|13/14 NBA Preseason|
|October 8, 2013|
|Quicken Loans Arena | Cleveland, OH|
|FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|Brandon Knight||PG||Kyrie Irving|
|O.J. Mayo||SG||Dion Waiters|
|Caron Butler||SF||Alonzo Gee|
|Larry Sanders||C||Anderson Varejao|
|2012/13 Advanced Stats|
|94.7 (3rd)||Pace||92.3 (13th)|
|103.6 (22nd)||ORtg||104.3 (19th)|
|105.2 (12th)||DRtg||109.4 (27th)|
Let the games begin. Saturday's open scrimmage had its share of encouraging moments--Giannis Antetokounmpo looked like an NBA player, Larry Sanders can still dunk and block shots--but it also reminded us of the challenges of bringing together a brand new roster under a brand new coaching staff in less than a week. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Larry Drew isn't exactly expecting a well-oiled machine for Tuesday's preseason opener in Cleveland.
As expected, rust was rather evident during Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage, particularly on the offensive end . While both teams pushed the tempo and kept the ball moving (positives!), no one seemed capable of making a jumper and too many possessions ended with sloppy passes and/or poor spacing. And with good reason: the Bucks' offensive playbook has thus far taken a backseat to learning Drew's new defensive schemes, hints of which we saw clear signs of on Saturday. Via Charles Gardner:
"There's more showing for the big (man); you have to be a little more active on the perimeter," Sanders said.
"Being able to show on the screen and get back and affect the play is huge. We have a number of guys who can do that. It's just showing and rushing back to the paint, hands high, deflecting balls."
Earlier in the week Drew set a goal of 43% for defensive field goal percentage, a number that if achieved would put the Bucks among the elite defenses in the league.
"I have a color system and I have a number system and they have to learn that," Drew said. "I know it can be confusing at times.
"It calls for all five guys to be on a string when we call for a certain defense. Offensively, guys seem to know when it's their shot. We haven't put a whole lot of offensive stuff in. I've really been trying to focus on the defensive stuff and then we'll start slowly adding some offensive things."
Starting. Drew's presumed starting five coming into camp consisted of Knight, Mayo, Butler, Ilyasova and Sanders, and that's been the group getting reps together during scrimmages over the past week. On the injury front, Carlos Delfino (foot) and Zaza Pachulia (Achilles) are out, while Ekpe Udoh (knee) and Khris Middleton (ankle) practiced on Monday but continue to nurse injuries that limited them over the past week. Update: via Ted Davis, Udoh did not travel with the team.
Don't expect Drew to take any chances with his banged-up players, but this is also the preseason, so you can expect plenty of guys getting extended looks as Drew tries to figure out exactly how to round out his rotation. Via Gardner:
"It's preseason. Everybody is probably going to play at some point in the preseason," Drew said. "Everybody might not play tomorrow. But at some point they'll be in a position where they'll get some minutes."
Hopefully that means we'll see less of Caron Butler (though getting older, he doesn't need 30 mpg in the preseason to prove what he can do) and more of Antetokounmpo and Middleton (if healthy) battling for backup small forward minutes.
Numbers game. Drew's latest numerical goal for the Bucks is 46%, as in 46% shooting from the field for the season. Via Andrew Gruman:
"I think we have good enough shooters," Drew said. "I think offensively if we execute and get the shots that we want, if we play together, I think there's no reason why we can't get up to that number or close to it.
"I put that number up there to challenge the team. If we move the basketball, execute our offense and play very unselfishly, we'll get high percentage shots. I know that's a big number and where it ranked at last year, but I'm going to throw that out there to challenge this team."
Personally, I'm not a fan of raw FG% as an offensive benchmark, and if you read this site with any regularity you'll know why: it just isn't as closely correlated to scoring as you'd think. Sure, many of the best scoring teams also tend to have high marks in FG%, but there are also plenty of exceptions due to the increasing importance of three point shooting and the additional impact of free throws, turnovers and second chance points.
Consider that Drew's Hawks ranked 7th in shooting percentage (46.4%) last season but just 15th in points per possession (which is the ultimate gauge of effectiveness), while Boston ranked 6th in shooting but 20th in offensive efficiency. On the flip side, the three-point-happy Knicks were only 18th in FG% and third in scoring efficiency. Bottom line: I'd be happy if the Bucks were a top-ten team in terms of FG% (which is about where 46% would likely put them), but that doesn't guarantee that they'll be a top ten team in terms of actual offensive efficiency. And at the end of the day, offensive and defensive efficiency (read: points) are the only two numbers that really matter in terms of wins and losses.
Cavs update. Cleveland held a scrimmage of its own over the weekend, losing center Tyler Zeller to a hip injury that is expected to keep him out of Tuesday's game. And while we all know that the Cavs are quite justifiably being built around all-star point guard Kyrie Irving, Cleveland's talented frontcourt is just as intriguing.
Veteran Anderson Varejao is returning from a blood clot that cost him most of last season, first overall pick Anthony Bennett has been battling weight problems since returning from offseason shoulder surgery, Andrew Bynum (rehabbing his knees, as per usual) is just hoping to play NBA basketball again, and former fourth overall pick Tristan Thompson switched from being a lefty to a righty over the summer. As a group, they figure to end up somewhere between awesome and, well, hugely disappointing. That dash of uncertainty aside, sixth in the East seems like a reasonable ceiling provided Kyrie stays healthy and both Varejao and Bynum can given them 50+ games.