On the Pistons:
Losers of four straight, the Bucks will once again be without Andrew Bogut and Carlos Delfino as they look to avoid a post-Thanksgiving hangover in Detroit.
Bogut Update. Bogut's back was injured during the OKC game on Saturday and he missed the loss in Cleveland on Wednesday (officially because of back spasms),
but no word yet on his status tonight and Jim Paschke tweets that he's not expected to play tonight either. While Jon Brockman started in Bogut's place vs. the Cavs, Larry Sanders had the better night in what was his most productive outing as a pro. Nothing to get too excited about (yet), but it's encouraging to see him making a legitimate case for more playing time and he should see regular minutes again tonight.
Piston Purgatory. It's been about three years since I had any idea what Joe Dumars was doing with the Pistons, and they don't seem to be any less confused in Detroit. Wednesday's blowout loss in Memphis has Vince Ellis at the Free Press wondering if changes could be in store for this game, namely at the power forward and shooting guard positions. Jason Maxiell and Austin Daye have each started at PF since the loss of Jonas Jerebko in the preseason, but Charlie Villanueva may get a shot at the starting spot against his old mates and Ben Gordon could take Rip Hamilton's starting SG spot. Both CV and Gordon are scoring with career-best efficiency, but neither plays more than 27 mpg, averages more than 14.1 ppg, or does anything else to contribute (Villanueva's even posted a Bargnani-esque 10.9 rebound rate so far). Not exactly what Dumars had in mind when he blew his cap wad on them two summers ago.
Guys like Daye and lottery pick Greg Monroe offer at least some hope for the future, though its coming along slowly. Monroe averages 17 mpg but is shooting just 35% and hasn't cracked double-digits all season, while Daye is a serious mismatch type at the 4 (15/29 threes)...but I can't picture him defending any "real" PF in the post. Anyway, I haven't seen the Pistons yet this season so I'm curious to see how Daye stacks up against the Bucks' frontline.
Offense/Defense. The Bucks keep losing, but we can at least take some solace in the fact that their underlying stats remain pretty damn respectable (I'm trying to stay positive here, people). Even at 5-9, the Bucks have still actually outscored their opponents for the season (barely) and continue to sport the best defense efficiency and best defensive rebound rate in the league. Good times!
But the whole scoring points thing remains a problem...as in, no one is worse at doing it than our beloved Bucks. They're dead last in offensive efficiency, a full 6.1 points/100 possessions worse than a year ago (they're also 4.4 pts/100 better defensively). The root of the problem? Shooting and turnovers. The Bucks were actually among the best in the league at taking care of the ball a year ago, but thus far they're 22nd in turnover rate and by far the worst shooting team in the league--their 44.3% eFG is over 2% worse than the 29th ranked Timberwolves and nearly 4% off their pace from a year ago. And it's not any one type of shot that's troubling the Bucks either. Their eFG% is bottom six from every shot location, so it's not like they're just taking the wrong types of shots. Yowza. All that has more than offset major strides on both the offensive boards (10th vs. 18th last year) and in getting to the foul line (16th vs. 30th last year).
So at the end of the day the Bucks' outlook on a macro level comes down to how much they can improve on offense (I mean, it's almost impossible for them to stay this bad) without losing much on defense (they're not going to stay nearly 2 pts/100 better than the Magic all year).
Delfino still out. In case you missed it, on Wednesday the Bucks actually acknowledged that Carlos Delfino's "strained neck" was also a concussion--you know, as Delfino explained on his blog a couple weeks ago. The good news is that he's 90% free of his concussion symptoms, but he's still at least a couple weeks from returning. I think it's time to stick a fork in the whole "Luc Mbah a Moute can play extended minutes at SF" thing and start Corey Maggette at the 3, but unfortunately Scott Skiles' options are fairly limited at the moment with Chris Douglas-Roberts still on the mend from his eye injury and John Salmons still struggling to justify his paycheck.
More Maggette, please. Maggette's scoring efficiency is way down from his usually lofty standards (53.8% TS vs. 61.5% last year), but it's still way better than anyone else in the Bucks' Delfino-less starting lineup. Which is why I'm stil trying to figure out how Maggette has played 15 or fewer minutes in three of the last five games. At this point I'd start him ahead of Mbah a Moute at SF, but thus far Skiles has been resolute in keeping Maggette in his now-familiar role of sixth man. What do they say about desperate times?
It's pretty unusual for a starting caliber player to have a sub-50% true shooting figure, yet if Bogut returns the Bucks will have all five starters shooting sub-49%. We expect that kind of thing from Brandon Jennings (47% last year), but the entire starting five? Goddamn. Not surprisingly, the Bucks are the only team with an aggregate TS% below 50% (49.2%), and if they keep it up they'd be the first team since 2005 to manage that dubious feat. I can't emphasize it enough: these guys have been utterly horrendous.