Scott Allen Skiles pretty consistently succeeded as a head coach in the NBA, something you wouldn't necessarily believe given he was sent out of town from his only two head coaching gigs within four years. But the numbers speak for themselves: in Phoenix, he was over .600 two of three years, and the Bulls added 28 wins in his second season coaching.
This is really worth being optimistic about. Truly.
As long as we understand that it's still, in the end, almost all about the players on the floor. Thankfully, that's where John Hammond should come in handy, because we all know by now that Skiles could channel the coaching knowledge of Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach, and John Wooden and still miss 45 wins with current player personnel.
This leads us into a discussion about Skiles and the small forwards he's coached.
In his first year with the Suns, Tom Gugliotta played the three, and while Gugs' best years were in the mid 90's, he still put up pretty respectable numbers in the 1999-2000 campaign: 13.7 points and 9.7 rebounds on 48.1 % from the field. Gugliotta lost his starting spot by the next season however, after a second-year player grew up almost as fast as Britney Spears at the start of the new millennium. The name of the basketball up-and-comer? Shawn Marion. He wasted little time asserting himself as one of the league's up-and-coming two-way players, leading the Suns in scoring (17.3), rebounding (10.7), and blocks (1.37). A year later, Marion added a three point shot to his arsenal, but the switch from Jason Kidd to Stephon Marbury at point guard predictably didn't translate into wins and Skiles' last season in the desert was cut short.
His next stop was Chicago, where his task was to resurrect a recently-proud franchise that hadn't finished closer than 20 games behind a division leader since MJ hung up his Bulls' jersey (for the last time) half a decade earlier. Among many, many other problems, there was no one of Marion or even Gugliotta's calibar to play the three. Scottie Pippen's return to Chi-town fell flat, with Ronald Dupree, Linton Johnson, and Jerome Williams starting at small forward that season serving as exhibits A, B, and C. Skiles' leading scorers were two of this year's top Knick scorers (Jamal Crawford and Eddy Curry), an economical way of summing up the impending doom that was his first year with the Bulls.
Skiles went 19-47 in his one season with a collection of awful small forwards.
Not to fear, because like in Phoenix, his second year with Chicago was a mammoth regular season success. One of the key ingredients? A smooth, young small forward draftee by the name of Luol Deng. And for the first time he also had Andres Nocioni at his disposal. The progression of Deng and addition of Nocioni helped the Bulls lose 12 fewer games in Year Two of Skiles -- and that came in 16 more games played.
Over the next two years Skiles won 100 more games, and while he failed to reach the Conference Finals, he did successfully transform the Bulls from league laughingstock to a feared franchise. In that time, Deng became the team's best player.
A quick review, with team winning percentage under Skiles along with a sampling of his small forwards:
Year 1: .645 (Gugliotta/Marion)
Year 2: .623 (Marion/Gugliotta)
Year 3: .490 (Marion/Gugliotta)
Year 4: .288 (Dupree/Johnson)
Year 5: .573 (Deng/Nocioni)
Year 6: .500 (Deng/Nocioni)
Year 7: .598 (Deng/Nocioni)
Year 8: .360 (Deng/Nocioni)
Now, Desmond Mason probably had the most satisfying season of any Buck other than Andrew Bogut or Ramon Sessions. He shot a career-high 48.2 % from the field, showed as much consistent effort as anyone on the team, and along the way sprinkled in some dunks and straight-up ridiculous games.
But when your points per game dips under 10 around the time you go over 30 years, that's a good indication your double-digit scoring days are numbered. Mason is a nice player, and he's a good veteran to have around. But if he's still starting a couple years from now, we probably shouldn't count on Year Two of Skiles to result in many more wins. Not with such little production at small forward. We agree with The Bratwurst on this one, we need one to play the three .
So, what to do?
The draft will present intriguing options, but leave it to Draft Express to scare us away from most of the best:
Let's start with Donte Greene. A natural scorer, this 6'10" forward has a beautiful shooting touch, but...
Greene has become more and more of a spot-up shooter as the year progresses, attempting over 50% of his shots from behind the arc on the season, but seeing his accuracy drop to a miserable 28.7% in 17 Big East conference games thus far (32.9% total). At his size, Greene can get his shot off virtually whenever he pleases, which is precisely part of the problem, since he’s shown very little self-restraint. His 7.3 3-point attempts per game ranks him 3rd amongst all players on our 08 or 09 mock drafts.
Ah yes, more chuckers... no. Keep Mo and Redd around, put CV at the four and we probably wouldn't expect Bogut to report to training camp.
Moving on, we have Anthony Randolph, an explosive 6'11" forward who can run the court and block shots, but...
The problem here is that Randolph doesn’t seem to put up much resistance, giving up too much space in the post, not showing a great deal of fire fighting back against stronger players, and displaying a laid-back demeanor that is somewhat concerning at times.
A natural fit in Milwaukee perhaps, but not in a good way. There is also a part in there about driving to the basket out of control. Like Greene, he's just a freshman so there is a lot of room for improvement, but most signs here say "stay away, far away."
In terms of the draft, that leaves Danilo Gallinari. With Gallinari, the Bucks would have an all-international front court, but more importantly they could get what Bobby Simmons only gave a glimpse of: legitimate number two scoring ability and the offensive game to spread defenses to create driving lines. He also has good size, at 6'9", 209, and is not a European project; by most indications he's ready to play.
Then again, some have questioned whether he can guard small forwards or rebound...
Okay, Frank's right, let's just swing a deal for Josh Howard already.