The Behind the Buck Pass staff examines a few questions regarding tonight’s date with the Nets.
1. After logging three straight DNP-CD’s, Nate Wolters played 17 minutes in Friday’s win over Washington. Do you see him working his way back into the rotation on a consistent basis going forward?
Paul DeBruine: The Bucks backup point guard situation is a mess right now. The fact is that both Nate Wolters and Luke Ridnour aren’t suitable backups in this league right now. Woltlers does an OK job managing the offense but his shooting (39.5% from the field, 9.5% from three) is a huge liability. Normally this would preclude him from getting minutes, but Ridnour is even worse than Wolters so far (33% from the filed, 26.7% from three). Given the state of this team, it makes more sense to give the minutes to Wolters to try and see if he can develop into a competent backup, and I think that’s exactly what the Bucks will do.
Dakota Schmidt: With Brandon Knight looking pretty solid since his return from injury, I doubt that we’ll see Nate Wolters have the amount of playing time that he had earlier in the season.
Nick Whalen: While I’d like to see Wolters see some minutes off the bench, part of the reason he played as much as he did last night was because of Gary Neal’s absence. When fully healthy, this roster has enough depth in the backcourt to keep Wolters glued to the bench. However, the gap between Wolters and Ridnour isn’t much, and Wolters has showed enough promise to warrant a rotational spot, even if it’s not on an every-game basis.
2. The Nets entered the season with lofty expectations but have stumbled out of the gate and currently sit at 5-14, fresh off a blowout loss to the Knicks. Brooklyn recently “reassigned” assistant coach Lawrence Frank, and Jason Kidd appears to be in over his head. Will this veteran-laden team turn things around or will the nightmare continue?
Paul: When watching these Nets it’s pretty clear that both Garnett and Peirce have lost a step or two; it’s pretty sad actually. Given their health (Peirce with his hand injury and Deron Williams with his everything injury), it’s hard to see this team being good in the foreseeable future. Brook Lopez has been great this year, but he is basically the only starter with a PER over 15 (Joe Johnson is at a stupendous 15.7). I don’t see any of this changing, expect more terrible from the Nets this season.
Dakota: Will they ever reach their “championship or bust” type expectation that they had during the pre-season? Absolutely not. However, their continued issues involving head coach Jason Kidd has overshadowed the fact that they’ve been an extremely beat up team. While they won’t be at that upper echelon, they should be around the #5-#6 spot in the depleted Eastern Conference once they get everything back together.
Nick: It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what the issue is with this team, but I don’t see them turning things around any time soon. Getting Deron Williams back next week will be huge, but in the time he’s been healthy this season he has not looked like his old self. Once Brooklyn is healthy they’ll be able to put an end to the freefall, but this roster has not shown enough cohesion to be considered a legitimate title, as was expected coming into the year. They’re fortunate to be playing in the Eastern Conference, though, so a playoff berth is well within range. At 5-14, the Nets are just 3.5 games out of the eighth seed. Yikes.
3. John Henson had his best game of the season Friday, recording 19 points, 17 rebounds, four assists and a block in a season-high 45 minutes. Larry Drew has been hesitant to play Henson big minutes, but with big performances like this it will be difficult to keep him out of the lineup. How do you see Henson fitting into the rotation once Larry Sanders returns in a few weeks?
Paul: The person whose minutes I see taking a hit when Sanders comes back is actually Udoh. Henson is one of the few bright spots for an otherwise miserable team and it would be unwise of Drew to not give him minutes. At some point in time Drew has to realize that Henson gives the team the best chance to win and that’s not going to change when Sanders comes back.
Dakota: Once Sanders returns to the Bucks rotation, I can definitely see Henson fitting in as Milwaukee #3 front-court player because of the fact that Ilyasova is a much better fit with Sanders than Henson. With that said, his recent performance has been extremely interesting because of fact that he might be worth of starting minutes if he continues on the road that he’s currently going.
Nick: I’m expecting Henson to return to the bench when Sanders returns, but it will be a travesty (that’s right, a travesty) if Henson’s minutes are greatly reduced. He’s Milwaukee’s best rebounder and second-best shot blocker (behind Sanders) and has developed a sneaky-decent left hook that’s proven to be reliable. While perimeter defense would certainly be a liability, I’d like to see Drew give a frontcourt lineup of Sanders, Henson and Ilyasova a try.
4. Despite Brooklyn’s struggles, Brook Lopez is enjoying a solid season as one of the league’s top offensive centers. However, he’s a notoriously poor rebounder. Presumably, Henson will guard Lopez and vice-versa. Who has the advantage in this matchup?
Paul: Lopez certainly has the advantage in this one. He has a fantastic low post game and can stretch the floor with his midrange jumper. Henson is an above average defender and his length should cause some problems for Lopez, but good offense always trumps good defense. Expect an output for Lopez similar to what LaMarcus Aldridge put up against the Bucks earlier this season, around 20 points but needing a few more shots than usual to get there.
Dakota: I would definitely give the edge to Brook Lopez because of how skilled he is on the offensive end. However, Henson is continuing to improve as an offensive post player while looking like an extremely solid rebounder so I think this will be a close and interesting matchup.
Nick: Lopez is definitely the more complete player in this matchup. He’s arguably the league’s top offensive center and is an underrated defender, especially in terms of shot blocking. Lopez is an efficient scorer in the paint, but he’s not overly physical, so I don’t see this as much of a mismatch for Henson. The advantage goes to Lopez, but not by much.
5. Pick it: Will the Bucks stumble into their first winning streak of the season?
Paul: For as bad as the Nets have been, they’re still better than the Bucks. Given that fact (opinion?), I’ll go with the Nets 97-95. The Bucks will have to try and get their winning streak on a later date.
Dakota: Absolutely. While the 4-15 record might tell a different story, the Bucks are starting to looking a more complete team at least on the offensive end. Milwaukee’s overall pace and movement has improved since the return on Brandon Knight so I absolutely think that they can pull out a victory against a Brooklyn team that’s a complete mess.
Nick: Hey, why not? Brooklyn is reeling and Milwaukee is coming off of a hard-fought, morale-building victory against Washington last night. Middleton isn’t going to go off for 29 points again, but this team is playing well together and will be the beneficiary of some key Brooklyn injuries. I’ll say Bucks win it 91-86.