Most fans of the Milwaukee Bucks know the bench players have been an important part of the team's limited success in 2011-12 season, and now a few of those players are gaining some broader recognition for their efforts. James Harden has been so good this season that Mike Dunleavy's stellar campaign is almost certainly going to be obscured in the NBA's Sixth Man Award voting, but what if someone in the national media took a deeper look and focused on the hidden impact capture by efficiency stats and adjusted +/-?
As it turns out, the terrific John Schuhmann of NBA.com named his Jason Collins All-Stars and two Bucks players make the list. Ekpe Udoh and Beno Udrih continue to make such a positive impression in limited playing time that Schuhmann felt compelled to add both to his five-man list. So, 40% of an All-Star roster is composed of Bucks players. I'll give you time to compose yourself. Meet me on the other side of the jump for more...
The complete five-man lineup that Schuhmann named includes Udrih, Celtics guard Avery Bradley, Spurs forward Matt Bonner, Bulls forward Taj Gibson and Udoh. Here is what he had to say about the Milwaukee duo:
Beno Udrih, G, Milwaukee
6.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 4.0 apg, plus-184, +8.9 NetRtg
Udrih is one of 19 players averaging at least 10 assists per 48 minutes, but ranks 33rd in assists per game. He's averaging less than 20 minutes per contest, but the Bucks have been much better both offensively (106.7 points scored per 100 possessions) and defensively (97.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) with Udrih in the game than with him on the bench (100.8, 105.0).
A couple of guys who like playing with Udrih are Mike Dunleavy and Brandon Jennings, who have both shot 50 percent with Udrih on the floor. Dunleavy has shot just 44 percent and Jennings has shot just 40 percent with Udrih on the bench. Most amazing is that Jennings has shot 52 percent (29-for-56) on above-the-break 3-pointers while playing with Udrih and just 29 percent with Udrih on the sidelines.
Another Milwaukee reserve, Larry Sanders, has a pretty incredible on-off court differential, but in 400 fewer minutes than Udrih has played.
The embedded link to Udrih's effect on Jennings' shooting accuracy and the noted trend with Dunleavy are both interesting facts to consider regarding Udrih's value to the team. He isn't always flashy and is never overtly dominant, but he consistently draws defenders away from shooters on the floor and always delivers the ball on-time and puts it directly in the shooting pocket of the recipient. It's a joy to watch timely and accurate passes from a professional point guard, so if you haven't taken the time to do so yet, try it out during the next Bucks game.
Notice that last bit about Larry Sanders? Schuhmann is offering the subtle warning that it's too early to really tell (Sanders has a small sample size to draw from this season and he posted a -10.3 points per 100 possessions in 2010-11, according to 82games.com). It would be great to see him on the floor more often down the stretch, but Drew Gooden and the Sixers have kind of foreclosed any real opportunity at a 30-minute-per-night plan down the stretch.
I've written about Udoh's hidden value and I've had a long conversation with Evan Zamir on the topic as well, so none of this should come as a surprise, but the Bucks are much better with him on the floor -- and especially on defense. Here's what Schuhmann sees:
Ekpe Udoh, F-C, Golden State/Milwaukee
5.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.9 apg, plus-200, +9.0 NetRtg
Udoh ranks ninth with 1.76 blocks per game, but otherwise, his numbers are rather insubstantial. Yet, few players in the league have made the scoreboard impact that Udoh has this season.
Before Udoh was traded to Milwaukee, the Warriors were an incredible 17.5 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor (+10.5 NetRtg) than they were with him on the bench (-7.1 NetRtg). That's the highest on-off-court differential of any player that has played at least 500 minutes with a particular team.
In his month in Milwaukee, the Bucks have been better defensively with Udoh on the floor, but much better offensively with him on the bench.