Editor’s note: Minutes after this post went live, the Bucks traded Brandon Knight to the Suns in a three-team deal. In return, Milwaukee received point guard and reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams from Philadelphia, as well as point guard Tyler Ennis and center Miles Plumlee from Phoenix. Expect Eric to have a lot more on the ramifications in the next Quick Bucks. And now, enjoy this week’s edition.
The Bucks have been one of the biggest surprises in the NBA this season, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas in which they can improve. A young team should always be looking to improve, so let’s take a look at three things the Bucks can do better in their final 29 games.
1. Stop turning the ball over.
Much has been made of the Bucks’ high shooting percentages from the field (fifth in NBA) as well as the 3-point line (third in NBA), but despite these percentages, the Bucks have the league’s 17th-best offense. One of the major contributors to the below-average overall offense is 16.5 turnovers per game.
The Bucks simply don’t take care of the basketball and that starts with their point guard, Brandon Knight. For all the improvements Knight has made this season, he still turns the ball over a bit too much, as he averages the 10th-highest number of turnovers per game, 3.2.
2. Get to the free-throw line.
Not surprisingly, the Bucks do pretty well from the free-throw line, shooting 77.3 percent from the charity stripe. Unfortunately, they don’t get to the line very often, posting the league’s seventh-worst free-throw rate.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has done a great job of getting to the line this season, but the rest of the Bucks haven’t. The Bucks shouldn’t necessarily be flailing their arms in an attempt to get to the line, just like they shouldn’t be chucking up threes just for the sake of doing it, but the free-throw line is one of the most efficient places on a basketball court to score.
3. Cut out the isolation.
According to the NBA’s tracking numbers, the Bucks run the 10th-highest percentage of isolation plays in the league. Not surprisingly, with a roster nearly devoid of one-on-one playmakers, the Bucks find themselves in the NBA’s bottom five in actually scoring on their isolation opportunities.
Offensively, the Bucks are at their best when the ball is moving quickly around the perimeter and there are solid lanes in which to attack, not when the ball sticks in one place.
Antetokounmpo is the Bucks’ most frequent isolation player, and though there have been games when he seems unstoppable in isolation play, he’s actually the Bucks fourth-most efficient isolation player, trailing Khris Middleton, Jerryd Bayless and Knight.
What to Read
Bucks and Larry Sanders close to finalizing buyout – Brew Hoop’s Frank Madden did a great job of recapping Wednesday’s flurry of news on a possible buyout of Larry Sanders, and included a very helpful graph that shows the Bucks potential cap holdings through 2018 if the Bucks would use the as-rumored stretch provision on a $15 million Sanders buyout.
Choose Your Bandwagon: Bucks or T-Wolves – Grantland’s Andrew Sharp examined two young teams that could get quite a bit better in the coming years and ultimately decided to hop on the Bucks bandwagon after a very thorough breakdown of each team.
“The Lowe Post”: Jared Dudley on the Bucks’ Surprising Season – Technically, this isn’t something you can read, but it’s too good to pass up. Jared Dudley stopped by Zach Lowe’s podcast and had a really interesting talk about everything that’s gone down in Milwaukee this season.
All-Star Weekend in Review
Friday – Giannis Antetokounmpo started off All-Star Weekend for the Bucks with an impressive performance in the Rising Stars Challenge. In 25 minutes, Antetokounmpo put up 12 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks.
Saturday – Brandon Knight picked up head-to-head victories over Trey Burke and Kyle Lowry on his way to a second-place finish in the Taco Bell Skills Competition. Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley came from behind to defeat Knight in the final round despite not completing the chest pass portion of the competition in any round.
After the 3-point contest, it was time for Antetokounmpo to shine in the Dunk Contest, but things didn’t go so well. Antetokounpo didn’t complete his massive wingspan self-alley-oop dunk to start the competition, but did complete his second dunk, which was an impressive alley-oop reverse. It wasn’t enough to advance to the second round, and Giannis’ evening came to an end.
Next Week’s Preview
Friday – The Bucks exit the All-Star break against the Denver Nuggets, who are fresh off jettisoning shooting guard Arron Afflalo and center JaVale McGee in deadline-day salary-dump trades.
Saturday – The Atlanta Hawks have been one of the league’s best teams, but the Bucks are one of the few teams that don’t seem to struggle with the Hawks’ bevy of outside shooting. The teams split a home/away back-to-back at the end of December.
Monday – Despite close games in the first three quarters, the Bucks have fallen to the Chicago Bulls twice this season in the I-94 series. They’ll look to get one of those games back against a Bulls team that has been up and down this season, but went into the All-Star break winning four straight games.
Wednesday – After two games against Eastern Conference playoff teams, the Bucks will look for an easier night against one of the league’s worst teams, the Philadelphia 76ers.
Stats of the Week
10.3 – The Bucks have been one of the best cutting teams in the league. They have finished 10.3 percent of their possessions on a cut, the league’s highest percentage. (via NBA Stats)
16.7 – Despite a nearly identical usage rate, Brandon Knight has seen his turnover percentage (estimate of turnovers committed per 100 plays) move up to 16.7 percent. This is particularly disheartening after seeing Knight’s turnover numbers decline last season. (via Basketball-Reference)
44.9 – Among players who have played in at least half their teams’ games and taken at least two catch-and-shoot jump shots per game, Jared Dudley has shot the sixth-highest catch-and-shoot effective field goal percentage at 63.8 percent. (via NBA Stats)
Quick Bucks is Milwaukee Magazine‘s weekly roundup of all things Milwaukee Bucks written by Eric Nehm. You can yell at Eric or calmly tell him how this dunk could ever be completed in a game on Twitter @eric_nehm.