Saturday, June 28, 2014

Jason Kidd to the Bucks?

According to Twitter, Jason Kidd has been granted permission to talk to the Bucks about becoming their next coach AND GM. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

The path forward

Having watched a lot of bad Bucks basketball over the past many years I have found there is only one way to stomach it. You have to be able to watch the young players and see a path where they could fit on a really good basketball team, otherwise watching a team lose over and over is just boring. There was a path when Bogut had a healthy elbow and Jennings was a 19 year old scoring point. There was even a path (maybe not to a really good team, but at least an entertaining one) when the Bucks paired Jennings with Ellis in the back court and had Sanders to block shots, letting everyone run and have fun. Obviously neither of those paths worked out because of Bogut's injury, and Ellis' agent was a idiot. Each failure usually leads to a new path, but last season's team was really a void. Even a Bucks optimist like me had trouble seeing how these kids were going to be quality starters on a good team someday, other than Giannis who was a long way away. With the addition of Parker I can start to see a new path. Here is my vision of what a hopeful fan sees as a path to sustained success.

Good NBA teams usually have a rotation of 7-8 really good players, and 3-4 other capable players that just fit what the team needs. A team like Miami that has 3 superstars can get away with having more of the capable players that just fit what they need. The Bucks are not likely to get 3 players of that caliber, so I will focus on a more traditional team rotation. If I'm being optimistic, there are currently 5 Bucks who could fit into a rotation someday, although most of them are young and not there yet. Some of them may never get there, but this is all about seeing a path, not predicting the future.

The path starts with the 2 forwards the Bucks have recently drafted, as you may have imagined. They are young so they still have lots of room to grow, and you can imagine how they may fit someday if they keep getting better. Not all youngsters are going to keep getting better, but again this is about a hopeful path. It starts with Parker and Giannis as the starting forwards. Giannis and Parker can both handle and shoot so they will put perimeter pressure on a defense. If they can defend you can see this duo being very successful for a long time. If they both turn out to be max contract guys, the Bucks will be able to keep them for their 4 year rookie contracts and probably for another 4-5 year deal when they hit restricted free agency. If they are able to have a successful 8 years together in Milwaukee, then maybe when they are 27 and hit unrestricted free agency the Bucks will be able to convince them to stay.

Center is another story. I was not a believer in Sanders as a center before last season and his combination of stupidity off the court and poor play when he was out there didn't improve my opinion. He signed a 4 year extension before last season at a reasonable starting center rate of about 10 million per year, but given his antics last year he seems unmoveable right now. All that said, I do think Sanders is a good enough player to be in the rotation of a playoff team. I don't like him as a starting center, unless he is teamed with another big. He could excel playing next to a Boozer like player, like Noah does in Chicago. Against good NBA bigs he gets bullied, and if the Bucks are going to have 2 smaller/perimeter type forwards I think they need a more traditional center to make up for the rebounding and physicality. My hope is that Sanders plays like his old self this season, and some team in love with modern metrics (who all seem to love Sanders) trades us a traditional center for him. So Sanders counts as one of the 5, but not one I see in the long term path.

The 2 guard position is mostly a void. Mayo and Delfino will hold down the fort at the 2 this year unless the Bucks are able to pull off a trade. Neither player will be with the Bucks past the lengths of their current contracts. My hope is that the Bucks hit a top pick in the Lottery next year and are able to draft a guard next year to fill in here long term.

Point guard is also not a great situation, but not as bad as the 2 spot. Knight came over in the Jennings trade and was supposed to be a more traditional point. When all the veteran Bucks got hurt and they went young (tanked) Knight was forced into a scoring point role. He did score 17.9 per game and shot a respectable and career best 42.2% from the floor, but his 3pt% dropped from 38.0 and 36.7 in his first 2 years to 32.5 last year. He is not a great play maker at the point, and he is a decent but not great defender, but he is only 22 entering his 4th season. He will be a restricted free agent after this year so the Bucks will have a decision to make about him. If he can go back to playing a more traditional point, and allow Parker to take on the scoring load he could be an effective starter. If he can shoot in the low 40s and hit 3s in the high 30s I can see a role for him in playoff caliber rotation. Not the highest praise, but that's what he is.

The last player of the 5 is Henson, who I had hoped would take a big jump last year given the opportunity for minutes with the youth movement. Just looking at the stats, he did get in more games, more starts, more points, more rebounds, and more blocks which all sounds pretty good. For whatever reason he still did not seize the opportunity to move in as a starter. Maybe that was the coaches, but Pachulia and Ilyasova played less than 55 games, and Sanders just 23. All 3 had one of their worst seasons as pros and still Henson couldn't get in there. Henson doesn't have youth on his side like Giannis as he was a polished college Junior when he was drafted and will be 24 this season. Nevertheless I see him in the Bucks path forward. I don't think he will be a starter, but I see him coming off the bench for major minutes. He is too slender to play with big starting centers, but off the bench he can play the 4 or 5 with a 2nd unit. I imagine him in a 5 man front court rotation with Giannis, Parker, and a true center to be determined with Henson and a wing to be determined coming off the bench.

The rest of the team is probably not going to be around long. Ilyasova and Pachulia will play out their contracts if the Bucks can't trade them. Middleton has some promise, but with the forwards the Bucks have invested in, he probably won't get an opportunity. Maybe the Bucks trade him for a backup guard or point so he gets a chance elsewhere. Wolters may have a chance to be one of the 3-4 capable players. I saw a stat about him on that he had a 3.28 assist to turnover ratio, and a plus/minus for the entire season of -26. Considering that the Bucks were outscored by about 700 points this year and Wolters didn't just play in garbage time minutes that stat was interesting.

So that's the Bucks' much brighter future. A better but still bad season this year while Parker, and Giannis develop. They find a combo guard and a wing to come off the bench in free agency, or maybe a 2nd rounder develops. A trade of Sanders and a lottery guard in next years draft and they are off to 14 years of success. Just like that.

Parker- 3 or 4

I'm home sick today so I will continue my comments on the Bucks' newest player. Parker played the 4-spot at Duke, but has been projected by most as a 3 in the NBA. This is typical as most players tend to shift down a spot from college to the pros unless they are a true center or a point guard. The same thing has been said about Wiggins being a 2 or 3 in the NBA. As players are coming out at 19 years old now, many are still developing and will start playing small and move into their natural position as their body matures and their game develops. The question about these guys is are they versatile, meaning they can play multiple positions effectively, or are the tweeners meaning they struggle no matter where you put them.

When it comes to determining a player's position in the NBA, there is a saying: you are what you can defend. One of the reasons I liked Wiggins over Parker was defense, and I feel Wiggins can play 2 or 3 because he can defend either position at the NBA level from day 1. In addition, with his athleticism he may be a guy who can guard 3 positions as his game develops. When you can guard multiple positions that allows your coach to play a lot of combinations around you, because you can always slide your better defender around. If you need more shooting, you slide him over to 3 and bring in a guard at 2. If you need more rebounding, you play him at 2 and let a bigger forward play the 3.

Parker should be able to score no matter where the Bucks play him. He was very effective at Duke playing in the post, and averaged 3 offensive rebounds per game. He was equally effective in transition and on the perimeter where he shot 36% from 3. We will see how he does against taller and more physical NBA defenders, but his all around offensive game leads one to think he will find a way to be effective. His body has led many to think he fits better as a 4 as he was listed at about 250lbs before the weight became a draft issue, and now he lists himself at 235. The fact he played the 4 at Duke and averaged 8.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game lends to the idea he can play the 4.

So what are the Bucks to do? Play him at the 3 where he can play on the perimeter more and take advantage of his shooting and play making skills, but may struggle against smaller quicker wings on defense? Do they play him at the 4 where he can take advantage of bigger players who have to respect his outside game but aren't as adept at guarding the perimeter, but let him take the physical pounding of guarding a 4. Think of who he will have to play. Would you rather see him matched up on Kevin Durant, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony, or Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, and Zach Randolph?

I think the answer will depend mostly on the development of the Greek Freak. Much of the Bucks' future will depend on the development of Giannis, who Bucks' management seems to be in love with. Giannis as a young 18 year old playing in the NBA had the look of a natural 3 with his ball handling and perimeter skills. At 6'9" he had the length and wing span you love at that position in combination with elite athletic ability. He, like Wiggins, has the potential to defend multiple positions and that may be the answer. If Giannis can guard the 3 or 4, Parker can guard the other. Hammond said as much in his pre-draft interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Have you had discussions about how players' positions may change based on No. 2 pick? 
"We've talked about that. I think, once again, that these guys are multiple position guys helps that discussion. For that matter, I think Giannis is going to be a multiple position player some day. He came last September he was 6-9, 190 (lbs.) and today he's almost 6-11, 217 pounds. I think Giannis is a guy that is going to be able to play, at his size, he's going to be able to play some small forward and he's going to play some power forward some day."
So there it is. Parker will be playing the 3.5. In the end having guys that neatly fit into positions doesn't matter nearly as much as having guys that fit together. The Bucks hopefully have found 2 forwards that will fit together very well for a long time. Will they find enough other pieces to fit with them, and turn this into the type of winning team I remember watching growing up in the 80s? We'll see.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

It makes sense

I am doubtful that Cleveland ever really had doubts Wiggins was the guy. Athletes of his caliber are rare. Athletes that have basketball skill, great character, and youth are rarer. Athletes that actually try all the time on defense, despite developing in an AAU circuit that cares as much about defense as the kids on the playground, are crazy rare. Parker is no doubt, a better offensive player right now. Wiggins is no doubt, a better defender right now. Is it easier to teach a kid to improve his offense, or defense? I wanted Wiggins for the Bucks, but they didn't get him so now I have to hope I am wrong and he sucks. Or at least that if he is great, that he takes several years to develop and then bolts Cleveland for hopefully some team out west.

Enough moping. Time to move on.

My love of Wiggins does not limit my enthusiasm for Parker. He should be a very good player for several years. ESPN threw up a Big Dog comparison on their draft coverage, and I think that may be dead on. He seems like a guy who could carry the scoring in any given game much like Big Dog did, and Michael Redd did after him. Neither of those guys was good enough to win playoff games by themselves, and I don't think Parker will be either. That's OK. The Bucks will need to find some help for him.

This is a good pick, but also a management pick. Parker is a guy that can sell tickets and build enthusiasm for the next few years, even if the team mostly loses. That should be just long enough to get a new arena built. I don't doubt that John Hammond was on board with this pick, but it doesn't really fit his draft profile. Hammond takes high end potential guys. His drafts have included:

  • Joe Alexander- Obviously didn't work out, but he was drafted because he tested off the charts at the combine for athleticism, which is the point I'm trying to make here.
  • Brandon Jennings- Best high school player the year before going to Europe instead of college.
  • Larry Sanders- Great athlete but raw as could be.
  • Tobias Harris- Was certainly no big time athlete, but he was the youngest player in the draft. In the NBA youth= upside.
  • John Henson- Maybe Hammond safest pick as a college Junior and proven rebounder, but a weird body type.
  • The Greak Freak- another crazy athlete who needs development

If Hammond was allowed to just run this team the way he wants, I feel like he would have gone Embiid. One thing Hammond has shown is the willingness to draft players regardless of position. They have a ton of forwards, and yet they keep drafting them. The question will be: are they acquiring quality assets they can trade to improve their team, or will they just allow other teams to steal their guys because they know they can't play them all? Time will tell. Hard to say if Hammond will be with the Bucks much longer. He's not management's guy after all, and new management tends to like their own guys.

Monday, June 23, 2014

From the world within a world of baseball.

Somehow this is real-

Any time you get a little commentary from Vin Scully, that's a pretty good day.

I think he could explain how he actually ate shit on a shingle back in 1947, and grew four inches overnight, and I'd believe every word.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Some thoughts on soccer

I get a kick out of American sports fan criticizing soccer, as if we all made a conscious choice to follow basketball and football instead because of their supposedly superior rules. 

I follow football because it was on TV when I was a kid, and my family and friends watched it. So I did too, and I came to care about it and develop rooting interests. For some strange reason, I care (a lot) who wins Packers and Badgers games. Also, since most dudes follow football it gives me something to talk about with strangers. 

Still, when I don't have a rooting interest, I find football close to unwatchable. The officiating is arbitrary, usually terrible, yet often decisive. The game is filled with stoppages and commercials. Approximately half the players on each side of the ball are gigantic fat guys. The brutality of the game is often nauseating. Etc.

I enjoy watching soccer, but I don't watch much of it because I don't usually have a rooting interest. But I did play soccer for many years. I know the rules. And when I do care about who wins, every four years, I like it approximately as much as I like as any other sport.

Of course, like most Americans who watch soccer every four years or so, I have lots of ideas on how soccer can be improved. For example, I've seen about five goals this World Cup nullified by incorrect offside calls. This is super frustrating. The best thing about soccer, from a spectator perspective, is how exciting goals are. When one of these gigantic events is nullified by incompetence, it's really infuriating.

So here's a serious suggestion on the offside rule: get rid of it once the ball is past the penalty area, or some other arbitrary yard marker deep in the opponent's territory. In other words, there's no offside call if the ball is played from deep in the opponent's territory. This alleviates any concern about cherry picking, but eliminates a lot of the opportunity for decisively terrible calls. And we'd get some more goals, but probably not so many that it would destroy how exciting they are.

My other big complaint about soccer is that rule about not using your hands. Come on. Hands are what make us human. Think how much more exciting it would be if players could catch the ball and throw it through the goal posts. I think you'd also want to award more points if a player was able to carry it through the goal posts, but you'd have to allow tackling to prevent that. I'll have to think this through, but obviously the use of hands should be allowed.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Now that Embiid is injured, the Bucks should take him

Here's a hot take!

Yesterday we learned that that Joel Embiid has a stress fracture in his foot, and will need surgery.

I'm on record arguing against Embiid as the number one pick, given his history of injuries and lack of dominance at Kansas last year. But obviously the talent scouts know way more than me, and they are excited about his gifts and his potential.

And now that he's having surgery, and will likely be put on ice for all of next year, I think the Bucks should take him.

"What? You thought he was a risk when he was healthy, but now you want the Bucks to take him?"

Yes, my friends. Here's why. Chorlton has convinced me the last thing you want to be in the NBA is mediocre. Let's say the Bucks get the Wiggins/Parker leftover, and whoever they get turns out to be a solid NBA player -- maybe even an all-star. Is that going to get the Bucks over the hump? Is that going to get them winning playoff series? Maybe. But quite probably not.

But consider this. The Bucks take Joel Embiid. They suck again next year -- probably not as much as they sucked last year, but still pretty bad. As a result get another top five pick next year.

Now we're talking. If Embiid comes back and turns out to be the stars that the scouts think he will be, and the Bucks add another blue chipper to along with, um, those guys currently on the team, it's conceivable to think that the Bucks could suddenly have a really good team.