Another guest appearance from Mitch Vomhof. Follow Mitch on Twitter. – JS
It’s hard to dislike Marquis Daniels. He’s the kind of veteran basketball player that you want to have in your locker room, the kind of guy who can help guide and develop young players. Plus he has this sweet van. That being said, it’s about time for him to stop playing significant minutes for the Bucks. Especially in this playoff series against the Heat.
At the beginning of the year, Jeremy wrote a generally positive analysis of the Bucks’ signing Marquis Daniels and he was right. Signing a veteran guy like Marquis on a cheap one-year deal was, on paper and at the time, a low-risk move for the Bucks to make. At 6’6, Daniels provided flexibility and a reputation for good defense for a young team that needed both of those and a veteran presence in the locker room.
The Daniels experience hasn’t been that bad if you focus on his statistics. He came off of the bench to spell Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, played some defense, and provided a nice surprise when he scored a couple of baskets. Over one crazy week in December, he even scored in double digits in 5 out of 6 games. For the regular season, he averaged 5.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.1 assist in 18.4 minutes per game. Not outstanding (or frankly, even average) numbers, but reasonable enough for a defensive specialist off the bench.
But when he becomes more than a defensive specialist off the bench, things get kind of ugly.
The Bucks have not fared well with Marquis on the floor this year. According to NBA.com, he plays in 4 of the Bucks’ 5 worst 5-man lineups (by +/-), 3/5 of the worst 4-man lineups, and 3/5 of the worst 3-man lineups,. Things get even better when looking at two-man pairs, where 9 out of the 10 most common pairs featuring Daniels are negative for the year. With Marquis on the floor, the Bucks had a miserable 96.1 offensive rating, well below the team average (100.9) and one that would be good for dead last in the league. Milwaukee’s defensive rating was better with him on the court versus off (99.9 compared to 102.3), but not good enough to cover the offensive void that opens up whenever he steps onto the court.
This point was illustrated pretty clearly at the beginning of the fourth quarter in Tuesday’s Game 2 loss to the Heat when the Bucks rolled with a lineup featuring ‘Quis at the power forward position, Mike Dunleavy at small forward, and Ekpe Udoh at center (plus, inexplicably, Ish Smith at point guard. That’s a discussion for a different post though). That’s the lineup that the Heat went on a 12-0 run against to put the game out of reach. Daniels has had issues successfully playing the three this season, while seeing only a few minutes here and there at the four. Tossing him into the fire at the four on Tuesday was a complete disaster.
Andersen and the rest of the Heat were too much for Milwaukee inside. They were too strong and easily moved Daniels out of the way on the offensive glass.
Aside from struggling as a rebounder, which was to be expected, Daniels couldn’t provide much as a back line defender.
On the other end, the extent of Daniels’ contribution on offense was to stand in the corner waving his arm and perhaps make a few weak cuts under the basket. At a time when the Bucks’ offense was stagnant for several reasons, he provided virtually nothing.
Not that he should be expected to, which brings us to the final point.
It’s difficult to come to a conclusion about who should play when Mbah a Moute needs a breather. The Bucks simply don’t have another player who can successfully defend the small forward position (much less LeBron James) without LARRY SANDERS! protecting the paint.
But the Bucks’ strength is in their stable of power forwards and it seems as though the Udoh-Henson-SANDERS!-Dalembert-Ayon-Ilyasova amalgamation should produce some combination of power forward and center that allows the Bucks to play Dunleavy at small forward without being too concerned at their defensive inability. Additionally, both Ersan and Mike have the ability to spread the floor with their shooting ability, which SHOULD (key word) help a wildly inconsistent offense find a foothold against a tough defense like Miami’s.
I don’t mean to say that Marquis Daniels is a bad basketball player. In fact, I’m probably higher on him as a defender off the bench than most are. But if the Bucks want to steal a game or two against the Heat in this playoff series, Jim Boylan should probably keep Daniels on the bench and out of rotations during crucial minutes.