Jake's Take: 04/13/11 - Offseason To-Do List (Part 3)
Jake LeRoy [@JakesTake34]
Bucks at Thunder
Offseason To-Do List (Part 3)
Saturday’s win over Cleveland and Monday’s win over Toronto were prefaced by to-do lists for the first two-thirds of the Milwaukee roster. For the season finale, I’ll hand out the offseason homework for the rest of the roster, including head coach Scott Skiles.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
Become a power forward: After three total years in the league, I think it’s time we call a spade a spade and call him a power forward, with the added benefit of being able to guard every other position. If he’s going to become a full-time power forward, though, he has to improve his rebounding and inside scoring. The Prince has seen his rebounding rate and average drop for the second consecutive year despite playing a career-high 26.6 minutes per game. He also missed way too many lay-ups, converting just 57 percent of his shots at the rim, which is eight percent less than the average power forward.
Strengthen that knee: Whether Redd is in a Bucks uniform next year or not, it’d be a shame to waste all of the rehab he’s done over the last year-plus. Redd got to break in his new, hopefully bionic, knee over the season’s final two weeks, but he needs to continue to strengthen that knee over the offseason. His second destroyed knee came so quickly after his first that a third would likely be too much to overcome, even for a rehab workhouse like Redd. The jumpshot will come, but he won’t be able to hoist any if his knee isn’t where it needs to be.
Fine tune that midrange game: Salmons made a living off his midrange game during Milwaukee’s charge to the playoffs last year. He attempted 6.6 shots per game from between three and 23 feet, connecting on a very respectable 45 percent from that range. Salmons’ ability to take two dribbles to his left or right and pull up from 16 feet was almost unstoppable. This year, not so much. Salmons attempted a very similar 6.9 shots per game from three to 23 feet this year, but converted only 36 percent of the time. If he’s to get back to his form of last year, he’s got to fine tune his midrange shot.
“Be quick, but don’t hurry”: That little spot of wisdom is courtesy of legendary UCLA coach John Wooden and I think it applies to Sanders quite well. At times, the NBA seemed too fast for Sanders. He often rushed shot attempts and fell for pump fakes instead of collecting himself and letting the game slow down. Sanders also has to put on some serious lower-body muscle. He consistently gets pushed around under the hoop, which led to a rebounding rate well below what a 6-foot-11 athlete should boast. His rebounding rate was 16th among rookies and 59th among all power forwards. He won’t get much more playing time if he doesn’t improve on the boards.
Bring in an offensive guru: Nobody can doubt Skiles’ ability to motivate and coach defense. It may be time to bring an offensive coordinator, though, similar to Tom Thibodeau’s former role as defensive coordinator in Boston. Since Skiles took over in Chicago in 2003, his eight teams have finished no better than 21st in the NBA in offensive efficiency, averaging 25th during that period. Defense is obviously very important, but this season disproved the philosophy that “defense wins championships.” Some offense is required.
- I’ve often wondered if guys like Russell Westbrook realize how fast they are while in the act of being fast. Can Westbrook feel his fastness? I imagine routinely blowing by your counterpart makes for a pretty good indication. But does he feel like he’s going fast, or does it just feel like normal speed? I can build up some pretty good steam when hit with a dose of adrenaline, but I can’t imagine being as fast as Westbrook. That has just got to be a crazy feeling.
- As fast as Westbrook and his Oklahoma City teammates are moving, it seems as though they’re suffering from T.J. Ford disease. They’re, at times, moving too fast for their own. They’re moving so fast that the ball can’t keep up with them. The Thunder are keeping the Bucks in the game in the first quarter by continually dribbling the ball off their foot or knee and kicking it away to Milwaukee. That’s a problem that plagued Ford during his tenure in Milwaukee. He moved faster than anyone else on the court, but he couldn’t harness that speed.
- Ersan Ilyasova just pump faked out Byron Mullens Byron Mullens twice on the same play. It was awesome. He first got Mullens behind the three-point line, which allowed him to move toward the elbow. He then picked up the ball, pump faked again and leaned into an airborne Mullens, drawing the foul in the process. All told, Ilyasova has victimized Mullens three times in less than two minutes.
- I don’t know that Jennings is ever going to get better finishing at the rim until he stops that little scoop of his. It’s an inaccurate shot, plain and simple, and it’s soft. He needs to go up with more force and stick to the form that everyone is taught in the youth leagues. Until then, he’s going to continue to see his lay-ups bounce off the rim.
- I’m convinced Oklahoma City gives Kendrick Perkins post touches simply to appease his offensive desires. He’s really not worthy of receiving the ball in the post, yet he continues to get opportunities. But hey, if a few offensive touches are all it takes to keep him happily banging in the paint, then that seems like a pretty fair tradeoff.
- While I’m on this to-dos kick, Sanders needs to develop his hands a little more as well. When your hands are big enough to palm a basketball, there’s no reason you should drop as many passes as Sanders. He needs to get in front of those Jugs machines used by wideouts and cornerbacks and catch a couple hundred basketballs a day. A pair of these might help, too.
Closing It Out
I know that, in the grand scheme of things, this nifty little three-game winning streak to close out the season means little. But I suffer from a severe case of optimismitis when it comes to the Bucks, and I look at the season’s conclusion as a sign of things to come. I realize the three wins came against putrid Cleveland and Toronto teams and an Oklahoma City squad resting its stars in preparation for the playoffs. There were enough good things from those wins that can hopefully roll over into next season, though.
Chief among them was Milwaukee’s ability to finish off these last three opponents. Many outcomes this year were losses snatched from the jaws of victory. A league-worst 22.2 points per game in the final stanza was the main culprit. Not so recently as the Bucks averaged 26.3 points per fourth quarter over their last three, outscoring their foes by an average of 6.3 points per quarter.
Another takeaway was Milwaukee’s offensive output over the last three. The Bucks took to the NBA’s offensive basement like a 50-year-old man still living with his mother, averaging a league-worst 91.9 points per game on 43 percent shooting. The last four outings told a different tale all together as Milwaukee averaged 103.7 points per game on 46.1 percent shooting. Extrapolate those numbers over a whole season and the Bucks finish sixth and 14th in scoring and shooting, respectively. A small sample size to be sure, but a step in the right direction nonetheless.
While this season didn’t finish the way anyone anticipated, it seems as though it’s provided some valuable insight to the players on what can happen when you don’t properly prepare during the offseason. Many players have already come out and said they’re going to, more or less, prove this season was a fluke by coming back better than ever next year. It’s unfortunate it took a wasted year to figure that out, but at least they’re learning from their mistakes.
This season went by surprisingly fast considering the Bucks rarely even showed glimpses of being the team they were last year. The season now gone hasn’t fully washed over me quite yet, but I’m sure a little marinating will help put this season in perspective. However that perspective finally settles, I’m confident the Bucks will bounce back next year.
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.