Early rematch week continues: Bucks vs. Pistons Preview

(Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Other Brandon was pretty effective against the Bucks last week. How about this time? (Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Pistons roll into town hot off of the heels of an impressive 107-97 victory over the Miami Heat. Expect the swag to be cranked all the way up at the BMOBC on Wednesday night.

What to Watch For: Bucks

In the first half of the Nov. 25th matchup between these two teams, the Bucks were absolutely run out of the gym by the Pistons. Of particular note was the Detroit squad’s dominance of the interior as the Bucks had no answer for a Josh SmithGreg MonroeAndre Drummond frontline. Combined with a seemingly endless parade of turnovers, especially from the hands of Brandon Knight, that dominance led to a seemingly endless run of dunks and easy lay-ins for the Pistons.

That disparity narrowed in the second half as coach Larry Drew began to open up his rotations to give the younger players opportunity to prove themselves.  Wednesday’s rematch will likely see a different Bucks frontcourt pairing, likely the John HensonEkpe Udoh duo that has started the team’s last two games. Those players will need to provide more presence down low than Ersan Ilyasova and Zaza Pachulia did in November.

What to Watch For: Pistons

The “Brandon Jennings Revenge Game” went well for the former Buck as he racked up 15 points and 13 assists. While he still shoots a ton and doesn’t do it very efficiently (15 shots per game, 38% FG), he’s also raised his assists substantially so far in this young season. In particular, he’s developed a strong pick-and-roll connection with Drummond, who himself seems to be blossoming into a star center.

If Jennings can establish his big men in the paint and feed them early, the Pistons can dominate nearly any team inside. A key to shutting the Pistons down will be for the Bucks’ big men to establish strong defensive positions and deny entry passes to the paint – if Detroit’s bigs get the ball inside regularly, it could be another long night.


Time – 7:00 p.m. CST

TV – FS Wisconsin

Radio – 620 WTMJ

Injury Report

Bucks: Ersan Ilyasova (hamstring, thumb; day-to-day), Caron Butler (knee; out) Larry Sanders (thumb; out), Carlos Delfino (foot surgery; out)

Pistons: Chauncy Billups (knee; out) Will Bynum (hamstring; day-to-day)

Projected Lineups


PG Brandon Knight

SG O.J. Mayo

SF Khris Middleton

PF Ekpe Udoh

C John Henson


PG Brandon Jennings

SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

SF Josh Smith

PF Greg Monroe

C Andre Drummond

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

Line: Pistons -4.5

Over/Under: 193

Both teams on the second night of a back-to-back, one having just lost to the Celtics and the other having just beat the Heat. I’ll take the latter, rather than the former. Pistons -4.5, over 193.

Record: 10-6 (4-4 ATS and 6-2 over/under)

Choose the Form of the Destructor: Rodney Stuckey

He probably made this shot. Like, statistically speaking. (Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
I really don’t have an explanation for this guy. Stuckey’s been a good (not great) player so far in his six-year career, but this season he’s stepped his game up to another level. With 5 20+ point games in his last 7 outings, it’s clear that he has the hot hand right now for the Pistons, a hand that scorched the Bucks for 17 points on 63% (7-11) shooting last time these two teams met.
The other jump shooters for the Pistons (Jennings, Smith, Caldwell-Pope) have been fairly awful, making Stuckey the team’s primary outside shooter at this point. If the Bucks don’t keep an eye on him whenever he’s in the game, he’s liable to make them pay.


Pistons 96, Bucks 88, I snag one of those sweet “Bucks Yeah!” shirts

(via @Bucks on Twitter)
(via @Bucks on Twitter)

Categories: Game Previews

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  1. Hey Mitch, no biggie, but I wonder if you might do a piece on possible point guards the Bucks could reasonably acquire — ones that see themselves more as distributors than scorers (really). I don’t know what ESPNs Trade Machine is, but I’m guessing it has to do with this kind of thing.
    By the way, you don’t necessarily have to agree that the Bucks should go after a point guard right now; but if they did go after one, who is out there? This could be a player who would not necessarily replace Brandon Knight, but complement him while Brandon is learning on the job. Also, if dreams come true for Bucks fans and we get a top-of-the-top draft pick, and we don’t pick a point guard, and Brandon isn’t that guy, then we likely need a point guard, anyway.
    I’m wondering what you think of Marquis Teague and Kendall Marshall. (Didn’t other Tarheels, Lawson and Felton, take a little time to develop?)
    Also, are there any established points that could be had in a trade for two or three of our guys not named Larry and John, or Khris and Giannis? I keep wondering if the Suns want to keep both Bledsoe and Dragic, and whether either of those two is more of a distributor; of course, there’s always Ish, but I’m probably the only Bucks fan in the universe who would want him back.
    Anyway, reading your profile gave me the idea; it’s okay if you don’t do it, but I hope you might consider it in the next few days.

    • I’ve actually made a conscious decision this season to refrain from talking trades early this season for a couple of reasons:

      1. Trades in the NBA rarely happen before December 15, which is the date that a majority of the free agents that signed in the offseason are eligible to be traded. That creates a much broader pool of players that can be traded and since action rarely happens before that, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to be talking about trades at this point.

      2. If the Bucks really want to find out what they have (at the point guard and otherwise), it’s in their best interest to let the players they currently have show what they’ve got. Acquiring another point guard cuts into the evaluation and development time for both Knight and Wolters, who have shown both flashes of promise and weakness thus far.

      In all, I think that any move for a player lowly-regarded enough to be cheap isn’t worth making – the Bucks have three point guards, and as much as I know you don’t believe in them, two of them have significant potential. Meanwhile, an established guard such as Bledsoe or Dragic would be arguably too expensive for a team that needs far more than just a point guard at this point. Were that the only weak link on an otherwise contending team, such a move might make sense. But in reality, this season is an opportunity for the Bucks to determine what they have now without the pressure to be good – I think it’s pretty much accepted that this team is not going to do well this year. It makes more sense to me for the team evaluate the players that it has and see if they are a part of the team’s future than it does for them to go out and grasp at another wild card.

      • Mainly, I appreciate your response. Thanks.
        The only problem with your reasoning, to my mind, is that the play of the point guard affects the whole team, somewhat like a quarterback. If the offense isn’t flowing, if the ball isn’t moving, if guys feel like they’re not going to get the ball if they work hard to get open… well, it causes a lot of discouragement — and then the defense suffers because of lack of energy.
        So the risk here is not only a season of many losing games, but a season of many lost games, where guys are severely hindered from developing as individual players or as a team. In that case, even the top pick in next year’s draft isn’t going to make a huge difference.
        By the way, I’m a fan of Brandon Knight, am excited to see him develop; but I think even someone on your own staff at Bucksetball has written of late that his chances of succeeding at point are pretty iffy at best, or something like that. I’ve also said that a new point could complement Brandon rather than replace him. I think this would actually put less pressure on Brandon. Plus, even some young and/or cheap guys like Ish or Shane Larkin have more experience playing the point and/or more of a natural knack for the position than Brandon.
        In closing, I have been the only one, at least to my memory, who has been concerned about the point position on the Bucks — so maybe I’m way out there. You might also have read that I like Scott Suggs from our summer league team; he’s been very good as a rookie in his first three games with the Erie Bayhawks of the D-League, including 8-11 from the arc… but I’m in a lonely cheering section.
        Again, thanks anyway.

        P.S. As for Nate, maybe he would do better in the D-League; the Hawks just sent down Dennis Schroder. There’s no shame in it for Nate, and he might actually prefer the minutes to DNPs. He could always be brought back up later and get some time if Brandon plays some two guard.

        • P.P.S. See Jon Hartzell’s article of December 2 (on Brandon Jennings) for a less-than-enthusiastic-but-it’s-still-possible evaluation of Brandon Knight’s future at point guard.
          (In case it was in doubt), I do try to read you guys, and I do remember what you write pretty well (as long as it was in the last week).
          Actually, I appreciate and value what you guys have to say… which is why it hurts a little when I feel like I’m being marginalized (even when my points are addressed, but the reasoning is not). I know there’s no crying in basketball, or something like that, so maybe consider this a little whining.

        • I see your point about players not being able to individually develop due to poor point guard performance, but I think the players that could be brought in would either require too much in return if they are better than Knight, or wouldn’t make much of a difference if they could be acquired.

          For example, you cite Shane Larkin and Ish Smith. Larkin was just a first round pick in this past summer’s draft, so the Dallas brass has a little bit invested in him. He hasn’t played very well in nine games thus far since returning from a foot injury, but I’m sure they are still fairly high on him. I’m thinking the Bucks would have to give up a quality piece that could help the Mavs, like an Ilyasova let’s say, to get him on the roster. And he hasn’t even played better than Knight, so then the Bucks have two developing point guards that they have to find minutes for while trying to win games and work Ridnour/Wolters into the rotation somehow. And that’s all without the guarantee that Larkin will be any better than Knight this season or into the future.

          Ish, on the other hand, or guys like him (unproven, but pure point guard types), could probably be had on the cheap still. But all he’s proven for sure in the NBA is that he isn’t a very good shooter. He has had some good moments as a distributor, but failed in his more extensive opportunities last season to join a Bucks rotation where a backup point guard was for sure needed. And in this season, he’s shot worse than ever, so it’s not like he’s done much developing either. Bringing him onto the court would seemingly do little to help develop other players or right the ship to make sure other guys could do their jobs better than they can do them with Knight on the court.

          I don’t think there’s an easy outside solution that helps run the Bucks offense, is acquirable at a reasonable price and won’t interfere with the development of Knight and Wolters or the getting up to speed (so to speak) of Ridnour. Ridnour was the guy they brought in to be the guy you want. He just hasn’t played well yet.

          As for Knight, he’s had a lot of ups and downs already this year and didn’t show much as a point guard in the past two seasons. That’s why people are kind of down on him, but, it’s important that we remind ourselves (us writers included) that he’s younger than Wolters even. So it could happen, but there’s just been little indication it will. That’s what this season is about though. I guess we’ll see.

  2. I really appreciate your thoughtful points, Jeremy. Even though I mostly disagree, it is satisfying to get other points of view from people I do respect like you and the other writers at Bucksketball, as well as other good fans on this site. To me, that’s a big part of the fun of a good blog.
    I just can’t help wondering if there might be someone out there to work with Brandon, even to bring in for a try. When I see Jon Leuer go for 23 points and 9 boards last night, scoring with a driving dunk and a trey — and I know it’s just one game — I wonder if there are guys out there who just aren’t getting the right opportunities. I like to look for those guys, and I think a team like the Bucks would do well to be especially creative in looking for those guys.
    Anyway, I know these comments can’t go back and forth forever; that it’s okay to disagree; and that these things can be revisited in the future in moderation. I don’t expect such thorough answers for most of the comments I make, nor even short answers; but it is nice to get feedback like this once in a while, directly or in one of your articles.
    So, thanks again, Jeremy, and God bless you and Mitch and all of your staff.