As exciting as the Jerryd Bayless/Tyler Ennis experience has been, it's time for the main event. Or at least a sneak peek.
Michael Carter-Williams, the centerpiece of the three-team trade that sent Brandon Knight to Phoenix, is expected to make his debut as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks tonight against his former team, the Philadelphia 76ers. He could be on a minutes restriction and isn't certain if he'll start [UPDATE: Bucks PR has confirmed that he'll start].
Jerryd Bayless has started the three games since Knight was sent out West, and he's done a decent enough job, averaging about 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. But the Bucks' offense as a whole has really struggled, with a cumulative offensive rating below 90.0 over the last three games. Monday's loss in Chicago was the franchise's worst offensive performance since an 87-74 defeat in Boston back in April of 2012.
Granted, two of those three games came against good defenses in Atlanta and Chicago (though these aren't your slightly-older-sibling's Bulls), but Milwaukee has clearly hit a snag trying to adjust to the loss of Knight's shot-making and shot-creating abilities. The hope is that MCW, a more creative player than either Bayless or Ennis, can spark something for the team on offense, even if that's just a few more transition opportunities and shots at the rim. But Carter-Williams' arrival brings with it another set of challenges, since unlike Knight and Bayless he's no threat behind the three-point line.
While everyone else is debating the merits of Sam Hinkie's rebuilding strategy, the Sixers themselves keep playing...and keep losing. Philly's dropped four in a row including three since the all-star break ended last Friday, putting them second in the lotto standings behind the 10-45 Knicks. With Carter-Williams gone, the recently acquired Isaiah Canaan has taken over as the team's starting point guard the past two games, putting up 12.5 points, 3.0 assists and 3.0 turnovers in 29.5 minutes. Nothing special, though in very un-MCW fashion he has hit 7/16 threes in that span and is a 39% shooter from deep on the season.
On the plus side, Nerlens Noel is beginning to show more regular flashes of the special talent the Sixers were hoping for when they acquired him on draft night in 2013. He's scored in double-digits in five straight games, averaging 12.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.6 blocks, 2.4 assists, 2.0 steals and less than one turnover over his last five games, including a 9-block effort against the Pacers on Friday.
Carter-Williams is the big name coming off the Bucks' injury report, leaving only Jabari Parker and Damien Inglis on the Bucks' injury report. Note: I was about to include Kendall Marshall as well, but then I remembered he's technically no longer a Buck (sad!).
UPDATE: Jason Kidd told the media this afternoon that O.J. Mayo was getting the night off to rest. Interesting?
Philly is without third overall pick Joel Embiid (foot) and Tony Wroten (torn ACL), and could also be without second round jumping jack Jerami Grant (back). Having played in his first game in nearly two years over the weekend, Jason Richardson is listed as probable with knee soreness.
Philly's offense has been nothing short of abysmal all season, ranking 29th in eFG%, dead last in turnovers and overall offensive efficiency. Defensively they're much more respectable (14th), though it's almost entirely driven by their ability to force turnovers (2nd). Interestingly, Philly ranks in the league's bottom third in eFG%, defensive rebound rate and free throw rate allowed.
|2014/2015 NBA Season|
|February 25, 2015|
|BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI|
|FS Wisconsin HD | 620 WTMJ|
|Michael Carter-Williams||PG||Isaiah Canaan|
|Khris Middleton||SG||Robert Covington|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||SF||Luc Richard Mbah a Moute|
|Ersan Ilyasova (or Jared Dudley)||PF||Henry Sims|
|John Henson||C||Nerlens Noel|
|2014/15 Advanced Stats|
|93.8 (16th)||Pace||95.7 (6th)|
|103.6 (22nd)||ORtg||94.2 (30th)|
|101.9 (2nd)||DRtg||105.2 (14th)|