NBA Handicapping: Bucks Losing Bettors Major Cash
by Trevor Whenham - 3/1/2013
If I had written an article about the Milwaukee Bucks a month ago, it would have been a very different article than it is now. On Jan. 29 the Bucks were 24-19 and were unquestionably one of the pleasant surprises of the season. They have gone just 4-9 since then, though, and they have flushed much of that early promise away in a river of tears. They lost eight of 10 before winning their last two. The low point of the month of February was unquestionably the back-to-back home losses to Detroit and Washington. At this point it’s hard to believe that any team could lose to those two teams in the same month — never mind in three days and at home. Ugly.
As the team struggles, bettors are faced with all sorts of questions. Is the team just in a slump, or were they overachieving early on? Can they hold onto a playoff spot? Can they do anything once they get there? Is this roster up for a fight? Let’s take a look:
Boylan has been the interim coach since Jan. 8 when Scott Skiles pulled a “Scott Skiles” and moved on. It is the second time Boylan has picked up the pieces for his boss — he was also the interim coach for the Bulls when Skiles was fired there. He was pretty lousy then (24-32), and he has been pretty lousy now. He had some momentum early, but he has struggled to set a tone with this team, and it really doesn’t seem like he has a strong rapport with his players. His time is almost certainly going to be short with the Bucks — he’ll be an assistant for Skiles again if anyone else is stupid enough to hire him — and it’s hard to imagine that he’s going to improve as he becomes more and more of a lame duck.
There are few players who are more overrated than Ellis in my eyes. The guy has two big flaws. First, though he obviously thinks he is a passing superstar because he tries to do it so often, he’s slightly less accurate and effective than my two year old son. The only thing he does with more enthusiasm than passing is shooting three pointers. Guys who hit just 23.5 percent of their deep shots should not take 196 shots in 56 games. Frankly, the first deep shot Ellis takes in a game is one too many. The problem is that Ellis can score, and he’s flashy. That means he gets more of a role than he should have, and he has more of an impact on his team as a result than he should. His historically reckless shooting is especially a problem because he shares a backcourt with Brandon Jennings — hardly the most discriminating shooter on the planet, either.
Josh Smith was the target the team wanted at the Trade Deadline, but they couldn’t get him and had to settle for the consolation prize — J.J. Redick. I like the deal in the long term. Redick can produce about the same numbers as Ellis, and he does it far more efficiently. He has a much better basketball IQ as well, and he is a better fit as a teammate. Since the Bucks got him for cheap, it is a good deal for the future. Right now, though, I don’t like it. Jennings and Ellis eat a whole lot of minutes. Now they have to add Redick to that mix. That means that someone — or more than one player — is going to get significantly less minutes than they would like. The Redick deal will pay off in the future — especially in light of the next point — but it is going to be a problem this year.
Ellis, Jennings and Redick are all free agents at the end of the year. Jennings is a restricted free agent, and unless a team pulls a move like the Rockets did with Jeremy Lin, the Bucks are likely to match the deal and keep him. Redick is a good fit and should be willing to sign. That likely leaves Ellis as the odd man out — something he isn’t likely to be too upset about. Given all that uncertainty, it is certain to be a distraction as the season winds down and the players look towards their futures and what comes next.
I’m clearly not that optimistic about the Bucks going forward, and I’ll look for plenty of opportunities to bet against them. I’d have to be far less negative about them to think they could miss the playoffs, though. Milwaukee sits in eighth in the East. Toronto and Philadelphia are in closest pursuit, but they sit six games back. Philadelphia has lost seven in a row and are just plain terrible. Toronto is playing better, but the Raptors are a long way from good right now, and they would struggle to make up six games in less than 30 games left. In other words, the Bucks can hardly fail to make the playoffs. Of course, they will get crushed like a bug in the opening round by the Heat, so it doesn’t really matter.
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