Jake's Take: Prospecting the Big Dance - 03/16/11
Jake LeRoy [@JakesTake34]
Bucks vs Magic
Prospecting the Big Dance
Most basketball fans pledge their undying allegiance to either pro or college basketball. I am no different. I prefer the NBA over the college game because I’ve seen way too many Big Ten games end with a 36-33 final tally. The amateurs don’t trail the professionals by much, though, especially come mid-March. How can anyone not adore the NCAA Tournament? It’s wonderful.
Most people’s enjoyment comes out of the pure exhilaration of watching last-second finishes, monitoring potential upsets and highlighting the winners in your personal bracket. While I enjoy all of the above, I spend most of my time trying to determine what players would look best in Milwaukee’s red and green.
Tonight, I’m going to throw out four players I’ll be watching closely who could potentially be available when the Bucks draft anywhere from No. 9 to No. 15. Some are playing in the Big Dance and some are in the NIT. I don’t discriminate. On Friday, I’ll throw out four additional players who could be around when Milwaukee’s second-round pick comes to be.
Alec Burks, SG, Colorado: Burks’ squad got shafted out of a berth in the NCAA Tournament, but it was no fault of this 6-foot-6 shooting guard. Burks led the Big 12 with over 20 points per game and did so with an offensive repertoire that allowed him to get almost any shot he wanted, a skill currently lacking on the Bucks. His long-range game still needs improvement, but the 19-year-old has plenty of time to improve in that respect. Burks rebounds and passes well for his size and attempts nearly eight free throws a game, indicating an innate ability to get to the rim.
Jordan Hamilton, SF, Texas: Hamilton’s chucker mentality as a freshman immediately turned me off to his game, but all indications are that he’s turned the proverbial corner. There’s never been any doubt Hamilton is one of the best shooters of his class. He’s now determined what a good shot is and what a bad shot is. Hamilton is similar to Burks in that he can score in a variety of ways, but different in that he has almost limitless range. The Bucks are sorely lacking in consistent outside shooting. Hamilton has the skills to immediately step in to a secondary role as a designated spot-up shooter and hit 40 percent of his three-pointers.
Brandon Knight, PG/SG, Kentucky: Knight will likely follow in the footsteps of Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall and graduate from the John Calipari School of Point Guards in one year. While Knight hasn’t had the success of the three that came before him, he has the potential to be a valuable contributor in the NBA. Knight’s full-time position will probably never be defined, but he has the ball skills to run the point in brief stretches and the size to run at the “2” on occasion. I currently see him as a younger, bigger, more athletic version of Keyon Dooling.
Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego State: Leonard currently mans the power forward position, but his 6-foot-7, 225-pound frame indicates a small forward’s future. His game isn’t there yet, but he seems to have the athleticism and tenacity to become a legit small forward. Leonard’s rebounding - better than 10 boards a game - and non-stop motor have drawn comparisons to Shawn Marion. Like Burks, Leonard lacks the outside shot I’d like in a wing, but I’m hoping his relative youth will allow that aspect of his game to develop.
- Andrew Bogut and Dwight Howard were largely considered the two best true centers in the NBA last season. Injuries to Bogut have probably derailed that belief, at least momentarily, but we haven’t gotten much of a chance to compare this year. Howard missed the first meeting with Milwaukee this year and Bogut promptly put up 31 points and 18 boards, arguably his best game this season. With Bogut out tonight, we have again missed an opportunity to gauge Bogut’s place among NBA centers. Howard and Bogut did square off once this year with Howard getting the best of Bogut, but one game isn’t a big enough sample size.
- Brandon Jennings has received his share of flack this season for his dwindling assist numbers. While his court vision and timing could definitely improve, he’s not getting any help from his bigs right now. Jennings made three nice interior passes in the first quarter - one to Larry Sanders and two to The Prince - and both passes were fumbled. Those passes probably result in baskets if caught cleanly. If his bigs aren’t converting, it’s only going to discourage Jennings from making those passes.
- It looked like the Magic might run away with this game early, but the Milwaukee bench did its part in keeping the Bucks in the game. Jennings led the team with 10 first-half points, but his fellow starters chipped in with just four additional points in the opening half. The bench received balanced scoring with the second unit of Earl Boykins, Jon Brockman, Keyon Dooling, Corey Maggette and Earl Barron scoring between two and eight points apiece. All told, the bench outscored the starters 23-14 in the first half.
- I’m holding out hope that at some point tonight Earl Boykins, Earl Barron and Earl Clark will collide with another. The anticipation for what would happen if that occurred is killing me. My money is on an opening of an alternate universe where every word is prefaced by Earl. People would eat Earl-burgers, New Yorkers would take the Earl-way to work, and Carlos Delfino would be from Earl-gentina. All this, and “My Name is Earl” would be on syndication on every channel for the rest of eternity.
- I watched this highlight reel, if you can call it that, prior to game time and was encouraged by what Brockman was able to do in those 34 seconds of well-clipped action. Seeing it in person is more impressive. Brockman has in no way stopped Howard, but that’s because you can only hope to contain a guy like him, and that’s what Brockman has done. Howard is visibly frustrated and for good reason. Brockman is laying down some hard fouls, fighting hard for rebounds and taking charges. He’s done about as well as can be expected.
- It took a while for the Bucks to figure out how to get a shot off with Howard patrolling the paint, but it looks like they’ve started to crack the code. The Prince received a nice pass in the paint early in the fourth, threw a pump fake at Howard, moved to the other side of the rim, and laid it in while drawing the foul. Taking the ball to the other side of the hoop was the key to that sequence. It prevented Howard from getting a clean look at a block as he would’ve had to go through the rim to get to the ball. Craftiness can go a long way in this league.
Closing It Out
I have to admit, when I found out Bogut was sidelined with a migraine, I didn’t give the Bucks much of a chance. Those feelings were confirmed early when the Magic put Milwaukee in a quick hole. The Bucks never let the lead get too large, though, and remained within shouting distance for most of the game, eventually taking the lead late in the third quarter. Even then, I still expected Orlando to go on a run and put the Bucks away. Thankfully, Milwaukee continued to prove me wrong, capitalizing on some bonehead moves - I’m looking at you Jameer Nelson - from the Magic to send the game to overtime. The Magic was just too much to overcome in extra time, though, with Hedo Turkoglu and Nelson hitting two deflating jumpers late in the shot clock that gave them their eventual four-point margin of victory.
Looking back at the fourth quarter, this game easily could’ve ended in Milwaukee’s favor. The Bucks didn’t get many open looks in the final period, but when they did, they were unable to take advantage. Dooling missed a wide-open baseline layup, Jennings missed a pair of open three-pointers and John Salmons clanged a couple of open 18-footers.
Milwaukee was only able to score 25 points in the game’s final 17 minutes even though it scored 27 in the third-quarter alone. The Bucks outscored the Magic 27-15 in the frame thanks to an onslaught of midrange jumpers from Salmons that were often set up by Jennings.
The Bucks let Howard get his for most of the game, choosing to single-cover him with whatever big man was currently on the floor and not letting Howard’s teammates get going. It worked for the most part as Nelson, Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Ryan Anderson combined to hit just 18-of 51 from the floor. Howard may have tallied 31 points, but keeping the others in check kept the Bucks in the game.It’s this kind of loss that can be especially frustrating. Blowout defeats are obviously lacking in fun, but narrow losses that could’ve been wins are heart breaking. Thankfully the Bucks didn’t lose anymore ground in the playoff race as Indiana fell in Boston, keeping Milwaukee just 2.5 games back of the Pacers. The Bucks will have another chance to make up some ground on Friday when they take on the surging Nets. They can’t let this losing streak reach four games.
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.