Marques Johnson’s magnificent rookie campaign

I’ve got a bunch of handwritten win charts sitting in my office that are going to get lost if I don’t transcribe them.  One that I particularly don’t want to lose, and transcribed tonight, was the one that charted the 1977-78 “Green and Growing” Milwaukee Bucks, a watershed season in franchise history.

Click Here to view the 1977-78 Milwaukee Bucks Win Chart

Estimated wins produced by Bucks 1977-78 offense:
23.8 wins___17.2 losses
Estimated wins produced by Bucks 1977-78 defense:
17.1 wins__23.9 losses

Rookie on a Rampage

Kent Benson was the number one overall pick in the 1977 draft.  Unfortunately, in his rookie season, he played like a street free agent.  He was terrible.

Thank goodness the other high pick, Marques Johnson from UCLA, was magnificent.  In fact, I contend Marques was the second best rookie in Bucks history behind only Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor… and that’s high company.

As you will notice, I have Marques positioned as a 60% power forward.  This surprised me, until I remembered he played power forward at UCLA.  But his lack of size for the position may have contributed to the Bucks below average defense that season.  In all other aspects, Marques’ production, especially on the boards, was phenomenal.

Other storylines from that path changing season:

Alex English, the SF we would give away

People forget another big name player on that team was SF Alex English.  English was also a fantastic rebounder and scorer.  He produced the third most wins on the team, and had the second best winning percentage.

Quinn the underrated Eskimo, PG

An unsung Buck in those years was “No J” Quinn Buckner, the Bucks point guard from Indiana.  But Quinn was solidly efficient every season, and was a tremendous defender and playmaker.

The Kareem tradees

Junior Bridgeman and Brian Winters, two of the pieces from the Kareem trade, had very inconsistent careers with the Bucks.   Or rather, some seasons they were above average, some below.  I believe it was because each relied on scoring efficiency to produce wins, and that can be erratic for jump shooters.

1/2 of “Ernie and Bernie”

Ernie Grunfeld was the Bucks third first round pick in ’77.  He was from Tennessee, and was famously one-half of the Ernie and Bernie show.  I think he was also a member of the 1976 Olympic Gold Medal team.  He wasn’t that good as a rookie, but I think he improved with time.

Big White Flop… as a rookie

Same goes for number one pick Benson, but more so.  Benson was awful his rookie campaign.  By MWS48, he produced 0.1 wins in 5.4 game responsibilities.  That doesn’t cut it when you’re number one overall, and is probably why the otherwise average Benson is remembered as a flop.

Deep Playoff Run in the West

This ’77-’78 team actually came within one game of the Western Conference Finals, believe it or not.  They scared  the very powerful former ABA power, the Denver Nuggets, in the Western Semis, losing 4 games to 3.

I vaguely remember that the team brought renewed excitement to the Milwaukee Bucks franchise and established the platform for the very successful decade that was coming up.


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