Jake's Take: 05/27/10
Going to Summer School
When I was just a little tike, nobody disliked summer school more than I did. I begged my parents not to send me in elementary school, and did everything in my power to avoid a summer semester in college. The words "summer" and "school" don't deserve to share the same sentence. Let's call a spade a spade and just declare that summer school is a pretty ridiculous notion and that it should be outlawed in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
Unfortunately, the prospect of a summer vacation vanishes into thin air upon graduation from high school or college. This means that most of us working adults spend the summer months doing work, and that includes NBA players. While some players may not take their summer responsibilities as serious as others, most will put in hours upon hours of work in the gym over the next few months. What a player does in the offseason often determines how well they'll perform during the subsequent season.
In an ideal world, I would own a thriving institute catering to NBA players who want to improve their games. Every offseason I would invite players from the Milwaukee Bucks to this hypothetical summer school and offer up my expertise ... or lack thereof. If I had my way, I would suggest each of these under-contact Bucks work on the following parts of their respective games. (You'll notice that I have not included players who aren't currently under contract with the team. I don't want them using my wisdom for evil in future matchups against the Bucks.)
Charlie Bell -Bell had a pretty diverse offensive game when he joined the Bucks in 2005. That diversity seems to have dissipated over the years, though, and Bell needs to try and get it back. He's started to rely too heavily on corner threes and step-back jumpers. When Bell averaged a career-high 13.5 points per game in 2007, more than 27 percent of his shots came at the rim, with just 37 percent coming from beyond the arc. Since then, his amount of shots at the rim have gradually decreased while his attempts from deep have increased, finishing at 19 percent at the rim last year and 45 percent from three-point range. I think Bell can become a much more efficient offensive player if he just diversifies his game.
Andrew Bogut - I remember watching Bogut in the 2006 World Championships shooting three-pointers without a second's hesitation and hitting at a respectable rate. And then he came back to the NBA and seemed reluctant to take even a 12-footer. He obviously has the skill to become an effective midrange shooter; he just has to develop confidence in that shot. Adding a face-up jumper or the ability to pick-and-pop to his game would make him infinitely more difficult to guard. Bogut averaged 16 points per game last year on what felt like 80 percent lefty hooks, shots that defenders had to know were coming. Just imagine how effective he could be if he could keep defenders guessing.
Carlos Delfino - Delfino has one of the purest-looking shooting strokes on the Bucks, but that superb form hasn't resulted in superb results. For most of his career, Delfino has shot in the mid-30s from three-point range and the low-40s overall. The Bucks, who were fifth in the NBA in three-point attempts, need guys like Delfino to connect at a higher rate from deep. A big part of Delfino's role on offense is spotting up and hitting the open jumper. He shot 36.7 percent from beyond the arc this year, which isn't bad, but an improvement to 40 percent would make the Milwaukee offense much more effective. If guys like Jared Dudley, Arron Afflalo and Anthony Parker can hit at a 41 percent clip or higher, I see no reason why Delfino can't do the same.
Dan Gadzuric - Having a big man who can shoot a jumper is a nice luxury to have. But to me, it's more important to have a big man that can finish from in close. The league average is 61 percent shooting at the rim, with guards like Beno Udrih and Kelenna Azubuike shooting better than 70 percent at the rim last year. Gadzuric was only able to connect on 56 percent of his attempts from close range last year. That needs to improve. Missing layups is frustrating for teammates and fans, and can swing momentum to the opposition. Conversely, finishing with an emphatic dunk will energize everyone in the arena, and likely result in a momentum swing in favor of the Bucks.
Ersan Ilyasova - I think Ilyasova needs to work on his pump fake. Who am I kidding? You can't improve on perfection. What he can improve on is being more aggressive taking it to the rack. Ilyasova settled for that rain-making jumper of his far too often last year. It's not always pretty, but Ilyasova can be fairly effective going to the hole. He often utilizes that pump fake to create more space for his jumper, but he should be using it to get to the tin and draw contact more often. The Bucks were 29th in the league in free throw attempts last year, so anything that can get them to the charity stripe more often is more than welcome.
Brandon Jennings - Depending on your tastes, Karl Malone and John Stockton may have been the most boring pair of teammates in the history of the NBA. But the way they ran a pick-and-roll was truly a thing of beauty. There isn't a play I enjoy watching more than a finely executed pick-and-roll. It's almost impossible to stop and will give opposing defenses all kinds of headaches. Tandems like Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire and Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer have since become the torchbearers for the pick-and-roll.
The Bucks ran a lot of high screens for Jennings last year, and Jennings did a great job of utilizing them to create offense for himself. Next season, I would love to see him use these picks to create more offense for his teammates. I think the potential is there for a potent pick-and-roll with Bogut and pick-and-pop with Ilyasova. The key is Jennings being able to accurately read the defense and deliver timely, accurate passes. Milwaukee was one of the league's worst shooting teams last year, but an effective pick-and-roll will result in easier shots and, in turn, a higher shooting percentage.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute - I don't think it's a big secret that The Prince needs to become more consistent with his midrange jumper. He put in the time last offseason working on this part of the game, but I can't help but wonder if he bit off more than he could chew. He tried to make the corner three a bigger part of his arsenal, but I think he may have been better served mastering his 18-footer and then working back from there. The Prince brings so much value to this team on the defensive end, but his inability to consistently hit from midrange handcuffs Scott Skiles. I would love to see The Prince splitting 40 minutes per game at the forward positions, but that's not going to happen until he becomes a more reliable option on offense.So there you have it. That's what a summer at Jake's School of Soft Compliments would consist of. I don't want to be at summer school any more than anyone else, so I would make sure that these daily sessions are, at the very least, mildly enjoyable experiences. All I would ask for is a few pick-and-rolls, some midrange jumpers and a little aggressiveness toward the hoop. To me, that's a small amount of work that can result in huge returns once the 2010-11 campaign tips off.
Note: These are the views of the 6th Fan Blogger. Thoughts and opinions expressed in this articles are not necessarily the views of the Milwaukee Bucks.