Thursday, November 6, 2014

Did We Just Tank For Tobias?

Sometimes, I miss Scott Skiles.  Maybe more than some times.  Scott Skiles probably ran too hot and likely wore on his players and definitely clashed with management, but he won some games that he probably shouldn't have won.  (And he also relished beating the Bulls.)

Take last night.  Chicago was visiting Milwaukee.  The crowd was majority Bulls fans.  The rebuilding Bucks were neck and neck with the contending Bulls early in the fourth quarter.  And the Bucks were playing well.  They (probably coincidentally) were playing The Grecian Formula as a Big, as yours truly suggested yesterday.  Zaza was up front with him, and they were joined by Jerryd Bayless, Juice Mayo and Khris Swish.  Mayo was having an off night and Middleton's defense was a bit scattered, but they were playing well.  And so were Zaza and Bayless.  In fact, the latter two were definitely playing better than their starter counterparts, The Colonel and Good Brandon.  The Skiles thing to do was to ride the hot hands.  Knight, Sanders and Parker may be considered franchise cornerstones at the moment, but all three struggled earlier in the game.  Skiles didn't care about franchise cornerstones, and he would have likely continued with the hot lineup.

Coach Kidd, for better or for worse, is not Scott Skiles.  Even with the team down only two points to the Bulls and the offense flowing (and granted, 76 points with nine minutes to play is not spectacular against most teams, but against the Bulls it's flowing enough), Kidd made his normal fourth quarter substitutions.  First Zaza and Mayo hit the bench for Knight and Sanders.  A few minutes later Mayo came back in the game for Bayless after a ill-advised drive ended in a charge.  Then with five minutes to play, Parker was in for Middleton.  Four of the five players who were flowing and playing well against the Bulls were on the bench, and the finishing five of Knight, Mayo, Parker, Antetokounmpo and Sanders were on the floor.

The last five minutes were a loss.  A lineup that is supposed to be able to defend kept giving up fouls, and a lineup with three tall players couldn't get a big rebound.  They lost another game that felt winnable.


For the second straight day, it must be said that a three guard lineup seems to work best for this Bucks team.  Lineups featuring any three man combination of Knight, Mayo, Bayless and Middleton as the Guard and two Wings worked well for the most part.  Things got stagnant whenever a bigger wing -- Dudley or Parker -- were added to the mix.

The Bucks have essentially had an eleven man rotation thus far, and it seems like it's time for that to change.  Nine or nine-and-a-half men would be better.  Dudley and Big Ers should be relegated to benchwarmer status.  I realize that Dudley and Ilyasova can shoot (at least theoretically) and I realize that they are two prime targets to be traded to contenders in exchange for a prospect or draft pick.  But this team seems to function better with three quick guys handling most of the scoring and two bigs doing the dirty work inside.  At this point Big Ers seems to be the less effective at dirty work than Henson, Larry, Zaza or Giannis.  Dudley, as a tall, bulky shooting Wing, just seems like a bad fit.


The Bucks have another tall, bulky shooting Wing besides Jared Dudley.  His name is Jabari Parker and, at least to this point, he doesn't fit either.  Jabari may well end up being a very good pro, but right now he should not be playing significant minutes or finishing games.  You can just tell that those four guards -- Brandon, OJ, Bayless and Middleton -- enjoy playing with each other.  Jabari is a natural ball stopper and he doesn't play well enough inside to play as a Big.

Jabari could be the 1/2 in a darned good 8 1/2 man rotation.  That would be normal minutes (20 to 35 per game) for Bayless & Knight at Guard, Mayo & Middleton on the Wing and Henson, Zaza, Antetokounmpo & Sanders up front.  Jabari could get 12 to 18 minutes on a normal night, and perhaps more on certain nights.

The black cloud hanging over all of this is Jabari Parker's long term prospects.  He just might not be an All-Star.  The same flaws that he showed in college (slow release on his jumper, lack of rebounding tenacity, soft defense for his size, not quite fast enough to penetrate) are still there.  Kevin Durant became a better rebounder and defender.  Paul Pierce used deception to penetrate.  But the history of the NBA says that those guys are rare and the guys who can't fix it are common.  It's still only five games, but the phone call today to offer Jabari in trade for Wiggins, Exum, Embiid or Elfrid Payton would end in a short and impolite "no".  In short, he may end up being less the modern Larry Legend (as I so rashly predicted a month ago) and more the midwestern Tobias Harris.

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