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Archive for October, 2010

Today I’m proud to offer a guest contribution from Jack Moore. Jack is well-known in the baseball blogosphere, being a frequent to contributor to FanGraphs.com and creator/author of the Milwaukee Brewers blog Disciple of Uecker, part of the ESPN SweetSpot Network. He also happen to live two blocks away from me. Check out his work on those sites and follow him on Twitter @jh_moore.

The defining aspect of the Wisconsin Badgers under head coach Bo Ryan is undeniably their swing offense.  The offense, based around constant ball movement, low post play, and taking high-efficiency shots (layups, open shots, and, if necessary, 3-pointers) has consistently led the Badgers to be one of the most efficient offenses in college basketball.  Along with tough defense, this style of play has resulted in nine NCAA tournament appearances,  12 NCAA tournament victories, three regular season Big Ten championships, and two Big Ten tournament championships.

Because of their slow play, people don’t typically identify with the Badgers as a juggernaut offensive team.  However, the Badgers under Ryan have been in the top 15% of the 347 team NCAA in offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) every season since 2004 (since KenPom.com has data).  As far as the Big Ten conference goes, the Badgers have been in the top half of the conference every year since 2004 and in the top three every year except for 2006.

Season OffEff NCAA Avg NCAA Rank Big Ten Rank
2004 117.9 100.8 13 3
2005 114.0 101.0 30 3
2006 110.5 101.3 46 5
2007 116.5 101.8 25 3
2008 115.7 101.9 28 3
2009 112.6 101.1 36 3
2010 115.6 100.8 17 2

The Badgers will, of course, use the swing offense once again as they pursue a tenth straight NCAA berth in 2011.  This time, they’ll have to do it with a new primary point guard for the first time since 2008 thanks to the graduation of Trevon Hughes.  Hughes provided Badger fans with a bevy of memorable moments, including a buzzer shot to beat Florida State in the 2009 NCAAs and his 15 points in the final seven minutes against Northwestern in his senior campaign.  However, some have complained that Hughes takes too many shots and disrupts the Bo Ryan offense.

Sharif Chambliss, the first point guard actually recruited by Ryan (Devin Harris was coached by Bo Ryan for all four years but was recruited by Dick Bennett), was very much the distributor as one would expect out of a point guard.  His 23.9% assist rate (the percentage of teammate shots made which he assisted) ranked 9th in the Big Ten among 65 qualified players (at least 40% of team’s minutes played).  Chambliss was also relatively secure with the ball.  His 16.3% turnover rate (turnovers per possession) ranked 15th in the conference, better than point guards like Deron Williams and Chris Hill.

Chambliss didn’t provide much with the ball in his own hands.  He was a very good three-point shooter (39%) but couldn’t do anything inside the arc (29.2%) and only reached the free throw line 49 times the whole season.  Still, thanks to his strengths in assisting and shooting threes along with his relatively limited number of shots taken (20.5%, fourth among Badger starters), Chambliss managed a solidly above average offensive rating of 104.5.

When Chambliss departed after the 2005 season, the door opened for junior guard Kammron Taylor to take over the offensive reins in 2006 and 2007.  For every bit of pure point skills Chambliss showed in his year in Madison, Taylor showed the profile of a pure shooter.  Taylor only assisted on 14% of made baskets in 2006 and a mere 12.4% in 2007, ranking near the middle of the Big Ten pack in both seasons.  The 2006 team, as the table from above shows, was the worst offensive team of the Bo Ryan era for which we have data, and that’s likely due to the inability of the team to create shots for others.  Only 54.1% of the team’s shots were assisted, ranking 201st in the nation and a contributing factor to the team’s 196th ranked 48.7% effective field goal percentage.

That said, the team was still good offensively, ranking in the top sixth of the nation and the top half of the Big Ten conference, and that’s because the team took good care of the ball.   The Badgers only turned the ball over 17.3% of the time, or roughly one out of every six possessions, a mark which ranked 9th in the entire NCAA.  Taylor was no exception, and although his 20.1% turnover rate was higher than that of Chambliss, it also came with far more production inside the arc (37.2%) and over twice as many trips to the free throw line.  And, as one might expect from a player labeled as a shooter, Taylor was a rounding error away from shooting 40% from beyond the arc.

Taylor saw major improvement in the 2007 season, lowering his turnover rate to 15% and draining nearly 10% more two point shots.  His style of play was quite similar, as he still primarily shot the three pointer and didn’t facilitate much of the offense, at least in terms of assists.  Michael Flowers took on more of a facilitator/PG type role than Taylor that season, assisting on 19.2% of shots while only taking about one out of every seven shots for the team.  With Flowers to take some of the burden of running the offense, Taylor became a tremendous offensive force for the Badgers in his combo guard role. He compiled a stupendous 111 offensive rating and a true shooting percentage of a whopping 57.2%, thanks to his vastly improved inside game.

Flowers remained on the team going into the 2008 season, but Kammron Taylor was gone.  He would be replaced by yet another slasher type of guard in Trevon Hughes.  Hughes and Flowers split the point guard/shooting guard role in a very similar fashion to Flowers and Taylor in 2007.  Hughes wasn’t anywhere near as effective a scorer as Taylor was – mostly due to a woeful 31.4% from three and a mediocre 51.5% TS% – but he was an effective distributor, assisting on 17.3% of shots.

That distributing also came with less ball security, as Hughes put up a 19% turnover rate.  Between the turnovers and (mostly) the poor shooting, Hughes posted a poor ORtg of 101.  For comparison, 2008’s 10-22 Michigan squad put up a 103.3 offensive rating as a team, an unacceptable mark for a player of any import in the Badger offense.

The Badgers saw growth out of Hughes in his junior season of 2009.  His three-point shooting improved, but that was offset by less success inside the arc, as his TS% improved just 0.7% to 52.2%.  Most of the growth was in Hughes’s ability as a point guard.  Hughes posted a 20.3% assist rate, the highest since Chambliss in 2005, and he only turned the ball over 16.3%.  With Brian Butch and Michael Flowers both gone, Hughes used 24.1% of Badger possessions in 2009, fewer than only Jon Leuer, and Leuer’s numbers may be skewed by his limited minutes.

As a focal point of the offense, Hughes couldn’t afford to replicate 2008.  His 104.3 offensive rating still wasn’t great – as far as first or second options, it rated in the middle of the pack in the big ten.  The Badgers had far better third, fourth, and fifth options in guys like Marcus Landry (108.1 ORTG), Jason Bohannon (113.3) and Joe Krabbenoft (113.3), and that allowed them to maintain a top-3 offense in the conference despite an average PG in Hughes.

The advent of Jordan Taylor in 2010 allowed Hughes to move to more of a shooter role, similar to what he did with Flowers in 2008 and what Kammron Taylor did with Flowers in 2007.  Without the full responsibility at point guard, Hughes assisted on fewer baskets, but made more shots – a 1.5% increase in TS% – and posted the lowest turnover rate of any of the guards mentioned yet at 14.8%.  This is made even more impressive by the fact that Jon Leuer’s injury made him the only legitimate creator on the floor for the Badgers for much of the season.  Hughes was forced to use even more possessions in 2010, with a 28% mark that was topped only by Evan Turner, Manny Harris, and Taylor Battle. Those three present a perfect measuring stick for Hughes – his 106.3 ORTG compares quite favorably to Turner’s 108.5, Harris’s 107.0, and Battle’s 106.5.

One of the most interesting dynamics of the Badgers’ season was the on-court interaction between Hughes and sophomore guard Jordan Taylor.  Particularly when Jon Leuer was off the court, Ryan used both guards on the court and a relatively small lineup.  With both Hughes and Taylor on the court, the 6’8” Keaton Nankivil would be the biggest player and he didn’t provide much of an inside presence.  That led to Hughes as the first option much of the time, but the ball went through the hands of Taylor more and more often as the season went on.

Taylor was a poor shooter – 33% from three-point range, 44% from two, and 72% from the line – but he more than made up for it with his excellent point guard skills.  As measured by assists and turnovers, Taylor’s 2010 is by far the best point guard season the Badgers have seen since Devin Harris. Taylors 25.8% assist ration bests Chambliss’s 2005 mark and ranked 8th of 63 qualified players in the Big Ten.  More importantly and more impressive, though, was the way that Taylor limited turnovers, only turning the ball over on 11.8% of possessions.  Again, that is by far the best mark for a post-Harris point guard and again that mark ranks very highly amongst Big Ten players, this time 6th of 63.

The future is remarkably bright for Taylor, as a player with his ability to create shots for his teammates hasn’t been seen in Madison for many years.  However, with the departure of Hughes and Jason Bohannon, somebody is going to have to step up and make more shots, particularly three pointers.  That will be the next step in his development.   Although we can probably expect Rob Wilson to start taking more shots, and Jon Leuer will hopefully be around for the entire season this time around, there will probably still be shots left to go around.  If those shots are going to come from the hands of Jordan Taylor, he will need to improve his percentages from all locations of the floor.  Every single Bo Ryan point guard so far has managed to do that so far.  If Taylor can continue that tradition, he could become one of the best offensive players in the Big Ten next season.

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15/2/10

Not a date formatted Germany-style, but Brandon Jennings’ stat line from tonight’s opening game in New Orleans. After averaging just over 6 assists a game last year, Jennings made an obvious effort to get his teammates involved tonight. He still took 14 shots, but at least 2 of those misses that I counted were desperation shots at the end of broken plays. He was also 2/3 at the rim and 2/6 from three, rounding out a semi-respectable 47.6 TS%. Realistically, what can we glean about Jennings’ shot after one game? Not much.

What did impress me about Jennings’ game was how his court vision stood up throughout Milwaukee’s possessions. Brandon assisted on six Milwaukee 3-pointers, including at least one Carlos Delfino shot from the corner where Jennings hit him off a baseline cut from under the basket. Just a flat-out pretty play. He also managed to save a ball from going out under the hoop and got it in to Andrew Bogut under the basket for an easy two.

Milwaukee has an interesting conundrum on his hands thanks to his fantastic quickness. There were obvious times where he wanted to push the ball off long rebounds or turnovers, but this Bucks team isn’t exactly swimming in athletes to run a break with him. As a result, Jennings periodically found himself surrounded by opponents while the rest of his squad chugged down the floor to meet him. At least twice Jennings took advantage of the relative chaos as players found their defensive assignments and got to their positions. If I remember correctly, he hit Carlos Delfino driving the lane once, and did…something else good.

Point is, I was too engrossed in the first real Bucks game since last spring to take notes of key plays. More important point is: Brandon Jennings is improving. Rapidly. That bodes well for everyone.

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I haven’t posted anything here in a while (MIDTERMS!), and the recent news out of Milwaukee is relatively important, so I figured I’d point readers to the appropriate location for a limited analysis of the move that finalized Milwaukee’s roster. You can find it here, along with a couple other posts. Check out the poll and be sure to vote for your favorite Bucks player! We’re interested in hearing how people feel about this move and the team as it now stands, so join in the conversation by posting your comments!

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Check this out. Better yet, check it out on Brewhoop for a little more discussion.

 

Click to enlarge

 

 

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Basketball-Reference.com is a great database of just about every NBA statistic you could want. They also have a blog, which is in the middle of publishing team previews complete with projected statistics for each player. Here is the Milwaukee Bucks preview, with a few words of my own on their season outlook. Thanks to Neil Paine for the invitation to contribute.

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For fun, I decided to make my own predictions to the questions included in the Annual GM Survey. Aaaaaaand….here they are:

Season Predictions

  • Atlantic Division Champions: Boston Celtics
  • Central Division Champions: Chicago Bulls
  • Southeast Division Champions: Miami Heat
  • Pacific Division Champions: Lost Angeles Lakers
  • Southwest Division Champions: Houston Rockets
  • Northwest Division Champions: Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Western Conference Champions: Los Angeles Lakers
  • Eastern Conference Champions: Miami Heat
  • 2011 NBA Champions: Miami Heat

Player Predictions

  • Best Point Guard in the NBA right now? Chris Paul
  • Best Shooting Guard? Dwyane Wade
  • Best Small Forward? LeBron James
  • Best Power Forward? Pau Gasol
  • Best Center? Dwight Howard
  • Most Likely to Have Breakout Season? Darren Collison
  • Who forces opposing coaches to make the most adjustments? Dwight Howard
  • Which one player would you want to start a franchise with? LeBron James
  • 2011 NBA MVP? Dwyane Wade

Rookies/International Players

  • Best International Player NOT in the NBA? Ricky Bubio
  • International Player most likely to breakout? Rodrigue Beaubois
  • Best International Player in the NBA? Pau Gasol
  • Most Likely Rookie “sleeper?” Xavier Henry
  • Most Athletic Rookie? John Wall
  • Which Rookie will be the best player in 5 years? John Wall
  • Who will win Rookie of the Year? John Wall

Defense

  • Which player defends passing lanes the best? Rajon Rondo
  • Who is the best interior defender? Dwight Howard
  • Who is the best perimeter defender? Tough one, I’ll say Kobe Bryant
  • Who is the best on-the-ball defender? Ron Artest
  • Who is the best defensive player in the NBA? Dwight Howard
  • Which is the best defensive team in the NBA? Orlando Magic

Offseason Moves

  • What was the most surprising offseason move? Richard Jefferson’s opt-out and re-signing
  • What was the most underrated offseason move? Indiana acquiring Darren Collison
  • Which team will be most improved in 2010-11? Miami Heat
  • Which offseason move will make the biggest impact? James, Bosh to Miami
  • Which team made the best overall moves? Miami Heat

Coaches

  • SKIPPING THIS DUE TO BOREDOM

Miscellaneous

  • Which player do you want taking the game-winning shot? Kobe Bryant
  • Which player has the best basketball IQ? Tim Duncan
  • Which player is the best leader? Kobe Bryant
  • Who is the toughest player in the NBA? Kobe Bryant
  • Which player does the most with the least? Kevin Durant
  • Which player is the best finisher? Dwyane Wade
  • Which player is most dangerous in the open floor? LeBron James
  • Which player is the best passer? Steve Nash
  • Which player is the best offensive rebounder? Kevin Love
  • Which player is best at getting his own shot? Kobe Bryant
  • Which player is best at moving without the ball? Ray Allen
  • Which player is the best pure shooter? Anthony Morrow
  • Which player is the most athletic? LeBron James
  • Which team has the best home-court advantage? Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Which team is the most fun to watch? THE MILWAUKEE BUCKS!

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For those of you who follow my writing here with any regularity (I estimate between five and nine on any given day), you may have noticed a relative lack of focus on the Milwaukee Bucks has developed on Where 55 Happens. Considering the relative youth of this site, I fear the impression may be that I have lost interest or grown tired of the work. In fact, it is quite the opposite. As such, I feel compelled to offer an explanation.

When I started this blog, I had hopes for what would result. The simple prospect of counting myself among the ranks of amateur bloggers who consider their own thoughts on the sports world worthy of publication was enough, but I always hoped it would lead to a more “official” membership in the online sports-media community. I had no idea what to expect when, mere months ago, I thought up what seemed like a clever name, claimed a WordPress URL, and began chronicling my thoughts on the Bucks and NBA in general .

In those few months, I’ve been lucky enough to receive invitations from a number of generous members of the Milwaukee Bucks and NBA blogosphere. For reasons I can only guess at, Frank Madden and Alex Boeder at Brewhoop, Jeremy Schmidt of Bucksketball, and others found my writing original, entertaining, or informative enough to warrant an opportunity to contribute to their excellent sites. Should I somehow manage to turn this hobby into a career (I’m crossing my fingers to the point of physical pain), I will surely look back at those offers as the starting point that set me on my way to a dream job, something I would be forever grateful for.

As far as this concerns Where 55 Happens, I expect the content of this site to change as it becomes less of a personal bandbox and more a legitimate display of my abilities as a journalist, in the hopes of parlaying such abilities into a job that is compensated with a salary. Until that happens, most of my work on the Milwaukee Bucks will likely be found on Brewhoop, along with (hopefully) contributions to other NBA sites. As you can see, I have added a new page to this site titled “Just the Bucks.” Here you can find links to the sites I have contributed to, including my own author archives where applicable. It’s self-serving, certainly, and not what I would intend for a site inspired by an unabashed love of sports rather than a desire to self-promote, but if you’re here reading this you’ve seemingly looked past that already. I promise to work hard to maintain a product here worthy of garnering attention, and will try to include at least some regular coverage of the Milwaukee Bucks.

So thank you, reader. You may be few, but know that you are not unappreciated. For me and many other amateur writers out there, the simple knowledge that we’re being noticed is hugely exciting. And if you’re from ESPN, first of all, holy crap how did you get here, and second of all, my email can be found under the “Contact” tab.

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