On the Warriors:
No Carlos, No D-Lee. David Lee knocked out two of Wilson Chandler's grill in New York, but the deep laceration it left in his elbow marred a triumphant return against his former team. The injury kept Lee out of Thursday night's ugly 120-90 loss in Chicago and he's expected to miss a couple weeks due to an infection in the cut. Gross. Starting at his more natural PF position, Lee hasn't been able to replicate his Knicks' numbers in the Bay Area thus far, but it's certainly a big step down to the untested Brandon Wright. Once an option for the Bucks in the 2007 draft, the fourth year vet has only played in 84 games despite a fairly high level of productivity when he has played.
For the Bucks, Charles Gardner reports that Carlos Delfino will once again be absent due to his strained neck, leaving Luc Mbah a Moute to reprise his starting spot at the 3.
Curry returns to scene of Jennings' explosion. Brandon Jennings played pretty well the last time the Warriors visited Milwaukee, so that'll be the obvious talking point going into this one. Since then, Stephen Curry has justified his selection ahead of Jennings in the 2009 draft, nipping Jennings for #2 in the 09/10 ROY race and putting up 21 ppg and 6.7 apg during the W's nice 6-3 start to this season. Sure, playing in a wide open system means more scoring opportunities than Jennings might see with the Bucks' more defensive, grind-it-out-style, but Curry not only scores in high volume but with high efficiency as well. Curry is posting an excellent .584 true shooting percentage thus far, slightly higher than his .568 a year ago and well above the .475 Jennings posted a year ago.
However, Jennings has been much more respectable this year, hitting shots at a .422/.378/.765 clip, good for .527 in true shooting terms. As we've been harping on a lot of late, the improvement is due almost entirely to his vastly increased proficiency at the rim, where he's making close to 59% of his attempts after connecting on less than 43% a year ago. And while Jennings can't match Curry as a shooter, he's also been notably less turnover-prone as a pro: he's turned the ball over on 10.0% and 9.6% of possessions the past two years, while Curry's been at a surprisingly wasteful 12.5% and 13.1%. Hence Jennings has a much better pure point rating (5.9, 13th in the league vs. 2.2, 41st) despite similar assist totals.
Going streaking? While no one's expecting tonight's game to inspire any blog names, Jennings shouldn't be lacking motivation. Aside from his personal matchup, the Bucks have a golden (PUN INTENDED) opportunity to get back to .500 after their 2-5 start. The destruction of the Knicks and Hawks in midweek was a welcome sight--and surprising in that the Bucks finally managed to make shots for seemingly the first time all season (51% and 52% fg).
As Dan notes over at W55H, the Bucks' midweek wins has them on pace for 50 wins in expected terms, even though they remain below .500 in the standings. As a reminder, the Bucks' point differential was a perfect predictor of their 46 wins last season, so hopefully the actual winning percentage begins to catch up to the predicted one soon. But while the Bucks now have a positive scoring differential, the Warriors are one of only two teams above .500 that have been outscored on net.
Trading Places. Corey Maggette's raw numbers are down, but he's not that far off from the per-minute averages he posted a year ago for the Warriors. Maggette easily leads the Bucks with 26.1 pts/40 min, just a bit shy of Monta Ellis' 26.9 pts/40 for the W's and slightly below the 26.7 he posted last season. The big difference is that Ellis plays nearly 40 mpg while Scott Skiles has been playing Maggette just 22 mpg thus far. With Carlos Delfino out, he logged his second 30 minute night in Atlanta on Wednesday, responding with an ultra-efficient 20 points on 7/8 shooting from the field. The fact that Maggette was rehabbing his ankle through much of camp may also have something to do with his modest burn thus far, though it might not be a bad idea given that Maggette's rough-and-tumble style usually causes him to miss a decent chunk of games each season.
Surprisingly, the only negative thus far has been Maggette's finishing. After converting at 65-66% around the rim each of the past three years, Maggette has been connecting at just 52.6% this year on less than half as many attempts (just 2.1/game). While he started the season 6/6 through two games, he has made just 3/10 the past six games and hasn't taken more than two attempts at the rim in any of the past five. But while those numbers might suggest Maggette is being less aggressive, his free throw numbers suggest the exact opposite. The free throw machine is averaging a career-high 10.5 fta/36 minutes, which is a big reason why the Bucks have the 12th-best free throw rate in the league after finishing dead last a year ago. The Bucks' offense has still stunk (27th in offensive efficiency), but don't blame Maggette.
Maggette is also making up for his lack of easy buckets with good efficiency on his jumper, making 16/26 long twos in the last six games and hitting at 46% for the year, just above the 44% he posted last year. Both of those numbers are very respectable and a key part of keeping defenses honest, but it's not to say we want him settling for jumpers. As always, it's all about balance.
Meanwhile, Charlie Bell and Dan Gadzuric have predictably seen their minutes limited in the early going--not surprising given they were acquired purely as a cost-saving measure. It didn't really work out for either in Milwaukee--at least not for what the Bucks were paying them--but you could never question their effort and I'm hoping they get a warm reception tonight.