Jason Kidd Needs To Lead The Milwaukee Bucks From The Front


With the Milwaukee Bucks still unable to find any positive momentum, they need Jason Kidd to show true leadership.

Things are quickly spiraling out of control for the Milwaukee Bucks. Through 27 games, the Bucks sit at a disappointing 10-17, third worst in the Eastern Conference.

Things get even worse when you begin to dig in to the team’s stats. The Bucks rank dead last in defensive rebounding, 26th in offensive efficiency, and 26th in defensive efficiency. The Bucks also have the fifth worst point differential in the NBA, only posting better numbers than Brooklyn. Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia, and New Orleans.

Much has been written about the Bucks struggles (Adam McGee, our Editor-In-Chief wrote about the need for more accountability a few weeks back). Some of the blame rests with the point guards, both of which appear to have taken a major step back so far this season.

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Blame also rests at the feet of the rest of the Bucks players. None has stepped up and taken on a leadership role on the team. It appears, as I predicted before the season, that the Bucks sorely lack the veteran presence of Zaza Pachulia and Jared Dudley, something that becomes even more obvious when things get tough.

The real blame, however, rests largely at the feet of Coach Jason Kidd. From many of the roster moves the team has made, to his personnel and coaching decisions on a nightly basis, Kidd has had as disastrous of a start this season as he had a great one last year

The first major problem with the team at the moment is that there appears to be no leadership both on and off the court.

Last season, the team gave two veterans regular minutes. Both were great locker room guys and were well-respected by the youngsters on the team. Their vocal on-court leadership set a great example and helped contribute to much of the team’s success.

In the off-season, the Bucks decided to trade both Dudley and Pachulia for future second round draft picks. Part of this was to clear more cap-space in order to sign Greg Monroe. However, part of it was at the coach’s urging.

It appears that Kidd felt that he could lead this young team on his own, without the aid of on-court veteran leadership. If he felt differently, it’s unlikely management would have traded these guys away. This experiment, however, has failed.

Nov 29, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd (R) gestures from the sidelines in the first half against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucks have completely lacked any sort of on-court leadership this season. Guys are constantly getting lost on defense and failing to help out the ball-handler on offense. There’s no communication between the guys when things get tough.

There also appears to be a lack of leadership off the court as well. Going out before a game isn’t bad on it’s own. Many guys are able to go out regularly the night before a game and still perform at a high level. However, when you’re losing by 20 to the second worst team in the NBA, it doesn’t look good and starts to raise some questions.

Every team, especially one as inexperienced and young as this Milwaukee Bucks team, needs veteran guys to show them proper work ethic, how to respond to adversity, and most importantly what it takes to win on a nightly basis. By trading away Dudley and Pachulia, the team gambled on its young players growing. This gamble has failed spectacularly.

Another major issue with this Bucks team has been in-game management. Despite massive struggles on the defensive end, Coach Kidd has refused to adjust to his defensive approach at all, continuing to use the same tactics which worked a year ago, but aren’t working now.

Some of the defensive struggles can be attributed to personnel changes. With Greg Monroe coming into the fold, a weak interior defender, a drop off was inevitable. However, no one expected the Bucks to be sitting 26th in defensive efficiency nearly a third of the way into the season.

The defense has been a total disaster in almost every way. Guys double or triple team when it’s not necessary, leaving guys wide open on the perimeter. The result is a team which is 21st in the league in opponent three-point percentage.

When the team is not giving up threes, it’s giving up numerous shots at the basket. Guys fail to rotate and over-pursue the ball-handler in pick-and-roll situations. No one on the team, including the $44 million man in John Henson, have been able to provide any sort of rim protection. The team also seems incapable of rebounding, no matter who’s on the court.

Nov 14, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd (L) talks to guard

Michael Carter-Williams

(5) during the the first overtime period against the Cleveland Cavaliers at BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Bucks won 108-105. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Some of the blame for the defensive struggles certainly rests with the players. Jabari Parker has struggled to learn the defensive scheme. Giannis Antetokounmpo and others are guilty of checking out on defensive possessions. Michael Carter-Williams has gone from one of the league’s better defenders to down-right awful, especially in pick-and-roll situations.

However, much of the blame also rests Jason Kidd. It’s the coach’s job to teach the players how to play and how to get up for games on a nightly basis. It’s also the coach’s job to recognize when his approach isn’t working.

Teams have clearly figured out how to counter the Bucks aggressive scheme: Move the ball, pump fake to get the defender in the air, and run pick-and-roll. These issues continue to surface on a nightly basis. The team must make adjustments to their defensive approach.

The Bucks have also been awful on the offensive end. From poor player movement off the ball, to horrid ball-moment and shot selection, the Bucks have done little right on offense end either.

The team often appears directionless on offense, especially when Michael Carter-Williams runs point. If the team is running plays, it certainly doesn’t appear that way. Guys are sitting around, waiting for something to happen rather than making something happen.The team also runs few plays to get guys open shots. The result is horrible stretches of play which take the Bucks completely out of games.

The lack of structure on offense largely rests with the coach. Instead of shifting his approach to get the true stars of this team the ball, Kidd continues to let MCW and others take a large share of the shots. The result is stretches where Antetokounmpo and Parker get completely frozen out of the offense, even if they’re playing really well.

The team’s future rests with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker. Both are fantastic young talents and arguably possess the most skill of any players on the roster. It’s time the team started to use these guys in a more significant way on offense.

One final criticism of Jason Kidd’s approach has been his personnel decisions. Instead of benching guys who are actually struggling on a nightly basis, Kidd has taken the odd approach of benching Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the two cornerstones of the franchise.

Dec 11, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd (R) talks to forward Jabari Parker (12) against Toronto Raptors in the second quarter at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors won 90-83. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

At no time were his personnel decisions more in question than on Wednesday night, when he decided to bench Antetokounmpo against the Clippers. Instead of benching the guys who were seen partying at a strip club the night before their big loss to the Lakers, Kidd decided to START three of the four guys who were there (Monroe was injured) and benched Antetokounmpo, who was not. Add in the fact that Antetokounmpo was the team’s best player the past three games, and you have a decision which shocked everyone. 

Parker and Antetokounmpo should be locks to start on a nightly basis. This team is supposed to be about #OwningtheFuture, not winning now. The only way for these guys to learn is continue to start and play significant minutes, not to be benched for unclear reasons.

In Kidd’s defense, Parker and Antetokounmpo have had their fare share of defensive lapses this season. However, they’ve been no worse than any of their teammates. The only way for these guys to get better is to continue to play in real games, in situations that matter, not to sit on the bench.

In addition, many of the personnel moves the Bucks have made off the court have come at the urging of Jason Kidd. From trading for Michael Carter-Williams and Grevis Vasquez, to drafting Rashad Vaughn, Kidd has played a big role in off-the-court personnel decisions that are not working out at all.

There’s still time for Kidd to turn things around. Kidd was able to turn things around in Brooklyn two seasons ago, getting the team into the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals after struggling tremendously through the first third of the season.

Fixing things, however, will take adjustments both from the players and coach. It means making the tactical adjustments to get the best out of the players and talent on this team. It also means accountability for both.

However, what this team needs most right now is leadership.

Kidd can start that process by taking responsibility for the poor play of this team. After all, much of the blame does rest on his shoulders.

If Kidd begins to take some of the blame, the team will be better off because of it. It takes some of the pressure of the guys and puts it on the shoulders of a coach whose dealt with decades of it. Perhaps it would enable the guys to play looser, to get back the joy and excitement that made them so intriguing a year ago.

It’s time for Jason Kidd to lead from the front. The team will be a lot better off if he does.