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

 

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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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My latest on Brewhoop.com: How Andrew Bogut is like a bouquet of flowers. Featuring some advanced stats, some egregious exaggerations (probably), and at least one Australia pun. Check it out.

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After I put together my original post in this series, focusing on the March 20th game in Denver, it was suggested that the previous night may have been an even better game – a 114-108 win over the Sacramento Kings in double-overtime. I’m hesitant to agree for two reasons: First, Denver was a much better team than Sacramento last year. Tyreke Evans was fantastic last season, but he was the Kings’ best player, while Denver has a top-15 player overall and a top-10 point guard. Second, like I mentioned, there were just so many superficial things working against Milwaukee in Denver.

Still, this one was pretty sweet. From the mouth of Jennings: “Right now, it’s not about me, it’s about my teammates.” Fine sentiment from a rookie PG, but let’s be honest: getting revenge on Evans probably felt really good. Back on December 19th, ‘Reke hit a game-winner against the Bucks that was still stinging in Bucks fans. This time, instead of finishing the game with a twisting layup to steal a road win, Evans was putting his teeth back in place.

Okay, I already feel bad for writing that. Truth is, Tyreke was fun enough to watch last season that if I could, I might go back in time to warn him of the Deadly Flying Turkish Elbow Assassin. Maybe. On that note, I would definitely…

  1. Place a bean-bag chair underneath Bogut as he crashes to the floor during the Phoenix game. Hell, I think there are a decent number of Atlanta fans who would do the same if they saw his fall.
  2. Do something to get Jennings one more rebound and assist in his debut, because, come on, a triple-double in his debut!? Totally worth obliterating the space-time continuum.
  3. Move Bogut 3 centimeters to his left on that ridiculous Kobe Bryant blocking call. It should have been a charge anyway, but I’ll just go ahead and make sure he’s in position down to the micron. I might also punch the ref who made the call in the face.

But back to the Sacramento game. Jennings was the undisputed star of this one, and maybe we should have seen it coming. After some serious struggles in February and early March, Jennings entered this game averaging 18/3.6/5.8 in his previous 5 games. His shooting was better, especially from range, having made 13 3s in those games. Couple that with a below-average defensive Kings team and the table was set for a big night from Mr. 55.

However, this contest played out very differently than did the Denver game. Holding a one-point lead at the half, the Bucks were seriously outplayed in the 3rd quarter, when they let Sacramento shoot 57%. The Kings went on runs of 7-2 and 11-1, the latter closing out the period after Jennings, Delfino, and Mbah a Moute were yanked.

The fourth quarter was just devastating for the Kings, though, while the Bucks executed their game beautifully. Of the Bucks’ 12 made shots in the quarter, 8 were assisted, including 4 of the 5 made 3s. Milwaukee combined this excellent ball movement with solid defensive rebounding, allowing Sacramento a 23.1 ORR in the 4th, well below their 27.8 season ORR; an impressive feat, considering Sacramento was the 6th best offensive rebounding team in the league last year. These two factors allowed the Bucks to fight back and tie the game on Ersan’s just-plain-jump-out-of-your-seat-awesome three-pointer.

The first overtime was really uneventful. Bogut did steal the ball from Beno Udrih once, which was funny.

I could take a closer look at the second overtime, but there just isn’t that much to say. Spencer Hawes was completely overpowered by Bogut and Udrih mustered the Kings only 4 points. In reality, this game should have been over in the first overtime but the Bucks’ shots weren’t falling.

So went the final result, a 6-point victory over a then-23-win team. Of course there were still problems, most notably in the free-throw department. Again. Evans earned 10 free throws himself, while the Bucks shot 23 and converted only 14 (Bogut went 1-6. Unfortunately, I think we need to accept that he’s just never going to be a very good foul shooter).

What do we take away from this one? Well, it always helps when November Jennings stuffs February Jennings in the luggage compartment of the plane on the way to the game and lights up the arena. It helps when 3 players have 20+ points and two have 10+ rebounds. As far as the more analytical factors go, Milwaukee managed to hold down Sacramento’s ORR, shoot well from 3-point range, and…score more points. Sometimes it’s just as easy as having your hot-shot rookie go nuts.

Note: I usually have a Google Chrome window open with about 17 tabs while writing these things. I should note that I make frequent use of Popcorn Machine’s Game Flows and Hoopdata’s Advanced Box Scores, along with other reference sites.

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This is the first in (hopefully) a series of posts I’ll be writing while looking back at some key games from the Bucks’ 2009-2010 season. Today I’m revisiting March 20th’s game, a 102-97 victory over the Nuggets in Denver. There was a whole lot stacked against Milwaukee: Denver was 30-5 at home coming in and had won 7 straight at the Pepsi Center; the Bucks were coming off a double-overtime game in Sacramento and didn’t get into Denver until 3 am; Denver was 14-1 at home against teams playing game two of a back-to-back.

Despite these somewhat superficial disadvantages, the Bucks shocked the Nuggets and secured their “signature road win” (apparently it was a mid-February college game). Surprisingly, they did it with very little production from both Jennings (9 pts, 4 asts) and Bogut (2 pts, 3 rebs). What’s more, they did it in spite of 29 points each from Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony.

So how did the Bucks pull off this upset against one of the top teams in the West on tired legs and with no help from two of their key players? Let’s check out some of the numbers:

MIL STAT Game MIL Avg. Net DEN Avg. DEN Net
ORtg 109.7 104.9 +4.8 111.8 -7.5
DRtg 104.3 103.1 +1.2 107.5 +2.2
Poss. 93 91.7 +(1) 94.8 -(2)

The first thing that jumps out has to be Milwaukee’s defensive effort, holding Denver almost 8 points under their average ORtg. Denver was the 3rd most efficient offensive team last year and they snagged 20 offensive rebounds in this game, so how did Milwaukee handcuff them so effectively?

Milwaukee made Denver waste a lot of shots. Billups and Anthony combined for 58 of Denver’s points, but they were completely inefficient in doing so. Melo’s 42.3 TS% was just awful, and coupled with a 48.1 USG, he was using up a good chunk of Denver’s possessions bricking shots. Billups went 5-for-17. The evil J.R. Smith showed up and went 5-of-16 for good measure.

Milwaukee also kept the Nuggets from moving the ball with any efficacy. Denver’s season AR of 19.28 wasn’t stellar, but the 11.5 mark they put up in this game is nasty. Even Billups struggled with distribution, finishing with only 3 assists and a 10.5 AR.

Defense alone wasn’t going to beat the Nuggets at home, though. With Jennings struggling to score and Bogut struggling to stay on the court, who would carry the load? Who else but John Salmons, who turned in an efficient 26 points on 16 shots and went 9-for-9 from the line. Carlos Delfino also contributed 21 points, including 4 three-pointers, and Ilyasova brought the quintessential “workhorse” performance, a 14/10 with 2 blocks.

The difference had to be the shooting. Denver shot 36.8% from the floor, while the Bucks shot a passable 46% with 9 3’s. Denver went completely cold in the final few minutes, scoring 3 points in the final 1:46 after fighting to within 1 point. Combined with the solid defensive performance, Milwaukee did just enough with the ball to upset the Nuggets in their hometown.

Still, we can’t ignore some of the bad stuff. Poor individual performances aside, the Bucks’ rebounding was pretty poor. You just can’t give up 20 offensive rebounds to an efficient offensive team and expect to win consistently. Drew Gooden should bring a stronger presence on the boards, since the Bucks lacked a consistent rebounder at the 4.

Another issue was the number of foul shots Denver earned. Billups alone drained 17 of Denver’s 30 made free throws. While this did wonders for my fantasy team, the Bucks were consistently outscored at the stripe last year, and it needs to be addressed. Bogut’s foul trouble certainly messed with the defensive game plan in this game, but adjustments could have done more to compensate. Even if the problem persists this year, Milwaukee now has a potential equalizer in Corey Maggette.

Kind of a wacky game, so it’s hard to say, “here are the parts we should emulate,” but it shows the importance of disrupting an efficient offense. The Bucks accomplished this by slowing down a high-paced Denver attack and forcing lots of missed shots. With defensive execution like this and a more consistent offense, the Bucks can look forward to many more signature road wins.

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Hardwood Paroxysm has been keeping track of  this summer’s free-agent contracts and calculating the average value of each in $/WARP. Using Kevin Pelton’s updated version of WARP (wins above replacement player: i.e. the wins produced by a given player above another player who could be claimed at any time), it’s simple to just divide the money each year by the player’s total WARP from 2010. Not a perfect system, and certainly not very predictive, but it’s a good way of judging what the approximate market value is for players this summer.

So far, the going rate per WARP has been $2.2 million. This does not include a few of the max contracts, where guys like LeBron and Bosh took less money than they were worth (or allowed). The Bucks two significant free-agent signings fall like this:

  • Drew Gooden: 2010 WARP = 3.3, 2011 Salary = $6.4 million, $/WARP = 2.0
  • John Salmons: 2010 WARP = 4.2, 2011 Salary = $7.8 million, $/WARP = 1.9

Just from the numbers, it looks like the Bucks grabbed these two guys slightly below market value. Market value, in this case, being defined by the same people who gave Darko Milicic $5 million next year ($32.1/WARP). The going rate was up from $1.49 last year, not surprising considering the amount of money that was available to teams this summer and the reckless abandon with which some of it was spent (Travis Outlaw – $7 million – $7.9/WARP, even Rudy Gay – $16.2 million – $5.8/WARP).

Given this summer’s contract climate, just below market value was probably a relative bargain. Decent deals on two guys with 3+ WARP is not a bad haul for Milwaukee’s offseason.

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