The Milwaukee Bucks had a lot of trouble scoring in the 2010-11 season. That’s not news to anybody. But how do you get a team to score more points? Typically teams struggle getting stops and they bring in a defensive guru or something along those lines. Maybe they’ll make a couple of minor personell changes, but defense is often a mindset that has to be preached from top down. You don’t see too many teams rewiring their guys to turn them into scorers. Scoring is fun. No one heads outside to do defensive slides and work on getting to the help line.
In theory, it seems like the Bucks would have an easier time this off-season improving on offense than a team that needs the same type of drastic help on the other end of the court. But figuring out just where to start was an issue leading up to the draft. One of the arguements for the number ten pick involved scooping up Klay Thompson because of his shooting prowess. Many thought, if a team needs offense, they should add more shooters. Simple.
But that’s not where the Bucks organization saw its team as most flawed. The team made that very clear with both its moves and explanations for them on draft day.
“If you really dissect our offensive woes,” said Scott Skiles when meeting with the media after the draft, “our inability to make, first of all, the easy pass and then the more difficult passes … Stephen Jackson’s always been able to put the ball on the floor and make plays. Beno’s (Udrih) been able to do that, Shaun Livingston has great vision. So those three guys create offense for other people and draw attention.”
It was a significant lack of shot creation last season that put an incredible burden on Brandon Jennings and really exposed Milwaukee offensively. Once Carlos Delfino went down early in the season, Milwaukee was left with very one dimensional offensive players like Corey Maggette, at times Luc Mbah a Moute (especially early in the season) and a woeful John Salmons carrying the burden on the wings. None of them were able to create much for themselves, let alone for their teammates.
Maggette went to the hole with his head down looking for contact or a pull-up jumper from the elbow, but rarely had an interest in drawing and kicking. Mbah a Moute’s ball handling and lack of jump-shot leave him virtually useless except as a mid-range spot-up shooter on offense and the mysterious absence of any athleticism in John Salmons game had him forcing up contest shots in traffic halfway through the paint, but rarely at the rim. Things weren’t pretty. Milwaukee’s shooting numbers plummeted inside the arc and they had no one to bail them out from deep with Delfino out and Ersan Ilyasova suddenly a sub 30% three-point shooter.
Shooting was not the biggest issue here, it was what was happening before those deep shots were going up that was the real problem.
“One of the areas (we wanted to improve) is our ability around the rim,” Skiles said. “It put so much pressure on our perimeter shooting, our inability to finish. And both of those guys (Jackson and Udrih) are finishing type players. And the numbers show that. We always kind of come back to, if we shoot a higher percentage around the rim, get some dunks, get some easy baskets a lot of other teams get, then you don’t have a tendency to overreact to a missed three.”
Of course, it only matters what guys can do if they are healthy, happy and ready to play. There’s been some discrepancy on whether or not that’s the case with Jackson. ESPN reported that Jackson was less than enthused about being on the move once again.
A source told ESPN The Magazine’s Ric Bucher that Jackson is not happy about being dealt to Milwaukee and it remains to be seen how cooperative he’ll be if and when he joins the team.
But the Bucks think Jackson will be just fine once he gets adjusted to having been traded again. John Hammond noted the shock of being a top scorer who has been traded may have influenced any negative thoughts Jackson initially had.
“It’s our responsibility to make him comfortable, and we’ll do that. I’m sure it’s not easy for anyone at any time (to be traded),” Hammond said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of any player that was the leading scorer on his team, that played, I think, 2500 minutes, ever got traded and said, ‘I’m happy.’ Most guys aren’t happy when they are traded.”
Skiles added that he had been in touch with Jackson.
“I spoke to Stephen, I was in Phoenix when we drafted him, I was an assistant coach, so I’ve known him a long time,” said Skiles. “We had a great talk. I don’t think it’s fair to always think because somebody tweets something it’s necessarily true. Or goes on TV and reports it. We want all our guys to be comfortable.”
“He’s a competitor and I don’t anticipate any problems at all.”
Stephen Jackson: The solution, not the problem. We’ll see how this one shakes out.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.