The Bobcats indulged in some American consumer culture over the summer, inking center Al Jefferson to a three-year, $40.5 million deal.
The Bobcats indulged in American (and Black Friday) consumer culture over the summer, inking center Al Jefferson to a three-year, $40.5 million contract. (Photo credit: Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)

What to Watch For: Bucks

The Bucks (2-12) hosted the Bobcats (7-9) six days ago. The Bucks lost by 24.

The Bucks have lost 10 games in a row. The Bucks have the second-worst winning percentage in the NBA. The Bucks have the second-worst offensive rating (93.4). The Bucks have the fifth-worst true shooting percentage (50.3 percent). The Bucks have the fourth-worst free throw attempt rate (.225). The Bucks have the third-worst turnover ratio (18.2). The Bucks have the second-worst defensive rating (105.4). The Bucks are the worst rebounding team (46.7 team rebounding percentage). The Bucks have the second-worst point differential (-10.3).

And in other news:

The Bucks likely watched a grassroots fan campaign, SaveOurBucks.com, reach its crowdfunding goal of $5,000 to unveil a pro-rebuilding billboard in Milwaukee.

The Bucks don’t have an identity, per head coach Larry Drew.

The Bucks are still only 3.5 games out of the playoffs. (Aside: Will the Eastern Conference ever supersede the West?)

In short — excluding three-point shooting (they rank ninth!) — the Bucks have been unfathomably terrible at just about aspect of basketball. Watch for that to change — at least to some degree.

What to Watch For: Bobcats 

The Bobcats have turned into a stalwart defensive team under first-year head coach Steve Clifford. Their defensive rating of 98.4 points per 100 possessions ranks in the NBA’s top five. That’s a pretty incredible contrast to last season, in which Charlotte posted the worst defensive rating in the NBA (108.9).

It’s an even more impressive feat when one considers that the Bobcats had little roster turnover this summer — and neither of the two notable additions, Al Jefferson and Cody Zeller, are renowned for their defense. Credit for the early turnaround should go to Clifford, whom the Bucks reportedly interviewed in May.

Logistics:

Time – 6:00 p.m. CST

TV – FS-Wisconsin

Radio – 620 WTMJ

Injury Report

Bucks: Brandon Knight (hamstring; day-to-day), Larry Sanders (thumb; out), Carlos Delfino (foot surgery; out)

Bobcats: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (plantar fasciitis; “highly questionable“), Brendan Haywood (right foot; out)

Projected Lineups

Bucks:

PG Brandon Knight (Note: Knight aggravated his hamstring shortly before overtime Wednesday. If he’s held out, expect Luke Ridnour to start in his place.)

SG O.J. Mayo

SF Khris Middleton

PF Ersan Ilyasova

C Zaza Pachulia

Bobcats:

PG Kemba Walker

SG Gerald Henderson

SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

PF Josh McRoberts

C Al Jefferson

Jeremy’s For Recreational Purposes Only Prediction (aka Betsketball)

Line: Bobcats -5

Over/Under: 181

I was the noted champion of Wednesday’s Bucks game, picking both against the spread and the over/under correctly. Now I’m full of Thanksgiving Day food (George Webbs and whiskey) and worried my judgement may be clouded by calories. I’ll keep it short and sweet, since we chatted Bucks/Bobcats just a week ago.

Call me a sucker, but I think the Bobcats are kind of a mirage, despite their stellar defensive work. I think they are average, but they also seem ripe for vulnerability against a team that should be starving for a win like the Bucks. Bucks +5, under 181.

(Quick note: I did not do the prediction you see later in this preview, that explains any inconsistency there.)

Record: 7-3 (3-2 ATS and 4-1 over/under)

Choose the Form of the Destructor: Al Jefferson 

Jefferson is elite at one thing on the basketball court: low-post scoring. His low-post footwork is second to no one. Despite being a vertically-undersized center — both in height and leaping ability — Jefferson simply dominates in the post. He can routinely beat his defender with his back to the basket or by facing up.

Jefferson is unique because his skill set set is essentially obsolete in the modern NBA. Teams are getting smarter, and post-up shots are relatively inefficient (check out the chart in this Brew Hoop piece). A center like Larry Sanders — a mobile, intimidating paint protector with offensive limitations — is now more appealing than a bulky, scoring big man. For reference, keep an eye out for Jefferson’s pick-and-roll defense tonight. His lack of footspeed really hinders him there.

Now back to impending destruction. If Zaza Pachulia isn’t using his wide frame to push opponents out of good post position, he’s probably not doing a whole lot defensively. Opponents are shooting 53.7 percent at the rim against him. And that statistic isn’t updated to reflect Marcin Gortat‘s Wednesday performance against Pachulia and the Bucks:

Thus, it could be a big scoring night for Jefferson.

Prediction:

Fun to Fun