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Open scrimmage tonight, Tobias Harris vs. Mike Dunleavy, Bucks look to get defensive

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Thursday's open scrimmage offers a first look at the Bucks' new faces, as well as what they hope will be a revamped defense

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Mary Langenfeld-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

JS | Free open scrimmage tonight at BMO Harris Bradley Center
Charles Gardner has a brief recap from today's shorter practice in anticipation of tonight's scrimmage at the BC. The action starts at 6:30.

Paschketball | Skiles confident Bucks can manage without Luc Mbah a Moute
We don't know when Luc Mbah a Moute will be ready to return to the lineup, but we do know that Scott Skiles is totally freaking out about it. OK, maybe not.

It's obvious from Jim Paschke's latest report that Skiles still likes bringing Mike Dunleavy off the bench, though he's also not looking for an excuse to rush Tobias Harris into the starting five.

"Tobias, you know, will get his opportunities and we're really high on him. But at the same point things come in time, they take time.

"I know it's a popular, sort of fan thing to say, 'just put a guy out there and live with whatever he does' me those would be pretty poor parents. Very poor parents, that's just my personal opinion. You don't just do that. Guys come in the time that they come in. And you put them out there and you give them opportunities, and then you look at tape and that's how guys learn. But that position right there, you know, Tobias right there is a guy that we're looking at strongly."

So yes, Scott Skiles isn't oblivious to Buck Nation's clamoring for more Tobias Harris. But no, he's not going to start Tobias just to please us. And while you can count me among the many hoping Harris sees regular rotation minutes this year, I also don't disagree with Skiles' call for patience. In fact, his comments about bringing Dunleavy off the bench seem to capture the exact reasons why I'd like to see Tobias used in the same capacity:

"The thing with a guy coming off your bench is that you can pick spots to put him in and when you're starting then you're starting against whoever that guy is [on the other team]. So sometimes it's easier to manage a guy's minutes when he comes off the bench."

Last season Skiles opted to start Harris ahead of Dunleavy when the Bucks were shorthanded in March, so there's historical precedence for Skiles going with Harris. Unfortunately, there's also historical precedence for Harris not playing well as a starter.

Fox Sports Wisconsin | Harris ready for bigger role
Did someone say Tobias Harris? Ryan Kartje has more on everyone's favorite sophomore.

"He's got definite areas that he's trying to work. He is a three-man, and three-men are generally very good with the ball. He's trying to work on that. We know he can post people up, and he's got a good face-up shot. But being able to put the ball down on the perimeter, go by somebody, and then make a decision and kick it to somebody else, he's working on it."

For me it comes down to this: while I'm not sayingTobias needs to be babied, I'm also a bit hesitant to throw him to the wolves, particularly on the defensive end. He struggled to make any impact as a starter in March of last season, so let's hope Skiles gives him opportunities to play every night, but let's not rush him into anything he's not ready for either. He'll get there--whether he starts immediately or not.

Defense first
FS Wisconsin and the JS both ran stories this week on the Bucks looking to improve their defense, with Andrew Bogut's departure a major talking point. One thing that's worth noting as we talk about the Bucks' defensive issues last year and their hopes for improvement this year: the numbers suggest that the Bucks' problems were rooted much more in rebounding and perimeter defense than "defending the rim" via shot-blocking.

The Bucks blocked more shots (5.1 vs. 4.9 bpg) last year than in Bogut's defensive player-of-the-year-caliber season, and they also allowed a slightly lower fg% at the rim last season than the prior year (60.1%, 7th vs. 60.7%, 2nd). The big difference is that the Bucks allowed significantly more attempts at the basket last season (26.2 vs. 23.0). Three drivers immediately come to mind: allowing more offensive rebounds (which definitely happened), not defending the perimeter/allowing more penetration (tougher to test empirically, but seemed to happen), and playing at a faster pace (which happened, but not to the extent of a >10% increase in attempts at the basket).

Rebounding is the most obvious culprit here, and among the four factors it's most obvious area in which Milwaukee took a major step back (from 8th to 25th). Look no further than the loss of Bogut, who for all his shot-blocking and charge-taking is also a top-flight defensive rebounder. That's why Sam Dalembert's arrival is important. Yes, he's long been a very good shot-blocker, but he's also equally adept on the boards, ranking 10th out of 53 centers in defensive rebound rate last year and finishing one spot behind Bogut (4th/5th out of 60) in 10/11.

It's not just up to Dalembert of course, but playing Mbah a Moute more at small forward (where he's a plus rebounder) and giving more minutes to Harris at the same spot also helps. Also worth noting: while most people tend to focus on Ersan Ilyasova's offensive rebounding prowess, last year was actually the first time he rated higher on the offensive boards (11th among PFs) vs. defensive boards (14th).


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