Here at Blue Man Hoop, we’re gearing up for the 2012-13 season by looking around the NBA to see how each team matches up with the Golden State Warriors. We’ll give you an overview of each opponent, a matchup or stat to watch and a measure of just how big a threat each opposing squad represents for the Dubs. Be sure to check out the other previews we’ve done so far on Blue Man Hoop: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, L.A. Clippers, L.A. Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat.
Milwaukee Bucks Overview
Milwaukee finished the truncated 2011-12 season with a respectable record of 31-35, and were actually a somewhat similar team, stylistically, to the Warriors. The Bucks played pretty fast, and therefore scored a lot of points, but were in the middle of the pack in offensive efficiency. They had an advantage over Golden State in rebound rate and defensive efficiency, but not a huge one. And, of course, almost everybody had an edge on the Dubs in those areas.
Interestingly, the Bucks figure to look even more like the Warriors—at least recent versions of them—in the upcoming season. There’ll be a pair of undersized scoring guards, neither of whom play very efficiently or defend at a respectable level, in Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. Warrior fans know how well that strategy works.
Plus, former Warriors Ekpe Udoh and Mike Dunleavy—who had one of his best seasons as a pro last year—will be key reserves in Milwaukee. Udoh, in fact, has turned into one of the NBA’s best interior defenders, ranking extremely high in Synergy’s ratings. And, as a Warrior last year, the Warriors gave up “10.7 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the court, while in Milwaukee the change was 5.2 points,” according to John Hollinger’s player profile.
Overall, the Bucks are a team with some nice pieces. At small forward, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is an excellent defender, whose lack of offense can be offset by the scoring back court he plays next to. And power forward Eryan Ilyasova had a breakout season last year, shooting 45 percent from three while rebounding at a high rate. The Bucks also have a handful of solid defensive options up front, in addition to Udoh. Samuel Dalembert and Larry Sanders are both excellent shot-blockers, and Dalembert is a terrific rebounder. Drew Gooden, forced to play a ton of center last year after Andrew Bogut went down, is actually a really efficient mid-range shooter and a nice rebounder, too.
However, all of the Bucks’ nice pieces may never fit together if the back court of Jennings and Ellis can’t figure out how to play together. It’s hard to imagine a more mismatched pair of guards than these two. Both need the ball, both shoot ineffectively from outside 10 feet, neither defends, neither passes unless it’s as a last resort and neither has ever shown the ability to make their teammates better. They may score 50 points a game between them, but they’ll almost certainly represent a net negative for the Bucks, especially when they’re on the floor together. Milwaukee isn’t going anywhere as long as this back court is intact.
Monta Ellis has played his whole career with an expressionless ease that occasionally bordered on detachment. He rarely celebrated excessively or sulked visibly, and I can’t remember the last time he smiled on a basketball court. And that blank-slate appearance is part of what will make his return to Golden State so interesting. Last year, he returned to Golden State as a Buck just a couple of days after the trade that sent him to Milwaukee for Andrew Bogut. The wound, if he felt one, was probably still too fresh for him to have a handle on his feelings.
But now that some time has passed, it will be fascinating to watch how he’s received by the fans (although he’ll probably still be beloved, inexplicably, since he never made the team better). Even more interesting will be to watch his demeanor on the floor once the ball is tipped. My guess is he’ll remain the same distant, disinterested player he appeared to be for so many years as a Warrior. But who knows, maybe he’ll really try to stick it to his former team—now that there’s so much positive buzz tied to the turnaround triggered by his departure.
Threat Level: 5/10
Milwaukee is a halfway-decent Eastern Conference team with a poorly constructed back court. There are some nice wing players and some interesting, but generally one-dimensional front court options. Overall, there’s not a star on this team and the pieces don’t fit together well enough to compensate for that.
Expect the Warriors to handle the Bucks in both contests this season, with Klay Thompson and the other big Warrior wings having their way with the Bucks tiny guards.