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Thursday, January 3, 2013

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for November: 11. Milwaukee Bucks

Overall Win/Loss Record (as of November 30th):   7-7,  first place Central Division

This Month:

Team Statistics and League Rank (as of November 30th)
  • Points Scored: 99.8 (10th)
  • Points Allowed: 98.8 (19th)
  • Team FG%: .452 (10th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .452 (23rd)
  • Rebounds per game: 42.5 (11th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 43.2 (20th)
  • Turnovers per game: 14.0 (7th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 17.0 (3rd)
Individual Statistical Leaders (as of November 30th)
  • Scoring (ppg): Monta Ellis (18.9)
  • Rebounds per game:  Larry Sanders (7.0)
  • Minutes per game: Brandon Jennings (36.5)
  • Assists per game: Brandon Jennings (7.1)
  • Steals per game: Brandon Jennings (3.5)
  • Blocked Shots per game: Larry Sanders (2.3)

Worst Player of the Month: Ersan Ilyasova

After having a monumental year last season where he posted career highs in scoring (13.0ppg), rebounds (8.8) and shot a phenomenal .455 from beyond the arc, Ersan Ilyasova has failed to live up to expectations--especially since the Bucks signed him on a five year 40$ million extension this past summer.  Ersan has been absolutely dreadful for the Bucks thus far as he came into the season looking completely clueless on what was going on.  He started the season shooting .347 overall from the field, .214 from beyond the arc, and an atrocious .467 from the free throw line.  Ersan was playing so terribly in November that coach Scott Skiles was forced to bench the Turk because he was not only embarassing himself, but the team as well.  Hopefully Ersan can bounce back from this demotion, because if he does not, the Bucks will certainly not look good from investing so much in him. 

First Player of the Month: Larry Sanders

Larry Sanders was on his verge out of the Bucks after a horrendous summer league performance and an even worse showing in the preseason.  That all changed however, when the regular season arrived when he unexpectedly exploded coming off the bench to post  12 points, 10 rebounds per games while shooting an unconscious .649 from the field.  By the end of November, his scoring dropped to 7.4, but his field goal percentage remained high at .556, and still kept up an impressive 7.1 boards per game as well.  His greatest contribution, however, has been on the defensive end as he came off the bench to lead the team and the league in blocked shots per game coming off the bench to average close to three per game.  If he continues his phenomenal production, he just might usurp the starting center spots which has been held by veteran Samuel Dalembert.

There was not much fanfare when the Milwaukee Bucks took to the court this season as many did not have very high expectations to begin with.  Many expected the Bucks to improve just slightly after acquiring one of the top shooting guards in the league in Monta Ellis in a late season trade along with veteran big man Samuel Dalembert during the summer free agency period.  Certainly no one would have considered the Bucks having a chance to challenge the Chicago Bulls or the Indiana Pacers for the Central Division crown.  Even with Chicago's precarious situation coming into the season without its star player, Derrick Rose, and its once strong roster completely gutted from the inside, no one could have even predicted that the Bucks would be any more than a fringe team that was on the outside looking in.  That all changed once the season began as the entire power structure of the Central Division turned completely upside down.

For starters, the Indiana Pacers, who many expected to simply own the division came into the season completely flat shooting blanks and struggling right out of the gates.  Indy started the season winning just four of its first ten games and finished the month of November with an 8-8 record.  Chicago would also stumble to start the season finishing November losing four of their last six games after starting the season 5-3.  As a result, what many thought would be impossible just became possible as the Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls, and the Indiana Pacers formed a three way tie for first place sporting .500 record turning what was once considered one of the league's toughest divisions into a virtual laughing stock.  Milwaukee would no longer find themselves on the fringes, but on the forefront as they would now have the chance to surpass the teams that have kept them at the bottom for the past couple of years.

While their two strongest rivals stumbled and struggled at the start of the season, the Bucks started rather strongly winning six of their first eight games and with those wins, first place in the Central Division--something Milwaukee fans never experienced for quite a long time.  Unfortunately for Bucks fans, the good times did not last as they saw their team lose five of their next six games and finish the month in a unprecedented three way tie for first place where neither team had a winning record.  Milwaukee in fact, manged to hold onto first place until the very end of November which unfortunately did not give the Bucks higher esteem, but rather diminished the esteem of their rivals, the Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers.  And that is rightfully so as Milwaukee neither took the league or its division by division by storm--they were simply at the right place at the right time thus does not deserve any praise for their overall performance.

The Bucks did not really set the league on fire as they faced rather weak competition as all the teams they beat had sub .500 records with their most notable wins being against an aging and deteriorating Boston Celtics squad (11/2/2012) and an undermanned Philadelphia 76ers team (11/12/2012).  As expected, they also beat the Chicago Bulls (11/26/2012) and the Indiana Pacers (11/14/2012) as both teams struggled to find their footing to start the season.  Milwaukee also managed to lose against the Charlotte Bobcats, who last season sported the worse record and winning percentage in NBA History (11/19/2012).  Thus one cannot go farther than seeing Milwaukee's recent good fortune as a lucky coincidence than will just fizzle out as the season passes by.  It will take much more for the Bucks to show that they are a viable contender in the East and unfortunately, they simply do not have the goods to make it happen.

As a team, the Bucks do not exactly have a roster that screams out "playoff contender"  as the team's two top scores and focal point of their offense both shoot under .420 from the field.  Their defense, which the team supposedly takes great pride in, has not been as great either as they ranked near the bottom in field goals allowed and have been out rebounded by a a slight margin.  Milwaukee's only advantage in November was its ability to force turnovers as the Bucks finished 1st in that category to end the month and despite a horrendous shooting backcourt have also managed to hold tight as one of the best in the league in protecting the all.  It would take a miraculous run for the Milwaukee Bucks to really get any real respect in this league--like, let's say if they won 9 of their 15 December games to finish 2012 with a 16-13 record earning them second place in the Central Division; however, that is not very likely to happen now, is it?