After some much needed R&R, the Milwaukee Bucks kick off the second half of their season tonight against the Washington Wizards. With the understanding that this game is likely to be seen only by those in attendance, Behind The Buck Pass is presenting its midseason grades for our favorite deer in headlights.
This is the first of two posts, covering the season’s perceived (and current) starting lineup. Our grades for the Bucks bench will be posted sometime later today. Unfortunately, they’ll probably need the steep curve I considered applying to the starters.
Brandon Jennings – C+
A month ago, Brandon Jennings was an All-Star. He was finishing. He was drawing fouls. He was restricting his shots to high percentage areas. He was slicing through defenders off the ball and hitting three pointers. Then he got passive on the court, passive-aggressive off it, and rehashed all those questions about his maturity.
Jennings mailed in February like a high school kid after getting accepted to his college of choice:
January (17 games) – 19.6 ppg, 51% eFG, 37.7% 3FG, 5.5 apg, 1.9 spg, -2.8
February (13 games) – 15.9 ppg, 39.9% eFG, 27.1 3FG%, 4.6 apg, 1.4 spg, -4.9
A month like that, amid off-the-court headlines and on-court adversity, doesn’t really help his case for those other options he plans to explore in two years.
Stephen Jackson – F+
What more can, or needs, to be said about a Bucks player with more crosshairs on him than Adrian Brody in Predators? The only reason Stephen Jackson grades out above a solid F is his willingness to open up without publicly throwing anyone under the bus. He’s probably pulled a Randy Moss on a few occasions behind closed doors, but that’s preferable to a public airing of grievances.
Shaun Livingston – C+
Shaun Livingston is like one of those guys you always partied with in college, was good for a solid laugh or two, but his name remains elusive. Livingston always seems to quietly put up 10 points, 4 assists, and 4 rebounds, is rarely a source of frustration on a team brimming with those personas, and can be really fun to watch because he plays within his talents.
Livingston’s never going to carry the Bucks horse-and-buggy offense, however. He won’t lose a game for Milwaukee, but he likely won’t be in that position.
Carlos Delfino – B-
On any given night, Carlos Delfino can hit 5 three pointers. On a related note, he’s also capable of missing five treys. You can see how that would make it difficult to rely on Delfino as a consistent perimeter threat. His three point percentage is slightly better this year (39% to 37%), as is his overall shooting (41% to 39%), but Delfino’s perimeter defense has been a bigger reason to keep him on the court.
Opposing shooting guards, according to 82games.com, have a combined 12 PER when guarded by Delfino, who also holds them to 44.9% eFG. He has trouble guarding bigger, more athletic wings (18.7 PER for opposing small forwards), but Delfino has emerged as a quality defender in Scott Skiles’ currently broken system.
Luc Mbah a Moute – B
Our excitement over Luc Mbah a Moute’s corner jumper has devolved into concerns about his ability to jump without the ball. Every year, one player has to fit an extremely niche role on the Bucks as that guy who is constantly asked about an injury, and constantly responds with, “I’ll never be 100%.” Thanks to a bum knee, Milwaukee’s most versatile defender is faced with this game-by-game burden.
Mbah a Moute has only played in 21 of the Bucks’ 33 games, but he’s limited his offensive liabilities while enhancing the team’s defensive profile. Mbah a Moute adds +2.2 net points/100 possessions when on the floor, and the Bucks allow 4.6 fewer points/100 possessions when he’s prowling on defense.
Drew Gooden – B
Drew Gooden deserves the highest grade out of all the starters. There are all sorts of troubling truths in that sentence, but let’s embrace a positive when we can, however miniature and loafy it may be. In February, Gooden played some of his best offensive basketball as a Buck (17 pts, 43% FG, 6.5 rbs, 2.2 asts). He’s knocked down quite a few mid-range jumpers (47.1% eFG in Feb.), and is often the lone Buck aggressively attacking the basket with an “eff it” attitude.
Sure, the Bucks give up 13.1 more points per 100 possessions with Gooden manning the pivot, but it’s not from passiveness or lack of interest. Gooden has been asked to fill shoes he rarely wears, and is doing it with a good attitude. On a team leaning over the edge of a mediocrity chasm, that should count for something.
Andrew Bogut – Inc.
Andrew Bogut’s grade is the same as a kid stricken with mono for half the school year. Before the ankle injury, Bogut was having trouble with his baby hook shot (20% FG from 3-9 feet), while somehow unearthing a long jumper (47% FG from 16-23 feet). He was still playing elite interior defense, but those preseason questions about his arm health and post-up game remain indefinitely unanswered.