The New York Knicks’ win-streak ended after falling to the Miami Heat over the weekend, but good news! The Knicks are in Milwaukee tonight to play a Bucks team on a streak of their own, losers of their last six. To get a better idea of what the Knicks are in for tonight I brought in Eric Buenning of Brewhoop and KL Chouinard of Bucksketball.
The Bucks have come out victorious once in their last 16 games. Attendance is bad, the offense is bad, the defense is bad, and the coaching has been bad. In your opinion, why has this season been such a disaster for the Bucks?
Eric: Because everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, really. The veterans they thought were going to help push this team towards the playoffs have pushed them way way way way down in the standings; Larry Drew (the player’s coach) hasn’t gotten more than two consistent performances in a row from his guys all season; pretty much every player has gotten injured in some capacity; it’s been a tornado of misfortune.
But the problems started well before October. This tank (though it’s HELLA EXCITING NOW) or whatever wasn’t supposed to happen. This was supposed to be a competitive team that had a shot at the playoffs, but..well..whoops. The Bucks have this odd tendency in the offseason to play things safe while trying to make splashes. They draft very very well, but they take gambles on players that, if they work out, don’t push the needle too far forward. If their gamble doesn’t pay off, the needle doesn’t go too far backwards. Their gambles are played safe, and that’s how you end up with veteran flotsam (and now jetsam) clouding this young group of actually productive players from being the true building blocks. Most teams establish what they like on their roster and add around it, but the Bucks add pieces from all areas and hope that they play nice and gel into something to which they haven’t necessarily established. It’s a nice idea to be competitive, but it’d be nice if they go about getting there a proper way. It’s kind of heading that way now, though..so yay!..?
KL: After the Brandon Jennings/Monta Ellis debacle, Milwaukee wanted so-called ‘character guys’. But unable to attract any special talents, the Bucks went and got a bunch of decent players who fit the character mold.
However, the three free agents they signed in the offseason — Gary Neal, Carlos Delfino, and Zaza Pachulia — all had foot problems a season ago and those problems spilled into this season. So the Bucks ended up with a roster without standout talent, injuries, and they have a bunch of guys with equal (but so-so) talent who all think they should be playing.
Larry Sanders got hurt, too, but the Bucks have been just as bad (or worse) with him as they have been without him. He eats up a few offensive possessions a game on moves that have no hope of resulting in points.
Nate Wolters and Khris Middleton have the highest NRtg on the team this year. To those who haven’t watched the Bucks much this year, what has made these two young guys bright spots on a team without many?
Eric: I’ll tackle Khris first. He was brushed over a bit in the Brandon Jennings/Brandon Knight swap, but his ability to make shots and play moderately good defense has been very welcome on a roster starving for…anything. Middleton isn’t going to be pan out to be a starter on a team going forward, but having a guy with very specific skills at his age is pretty awesome. There aren’t going to be too many teams that will complain about cheap slightly watered down 3-and-D guys on their roster.
Nate is kind of a peculiar case. After Brandon Knight’s hamstring exploded in the season opener at MSG, Wolters was thrust into a role we weren’t sure he would be ready to handle. The best thing about that night, and Nate in general, is that he’s shown the poise (6th best rookie PER and a pretty respectable AST/TO ratio) so early into his career that shows folks that he is capable of handling himself on the court. He is mostly under control when he’s running the offense, and he is one of the very few players on this Bucks roster than can get a guy a decent looking shot (whether that subsequent shot goes in is another issue). So far he has struggled with knocking down jumpers and he hasn’t been worlds ahead of the play of usual backup Luke Ridnour, but he also isn’t 600 years old like Luke is. Plus, he’s good bros with Giannis and IT. IS. ADORABLE.
KL: Wolters is a point guard’s point guard. He runs the offensive sets correctly, gets passes in the right places, plays defense, and can use dribble moves to get where he wants in the paint. If he finds a jump shot, he’ll be very good. So far, he hasn’t
Middleton is a shot-maker. Leave him open and he’ll make a shot. In fact, even when he’s guarded he can make a one- or two-dribble move to create enough space to get up a shot. He doesn’t particularly finish well off longer drives, though. On defense, his above-average arm length helps compensate for slightly below average footwork/footspeed.
Going into the season, I was excited to see how the Henson-Sanders front court would work out for this team. Sanders has obviously had a year he’d like to forget, but Henson seems to have to taken that next step. Granted, we haven’t seen much of Henson and Sanders on the floor together this season but do you think these two should be in team’s long-term plans?
Eric: I forget the on/off splits of the tube men frontcourt, but in their limited time together this season and last, they’ve been..how do I put this..good enough to make you want to give it a shot at least? The are a Giannishandful on defense, but where the question about the tandem has always rested is how they work offensively. With a really good distributing guard, maybe someone can create a scheme where they can both be monsters in the pick-and-roll and garbage men role. But until one of them develops the ability to take like..two steps away from the basket and knock down a shot consistently enough (my hope is that it’s Henson), the spacing will remain an issue.
Oh, right, you’re *actual* question..
I do think they should both be a part of the long-term plans, at least until June rolls around. Sanders signed his 4-year, $44 million extension this past summer, and so far has not earned it. If the Bucks are awarded the top overall pick in this year’s draft and Joel Embiid is sitting there waiting to be made a resident of Milwaukee, it gets very very interesting for the Bucks. So for now, I say (and am totally okay with) that yes, both tube men should be part of the long term plans. We’ll see where the Bucks end up on draft night, though.
KL: The two are useful pieces. They both defend the rim VERY well. But Sanders is a black hole on offense, and Henson is a guy who always looks a lot better on the stat sheet than in a game. He needs to ‘up his motor’ a bit.
The aggravating thing for everyone in the Bucks-o-sphere is that the Bucks have known since December 1 that this was going to be a waste of a season. In the meantime, they have done little to explore the possibility of whether or not these two can play in the same lineup. Despite having nothing to play for, they have spent next to no time on the court together.
The Bucks are dead last in ORtg in the league, while also being 28th in DRtg. How can Knicks exploit the Bucks both offensively and defensively tonight?
Eric: Play fast. Throw the first punch. This team has a hard time adjusting to, well, anything. The quicker you take control of the game, the less you have to worry about losing, and the more sad tweets you’ll get from me!
KL: Offensively, they can make their three-pointers. The Bucks have allowed a horrific 41.5% of opponent’s three-point field goals in 2014. They send weak doubles at the post with regularity, even when it’s not warranted by math or logic.
Defensively, it depends on the point guard. If it’s Wolters, back off and let him shoot. If it’s Knight, play him to his right hand and throw the occasional trap in his direction.
Who do you think wins tonight and why?
..do any of us really win for watching this?
But Knicks, by double digits.
KL: Oddly, the way the Bucks play, a guy like Amar’e could be much more useful than he is in normal situations.
I’ll pick the Knicks, but perhaps by a smaller margin than the Bucks are accustomed to. Why? Because the Bucks aren’t very good, and I’m not sure the Knicks are much better.