*Editor’s note: This piece was written by Behind the Buck Pass contributor, Justin Becker.
Year in and year out, one question always remains with a team that is struggling. Who is at fault: the coach or the players? Now that we’re well past the halfway point in the season, this question must be raised for the Milwaukee Bucks. Does the blame fall squarely onto first-year head coach, Larry Drew, or does it lie on the player? Obviously, the answer to that is highly subjective and can go either way, but it is safe to say that blame goes to the team as a whole.
Prior to accepting his current gig, Larry Drew was stationed as a head coach for the Atlanta Hawks for three seasons. Drew found modest success there, going 128-102 through those seasons. Coming into this season, Milwaukee appeared to be a team probable to return to the playoffs for the second straight season. That statement, though, has now been completely laughed at.
There are a few things that Larry Drew has done and hasn’t done that have definitely accounted for the team’s mishaps this season, including lack of offensive identity and inconsistent rotations. These two things have caused mayhem on the court and resulted in frustration for players and coach alike.
As the head coach, Larry Drew decides who to put on the court. He holds the decision on who starts, who subs in, when they sub in, how long each player plays, etc. Although it may not seem that important, winning teams need winning rotations. You need the right people in at the right moments. This is one thing Larry Drew has been sluggish with, which has resulted in players being confused and off of their game.
Statistically, Larry Drew has put together a total of 23 different starting lineups through 52 games. (per Basketball-Reference) That means there was a different starting lineup almost every other game. That can cause frustration for the players because they can never get comfortable with a set group of players.
Although the Bucks have had their fair share of injuries this season, which certainly contributed to the variation in starting lineups, it also hints at the fact that Drew doesn’t really have an idea of what group of players best gives his team a chance at a W. Plain and simple, 23 lineups through 52 games is displeasing and unacceptable.
In addition to the changing of starting lineups, it also appears he is uncertain of who to play throughout the 48 minutes of game action. It seems as though he is trying to please too many players, instead of letting them earn their spot in the rotation. Back to statistics: Every member of the Bucks is averaging over 20 minutes a game outside of Miroslav Raduljica. Also, only one player is averaging above 30 minutes per game. Having depth on the roster is a good thing, but a coach needs to manage better than how Larry Drew is. He is taking it to another level that is hurting his team.
These inconsistencies in the rotation have caused members of the Milwaukee Bucks to comment on them, starting with center Larry Sanders. After being pulled late in a game, he stated “I feel like I’m capable of being in the game at the end and helping my team win, coming up with blocks and rebounds… I haven’t been able to get my rhythm out there. I understand foul trouble situations, but tonight I wasn’t in foul trouble.”
Larry Sanders has been known to get in foul trouble, but putting that aside he does have a point. Through their first three games, Sanders was only in foul trouble for one of those games. He averaged only 17.5 minutes per game.
Expressing similar concerns was guard O.J. Mayo. In a report by C.F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mayo spoke on the problems with the rotations Larry Drew was drawing up.
“It’s hard to get a rhythm when you don’t know what’s going to happen for you night in and night out,” Mayo said. “You may get 6 minutes, 30 minutes. There’s no staple to what we’re doing. You can hang in there, compete and keep it close.”
During training camp at the beginning of the season, Coach Drew made a point to play up-tempo and fast-paced. Through fast break and getting the ball past the half court line after an opponent’s make or miss, he wanted them to go quickly. Taking a look at the Bucks’ roster, that was a seemingly productive plan. With a plethora of athletes, including Giannis Antetokounmpo, Larry Sanders, Brandon Knight and O.J. Mayo, a fast-paced offense would work great. The only problem with that is, through more than half the season, Drew hasn’t followed those plans at all.
Through the 2012-13 season, the Bucks ranked third in pace and 15th in fast-break points. (per TeamRankings.com) So far this year, they rank 25th in pace and 19th in fast-break points. Those stats don’t match up with Drew’s plans at all. If the team wants to see improvement in their gameplay, they need to start utilizing their athletes and run the court more efficiently. Getting easy baskets in transition is an easy way to score and an easy way to catch your opponents’ off-guard.
Touching on the subject, O.J. Mayo added “If you don’t have a backbone to what you do, whether it’s going to be a defensive thing, an up-tempo thing, a pound-it-in-the-paint thing, a drive –and-kick thing. We’ve got to find a staple as a team.” Mayo again adding a good point.
Who’s To Fault?
Players are the ones that go onto the court and perform every night. Coaches and the staff are the ones behind the scenes that make off-court decisions. When figuring out who to blame for a team’s mishaps, it’s difficult to place blame on one individual. With that being said, the Milwaukee Bucks are to blame for the Milwaukee Bucks’ disappointing season. That starts with the players and ends with management.
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