4. David Noel notched eight points, three rebounds, an assist, a block, and no turnovers in 21 minutes.
  5. Playing single-digit minutes individually, Michael Ruffin, Jake Voskuhl, Awvee Storey, and Ramon Sessions shot a combined 1-6 from the field.
  6. For the second game in a row, Charlie Bell struggled from the field (1-4) and was perfect from the line (4-4).

Bucks Top Bulls In Preseason Opener

The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Chicago Bulls 93-88 in their first preseason game of the year.

Just for fun, because it’s preseason after all, here are six statistical oddities:
  1. Thomas Gardner started at shooting guard for the Bulls and led them in minutes played with 25.
  2. Bobby Simmons made all five shots he took (three two-pointers and two free-throws) and fouled out in 13 minutes.
  3. Michael Ruffin, who shot .368 from the free-throw line last year, made both of his free-throws.
  4. Chris Duhon blocked as many shots (2) in 22 minutes as Tyrus Thomas, Ben Wallace, Luol Deng, Andres Nocioni, Aaron Gray, Andrew Bogut, Desmond Mason, and Awvee Storey did in 140 minutes combined.
  5. The Bucks won despite shooting .417 from the field and .651 from the free-throw line.
  6. Combined, guards Royal Ivey and Awvee Storey made more shots from the field (8-12) on fewer than half as many attempts as guards Michael Redd, Mo Williams, and Charlie Bell (7-25).

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Observations From The Open Scrimmage

(I took the above picture, which centers Yi among his new teammates during warmups.)

“I’d be very surprised if a team outworks us this year.”

Those were the words from coach Larry Krystkowiak that preceded the team’s open scrimmage, which occurred on October 6 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.

The intra-squad scrimmage divided the players into teams called Team Black and Team Grey. Here are the teams, with the starting fives listed first.

Team Black:

Andrew Bogut
Dan Gadzuric
Desmond Mason
Royal Ivey
Mo Williams

Awvee Storey
Jake Voskuhl
Samaki Walker

Team Grey:

Yi Jianlian
Charlie Villanueva
Bobby Simmons
Michael Redd
Charlie Bell

David Noel
Michael Ruffin
Ramon Sessions

Team Black defeated Team Grey 77-64 in the game, which featured eight-minute quarters. Despite appearing evenly matched on paper, Team Black cruised to victory after building a 24-13 lead by the end of the first quarter.

Here are five observations:
  • Yi tallied ten points overall. Unofficially, by my count, he shot 4-9 from the field and 2-3 from the free-throw line, and grabbed five rebounds. He started the game slowly, struggling to find any rhythm offensively in the first half. Worse, he had no answers defensively while matched up against an aggressive Bogut, whose twelve first-quarter points almost matched Team Grey’s output. Yi did break loose for a two-handed dunk in the second quarter, but didn’t really get on track until an intermission activity which preceded the fourth quarter. Teamed with a group of kids who slowly made the necessary layup, free-throw, and three-pointer, Yi floated a perfect shot from half-court into the basket in his first attempt. The crowd erupted, Yi smiled, and more importantly, he loosened up, setting up a smooth final quarter. His fourth quarter highlights included a pretty jumper, attacking the basket for an and-one, and a post up, spin, and successful shot over Williams.
  • As noted in the Yi recap, Bogut set the tone early, attacking the basket with authority. He led all scorers with 24 points in the game. He looked and played like the most focused guy in the building. Aside from picking up an offensive foul after attempting to run the point on a fast break in the third quarter, he couldn’t do much wrong. In fitting fashion, Bogut emphatically rejected a shot from Yi at the buzzer to conclude his authoritative game.
  • Williams and Bell started as opposing point guards, and while Ivey started at the two alongside Williams, he also got some run at the point. Ivey only scored five points, but looked composed with the ball in his hands, delivering mostly on-point passes. His active hands defensively also stood out on a team that still appears more offensively-focused. Sessions also got minutes at the point and appeared a little more hesitant than Ivey at times, getting caught up in the air and turning the ball over at one point. But he showed quickness with the ball and an impressive jolt of athleticism in throwing down a nice dunk in the second quarter.
  • Villanueva certainly didn’t overly impress, causing a little reason for concern considering he’s one of the big boys coming off an injury. He didn’t distinguish himself at all in an out-of-sync first half. Like Yi, he looked a little more comfortable in the second half but finished with just seven points. On the other hand, Gadzuric was pretty active for his standards, notching nine points. Simmons neither stood out nor disappointed.
  • Redd (17 points), Mason (14 points), and Williams (13 points) played as well you'd expect. Mason didn't take long to remind Milwaukeeans of his open-court prowess and Redd's first-minute three-pointer also reinforced his best attribute. Bell, while not getting Yi-level attention, remains a fan favorite, at least based on the player introductions. And that is a good sign that the eventful/ridiculous offseason is behind us and the real season in front of us.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Mason Signing Draws Praise’s Jack McCallum gives a sunnier outlook on the Bucks’ offseason.
“Which team made the best under-the-radar free-agent signing?
The one signing that didn't get enough attention was Desmond Mason, a former Slam Dunk champion, returning to Milwaukee. I'm not suggesting it's a balance-of-power-changer in the East, but swingman Mason is a proven double-figure scorer who had his best pro season in Milwaukee in 2004-05 when he averaged 17.2 points per game. Combine the acquisition with their retention of guards Charlie Bell and Mo Williams, and the Bucks had a promising offseason. Now, if they can only find a way to make Yi Jianlian happy in Suds City ...”
Most of Bucks Nation seems pretty lukewarm on the reacquisition of Mason. His statistical drops in conventional numbers combined with a low, -4.9 Roland Rating last year have some wondering how much of a positive impact he’ll make.

Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mason revert back to his Milwaukee form of years past. McCallum notes he had his best years here, and while personnel has changed a lot, it’s still the same city he was so comfortable in, and the up-tempo offense should suit him well.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Bucks Previews

A couple of team previews from around the web along with my commentary:

1. previews the Milwaukee Bucks season.

Here’s a sample:
“Scouting Report

Yi should help them. Charlie Villanueva is coming off of surgery. Bobby Simmons is coming off surgery. Andrew Bogut, look for him. He has had two good first years, but everyone will agree that he could have done better. I think this is the year that you will see the better Andrew Bogut.

Maurice Williams and Michael Redd, both those guys can go for 25 any night. Then you have Bogut, Villanueva and Yi on the front line. All three can pass, all three can face up and shoot it and all three can put on the floor and take it to the hole. That will be their strength. They will be tough to match up with.

Weaknesses, last two years they were very poor defensively. The focus of Krystkowiak this year is team defense. I am sure teams looked at the Bucks as of last year and said we have got to do these things, we can score easy. We got to really attack them. So hopefully they can change that.
-- Eastern Conference Scout”
It’s encouraging to hear that at least this particular scout is a Bogut believer.

The preview contains the basics, like a rundown of the frontcourt, backcourt, coach, and starting lineup. However, the only predictions come from an NBA Live 2008 simulation. The simulation has the Bucks going 40-42, and slipping into the playoffs as an eight seed. Yi Jianlian also makes the All-Rookie First Team.

That all sounds pretty realistic. Until it shows the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors winning 39 and 36 games respectively, at which point you remember that it’s probably not wise to take video game predictions too seriously.

2. Tom Ziller of Ballhype took his NBA Festivus to the Central Division and didn’t have many good things to say about the Bucks.

Here’s a taste:
“All that risk, all that helter skelter negotiating -- and for what? Williams and Bell are the same two point guards Michael Redd went to war with last year. Ruben Patterson is gone, Brian Skinner is gone, Earl Boykins is gone. Yi is the only addition... and he comes with guaranteed playing time (25 minutes a game). If he's good, great. If he sucks? Adam Morrison Part 2. Last year, this team won a grand total of... 28 games. And you could argue they got worse. It would take unprecedented health from Redd, Bobby Simmons and Charlie Villanueva, combined with an electric debut for Yi, for this team to even think about the playoffs.”
He picks the Bucks to finish 31-51. Although the article is a highly entertaining read overall, it’s hard to understand how he thinks someone could make an argument that the Bucks got worse. For one thing, Yi was not the only addition. If Skinner and Boykins are going to be considered losses, then Desmond Mason is most certainly an addition. And as discussed repeatedly here, the entire team is young and improving. Sure, we’ve seen Dan Gadzuric stagnate, but who really thinks Bogut, Williams, and Villanueva won’t get at least a little bit better this year?

Making the playoffs will be a tough task to say the least, but I would like to hear the argument stating how the Bucks won’t match 28 wins.

Monday, October 1, 2007

*Exclusive David Noel Interview*

Milwaukee Bucks guard/forward David Noel was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule and answer ten of my questions recently. Thanks, David!

The interview:

Alex: As an NBA rookie last year, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced adjusting from the college game?

David Noel: Some of the biggest challenges I faced that were different from the college game were just the length of the game and going from 40 to 48 minutes is a big jump. Then also the three-point line. I was never really a three-point shooter but wanted to add that to my game so that was a big adjustment. Last but not least just playing 82 games. And all the travel.

Alex: Michael Redd and Mo Williams were both second-round picks, and Charlie Bell wasn’t drafted at all. Each of them emerged in their second season in the NBA. As a second-round pick entering your second year, what is it like having star teammates that were in a similar situation to yours not long ago?

David Noel: It’s great having those guys on the team because it gives me someone to look up to. In this case I have three guys I can look up to. And to see their success in the NBA is great and I’m just praying that I can be just as blessed those guys are today.

Alex: You got a chance to play a lot last April, when you averaged over 22 minutes per game. And when you finally got starter’s minutes (36) on April 11 against the Pacers, you had 18 points on 7-10 shooting along with five rebounds and three assists. How high is your confidence heading into the new season?

David Noel: Very high, I can’t wait to get started. I just want to do anything I can to help this team win games. So if I can score, I want to do that. Rebound, I want to do that. Cheer from the bench, I’ll do that. Just as long as when I step on the court I’m giving my all I’m being productive. That’s all I can ask from myself.

Alex: You’re playing in a division with the top three teams (Pistons, Bulls, Cavaliers) in the conference from last year. And a lot of teams in the East have improved, making the playoff picture very crowded. What goals do you have as a team this year?

David Noel: Very high goals. We expect to make the playoffs. Nothing less. And as a team we want to protect home court and give our fans something to cheer for all year.

Alex: Why should other teams worry about playing the Bucks when they come to the Bradley Center?

David Noel: Just like I started in the last answer, because we want to protect our home. This is our house and no one is going to beat us here. That’s the attitude that we are going to have all year. That way we can give our fans something to cheer for and they can become our sixth man when we need them to be.

Alex: You have a reputation as a strong defensive player, and the Bucks have added players this offseason like Desmond Mason with defense in mind. Do you think as a team you will improve defensively?

David Noel: Yes, we have no choice but to if we want to win games. We didn’t do a great job last year on that end so we are preaching it a little more this year and hopefully guys will buy into it for all 82 games, not just the first ten.

Alex: Do you still talk to any of your teammates from your North Carolina national championship team that are in the NBA like Rashad McCants, Sean May, Raymond Felton, or Marvin Williams?

David Noel: Yes, all the time, and when I go to their city or they come to Milwaukee we always get up and do something. Just that family type thing we have at UNC.

Alex: Are there any teams or players in particular that you are looking forward to playing against this season?

David Noel: Always Charlotte and Atlanta because of the Carolina guys that I played with. Other than that I think I can’t wait to play Boston, not only because of what they added but because another one of the Carolina guys that I played with is with them now. His name is Jackie Manuel.

Alex: Who were your basketball idols when you were growing up?

David Noel: I like Grant Hill and Ray Allen... Another reason I want to play Boston too. (Laughs)

Alex: At North Carolina, you won the college slam dunk contest. A couple of the NBA’s most famous dunk contest winners are North Carolina alums, Michael Jordan and Vince Carter. Would you like to follow in their footsteps and take a shot at the NBA’s dunk contest this year?

David Noel: That would be great and hopefully I will be blessed with that shot one day. The only thing is I think I’ve run out of dunks. So I might need to call those guys to get some ideas. (Laughs)

Bucks Rankings, Player Profiles, More

1. Just a reminder that the Milwaukee Bucks start their preseason this month against the Chicago Bulls on October 9 and their regular season at the Orlando Magic on October 31.

2.’s Marty Burns examines the key question for each team in the East and, not surprisingly, focuses on Yi Jianlian for the Bucks.
“Key camp question: Was Yi worth all the bother?After waiting months for him to finally agree to play in Milwaukee, the Bucks at last get a look at their 6-11 Chinese prospect. It will be interesting to see how much the 19-year-old phenom can step in and contribute to a Milwaukee squad that is healthy again and poised to bounce back in the East.”
Interesting indeed. With Greg Oden out for the season, expect a good deal of preseason Yi coverage nationally, likely trailing only Kevin Durant among rookies in that department. The Bucks are healthy now, but that doesn't exactly put them in a minority. Aside from the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trailblazers, most teams are in good health and have reason for optimism. Then again, not many teams were hit as hard by injuries last season as the Bucks.

3.’s Marc Stein delivered his first power rankings of the year and ranked the Bucks 17th, with more comments on Yi.
“The Bucks were busier than most teams over the summer and spent a lot more than they usually do. So Sen. Kohl will inevitably demand big things from the team GM Larry Harris has assembled, starting with the Big Yi.”
Yi is the most unknown and thus intriguing player to track heading into camp. There isn’t much debate about that. However, he isn’t likely to be even one of the biggest five things in Milwaukee, if we’re talking about production this season. NBA rookies don’t typically assume a prominent role immediately, especially teenage ones. Of course, Yi is anything but a typical rookie, and perhaps not a teenager either. Still, even though we don’t know much of anything about Yi and we know all about Michael Redd, Desmond Mason and company, expect Stein to be talking more about big things from the latter rather than the former in a few months.

As for the ranking, 17th is a pretty fair, happy medium preseason ranking for a team that could realistically end the year in the same spot or eight spots higher or lower. The conference appears very competitive and crowded, as evidenced by eight of Stein’s eleven teams from 10-20 hailing from the East.

4. Just Another Bucks Fan links to a story written by Gery Woelfel in which assistant coach Jarinn Akana talks about Yi. The article is a very good read, with Akana providing some particularly informative commentary on Yi's cultural transition as it relates to basketball.

5. The Bratwurst writes very well-done individual player breakdowns, like this one:
“Bobby Simmons: The most misunderstood of all Bucks players to put on a jersey in recent years. At the start of the 2005-2006 campaign, he was attacking the basket, the team was winning close games, he was playing good defense, and he looked worth every penny. Then he got some weird foot/ankle/joint injury, nagged him, he quit attacking the basket, and the Bucks quit winning close games. That problem led him to having surgery and missing all of last year. If he were to count as an off-season pickup, he’s easily the best one we’ve got and is going to have the biggest impact of any player that didn’t wear a jersey last year. I fully expect him to earn his keep this year, unlike everyone else in Milwaukee.”
I’ve been considering Simmons one of the team’s new players when comparing to last season, and why not, considering he didn't play last year any more with the Bucks than Yi or Mason did. But whereas Yi and Mason have stolen most of the spotlight, Simmons might be the biggest wild-card for Bucks success of the new bunch.

6. Mke Bucks Diary writes a colorful article critiquing the direction of the Bucks.
“What exactly is Harris' plan to get the Bucks to the NBA Finals?

Let's say you divided the NBA talent pool as Bob McGinn does the NFL talent pool: into Blue chips (All-stars or borderline All-Stars), Purple chips (productive starters or backups who will probably never make an All-Star team but whom you can live with), Red chips (inadequate players, players with marginal skills whom you would replace as soon as the opportunity presents), and Yellow chips (young players with potential on whom the jury is still out).

In my opinion, you cannot win an NBA title without at least 2 Blues and a bunch of high Purples. Ideally you would have 3 Blues (as the Bucks did early this decade) and then a bunch of purples. Then you fill out the rest of your roster with Yellows. There is no room for Reds. Reds get you nowhere. As such, your goal should always be to discard all but the most necessary few Reds.”
Ty essentially takes the championship-or-nothing mentality, which is an admirable stance for the hardcore fan.

However, what should be considered is the possibility of upward mobility of certain players on the Bucks within his color-based player rating system. He correctly cites the limits of Charlie Bell, Desmond Mason, and others. But they are guys that could potentially play on a high-playoff team, and it's not like they are starting even now. Though recently signed Samaki Walker did start on a champion, throwing into question the whole thought.

More importantly though, Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut, and Mo Williams could eventually combine with another star or two to make a pretty special team. We know what Redd is capable of, but Bogut, Williams, and even Villanueva haven't yet piqued. It's far from a sure thing that they'll eventually form the nucleus of a championship-level club, but it's possible. Blowing up this team seems a bit premature.

The Atlanta Hawks, who always seem to stay young and full of promising players, might also serve as a cautionary tale for following the better off terrible-than-okay strategy.