City Sports Report

The Milwaukee Bucks Are A Team On The Rise

Brandon Knight blows past Cleveland's Kyrie Irving (photo courtesy of www.zimbio.com)

When Jason Kidd decided to leave the Brooklyn Nets for the Milwaukee Bucks, many thought he had lost his mind. The Nets were not going to be great this season, but the Bucks were even worse off. The Bucks had new ownership, not a lot of playoff success and the team also looked to lack some direction. But to the surprise of many, things have worked better than many have expected. The Bucks currently sit in the sixth seed of the NBA’s Eastern Conference after many thought they would be cellar dwellers once again. And even with the loss of the 2nd overall pick in 2014’s NBA Draft, Duke’s Jabari Parker(torn ACL), the Bucks are still moving towards a playoff berth and their best record in a long time. Looking at what they have, it is great what they have accomplished so far.

The main ingredient in this team has been guard Brandon Knight. Last season, Knight had been averaging 17.9 points, 4.9 assists and 3.5 rebounds. But in this season, he has risen his point per game average to 18.1 points per game and over 5 assists per game. And what is even more amazing is he has risen his point per game total by taking one less shot (took 15 shots per game last year and is only taking 14 shots per game this season). The biggest difference in his game from this year to last year is his shooting. The fourth-year guard from Kentucky is shooting 44.5 % from the field and 40.2% from the three-point line. Both are career-highs for Knight and the shooting from the three-point line is definitely a huge increase from last season (Knight only shot 32.5% from the three-point line last season). His performance this season speaks to how comfortable he is in Kidd’s system and it also speaks to the fact that he knows he is in a contact year. We shall see if he plays at this level once he receives his payday, but for now, credit has to be given to him for the way he is playing.

Another unsung hero on this team is OJ Mayo. He represents the sacrifice and role-acceptance of each player on this team. When he signed with the Bucks from Dallas, it was thought he would come in and get all the shots and be one of the faces of the team. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way in his first season there. He was known more for incidents on the court than the production on it. But heading into this season, it looks like Mayo has found his niche with Milwaukee. Mayo has become the instant offense off the bench for the Bucks this season. The Bucks know that when they go to the bench, they have a double-figure scorer that can be counted on for production. And honestly, being the 6th man is the best role for Mayo. He can flat-out score and that is the best thing he can do. So why not put him in position to do so to give your team that life off the bench? And praise has to go to Mayo for sacrificing for the team. Mayo more than likely wants to be a starter in the NBA for the Bucks, but he has recognized that he can serve this team better off the bench and has accepted his role instead of becoming a malcontent. And because of that, he has fit perfectly with the Bucks this season.

Besides the individual differences, there have also been some team differences. The Bucks were horrible defensively last season. They averaged giving up over 103 points per game and were allowing 47% shooting on the year. Giving up that type of offensive production will lead to many loses as it did last season. On the bright side, those loses allowed them to be able to draft Parker with the second overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. But they finished tied for 25th in the NBA in defense and that was not very good. Coming into this season, the Bucks needed to make improvement there just to compete. And the improvement they made has been remarkable. Kidd and his coaching staff have done a wonderful job taking the Bucks from a team that gave up over 103 points per game to only 97 points per game, which is good for a 3rd place tie in the NBA. The Bucks have length in their frontcourt and that bothers opponents, even with the loss of shot-blocking center Larry Sanders to personal issues. And if they continue to defend at this clip, they could put a scare into some teams in the East.

But the difference in this team from one year to the next is not only seen defensively but offensively as well. The Bucks were not sure who they could count on offensively last season and that led to them averaging 95 points per game, good for 28th in the NBA. They were not exactly lighting the world on fire with the numbers they were putting up and it led to them looking mighty bad as a team. But this season they are only averaging 98 points per game, but they are shooting way better than they were last season and they seem to be more efficient as well. That means that the Bucks are getting better quality shots per possession and that is what you want for your team. And heading into the playoffs (hopefully for the Bucks), the efficiency should be something that can cause opponents fits on that end of the court.

The Bucks were a team that no one saw being as good as they have been so far this season. And surprisingly, it looks as if Bucks coach Jason Kidd has tapped into this team and gotten the best out of them when no one thought it was possible. Many thought that Milwaukee was a dead-end job with no expectation of moving forward, but with the athleticism and youth of this team, this could potentially just be the start of this team making noise in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. They are 6th in the Eastern Conference right now, but they are definitely capable of rising higher in the East and making some noise in the playoffs.

For more sports talk, feel free to check me out on Twitter @General_MP or check me out on Facebook at Mike Patton-The General .

One Comment

  1. Jason

    January 29, 2015 at 12:10 am

    Great article on the Buck’s Mike. Kidd has these guys believing in themselves. It’s great to see a team that nobody gave a second thought dovwell.

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