The Jim Boylan Bucks – a lot like the Scott Skiles Bucks

Jennings efficiency has been a big part of Boylan’s success. (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

Through seven games under rest of the season coach Jim Boylan, the Milwaukee Bucks have gone 5-2 and impressively finished a four game road trip a little bit to the East and a lot of bit to the West at 3-1. After losing their last four games under ex-coach Scott Skiles, it’s been a refreshing change.

Kudos to Boylan for coming in and shaking things up. Making big changes. Altering the face of the team to fit the players he has. He’s made some huge changes. Changes like … like …

Playing Sam Dalembert a few times?

Truth be told, it’s pretty bizarre how much these new Bucks are the same as the old Bucks. Yes, Luc Mbah a Moute is spending more time at the three, Ersan Ilyasova is starting and Dalembert has actually played in real live NBA games, but for the most part, the Bucks on the court have been the same Bucks we’ve seen on the court all season long. They just have a different guy yelling at them.

It’s funny how a different voice can change things though.

The most common perception of Skiles’ exit was that he believed he’d done all he could with the team he had. Maybe he didn’t hate them, as people or as players, as was initially rumored in the wake of his departure. But it was pretty clear he wasn’t having the time of his life running this squad. He didn’t really seem on board with the belief that they could be something more than their roster would indicate.

Did the players know how he felt? We’ll never know. But if most of us could see it, it stands to reason that they could feel it. There’s probably a ceiling on what this team can do, but there’s definitely a ceiling on what any team can do with a coach aware of what the ceiling is. In the Bucks last four games with Skiles, they defended like a team not playing for much.

The calling card of Milwaukee’s early season success this year and any of the success it had over the past few, was defense. And in Skiles last four games, there was none. Opponents, quality ones but not always adept offensive ones, ran roughshod over the Bucks.

After only allowing one team to break a 100 offensive rating in its previous 10 games, the streaking Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee watched Detroit, San Antonio, Houston and tragically inept this season offensively Indiana crack 100 in consecutive games. The defense that had carried them had departed them.

Under Jim Boylan, the commitment has returned. And more than anything, defense is about commitment. It’s tough to find the energy to defend at a really high team level every night in the NBA. It takes a great amount of discipline and effort. With the exception of a very poor performance against the Lakers, Milwaukee has had that combination that makes a defense great.

In the four games prior to Skiles exit: 110.6 defensive rating. In the seven games since: 100.4. 100.4 is the exact number HoopData.com (all stats used are from there today) has the Bucks at for the season, good enough for seventh in the league. That’s the kind of defense the Bucks have to have on a nightly basis to win, because this offense hasn’t been all that different under Boylan.

The biggest development offensively under Boylan has been the occasional renaissance of Brandon Jennings’ 3-point shot, though it’s hard to give a coach too much credit for a streaky player getting hot. Jennings has shot 38% from three over his past seven games and three times scored more than 29 points.

Equally as crucial for Jennings: Four of his eight highest free throw attempt games have come over the past seven, including a 15 attempt game against the Blazers. He’s gone 40-for-46 from the line over his past seven. If Jennings were a 38% shooter from three who averaged almost seven free throws nightly, the Bucks offense would look quite a bit different and he wouldn’t be “in the discussion” for an All-Star birth, he’d just be an All-Star.

That’s been the point guard controlling the Bucks during the Jim Boylan Era. He’s a good guy to have around. Especially with a defense that’s been stingy as it needs to be. If Jim Boylan’s doing something to inspire both he and that defense, then good on him. If this is just another peak in a season full of them followed shortly by valleys, we shouldn’t be surprised. But we will be.

Because it’s way more fun to believe that this is a different team now.

I watch the Milwaukee Bucks often and write about what I see…

8 Comments

  1. starting ersan may seem like a small difference but it is absolutely huge for our offense, even when the guy goes 0 for 10 the defense still has to play his 3 point shot which opens things for jennings and ellis to use their quickness.

    it may seem like the same team but its a completely different team because boylan is laid back where skiles was the opposite, guys like jennings are going out there and just playing and its resulting in complete all around pg play. i dont agree with the topic of this article no matter what it may seem.

    • I agree, Ersan is more unique and valuable than people realize. I also think that he becomes even more valuable with more talent around him and playing with this bucks team doesn’t necessarily allow him to always play the role that he is best in, which is a garbage man on the offensive and defensive glass, and a perimeter threat waiting for a kickout.

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  3. I agree with SP above on all the same things I was going to bring up. Good minds think alike!

    But…just for kicks, and really elaborate on his second point; I think a huge thing is that perhaps the guys are buying into Boylan because he’s more laid back and maybe they just like him better (remember, he said to the press that he worried too much last time and took every little thing too seriously)…so far Boylan seems like a “players coach.” Skiles was clearly, you do as you’re told or you’ll sit. Personally, I think he lets the guys “play the game” a little more than Skiles did. I think he’s allowing Brandon some room for creativity as to how to help orchestrate this offense.

    I dont know, thats just my two cents. By no means I am I rallying for Boylan to be our next head coach, but he’s creating a compelling argument for it. Honestly, nothing is going to change my mind probably with my cry of: KELVIN SAMPSON for Head Coach of the Milwaukee Bucks starting at the end of the season. Admit it he’s a PERFECT match for Milwaukee.

  4. It’s been reported that Boylan had a one on one conversation with the guys on the team. Imagine each of these players gave Boylan their input. Ersan said he needed to know he was going to get 25+ minutes. Jennings says he needs more support from front court so he can attack the rim with more confidence. etc etc Now Boylan takes all those player requests and tries to implement them. What that does is place more responsibility on the individual players. I heard you. I did what you wanted. Now you need to prove to me and the team that you were right. All the players just seem to be more engaged. Brandon saying he wanted to play defense the way Kobe did against him the game before. It’s a TEAM sport and maybe Jim is doing a better job of communicating what each player needs to do in order to work better as a team.

    • I’m sorry but a coach that changes what he does because it’s what certain players want is SPINELESS and I don’t want a coach like that leading my squad! “I did what you told me too, so why aren’t we winning? If the Head Coach doesn’t already know exactly what he wants. Then that’s the kind of Coach that can coach my kids youth team! In the Pro’s, there needs to be a system! Skiles is a good teacher but he’s horrible with relations! There’s only so long you can put up with a guy like Skiles before they start tuning him out! It’s a huge mistake letting Boylan finish this season and it makes most Bucks fans question the Front Office’s will to win by being cheap and not wanting to bring in another coach while still paying the last one! I will guarantee that Jim Boylan will not be the Milwaukee Bucks Head Coach next year and I know for a fact that he won’t be a Head Coach for any other NBA team either! He’ll be on Scott Skiles right side when he gets his next coaching gig!

  5. I’m a Bucks fan and I’ve been saying this exact thing since Skiles was Axed! There’s a reason Jim Boylan has been a career Assistant. His weakness coaching is the same as the biggest weakness Skiles had as a coach. Neither coach understands how to employ a rotation! We have proven NBA vets that can’t get into the game. The best coaches in the league can identify when a player is having a bad game or is a mismatch to the opponents player guarding him. For example, the other night Larry Sanders was having an awful game. He played 32+minutes of awful basketball with 5 fouls,9 points,3 rebounds,and 1 block! John Henson rode the pine and played 11 minutes(all in the first half with the game in doubt) and he also had 9 points on 8 less FG attempts to go along with 3 rebounds & 2 blocked shots! He matched Sanders production in 21 less minutes! It’s obvious to all real basketball fans what kind of talent John Henson is and I’ve been a sports fan in Milwaukee for 30+ years and I see a really talented rookie who’s losing valuable minutes of development playing on a winning NBA team! Drew Gooden was one of our most consistent frontcourt players last season who’s strung together several really nice years in this league but can’t get a spot in our rotation! The games Boylan is winning is only covering up his inabilities and it will only hurt us by the end of the year! We need a perimeter shooter in the worst way and Gooden and Dalembert could net us one! On top of all that Jerry Sloan,Nate McMillan, and Brian Shaw are all available and they’re all much better coaches and every one of them have proven systems! Sloan has never had a losing season for Christ sake. But yet our team is being led by a bunch of career Assistants and our young players are suffering because of it! GO BUCKS!! PS:I hope Jennings now gets his rightful spot on the AS team with Rondo getting hurt and likely not being able to start anymore! Good day y’all!!