So, How Come the Bucks Stink? (They Actually Don’t!)

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With 33 games under their belt, the Bucks did not expect to have only 13 wins this far into the season.  With Andrew Bogut back in the line-up playing full minutes, and the addition of Corey Maggette to shore up their bench, and Early Boykins and Keyon Dooling to provide Jennings rest, and with their other key pieces in place, the Bucks were hoping to be in 5th or 6th place, rather than 9th.  The loss of Brandon Jennings to a broken foot certainly hurts (Jennings will be back after he comes in last place at the dunk contest).  But when you take a look at the numbers, the Bucks are not actually struggling as badly as their record might suggest.

Here I am stuck in this stupid Senate Sub Committee meeting when all I want is a rematch of knifey-spooney with Andrew.

The Bucks are currently allowing only 92.8 points per game.  That is third in the East behind only the Heat (91.1) and the Celtics (91.9).  The only team in the West with a better points-against average is the Hornets (92.1).  Per 100 possessions the Bucks allow only 102.3 points.  That’s fifth in the Association.  On top of this, the Bucks are one of the most potent defensive rebounding teams.  They grab 76.6% of available defensive rebounds, behind only Orlando (77%) and New Orleans (77.7%).  The problem is, of course, that the Bucks are only averaging 90.5 points per game and 99.7 per 100 possessions themselves.  Their negative point differential is indicative of their record.  But at least the Bucks know that their defense is one of the best in the Association.  What they need to do is get some jump shots to drop.  Or even better, what they need to do is attack the rim and not settle for jump shots off the dribble – something Scott Skiles teams have historically relied on far too much.

The Bucks have also had the most difficult schedule of any team in the league, and by a long shot.  Basketball Reference has the Bucks strength-of-schedule at a whopping 1.29.  That’s .39 more than the next team, the Suns.  The next drop off in strength-of-schedule that large is from 2nd hardest to 6th hardest schedule.  As the Bucks schedule drops back closer to the mean (0.0) over the season, their record should improve somewhat, just based on playing a lower quality of opponent and the quality of their defense.

The Bucks are among the best in the NBA in a few other key categories.  When it comes to holding on to the ball, the Bucks are actually in the top ten in the league.  The Bucks turn the ball over only 13.1 times over 100 possessions.  That’s good for eighth in the Association, and a negligible difference from the Association leading Spurs (12.7) in that category.  Meanwhile, the Bucks force 15 turnovers from their opponents per 100 possessions.  That is a battle they are winning against the toughest teams in the NBA, and will be a huge advantage when their schedule comes back down to earth.  The Bucks are eighth in the Association in free throws per field goal attempt.  This is a huge improvement from last year, and given the quality of shooters on their team (Bogut aside), a good sign for the team.

So, if you’re a Bucks fan, keep that chin up.  You’re looking at a great second half of the season, and hopefully an injury free one.  If Bogut and Jennings both stay healthy, I predict the Bucks will capture the seventh playoff spot, and engage in a serious playoff battle with division rivals the Chicago Bulls.

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