- Unlike his previous coaching gigs in Phoenix and Chicago, Scott Skiles is getting a full summer of preparation before his first season in Milwaukee, and overall he came away pleased with his team's Vegas performance. "As a team we played very, very well here. I thought we were, if not the best team here, definitely one of the best. I was pleased with all the guys we brought, everyone worked hard, and that was outstanding." The Bucks won their final four games en route to a 4-1 record, tying Golden State and and Denver for the best record in Vegas. Following their opening loss to Memphis, the Bucks won by 12 or more points in each of their remaining games.
While wins and losses don't matter much in Vegas, the coaching staff certainly deserves some credit for the Bucks' results. Skiles and company did a nice job getting their motley crew of youngsters and veteran free agents to play unselfishly and work defensively, two traits that were rarely ascribed to the 07/08 Bucks. Ramon Sessions was the only Buck to consistently play at a high level, but the Bucks didn't miss a beat when he sat out the final two games, either. There's no telling whether any of this will carry over once camp starts in October, but it's a solid start for a staff that has its work cut out for them.
Statistically, it's difficult to argue that any lottery pick was as underwhelming in Vegas as Joe Alexander, who in 28 mpg averaged 9.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.2 to and 1.2 bpg on .349/.250/.818 shooting. Fortunately, actually watching him play was a bit more encouraging, but in general let's not act as though Joe's Vegas adventure raised anyone's expectations.
Alexander had no problem elevating to get good looks over defenders, operating mostly in the PnR (against PFs) and posting smaller players (against SFs), but he struggled to find his shooting rhythm and generally wasn't looking to jack up shots at every opportunity. If his relatively poor fg% in college is any indication, it's unlikely he'll provide an efficient scoring option as a jumpshooter next season, so the Bucks will need to find ways to utilize his athleticism in transition, on lobs, etc.
Still, let's not get too down on him. For all his struggles shooting the ball, Alexander was also very unselfish in Vegas and showed excellent court vision for a combo forward. His ballhandling wasn't impressive, but his awareness helped him avoid turnovers and create opportunities for others even when his shot wasn't falling. In other words, he should be able to earn rotation time even if he's got a ways to go before he's a polished scorer. And his layup line dunk spectacle should provide some entertainment, too.
Defensively, he struggled to rebound when matched against bigger forwards but used his athleticism to block shots and generally provide solid defense. At 6'8" he's not going to bang on the blocks with PFs, but he's not a pushover either. By the end of the week he was frequently fronting his man to prevent catches in the first place, but I'm guessing his long-term position is at the 3 unless he figures out how to take advantage of mismatches on the offensive end.
- Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was pretty much exactly what we thought he'd be and overall put up better numbers than his more highly-touted teammate. Mbah a Moute showed a knack for being at the right place at the right time on both ends and finished the week with averages of 9.0 ppg and 6.6 rpg in 25.4 mpg on .444/.765 shooting. He scored in double figures each of the last three games, including a 13/10 night on Saturday. He put it on the floor with mixed success but his outside shot was fairly non-existent, so don't expect him to be much more than an athletic garbageman early on.
Defensively he seemed comfortable guarding multiple positions and got to more than his fair share of loose balls. He's a good candidate to spend time in the D-League, but the Bucks' lack of depth at the forward positions means Luc could also find his way into the rotation at some point. Who knows, if Alexander's shot continues to elude him we might even see more of Luc than Joe.
Skiles seemed fairly content with his rookies when I caught up with him on Sunday after the final game. "They both did a nice job. I thought they both fit in well with our team defensive concepts that we're trying to teach them. Having said that they're both rookies and they need to continue to work hard."
Skiles also told me he wasn't looking for Alexander to add bulk in order to play more at the power forward. "I'm not worried about that. I think that's a mistake with some guys. He'll do a regular lifting program but I'm not going to make that a priority."
- Sessions picked up where he left off last April, looking every bit the "pure point" that he appeared to be last season. In three games he talled 15.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg and a Vegas-leading 7.3 apg in 28 mpg while expertly controlling the game's tempo. He also managed to avoid getting lit up by opposing guards.
Is he good enough to be a starter? That's really the $51 million dollar question right now, as the Bucks' level of confidence in Sessions will play a major role in how willing they are to move Mo Williams. I'd guess they would move Mo in a heartbeat if they felt they were getting a talented, reasonably-priced player in return (preferably a PF), but it's unclear if there's much of a market for Mo's services at the moment.
- With Michael Redd and the rest of Team USA in Vegas for pre-Olympic practice, John Hammond was planning to stick around and meet up with his star shooting guard for dinner sometime this week. However, with Yi Jianlian now gone, the Bucks have decided to cancel their plans to watch Redd, Yi, and Andrew Bogut compete in Beijing. The trip would have been largely a gesture of support and respect for Yi as he competed in his home country, but Redd and Bogut assured the Bucks they didn't need any parental supervision.
Vegas Notes: Bucks finish strong, rookies reviewed, Sessions impresses
By Frank Madden