(Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE)

The Underpay, Overvalue of Milwaukee Bucks Forward Mike Dunleavy

It’s important to keep one eye on the future while reflecting on any failure in life. With the Milwaukee Bucks’ season effectively over, Behind The Buck Pass is reflecting on some of the best things to come out of the 2011-12 campaign.

I used to go used CD shopping with my dad when I was in high school. The CDs may have been roughed up a bit, but it was better than the Sam Goody/Best Buy alternative.

Around 90% of the CDs we found were 80s one-hit wonders (i.e. junk) or albums everyone already owns (Dookie, The Wall, etc.). However, we often found some gems within that remaining 10%. I once bought a bootlegged live Green Day album; it sounded great, and for $4, was a complete bargain.

This season, Milwaukee Bucks forward Mike Dunleavy is that Green Day album.

Over the past two years, 30+ year old wings have not been kind to the Bucks. John Salmons, Corey Maggette, and Stephen Jackson were bigger names than producers. The NBA equivalent of buying a used copy of The White Album (or Black, for all you Hova-lovers out there) only to discover it was scratched beyond repair.

Those three players cost the Bucks $8 million, $9.6 million, and roughly $4.63 million (an estimate for a half season of Jackson’s service), each branding a red “F” on John Hammond’s transaction resume.

Then came Mike Dunleavy, who for two years and $7.5 million, has already outplayed the full season contributions of Salmons, Maggette, and Jackson, and effectively makes John Hammond look like John Dillinger for one fleeting moment.

Everyone loves talking about Moneyball signings, and Dunleavy is a perfect example of an undervalued, over-productive plug and play veteran. He leads the Bucks in net on/off court plus-minus (+9.1 point differential), and surprisingly making the team’s defense better while on the court (3.7 fewer points allowed while on the floor). It should be noted that Keyon Dooling led the 2010-11 Bucks in +/-, but Dunleavy is clearly a better overall player.

Despite this late season backslide, Dunleavy has posted efficiency numbers that often put him in the top 10 most productive small forwards in the NBA. Nearly all of Dunleavy’s offensive contributions come from four sets, according to SynergySports: spot ups (26.8% – 1.32 points-per-possession), off screens (25.8% – 1.07 PPP), in transition (17.7% – 1.34 PPP), and cuts to the basket (8.1% – 1.35 PPP).

In each situation, Dunleavy ranks in the top 30 among all NBA players in points-per-possession, and is 10th in the NBA in overall PPP (1.10). He is 11th in the league in true shooting percentage (60.3%), just .3% above LeBron James, 8th in assist rate among small forwards that play 25+ minutes per game (20.43), and has the 7th highest three point shooting percentage among wings (41.7%).

Of course, in the words of Boris from GoldenEye, that doesn’t make him invEEncEEble. Stopping Mike Dunleavy requires quick screen switches, and generally getting up in his grill. He rarely takes a defender off the dribble (85.6% of his makes are assisted – second in the NBA).

It’s worked well over the past 10 games, as Dunleavy is shooting 6.2% below his season average for effective field goal percentage, and has had epic problems finishing on off-ball cuts to the basket (52.6% eFG in last 10 games vs. 65.7% eFG overall).

Funny enough, he’s actually outperforming his season averages  (1–2.3 FG, 43.9% FG) from 16-23 feet (1.3-2.5 FG, 52% FG) in that span. It’s his three point shooting (35.7% 3FG in last 10 games vs. 41.9% 3FG overall) that’s been the biggest culprit. Dunleavy isn’t quick or physical enough to beat defenders with anything but a great pump fake, and it’s certainly worth the risk if it turns a three pointer into a long two.

With a very affordable 2012-13 expiring deal, and coming off his best season since 2008-09, Dunleavy gives Hammond some flexibility this offseason. Losing Dunleavy in a trade would hurt in the short term (reaping draft picks in the long term), and keeping him doesn’t break the bank. Either way, it’s hard not to imagine what Dunleavy could’ve been on the 2009-10 Milwaukee Bucks, adding a touch of bittersweet to his success this season.

There are many grievances to be aired about the 2011-12 Bucks. Mike Dunleavy’s play is not one of them.

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