Jake's Take: What Could've Been, 1/19/2011
Jake LeRoy [@JakesTake34]
Bucks vs Wizards
It was all set. I had the whole 2007 NBA Draft planned out to perfection. The Bucks - after finishing 28-54 - had the league’s third-best chance of obtaining the No. 1 overall draft pick at 15.6 percent, trailing only Memphis and Boston. The best odds had Milwaukee getting the No. 3 pick and I was more than fine with that. I had this grand plan in place that would leave the Bucks with their frontline of the future.
Greg Oden and Kevin Durant were the consensus No. 1 and No. 2 picks, respectively. I could’ve lived without Oden. Andrew Bogut was already manning the middle so there was need for the well-aged and now hobbled Oden. Durant I would’ve taken in a heartbeat. The Bucks had a hole at small forward and I think it’s safe to say Durant would’ve filled that gap admirably. But me, I played the odds that the Bucks would get the No. 3 pick and wholly talked myself into Al Horford.
It would’ve been perfect. Milwaukee would start Bogut and Horford down low, a tandem that would provide a dual threat on the blocks both offensively and defensively. The high-scoring backcourt duo of Michael Redd and Mo Williams would score at will and, if they didn’t, Bogut and Horford would be there to clean up the mess. Throw in some offensive firepower off the bench in the form of the Charlies - Bell and Villanueva - and the Bucks were good to go. Sure, the hole at small forward remained, but it could easily be covered up. The most exciting part was the pairing of Bogut and Horford, though. It was the kind of frontcourt that had the potential to be the envy of general managers and coaches throughout the league.
And then it happened. The lottery gods frowned upon the city of Milwaukee on May 27, 2007, the day of the NBA Draft Lottery. The ping pong balls bounced as they should have through the first half of the lottery with the first seven picks going where they should. Portland, which should’ve picked seventh, leapfrogged six teams to the top spot, totally discombobulating the draft order in the process and leaving the Bucks with the No. 6 pick. That was the day I realized Horford was no longer a possibility and that Yi Jianlian could be in Milwaukee’s very near future. I shed a single tear that day.
We all know the story from there. Yi blew through town, gawking at Milwaukee’s lake and river and rocking the heck out of a fireman’s hat in the process. Yi’s rookie season, which would be his only in Milwaukee, was the perfectly nondescript start to what has become a perfectly nondescript career. He’s shown the occasional glimpse of goodness but is averaging a very mediocre nine points and six boards for his career. He’s actually regressed this season at the ripe old age of 23, averaging career-lows of 6.4 points and 3.5 rebounds in his first season as a Wizard. His 40.5 career field goal percentage isn’t exactly a glowing endorsement of his skills as a 7-footer.
I routinely find myself checking on Horford and how his career his progressing in Atlanta. For every double-double he posts and All-Star game he’s selected to, I shake my head and wonder what could’ve been. How would the Bucks look today if the ping pong balls had just fallen the way they were supposed to?
- The Bucks have had their fair share of bad quarters this year, but tonight’s first quarter may have been their worst. Playing against the lone team with zero road wins, Milwaukee was outscored 27-19 and outshot by nearly 27 percent. They turned the ball over four times and had a grand total of zero assists between the 10 players who received burn. If it wasn’t for a 13-4 advantage from the charity stripe, this could’ve been real ugly.
- Is there anyone in the world making more money for less production than Rashard Lewis? I submit there is not. Lewis is making nearly $20 million this year and I’m forgetting he’s even on the court for long stretches of play. He’s currently on pace to average $20,000 per point scored this season. Al Thornton is stealing his minutes. Lewis has gone from a one-dimensional scorer to a zero-dimensional space eater in record time. Since signing his ridiculous deal prior to the 2007 season, Lewis has seen his scoring average gradually decline to his current average of 12.7 points per game, his lowest since his second year in the league.
- Corey Maggette may be getting more minutes as of late, but his free-throw attempts haven’t remained proportional the way I would think they would. Maggette is averaging 28.7 minutes per game over the last three, but has attempted just nine free throws in those contests for an average of just one attempt every 9.5 minutes. That’s a pretty substantial decline for a guy who averages a free-throw attempt every four minutes for his career. Maggette seems much more willing to rise up for an 18-footer now, as opposed to the no-regard-for-human-life forays to the hoop that defined his game earlier this season. It seems to be working pretty well for Maggette, though, as he’s average 16.7 points on 54 percent shooting over his last three.
- I could be mistaken, but I think Nick Young may be wearing some old school Penny’s tonight. They’re very bright and very blue, plus the tongue boasts Penny’s No. 1, the same digit worn by Young. Coincidence, I think not. On a related note, Young likes shooting the ball. So much so that I’m confident he would hoist a 40-foot jump shot with 22 seconds left on the shot clock if left uncovered.
- John Wall may have the name recognition, but Milwaukee point guards Keyon Dooling and Earl Boykins are doing everything in their power to counteract the speedy Washington point guard. Through three quarters, Dooling has 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting (3-of-3 from deep) and Boykins has 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the floor and 6-of-6 from the line. This point guard matchup doesn’t have nearly the flare as a Wall-Brandon Jennings matchup, but its importance has been big nonetheless.
- The silliest foul in the NBA is the clear path foul and Washington’s Al Thornton just committed one. A clear path foul occurs when a player has no defender in front of him and is grabbed by a defender from behind. This foul results in two free throws and the ball. Why would anyone ever commit that foul, especially on a quality free-throw shooter like Boykins? It’s like giving the Bucks a shot at a 4- or 5-point play. Either try and defend the inevitable lay-up attempt or let him coast in for an easy bucket. This foul happens all the time, too. It makes no sense.
Closing It Out
You know the phrase “the usual suspects”? Yeah, it would most definitely not pertain to tonight’s events. Bogut, Jennings and Salmons would generally be considered the usual suspects in respect to the Bucks. Not tonight. Jennings and Salmons didn’t suit up, Bogut played an extremely quiet 36 minutes and Keyser Söze didn’t blow up a boat. Tonight’s win featured the holy triumvirate of Dooling, Maggette and Boykins.
Dooling paced the Bucks with a season-high and uber-efficient 23 points, matching his highest point total since the 2006-07 season. Maggette chimed in with his second consecutive 20-point outing, finishing the evening with 21 points. Boykins continued to do what he does, reaching double digits for the fifth time in seven games with 19 points.
Tonight’s win over Washington was a relief to say the least. The Wizards came into the game 0-19 in road contests but didn’t look it in the first quarter, jumping out to the aforementioned 27-19 lead. The Bucks righted the ship over the final three quarters, though, outscoring Washington 81-60 and shooting 54.5 percent over that span. I have to admit the thought the Bucks would lose crossed my mind on multiple occasions, but I’m glad that thought never became a reality.
Milwaukee’s stretch of games against sub-.500 teams got off to a rocky start with road losses in Philly and Houston. There’s no doubt those games could have gone better. Hopefully tonight marks the start of something substantial, something the Bucks can build upon. They’re in Cleveland Friday night and I hope they go into that contest with a chip on their shoulder. The Cavs have won only eight games all season, but one of those victories was an 83-81 win over Milwaukee earlier this season. The Bucks need to exact revenge, and they need to exact it in a big way.
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.