For two years now my Marginal Win Score system has been more accurate than Pythagorean Wins with regard to your Milwaukee Bucks. Pythagorean Wins, a system that relies on points scored and allowed, currently suggests the Bucks “should be” a 13.7 win team. Marginal Win Score, which takes a more holistic approach, is not as impressed. It sees the Bucks as a 12.5 win team. Basically, it sees them as they are.
But why doesn’t MWS like the Bucks? Or, what flaw does it recognize in the Bucks portfolio? I decided to dissect the different parts of MWS to find out.
Click here to see the chart I did. Its self explanatory.
Scoring Effectiveness the general problem
Once you break Marginal Win Score into its component parts, and then compare the NBA average with the Bucks average and their opponent average, the issue becomes crystal clear. Its what I refer to as “scoring effectiveness”. That is calculated as (Points – FGAs – .5FTAs). In other words, when a team gets to end a possession with a scoring attempt, how well do they convert those possessions into points?
For the Milwaukee Bucks, the answer is clear: not very well. The team is about even with their opponents in nearly every category except scoring effectiveness, where the Bucks deficit is huge.
Things get even more interesting when you break down the Bucks MWS into “Games Won” and “Games Lost”. Then you can see the issue even more clearly.
Click Here to see the Bucks comparative MWS in Games Won. Click Here to see the Bucks comparative MWS in Games Lost.
As you can see, there is not a huge swing in any one category between “Games Won” and “Games Lost” save for one: Scoring Effectiveness. In Games Won, the Bucks are above average in both Offensive and Defensive Scoring Effectiveness, in Games Lost they are well below average in each of those categories.
Not really a free throw problem
Are those Scoring Effectiveness numbers being driven by the Bucks well-known free throw attempt gap? Well, yes and no. Click Here to see a further breakdown between FG Effectiveness and FT Effectiveness.
Two points to make about that chart.
One, you can see from the NBA averages that it is very hard to live off FG shooting alone, as the Bucks are sort of trying to do. Even though, as the other charts showed, the NBA Scoring Effectiveness is +5.6 points per scoring possession used, NBA teams actually average less than one point per field goal scoring possession used. The positive point average per scoring possession is driven by points generated at the free throw line. So the Bucks are putting themselves at a massive disadvantage by not attacking the basket.
Two, you can see from the chart that the Bucks have about the same “free throw gap” in Games Won as they have in Games Lost. The huge difference between the two categories is contained in the Field Goal category. The Bucks are an above average FG shooting team and an above average FG defensive team in Games Won, and exactly the opposite in Games Lost.
So yes, lack of points from the line hurts the Bucks, but the difference between them winning and losing this season has been points from the field.
Bottom Line: Bogut and 3 pt Defense
If I broke this baby down even further you would see that the true difference between winning and losing for the Bucks is 2pt FG shooting and 3pt FG defense.
In both Games Won and Games Lost the Bucks shoot about the same from behind the 3 point arc, but there is a stark difference in the team’s two point shooting.
The Bucks do not shoot well from two point range in either wins or losses. But in Games Won, the Bucks are slightly below the NBA average from 2pt range (the NBA average is 48.8%, the Bucks make 48.1% in wins). While in Games Lost, they make a way below average 43.7%.
So the Bucks need the 2s to fall. And about the only player on the team who has shown the capacity to make 2s above average is center Andrew Bogut. So the Bucks cannot afford for him to have a lousy shooting night on any night.
Wrapping up quickly, the second key to victory for the Bucks appears to be 3pt defense. In Wins, the Bucks hold opponents to 28% from behind the arc. In Losses, opponents shoot an above average 38% from behind the arc. Meanwhile the team is pretty consistently around average when it comes to 2 point defense. For the season, in fact, the team is allowing 48.7% of opponent 2s to score, while the NBA average is 48.8%.
So the bottom line is, the team is almost always a decent 3 point shooting team, a decent 2 point defensive team, and a lousy free throw point generating and surrendering team.
Since those are pretty constant, the key differences then between winning and losing for the Bucks is whether the team can at least be respectable rather than putrid from 2 point range, and whether they can be well above average in 3 point defense.