For all the responsibilities a coach has, there may be none more important than figuring out which players work well in lineups together. For a team with as many new faces and as many injuries as the Bucks have had this season, it should come as no surprise that coach Scott Skiles is still tinkering to figure out what rotations will work the best.
Milwaukee’s new starting lineup against the Spurs, standbys Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut paired with Keyon Dooling (thanks to a John Salmons injury), Chris Douglas-Roberts and Ersan Ilyasova gave Milwaukee a more potent offensive group, at least in theory, than the lineup including Luc Mbah a Moute and Larry Sanders. Both CD-R and Ilyasova are capable of stepping outside and hitting long jumpers, while neither LRMAM or Sanders has that tool just yet. But how did this actually all play out Wednesday?
In the 42 possessions during which Milwaukee’s starters shared the court Wednesday, they scored 35 points, which when pro-rated over 100 possessions, would only result in 83.3 points per 100 possessions. Not a strong offensive outing from that group. Even worse, they allowed 47 points as a group which would leave their defensive rating at a miserable 111.9. They were in San Antonio though, so they weren’t exactly going up against pushovers. Most of the damage done by the Spurs was inflicted by their starting unit. During the 19 possessions in which both teams had their starters on the court Wednesday, the Spurs won the battle 23-10. With one of the most impressive starting fives in the league though, that should come as no surprise.
Ultimately though, this group will only be starting as long as Salmons is out with what’s being reported as back spasms. When he returns, he should slide into the spot next to CD-R and give the Bucks a lineup that is much less predictable than the one they’ve been trotting out most of the season. With Salmons in for Dooling and all other Wednesday starters remain in place, the data suggests that may be Milwaukee’s finest lineup. In three games against Orlando, Houston and Dallas, that group has outscored opponents 38-31 in 34 possessions, giving them an offensive rating of 111.77 and a defensive rating of 91.18. Not too shabby.
It seems that the successes this group has had offensively can be traced back to the simple fact that both CD-R and Ilyasova are better offensive players than the players they are replacing. CD-R’s presence on the court gives Milwaukee another option when starting the offense and another outlet when looking for a shooter and Ilyasova takes fewer forced shots and more open shots than Sanders. With Bogut at center, Milwaukee’s starting lineup can still remain an elite defensive group, even when swapping out the superior defender Mbah a Moute for the occasionally lost CD-R.
So finally, Milwaukee may have an offensive lineup they can rely on without losing the defense that keeps them in games every night.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).