There are 30 teams in the NBA.  Being 30th in the league’s offensive standings isn’t bad; rather, it’s an atrocity.  Being 30th puts a team below the all league’s dreck, including the Cavaliers, whose fall from the limelight without LeBron is topped only by American Idol’s disappearing act sans Simon Cowell.  Yet there the Bucks are at the bottom. They sit dead last — 30th — in a painfully long list meaningful of meaningful NBA offensive categories.

  • Offensive Efficienty Rating:  101.2
  • Points Per Game:  91.3              
  • Field Goal Percentage:  42.8%
  • Field Goals Per Game:  34.1
  • Assists Per Game:  18.6
  • Fast Break Points Per Game:  9.8
  • Field Goal Percentage at Rim:  57.7%
  • And1% (# of And1 baskets / FGA):  2.24%

With just four games remaining in the season, the Bucks can expect to remain cellar-dwellers in most or all of these categories.  What is to be made of all of this futility?  Is it hopeless or can it be fixed?  Does it somehow run counter to the Scott Skiles’ strategy?

Skiles, of all people, should recognize the value of the fast break.  After all, Scott holds the NBA record for assists in a game:  30.  How does one get 30 assists in a game?  Watch the clip below.  The fast break accounts for a good number of Skiles’ pinpoint passes.

(Note:  Bucks Assistant Coach Joe Wolf is one of the Nuggets in the clip below.  How often does Skiles bring this game up in coaches’ meetings?  When there is a dispute between coaches, can Scott just look over at Wolf and say, “Remember that game, Joe?  Did your vast basketball IQ help you stop me from dropping 30 dimes, Joe?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.”)

The numbers show that, above all else, this Bucks team needs to get better at creating easy buckets, especially on the fast break.  Too often, the Bucks’ fast break consists of Brandon Jennings racing down the court and facing the opponent’s transition defense all by himself.  He needs help.  We need to see more of this:

And this:

This one is particularly impressive, because they pull it off on Dwayne and LeBron, with an assist from Arroyo, who got in James’ path a bit.

My intuition tells me that Skiles would like to run more, but perhaps recognizes that this roster lacks the horses to push the ball in transition.  Starting wingmen Delfino and Salmons only show up on other player’s posters.  Mbah a Moute and Bogut possess reasonably strong finishing skills for a PF and a C, respectively, but the nature of their positions dictates that they won’t often be able to get down the floor ahead of the speedy Jennings. Off the bench, Sanders has the potential to become a target for Brandon, but don’t expect the likes of Gooden or Dooling helping out in transition.

The futility cannot all be blamed on the finishers; the playmakers share some of the culpability, too.  Jennings is the only point guard on the roster who can lead an up-tempo attack, and he has his flaws, too.  Here’s a sequence that better typifies how the Bucks run a fast break:

Dooling’s double-team on defense forces a bad pass which in this camera shot, has just been intercepted by Jennings. Note that Dooling is literally just a single step behind the play at this point.

By the time the ball gets to midcourt, Dooling is GONE — barely in the picture at all. It’s now a 2-on-2 break with Jennings on the left with the ball and Corey Maggette, whose one useful NBA skill is creating free throw attempts, on the right. In addition, both defenders have their eyes set on Brandon.

Jennings elects to take the shot himself. With the defense playing him to go to his left, he gets stuck and forces a shot that has little chance of going in.

Perhaps, though, if the Bucks acquire a player in the draft who is well-suited to an up-tempo game, Brandon will learn to trust his teammates as finishers. Is there a player in the draft who can help in this regard? Will he be available to Milwaukee in the 9th/10th/11th spot where they are likely to be slotted? Is it Terrence Jones? With any luck, the looming NBA lockout will go away and we’ll get to see it play out in the Bucks’ 2011-12 season.

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