Brandon, Brandon, and 7.2: Bucks – Pistons preview

The theme for today is plus-minus rating. While the guys from the Bucksketball podcast (latest episode here) have rightly pointed out that the stat is virtually meaningless for any single game, we have reached the point in the season where a handful of games may beginning to reveal some larger trends.

The secondary theme is the number 7.2 (see below).

What to Watch For: Bucks

Brandon Knight is the Bucks’ leader and the Bucks’ leading scorer and the main creative force for them on offense. Averaging 7.2 assists per game is a terrific development for him.

Heck, he’s also averaging 7.2 rebounds per game, which makes Knight the second-most productive rebounder on a team that desperately needs rebounds.

Unfortunately, Knight has a combined plus-minus rating of -34 over the five Bucks games this season. That’s the worst on the team.

Generally speaking, the Bucks have negative plus-minus ratings among their starters and positive ones among their bench. When that happens, it is the sign of a deep team, and the Bucks do roll out 11 talented players nearly every game.

At the same time, though, Knight is playing the most minutes on the team. He is getting all the minutes that the regular starters are getting, plus some minutes with the bench. If that is the case, why are the bench guys playing better with Knight off the floor and worse with him on it?

What to Watch For: Pistons

The guy sitting at the bottom of the plus-minus barrel for the Pistons is Josh Smith. Smith has a cumulative rating of -52 over four games.

With Jodie Meeks injured, the Pistons lack the shooting to make Stan Van Gundy’s offense go. Instead, they have resorted to a front court that features a power forward and two centers: Smith, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond. As others smarter than me have pointed out, the result is a clogged mess that leaves too many players — from both the offense and the defense — jamming in the painted area.

At the same time, Drummond and company should punish the Bucks on the offensive glass. The aforementioned trio of Piston bigs is averaging 11.0 offensive rebounds per game. That’s a LOT.

Moses Malone holds the record of 587 offensive rebounds in one season (7.2 per game). If there’s one player in the NBA who could get anywhere near that record, it’s Andre Drummond. At FIBA this summer, Drummond made it virtually impossible for non-US teams to get a defensive rebound when he was on the court. But 7.2 per game may be an untouchable number.

Logistics:

Time – 6:30 p.m. CST  TV – FS-Wisconsin  Radio – 620 WTMJ

Injury Report

Bucks: Damien Inglis (foot, still out); Johnny O’Bryant (knee, remains inactive)

Pistons: Gigi Datome, Cartier Martin, and Jodie Meeks are out.

Projected Lineups

Bucks: Brandon Knight – Jared DudleyJabari ParkerErsan IlyasovaLarry Sanders

Pistons: Brandon Jennings – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Josh Smith – Greg Monroe – Andre Drummond

Choose the Form of the Destructor: Brandon Jennings

Brandon Jennings is amazing. In a league full of bedrock strong, impossibly tall people, Jennings is a wisp. The fact that he remains an NBA player, and not say, a successful European pro or a guy who once played basketball in high school, is impressive.

At the same time, Jennings will never be a guy who dominates games on a nightly basis. It just isn’t going to happen. Even with his incredible skill level, he doesn’t have the size to do it.

From time to time, though, Jennings will play terrifically and take over a game. Sometimes it’s a matter of getting hot with his jump shot, sometimes it’s inferior competition,  and sometimes it’s helped by an extra bit of emotional fire.

Tonight, I’m fearful that when faced with his former employer, it will be an instance of all of the above.

Prediction: Josh Smith will convert fewer than 40% of his field goal attempts

My previous prediction was that O.J. Mayo would score more points that his age on his birthday, and that didn’t happen unless O.J. turned eight years old Wednesday. That was a crappy prediction. I need a safer prediction, so I’m betting against Smith’s jump shots.

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