This year is very quickly spiraling into last year.

Losing to the suddenly mighty Clippers itself isn’t real cause for concern. That 36.3% number from the field that’s becoming commonplace once again? That’s an eye-catcher in the same way a black spot on a broken television is. But it’s not striking me as the root of the problem with the Bucks currently. It’s more the result of what may be a broken mindset.

I present this quote from Stephen Jackson after Milwaukee’s 92-86 loss to the Clippers Saturday night.:

“We need somebody to step up and knock down shots for us. It has been difficult on this trip, for sure. We haven’t gotten anybody with any consistency knocking down shots.”

This is the same sort of thing we frequently heard from Scott Skiles last season. Here’s a Skiles quote from a loss in late January in which the Bucks shot under 40%.

“We had so many good looks again. We had our chances to create some momentum for ourselves, and we unfortunately just couldn’t knock them down.”

“Knocking down shots” was a problem for the Bucks last season and it’s been a problem early on this season. At some point, you can’t help but wonder if maybe the Bucks just aren’t getting the good shots they think their getting.

Through seven games, Milwaukee is taking the second most shots in the league from 3-9 feet. The average shooting percentage on these shots across the league is 36.4%. Milwaukee shoots right about average and attempts 15.7 of these shots per game. Literally speaking, these are not high percentage shots and Milwaukee takes a lot of them.

The highest percentage shots on the court are, obviously, at the rim. Across the league, the average shooting percentage of shots at the rim is 63.4%. Milwaukee takes the fifth fewest shots at the rim per game and connects on 67.2% of them. The second most efficient shots possible, are three-point shots. The extra point is seductive. Unfortunately, Milwaukee has failed to acquire competent three-point shooters.

Milwaukee’s best three-point shooters, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Carlos Delfino, have been limited to eight games and 32 three-point attempts between them. Brandon Jennings and Jackson, both shooting under 30% on three-pointers this year and both coming off a season in which they each shot roughly five threes per game while failing to surpass 34% in accuracy, are shooting a combined 12 three-pointers per game.

Coach Skiles said after the Clippers game that Milwaukee’s problem wasn’t one of effort. He’s right. Milwaukee’s problems go far beyond effort. All the effort in the world can’t get the right players taking the right shots from the right spots. Andrew Bogut’s expected Tuesday return will help the team for certain, but he wasn’t the cure all to this team’s woes last season.

It’s tough to know what needs to change for the Bucks to start getting easier or higher percentage shots, and even tougher to expect these poor shooting results to improve any time soon.

Watch This Guy Not Other Guys

  • Steve Nash

He’s still the real deal in Phoenix, even if his teammates are not. Aside from Nash, the cupboard is pretty bare. The Suns current scoring leader is Hakim Warrick. He averages 12.7 points per game.

The Rest

Sunday’s game, in Phoenix at 7 PM Central time, will not be one of the most enjoyable in the NBA this season, but it’s an opportunity for the Bucks to turn a road trip from horrible, complete failure, to just failure.

The Suns are in disarray, caught between being a rebuilding team and being competitive. They won’t be either this season. Think the 2006 Bucks with Steve Nash in Michael Redd’s role as star. Speaking of Redd, he’ll be with the Suns this evening, but he’s still not ready to play.

Outside of Nash and Warrick, the Suns are always wise when they involve Marcin Gortat as much as they can.

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