The Wild and Wacky Bucks Rotation

As of today (Sunday) the Milwaukee Bucks have ten players averaging over 20 minutes per game, nine Bucks have not played in a game due to a coach’s decision, ten different players have started a game this season and just two players have started in every game they’ve played.

It’s been season long rotation roulette for the Bucks.

Is that merely the product of having numerous players with an equal number of talent and flaws or has coach Scott Skiles been tampering too much with a rotation that merely needs consistency to produce consistent results?  I got the chance to ask coach Skiles about this before the game on Saturday.

“When you’re searching like a lot of teams are and we are a little bit still with finding consistency sometimes a guy gets left out.”

So is the depth a good problem to have?

“Well it would be if we were 24-17 and not 17-24.  We do have any number of guys that can play different positions and are obviously NBA players and all that, but all of our guys need to become more consistent and play better.”

The question that arises then is would more minutes lead to more consistent production for certain players, or do they need to earn the minutes with steady production.  The case of Carlos Delfino is an interesting one to look at.


Lately, Delfino has had as fine a stretch of basketball as he’s had in his entire NBA career.  Over his last six games, Delfino is averaging 17.7 points and eight rebounds while shooting 41.8 percent from behind the arc and 52 percent total shooting.  In a related matter, Delfino is averaging 36 minutes per game during that same stretch.  It’s easy to come to the conclusion that Delfino’s increased minutes have made him more comfortable on the court and resulted in the production boom.  But it’s not necessarily fact.

To start the month of December, Delfino saw 33.8 minutes a night in the month’s first six games.  The result: 11.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 7-29 on threes.  His total shooting percentage over that stretch (43.4 percent) does raise an eyebrow though.  It’s possible that consistent minutes out of Delfino at least have the upside of a threat to attack the rim, something that one of his main competitors for playing time, Charlie Bell, cannot do.

Shooting percentage has been one of the biggest problems for the Bucks this year – they rank second to last in the league at just 43.1 percent.  It’s possible that increased minutes for Delfino on a regular basis would help alleviate that problem.  The current issue with that would be that his minutes would be coming at the three, as the Bucks seem committed to finding what seems to be around 20 minutes a night for Jerry Stackhouse.  So says coach Skiles at least.

“We need to keep playing Jerry and find out what he can really give us.  I thought he was very good in the first half (at Toronto).  You can see he’s a little bit rusty and trying to get his timing and all that.”

That’s where things get a little more complicated.

If Delfino is at the three, then that moves Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who at one point seemed critical to the Bucks defensive success and perhaps still is, to the four and forces both Ersan Ilyasova and Hakim Warrick to the bench.  The issue then becomes how to find minutes for both power forwards, as they’ve both shown they can be very productive albeit in different ways.  Ilyasova has been in a funk since a strong start to the season.  After averaging roughly 12 and seven through the season’s first two months, Ilyasova has dropped to about eight and six in January and to make things worse, shot just 35 percent.  Warrick on the other hand, has shot 50 percent, got to the free throw line more than he has all year and is getting nearly 12 points a night.  But where do the minutes come from?

At this point it seems clear that two players are penciled in at around 35 minutes barring foul trouble, and that’s Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut. They’re the Bucks building blocks going forward and simply mean the most to the team.  Yes, Luke Ridnour has outperformed Jennings a lot, specifically in the second half of the first half of the season (say that three times fast), but Jennings will continue to get opportunities to figure the game out and with good reason.  Both Bucks stars have earned the trust of coach Skiles.

Coach Skiles has been asking for consistency out of his players all year and he seems hell bent on going with whatever lineups it takes to find the consistency he desires.  At this point it should be pretty obvious to all parties involved that if they aren’t performing every night, Skiles will move on down the line and look for someone who can – whether that person exists or not.

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  1. What’s stopping the Bucks from playing Ersan at the Small Forward position? It seems to fit him better since he likes to hang out around the three point line and take jump shots anyway. I like Mbah Moute being moved to Power Forward though, he isn’t all to bad at finding a way to the hoop or foul line.

    Delfino/Ersan at the 3 and Mbah Moute/Hakim at the 4 doesn’t sound too bad.

  2. Ersan can’t guard anyone at the three is why it doesn’t really work. And Luc isn’t big or strong enough to compete inside with many fours.

    Jeremy, why do you say that Delfino and Stackhouse are competing for minutes at small forward? Can’t either of them also play at the two? I know the double-PG line-up is a Skiles fave, but on most nights I would think they need some size there. But it’s true that it’s hard to see Luc, Delfino, Stack, Bell, and Meeks getting decent minutes at the 2-3 positions.

  3. Duke – I know coach Skiles has said in the past he doesn’t think Warrick can defend threes and Warrick is quicker than Ersan, so I’d imagine that rules him out at the three.

    Curak – I actually see Stack getting minutes at the two. I wasn’t very clear in my writing, but I meant that Delfino would have to get most, if not all, of his minutes at the three going forward as Stack will be getting steady minutes at the two. I like having both them in there though.