The first half to the NBA season hasn’t quite been the start that Bucks fans expected. Inconsistent play from the stars of the backcourt and more than a handful of lackluster team performances quickly killed the buzz Milwaukee started the season with. Even with all of that, the Bucks are sixth in the Eastern Conference and have shown that they are capable of competing with the best … at least on some nights.
It hasn’t been the prettiest way to 14-12, but it is a season that has Milwaukee standing ahead of teams like Boston, Brooklyn and Philadelphia. This season also has seen amazing performances from unsuspecting players like Larry Sanders, which was probably a Santa pre-order request or something from our own Jon Hartzell.
In all seriousness, there’s a lot of room to improve for Milwaukee moving forward. There is so much potential. Hopefully, this post and some sugar cookies from up under the Bucksketball tree may be all Bucks fans need to sway Santa and see their team improve moving down the stretch this season.
With that said, here are four things that should be on the Bucks’ Christmas list this year.
It wouldn’t be a Bucks winter without someone of value being unable to play due to injury.
In years prior, it was an Andrew Bogut migraine here or an Andrew Bogut broken everything there. If there was anything I’ve learned from those injuries, it’s that I sincerely wished they could never ever happen because the Bucks seem quite incapable of fixing them in a timely manner.
This year, the quiet loss of Beno Udrih has been the injury culprit. While Udrih isn’t going to push the Bucks to a conference finals on his own, his role, and his lovely PUJITS (Pull Up Jumper In Transition – get used to it), are very important to this team. Actually, having him on the court is important, period. With Udrih out, the Bucks have only three true guards on the roster, with starters Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis being both undersized and maddeningly inconsistent. Without Udrih’s presence, the Bucks are forced to extend BJellis’ minutes, and with how inconsistent they’ve been, that should send Bucks fans running for the hills.
3. The Ersan Ilyasova that earned $32 Million
First of all, Ersan Ilyasova is beginning to find himself … a little bit. Over the last ten games, Ersan is averaging about ten points and six rebounds a night. This is definitely a step in the right direction, but it’s not nearly enough for someone who just earned $32 million last summer.
Sanders has emerged, Epke Udoh is coming along as well and Ersan is in danger of getting lost in the shuffle at power forward. Ers has been the beneficiary of John Henson’s reduction of minutes and Samuel Dalembert not playing at ALL due to being abducted by aliens or something. He’s gaining confidence and he’s even gotten his shooting percentage up over the last ten games, shooting 43 percent. But that still hasn’t been enough. Santa, please help.
2. The backcourt to become real leaders, and not just “lead by talent”
More backcourt disdain! We’re all about it! Jennings and Ellis are arguably the two most talented players on the roster, and thus everyone has anointed them the leaders of the team. While that seems logical, it’s frustrating.
There are long stretches of times in games where, if Jennings is cold, he’ll just float around the perimeter and not be heard from until someone needs a late in the shot clock three-pointer attempted. Ellis can be just as frustrating when he goes “long two happy” in the midst of a “lukewarm check.” (Lukewarm check = heat check in the head, meh on the court.)
Now, if these two want the attention and praise that some feel they deserve, they should become able to actually LEAD the team and not just be the best players on the team. Ellis is an underrated passer and both he and Jennings have supreme quickness that they can use to their advantage to create opportunities for the other players. With that quickness, they should be able to create good looks for the other guys on the court, and sometimes that is better than having this backcourt try to shoot the team back into a game.
If Ellis wants the respect of a legit All-Star, not just a scorer and if Jennings wants to prove he’s worthy of a near-max contract, then they both have to find a way to make themselves more complete players. Just because you can get hot here and there doesn’t mean you can lead a team.
1. An answer or direction
We’ve all come to know and love over this nine seed machine that is the Milwaukee Bucks. For years, they have brought in players to accompany their “big guy.” Players like Richard Jefferson, Cory Maggette, John Salmons, Stephen Jackson and now Ellis have been brought in and so far, none of these players have achieved much success as a Buck. Ellis has had good games, but we will have to see how he does down the stretch and potentially in the playoffs. They have been looking for the answer, but to no avail.
What’s peculiar about this team is that the answer is simple, and it boils down to two decisions.
There is simply no more room for tinkering with this roster, because the evidence is stockpiling in suggesting that it’s not working. What the Bucks can hope for in these winter months is that the needle will point one way or the other.
Will they be able to find enough potential in the core of this roster to go after a bigger name that can come in and help make a semi-serious push for and through the playoffs? Or will they be able to realize that the core has been tapped out and begin the fire sale? (This is outside of a few young big men, LRMAM, and Doron Lamb.) While neither option offers to provide astonishing returns, it will be better than finishing 1.5 games back of the 8th seed come April.
In the end…
With all of that said, the Bucks are still the sixth seed for what it’s worth and have shown that they can compete with the best. They have beaten Boston three out of four times, nearly beat Miami and have had some excellent individual performances as well. On the other hand, this team can make your hair fall out with some of the on-court “boneheadery” at times.
As far as the Bucks go at this point, all you can do this holiday season is sit, eat cookies and watch. Only time will tell if Santa hears our cries and grants Bucks fans these gifts of improvement. Please make them better. That would be great.
What do you think should be on the Bucks’ Christmas list this year?