How did the Bucks get so good so fast?

When have you ever seen anything remotely like the run the Bucks are currently on?  Suddenly, out of nowhere, the Bucks are roaring good.  How did it happen?  The team made one seemingly innocuous trade at the deadline and its been like a nuclear reaction that’s completely changed the trajectory of the team.

The Bucks took down the very formidable  Utah Jazz last night, and frankly they could easily be unbeaten since the Salmons trade.  They had the Atlanta Hawks on the ropes in overtime and lost a game they deserved to win.

But how could trading for a career journeyman shooting guard have such a dramatic effect on a team’s fortunes?

Obviously the key was threefold.  John Salmons acquisition was like a hidden multiplier.  Not only did the team getting a positive addition by adding Salmons to the lineup (intensified by Salmons unusually terrific play), the team also made a  positive subtraction by finally removing Charlie Bell from the lineup.  Thus what was a gaping hole in the team’s makeup suddenly became a strength.

I’m also beginning to believe the team got lucky with the way the trade was altered at the eleventh hour.  Originally the Bucks were going to give away Kurt Thomas as I recall.  That could have been damaging.  Thomas hasn’t been real good this season, but had he been traded his below average play at backup center would have almost certainly been replaced by really awful play.  The fact that the Bucks kept Thomas with a last minute switcheroo has therefore had a hidden positive impact.

And within that switcheroo there may have been some additional benefit. I think there was something gained by getting rid of Hakim Warrick and turning the power forward duties over to the exclusive control of Moute and Ilyasova.  Warrick was okay this season, but he was not really an ideal presence at power forward.  He did not play real good defense, he had no physical “presence” to speak of, and he did not protect the defensive backboard at all.  So I think his removal from the team’s rotation has somehow been a positive as well.

Finally, the turnaround has been the product of just plain old good coaching and good general managing.  If you notice on my Bucks Win Chart, which I have updated through last night’s victory over the Jazz, almost every player who has made a negative win contribution has been wiped out of the Bucks rotation.

Gadzuric, Elson, Meeks, Redd, Warrick, and Bell combined to provide a Win Contribution of -0.377 (and that understates their collective damage because as their percentage of playing time dwindles so does their negative win contribution).  Now all of them, in one way or another, are essentially finished as Milwaukee Bucks.  That has had a tremendous positive subtraction effect.  Now the worst win contributor in the rotation is Kurt Thomas, and for a backup center his negative contribution isn’t all that bad.  Every other player is either adding wins above the .500 mark, or is moving in that direction (Jennings play has actually been sensational for a rookie point guard.  Last night he thoroughly outplayed, and virtually locked down, MVP candidate Deron Williams, and he destroyed Mo Williams three games ago).

You can’t underestimate the value of proper player evaluation, and the Bucks seem to finally have that within their franchise.  Years past the team would have lived with terrible win production, either because they did not recognize how bad the player’s win impact was (Mo Williams) or they deluded themselves into thinking their would be some future payout in exchange for the bad play (Yi Jianlian, Joe Alexander, etc).

It appears the days of “settling” for poor production are over in Milwaukee.  And that is very good news indeed.  Its the exact method Ron Wolf used to turn the fortunes of the Packers around, and we all know where that journey ended.

Here’s hoping for a Green and Cardinal sequel with a similar ending.  Go Bucks.

6 Responses to “How did the Bucks get so good so fast?”

  1. Blake Says:

    After years of consistent losing and being the joke of the NBA I’m proud to say that other teams are afraid of us. And for the first time in a long time, I am proud to be a Bucks fan. The tough defense Skiles has brought into Milwaukee along with Bogut, Jennings and Salmons has made this a very enjoyable team to watch.

    Coming into tonight’s game I thought it would be a close one, but we’d come up short. I was wrong. We actually managed to close out a game! And somehow, Brandon Jennings managed to completely out-play D-Will. Now that should shut up some of the Jennings Haters out there for at least a little while.

    With the Pacers, Clippers (ESPN!) and Kings all coming up next I think we could extend this win streak to 8 games. I’m excited to see us play on national television, hopefully we can beat down the Clippers and prove to the casual NBA fan that for the most part, were a good team.

  2. Seattle Bucks Says:

    Fear the Beer.

  3. tywill33 Says:

    Blake my boy,

    You’re an insomniac just like me!! And a hoops fan, and a Bucks fan… that says it all!! Thanks for your continued support!!


    • Blake Says:

      And here I am replying at 2:16 AM! It’s hard not to follow the best BASKETBALL blog around, and I’ll continue to follow for as long as it’s on the web.

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