The old saying ‘if ain’t broken, don’t fix it’ could apply to the Milwaukee Bucks at present. After trading away their starting point guard Brandon Knight, who was close to All-Star selection this season, the Bucks have struggled to consolidate their playoff spot.
Milwaukee have lost 4 in a row, and since trading Knight they are just 4-11. 3 of those wins have come against ordinary competition in Denver, Philadelphia, and Orlando. The signs are worrying but the Bucks front office would’ve been prepared for some teething problems when they traded for Michael Carter-Williams.
Integrating a new point guard, who has a very different game to that of Knight, takes time. Unfortunately for Milwaukee fans, they are running out of time. Indiana, Miami and Boston are all gaining on them and are now only 3 and 4 wins respectively, behind them.
If the Bucks fall to the seventh or eighth seed, they will most likely face either Cleveland or Atlanta. If they can keep the sixth seed, they could face off against Toronto or Chicago. In my opinion, that is a huge difference, and I know which teams I’d rather be playing come playoff time.
The offence has lost it’s edge since the All-Star break and the acquisition of Carter-Williams. Before the All-Star break the Bucks were averaging 99.2 ppg. In the 15 games since they are averaging just 91.3.
Milwaukee as a team may not be scoring at the same rate, but the highlight rate from Giannis Antetokounmpo is still going strong. The Greek Freak threw down this monster baseline dunk against Memphis this past week.
Carter-Williams is shooting less from behind the arc, which is a good thing considering he was shooting just 25.6% from 3 shots per game for Philadelphia. The good news is that in his 11 games for Milwaukee he has only shot 13 treys. The bad news is he has only drained 1(!).
The Bucks knew they weren’t getting a good shooter when they traded for Carter-Williams. Obviously, they believed they could help him improve that facet of his game whilst utilising his strengths for the betterment of the team.
His shotchart for his 41 games with the Sixers this season is not a thing of beauty. In fact, it is about as far away from beauty as possible.
Those outside shot percentages are just putrid!
The Bucks are desperately missing Knight’s ability to hit the three ball. He was shooting it with great confidence and regularity. His outside shot chart for his 52 games with Milwaukee is just a little nicer to look at.
The blame can not be placed just on Carter-Williams, that is simply unfair on the second-year guard. One thing that hasn’t helped the Bucks lately is injuries. Losing Jabari Parker early in the season with an ACL tear was heartbreaking for Bucks fans. The team has hardly had a clean bill of health all season long.
Carter-Williams missed time with an ankle injury, Jared Dudley and O.J Mayo are currently sidelined and Jerryd Bayless returned this week after missing 3 games due to an ankle injury. These injuries have no doubt made Carter-Williams’ transition into the team more difficult.
To the Bucks credit, during this awful run their defence has stood up well. They are still a top 5 team when it comes to opponents ppg. It’s just that they are the eighth worst team when it comes to offence. A knock-down shooter like Ray Allen would do wonders for this team. Alas, he has all but written off a return to the NBA, and the team he started his Hall of Fame career with.
There’s no use pondering what Ray Allen could do for this team though, the improvement has to come from within. O.J Mayo has had a solid season to date, but could still do more to help his team reassert themselves. Tyler Ennis, who was a part of the Carter-Williams trade, has been getting some valuable minutes and has shown enough glimpses to make me believe he can be a good back-up for Carter-Williams.
Such assists as these two are the reason for my optimism. After only playing in 8 games for the Suns before being traded, he has already played in 14 for the Bucks. Keep and eye on him.
Khris Middleton has been a revelation and has surpassed all expectations. He needs to continue to do what he has been doing all season long; shoot the ball with confidence. He is shooting 47% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc.
Milwaukee has 14 games to figure out who they are, where they want to get to, and how they are going to get there. 14 games isn’t a long time, but Jason Kidd needs to figure what line-ups work best and go with it.
They face a test today as they will battle Jason Kidd’s old team in Brooklyn. The Bucks of the first half of the season would’ve handled the Nets with ease, can the current Bucks get the win? Only time will tell.