What's Working, What's Not - 1/15/2012

This week's theme? Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In the time since our first examination of Milwaukee's strengths and weaknesses, the Bucks have developed a distinct split personality: one that manifests in the comfort of the Bradley Center, and one that manifests everywhere else. Also covered this time around are the Bucks' scoring point guards and crummy field-goal defense.

What's Working?

Points Scoring Points
Scoring point guards traditionally get a bad rap because their offense comes at the expense of the rest of team. I'm not sure how true this bit of conventional wisdom actually holds up, but these days I think the Milwaukee Bucks will take offensive production anywhere they can get it. Right now, that's the point guard position, where Brandon Jennings and Shaun Livingston have offered reasonably consistent and efficient scoring, even as the Bucks flounder on the road. According to 82games.com, the point guard position is Milwaukee's best, boasting a +3 differential in player/counterpart PER. Opposing point guards are scoring and assisting around the league-average level, but they're also turning the ball over a lot. Jennings and Livingston, meanwhile, have strung together a few consecutive games of solid offensive output. Jennings has posted above-average true shooting numbers in three straight games, while Livingston has done an excellent job either picking his own spots (typically those sweet mid-range shots he seems to love) or dishing to others. According to HoopData, Shaun has excellent points created per possession used numbers in 3 of his last 4 games, the only exception being his 14 minute appearance against San Antonio when the Captain was blowing up.

Home Splits
Not so much a "what's working" in itself, but this seems as good a time as any to point out some of Milwaukee's home/road splits. The Bucks shoot 48.5% at home, under 40% on the road. They block almost twice as many shots at home. They average almost 7 more assists per game at home versus on the road. Many of the splits we see are likely due to how games unfold at home (you can turn Larry Sanders loose to wildly swing his arms when you're up by a bunch in the 4th), or the fact that they've played only four games in the Bradley Center. They'll likely stabilize as the season progresses. Or they'll continue to split toward the extremes and the Bucks will go down in history as--by definition--the most .500 team ever.

What's Not?

Defending Hail Mary passes
Er, wait. Wrong team.

Pick-and-roll defense
Surprisingly, the Bucks rank in the top-10 defending a number of play categories according to Synergy Sports, including spot-up, off-screen, and isolation plays. But they're getting killed in pick-and-roll, ranking 25th defending both the roll man and ball handler. If there's anything that can be attributed to the absence of Andrew Bogut, this is probably it. Drew Gooden and Larry Sanders are prone to mistakes, and Jon Leuer's excellent understanding of offensive spacing doesn't always carry over to the defensive side. We discussed this a bit in the gamethread from the Mavs game (if you dare relive it), but Jennings has also been a bit suspect in his defense this year, despite historically grading out as an above-average defender. Bogut doesn't just help the Bucks with his own physical ability, he's a vocal leader of the defense in the same vein as Kevin Garnett. Without him, the Bucks are prone to confusion and mistakes under their own basket.

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