The Best of a Bad Situation: 12. Eric Murdock

(We’re counting down the best 20 Bucks since 1991 over the next few weeks. It’s something to do with the lockout sucking the life out of NBA fans. We continue with number 12. Eric Murdock. And I promise you you’ll learn something strange about Murdock today: He didn’t suck that bad. I was surprised too! – Jeremy)

One thing was abundantly clear when researching the best Milwaukee Bucks players of the 90’s and 2000’s: There weren’t a lot of good players to choose from. Further than that though, Milwaukee lacked talented guards, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. The guard positions were a rotating mess of veterans who either never had a prime or were well past it and unproven young players who would only prove that they weren’t especially good NBA players. Occasionally though, Milwaukee would land a talented young guard. Things would almost immediately go wrong.

Shawn Respert was diagnosed with cancer. Voshon Lenard opted to re-enter college rather than play for the Bucks. Terrell Brandon and Todd Day both hated Milwaukee the way you and I hate computer viruses.

But Eric Murdock isn’t often lumped in with the Respert’s, Lenard’s, Brandon’s and Day’s. It seems like the general perception of Murdock’s Bucks tenure (is there even a perception of it? Can a perception exist for something that I’m almost certain has only been debated by Josh, Ian and I?) is that he was a bad player and a malcontent.

It wasn’t always like that when it came to Murdock and Milwaukee though. His relationship with the team and city once was not so bad and he didn’t perform as poorly as you may remember.

While none achieved much in the way of team success as members of the Bucks, there’s one striking difference between Murdock and his fellow Bucks of the 90’s: He actually put up some pretty good numbers. It might be the new information that’s been made available since he played overvaluing statistics and not taking enough into account chemistry, but history treats Eric Murdock very well.

Murdock ran Milwaukee’s offense from the Fall of 1992 through the Spring of 1995. In his three full seasons at the helm, he averaged 12.2 points and 6.9 assists per game. Not overwhelming numbers on the surface, but dig a bit deeper. Murdock’s PER’s in his three seasons? 19.3, 20.3, 17.3. How’d he manage to post Brandon Jennings looking points and passing numbers and Jason Kidd-like PER’s? A few things stand out.

Murdock was a very accurate shooter for an early 90’s point guard. Murdock made 45% of his shots as a Buck and in one season surpassed 40% shooting on threes. In addition, Murdock managed to find his teammates quite often. Despite working with what must have been the three worst Bucks teams of all time, Murdock never failed to assist on fewer than 36.9% of field goals that were scored while he was on the court.

Interestingly enough, Brandon Jennings has yet to have an assist percentage of 30% in his two seasons. People (myself included) made a lot of excuses for Jennings low assist numbers last season, often pointing to the terrible offense around him, but if Murdock was able to assist on so many field goals with Blue Edwards, Anthony Avent and Brad Lohaus sharing the court with him, perhaps it is an issue that Jennings isn’t creating more for his teammates.

Things went terrible wrong for Murdock in late 1996 though. The circumstances of Murdock’s sudden decline in his production and Milwaukee’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for a big man led to a swift trade just nine games into the 1996-97 season. As far as he was concerned, it was time to go.

“I really think I’m going to move [today]; that’s the latest I’ve heard. I’m very happy if that is the case,” Murdock said after his last game as a Buck. The team was struggling and Coach Mike Dunleavy was doing his best to rid the franchise of any potential chemistry killers. The aforementioned Day was first to go. In for him came the affable veteran Sherman Douglas. With a competitor ready to take the regins, Murdock was ready to leave behind the franchise he failed to lead anywhere.

Out went Murdock along with Eric Mobley for the regrettable Benoit Benjamin. On went the Bucks merry-go-round of 90’s struggles.

Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

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