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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

SDH Presents the 2013 End of Season NBA's Worst to First: 16. Milwaukee Bucks

Overall Win/Loss Record (At Season’s End):  38-44,  third place Central Division

At Season’s End:

Team Statistics and League Rank (At Season’s End)

  • Points Scored: 98.9 (12th)
  • Points Allowed: 100.4 (20th)
  • Team FG%: .435 (28th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .454 (15th)
  • Team FT%: .736 (22nd)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .360 (14th)
  • Rebounds per game: 44.0 (5th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 46.0 (30th)
  • Turnovers per game: 13.6 (19th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 15.3 (3rd)

Individual Statistical Leaders (At Season’s End)

  • Scoring (ppg): Monta Ellis (19.2)
  • Rebounds per game:  Larry Sanders (9.5)
  • Minutes per game: Monta Ellis (37.5)
  • Assists per game:  Brandon Jennings (6.5)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Larry Sanders (.576)
  • Free Throw Percentage: JJ Reddick (.900)
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Ersan Ilyasova (.444)
  • Steals per game: Monta Ellis (2.1)
  • Blocked Shots per game:  Larry Sanders (2.8)

Taking a Look Back at the Season that Once Was . . .

SDH Worst to First Recap
Time Period
Change (+/-)
At Season’s End
SDH Player of the Year:
Larry Sanders

This guy was not even on the radar when the Bucks entered the regular season and looked to be on his way out very soon.  After having an all but nonexistent first two seasons and almost forgettable Summer League and preseason performances, Larry Sanders was essentially given up for dead by Bucks fans and many NBA observers.  So imagine the shock and amazement when he came out of nowhere and posts the best season of his entire career averaging a near double double in points and rebounds while logging a couple block shots as well.  In terms of production, he was probably the most consistent and efficient offensive producer on the team as he shot over .500 from the field and had a per 40 minutes averages of 14.3 points, 14.0 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game.  The jury is still out however whether Sanders' performance will become the beginning of a something special or end up as just a one time affair.     

At the start of the 2012/2013 NBA season, the Milwaukee Bucks looked as if they would be a team that had all the ingredients to have a memorable breakout year.  Last season they had acquired sharp shooting two guard Monta Ellis to pair alongside their tabbed franchise player Brandon Jennings to form one of the most potent back court combinations since Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars.  The Bucks had also had welcomed back last season's candidate for most improved player of the year, Ersan Ilyasova, who not only set career highs in scoring (13.0ppg) and rebounds (8.8), but also shot a blistering .455 from beyond the arc.  In addition to a solid tandem of role player which included veterans Mike Dunleavy and Drew Gooden along with young prospects Ekpe Udoh and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, the Bucks also added veterans Samuel Dalembert and Marquis Daniels to further bolster an already deep and talented roster.  One could have gone far as to call the Bucks a poor man's version of the Oklahoma City Thunder as they were a team that consisted of two primary scorers capable of pushing the game's tempo and a team capable of forcing turnovers for quick and easy offense giving the potential of an exciting team to watch in the NBA.

Unfortunately, despite possessing all the tools to take the league by storm, the Bucks came stumbling out of the gates as the team that looked to have so much going for it fell flat on their faces.  Neither Brandon Jennings or Monta Ellis provided the anticipated offensive fire power as they both struggled from the field and although they both led the team in scoring and took the majority of the shots, they were neither efficient or that reliable.  Ellis who was know to be solid from the field as a career .456 shooter had the worst shooting performance of his career making less that .420 of his shots while Brandon Jennings, despite averaging a decent 17.5 per game, shot an abysmal .399 from the field giving Milwaukee, instead of the high octane offense that was promised, one of the worst performing offenses in the league.  After being signed to a lucrative long term deal worth in the area of 40$ million for five years, Ersan Ilyasova would come into the season ice cold from the field forced the Bucks' coach at the time, Scott Skiles, to bench the Turkish big man making him look like an overall bust and a blight on the face of the Bucks.  As for the rest  of the team, Drew Gooden who gave a solid contribution last season of 13.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game was a complete no show, Sammy Dalembert looked as if age had got the better of him as his performance declined as well, and the rest of the Bucks, they continued to remain a non factor on the offensive end.

Milwaukee was rather fortunate that their poor showing did not affect their playoff chances as they played in possibly one of the worst divisions in the NBA as it consisted of two hopeless cellar dwelling teams and two equally poorly performing offenses as the Bucks.  The Indiana Pacers were expected to not only to easily take the Central Division, but also finished among the top teams in the Eastern Conference and the league; however, they had an unexpectedly slow start and had struggled to maintain a over .500 for much of the season.  The Chicago Bulls looked to be another team heading into a tailspin as not only would they be without their star player, Derrick Rose, for the entire season, but they would be also be playing with a gutted out roster as they had to break apart their second unit, probably one of the best in the league, due to salary cap concerns.  Like Indy, Chicago would also struggle to win games and maintain a respectable above .500 record giving the Bucks more than one opportunity to take first place of the Central Division on numerous occasions as it was in such a sad state.  As last season, both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons maintained their status as the league's designated whipping boys leaving the mediocre Bucks to be nestled in between two chronic under performers and   two teams that were playing for positioning in the NBA draft lottery.

Nonetheless, despite Milwaukee's ability to tread water over the course of the season, it was not enough to save the floundering career of head coach Scott Skiles, who after bringing the Bucks to winning a respectable 45 game season in his first season, failed to maintain the same consistent performance.  Although he should be given much of the credit for keeping the Bucks competitive despite the rash of injuries and not having the most talented of rosters to say the least, Skiles fate was essentially sealed thanks to his rather abrasive demeanor and coaching style which alienated his players and started to irk the front office as well.  Within two months of the season Skiles was relieved of his coaching duties and immediately replaced by one of his assistants, Jim Boylan, who almost immediately gained a rapport with the team and got them to perform better.  He helped the struggling Ilyasova regain his confidence that was all but shattered by Skiles by returning him to the starting lineup and it paid dividend as Ersan found his lost shooting stroke and returned to being the solid third offensive option that the Bucks needed him to be.  Thanks to Boylan, the Bucks went from being a sob story to a feel good story of the NBA regular season as they went from struggling to maintain a .500 record to becoming a respectable force as they finished the month of January and the first half of the season with a 24-20 record.     

Unfortunately the Bucks would not be able to maintain the momentum that they had built in January as they would sink like a stone lose eight of twelve in February, nine of sixteen in March, and seven of ten by season's end in April.  They had gone from almost being assured a top five playoff seeding to basically scrambling to keep what little ground it had for the eighth and final spot fending off the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers, who had been gaining on the Bucks as the floor was eroding right from under Milwaukee's feet.  Fortunately for the Bucks, they managed to secure the final spot in playoffs and were subsequently eliminated quickly and easily by the future NBA Champion Miami Heat; however, although the Bucks had managed to salvage their season, their future looks rather bleak as Milwaukee seemed to have reached its peak and will be heading back to square one.  The Brandon Jennings experiment has failed to deliver the dividends that had been projected as both Jennings and Milwaukee will be looking to part ways soon as he has become a restricted free agent and does not seem that he does not see himself spending the rest of his career in Milwaukee and who can blame him, really?

Milwaukee is a virtual wasteland that has no chance of being a championship contender nor does it have any hope of being better than marginal or worse than mediocre.  Due to its rather small market and limted resources, the Bucks will not be able to compete dollar for dollar against the bigger market teams who have ability to snag up all the top tier talent.  The only way Milwaukee ever has a real chance to get better is through the draft and the only chance of even getting close to snagging an star quality player is to tank the season bad enough in order for them to be in the running for a top five pick.  It is almost a certainty that Brandon Jennings will certainly not want to waste his career on a team going nowhere which has to rebuild every two or three years because it can neither attract or keep talent capable enough to bring Milwaukee a championship.  So Bucks fans will have no choice but to see their team go down the drain and start over once again as both them and their team will forever be stuck in an endless cycle of mediocrity yet again.