Part two, The Negatives, of Josh Hilgendorf’s Bucksketball debut breaking down Bucks forwards this past season.
Now that I am done squinting my eyes trying to find something positive about the Bucks forward play this season, I can relax a little bit and let the players do most of the work for me. This is possible because to be frank, the forward play from the team in the 10-11 season was despicable.
John Hammond looked at the 09-10 team, saw they needed to get to the line more and could use a true power forward, and went out and got Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden. On paper, those were perfect moves. But, as the cliché goes, NBA games aren’t played on paper. Let’s take a look at everything the forwards did wrong last year.
- The chemistry killer
One of the main reasons the Bucks made it to the playoffs in 2010 was the team’s chemistry. Everybody seemed to like each other, or at least could play well together. Veterans like Kurt Thomas and Jerry Stackhouse brought wisdom from many years in the League. Players bought into what Scott Skiles was trying to do and played with fire.
So what happened this year?
Thomas and Stackhouse were gone, that certainly played a role. But an even bigger chemistry killer arrived from the west coast. The man with the guns for arms and face like Xzibit arrived in a summer trade and was able to whittle away at any good feelings the Bucks may have had by January.
Maggette was brought to the Bucks for his scoring prowess and ability to get to the free throw line. Even if you just look at the numbers and don’t consider chemistry, Maggette’s addition was a failure. A team that finished last in free throws made in the 09-10 season made a measly move to 27th. Maggette failed to do what he usually did best. He made 460 of 551 free throws his last season in Golden State. While his percentage remained almost the same in Milwaukee, his attempts and makes plummeted. He converted only 271 of 325 attempts form the charity stripe.
Look closer and you will see the culprit. Maggette played 10 less minutes per game this season compared to last. And why did he not get on the court as much? He never truly grasped what Skiles was trying to do and could not gel with the rest of his Bucks teammates. While stories leaked out throughout the season about the toxic atmosphere found in the locker room, you only had to look at Maggette’s on court demeanor to understand what was going on. Whether it was lowering his shoulder to barrel through a defender instead of passing to a wide-open teammate or appearing aloof during crunch time, it seems clear that Maggette’s heart never arrived in Milwaukee with the rest of his body.
- Fragile as they come
While I am hesitant to call the Bucks the most injury riddled team in the NBA (the Portland Trail Blazers might have something to say about that), without a doubt the number of injuries incurred by the team over the course of the season played a role in the team’s win total.
Out of any position, it seemed like it was hardest to keep the forwards healthy this season. Let’s do a quick rundown of the injuries:
- Delfino missed 33 total games. Thirty-two after his neck strain and the concussion like symptoms that accompanied it and one with a rib contusion.
- Gooden missed 43 games with left foot plantar fasciitis.
- Ilyasova missed 22 total games. Twenty-one during his mysterious disappearance at the end of the season after suffering a concussion and one from a right eye contusion.
- Maggette was out seven games due to left ankle soreness, concussion-like symptoms, lower back pain and a sore right knee.
- Mbah a Moute stayed relatively healthy, missing three games due to a right ankle injury and the flu.
As any math whiz reading this already figured out, that is 108 combined games missed due to injury at the forward position. It is hard for any team to be successful when players you expect to make major contributions miss that much time. To make matters worse, both Ilyasova and Gooden were out with injury at the same time for a significant portion of the second half of the season. Two players the Bucks counted on for minutes at the power forward position were down with injury from February 26 until March 20.
This undoubtedly gave Skiles quite the headache and made it hard for him to effectively play the match ups he desired.
- They are being paid how much?
And now that brings us to what I think is the biggest problem at forward, the money Milwaukee is paying these guys. To be accurate, only two forwards are actually signed to bad contracts, but my oh my, are they awful deals. Of course, I am talking about the money owed to Gooden and Maggette.
Let’s start with our man Maggette. His selfishness on the court and apparent divisiveness off of it gets worse when you realize the Bucks might have to put up with it for two more years. Maggette is owed $21 million over those final two seasons. Ouch. While it is hard to believe he will be back next year, Hammond is going to have a heck of a time unloading him with a contract like that.
Depending on who you ask, the four years and $26 million remaining on Gooden’s deal might be even worse. He may put up decent numbers and show flashes of superb talent, but is he really worth that much money? In the last year of his contract, Gooden will be 33 years old and you have to believe his production will decline as the time goes by. Even if his play doesn’t drop off, there is a reason he has been on nine teams over the course of his career.
To muddle the contract situation further, Moute’s cap-friendly deal expires after the 11-12 season. He will surely demand more than the $1.2 million he will be paid next year if his contract is extended.
Good luck Hammond!
Josh Hilgendorf writes for the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Become a fan on Facebook (right sidebar).