Tobias Harris and Jon Leuer box out Luol Deng (Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE)

Milwaukee Bucks Links: Bullets and Big Men on Monday Edition


Statscube:  The answer to questions about team defense is not Drew Gooden.

The Bucks went into the season with one center and a boatload of power forwards.  Since Andrew Bogut hurt his ankle, the Bucks have scrambled to find a replacement and they resorted to using Gooden as a starting center.  The numbers with Gooden playing are not easy to look at.

But before the numbers, consider the notion of using the rookies — Tobias Harris and Jon Leuer — for more minutes.

On the Bucks TV broadcasts, Jim Paschke has bandied around the notion (more than once) that the rooks are the team’s best interior scorers and that he has spoken about it with Scott Skiles.  But each time the topic has come up, Paschke has cited Skiles’ response and his logic for limiting their minutes: the rookies can’t handle the defensive end, even if they can score.

Then, more recently, Charles F. Gardner quoted Skiles on the same issue:

“He did the things we know he can do,” Skiles said. “Tobias is going to be able to score the ball.

“On the other end (defense), he’s got an awful long way to go. He’s also got the ability to make plays for other people. But like a lot of rookies when he gets in the game and gets the ball, he’s going to shoot into double-teams.

“He’s got bounce around the basket. Tobias is going to be a very good player.”

It makes perfect sense; I have no doubts that Skiles knows his players and that if he says they can’t hold up the defensive end, then they really can’t hold up on D.  But at the same time, they are losing minutes to Drew Gooden.  Drew Gooden is not a defensive stalwart — never has been, never will be.

So while it may be true that Leuer and Harris can’t defend as well as say, Ersan Ilyasova, it is also hard to picture them floundering any worse than Gooden has.  Take a look at the numbers on Gooden on the court vs. Gooden off the court:

Gooden on the court vs. Gooden off the court (per 48 minutes):

Minutes: 468/636

Defensive Rebounds: 27.3/30.3

Blocks: 3.0/5.9

Steals: 7.4/8.6

+/- Rating: -8.5/+4.1

Offensive Rating: 97.8/99.1

Defensive Rating: 107.8/94.8

Net Rating: -10.0/+4.3

Per 100 possessions, the Bucks have been 13 points better on defense without Gooden on the floor than with him. 

For reference sake, take a second to compare those defensive numbers with the season-long numbers of teams around the league.  A 94.8 defensive rating would take the top spot in the league, slightly ahead of the 76ers (95.0).  On the other end, a 107.8 defensive rating would rank 26th in the league, ahead of only the Kings, Pistons, Nets and Bobcats.

(Note: Bogut has only played 364 minutes this season, so the improvement sans Gooden isn’t entirely attributable to Bogey’s presence.  And Bogut spent time sharing the court with Gooden, too.)

Screenshot from Statscube (click to enlarge):

Given Harris’ recent success scoring inside (and the fact that the 19-year-old is the most athletic frontcourt player on Milwaukee’s roster), it may be time to find Tobias greater and more meaningful minutes.  His “bounce” might be just the panacea they need.  There should probably be a fatter role for Leuer, too.

And here’s one last thing to keep in mind:  this blurb is NOT placing the problem squarely at the feet of Skiles and Gooden.  Skiles is a tremendous coach and Gooden has done some good things on the floor this year.  They were both put in an ugly predicament when the Bucks lone and injury-prone center got hurt (and took a leave of absence).  They are trying to make the best of a center-less team.

This blurb is, however, suggesting that it may be time to find a new way to do it.

SB Nation:  The Bucks waived Darington Hobson.  The move may have been a money saver (before non-guaranteed contracts lock in for the year), a precursor to a multiplayer trade (especially given the Stephen Jackson situation), or a way to provide roster flexibility for auditioning centers.  Today is the first day that NBA teams can sign players using the 10-day contract.  Scott Schroeder takes a look at some potential call-ups, and the Bucks, like many other teams, are looking for big men.

ESPN Daily Dime:  Another potential source of players is the waiver wire.  Non-guaranteed contracts are about to lock in and become guaranteed, so while the Bucks got things started with Hobson, other teams may soon follow.

Next Friday, furthermore, is the date when non-guaranteed contracts become guaranteed for the rest of the season, meaning that teams looking to release players to save some salary must do so by Tuesday at 6 p.m. to ensure that the player in question clears waivers.

It’s a deadline that, entering the weekend, was looming for a whopping 48 players after Milwaukee’s release of Darlington Hobson, which equates to more than 10 percent of the workforce in a league with nearly 440 players. If they’re still on their current rosters when Tuesday night’s six-game slate tops off, their contract dollars are locked in for the rest of the season.

ESPN has a full list (see item #9), and some of the players — like Portland’s Chris Johnson, for example — could be worth a look if waived. The 1995-95 Upper Deck Scott Skiles card… such lusciousness in so many ways.

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Tags: Drew Gooden Milwaukee Bucks Scott Skiles Tobias Harris

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