Last night’s forgettable 95-90 win over the Charlotte Bobcats, soon-to-be owners of a brand new, uni-browed freak of nature, brought Milwaukee Bucks coach Scott Skiles 11 games closer to a career first.
If the current points per game and offensive efficiency rankings hold true, the 2011-12 Milwaukee Bucks will be the best offensive (and worst defensive) team of Skiles’ coaching career. Neither of those facts are coincidental.
In 12 years, Scott Skiles has never coached a team that finished the season ranked above 12th in points per game and 16th in offensive efficiency. Likewise, a Skiles-coached defense has never dipped lower than 18th in points allowed and defensive efficiency. But the 2011-12 Milwaukee Bucks are not your average Scott Skiles-ian team.
His philosophy is well documented: Contest every shot, disrupt the opponent’s offensive rhythm, and worry about scoring later. The most common fan complaint about Skiles, at least over the past four years, has been the blandness with which his teams win. It’s easier to win basketball games when the target point threshold is 95 versus 105, but where’s the fun in superstars taking 16-23 foot jumpers?
Regardless of where the Bucks end up at season’s end, this has been one of the more challenging (and better) coaching jobs of Skiles’ career. It has required a radical adjustment from the man himself, on par with a conservative pledging allegiance to liberal ideals (or vice verse). Skiles is coaching a team best constructed for Don Nelson, complete with an undersized backcourt, no real center, and a ton of face-up power forwards.
The high volume scoring of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis have usurped the plodding, perimeter screen-heavy offense of the Andrew Bogut days. Fans are treated to the SportsCenter highlights they want, and the team has gone 9-4 since Ellis and Ekpe Udoh arrived, but there are still major questions about the sustainability of this philosophy under Skiles’ reign.
Eight of those wins have come against NBA bottom feeders, and winning with offense while allowing the likes of Byron Mullens to drop 31 points and 14 rebounds leaves the Bucks in the same spot as if they were allowing 93 points while scoring 92.
Having a good offense means nothing if you can’t stop anyone from scoring, and Skiles knows it. If Skiles remains the Bucks’ head coach in 2012-13 and beyond, something has to change for the better on defense. Karl Rove would never run a campaign for Barack Obama; from philosophical differences alone, it would be a train wreck. Scott Skiles coaching the Bucks’ current style of basketball over the long term wouldn’t be much different.