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January 31, 2009

Rose Garden Report: vs. Utah

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 11:27 pm

PORTLAND – If it feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these live blogs, that’s because it has been. My last trip to the Rose Garden was the Blazers’ Dec. 30 win over Boston, making it a little over a month. For some people, that might not seem like much, but keep in mind I attended all but one Sonics home game during my six years with the organization. The last time I went this long during the season without attending a game was 1995. Thanks again to David Stern.

The Blazers face off with Utah tonight in a matchup of Northwest Division rivals. The Jazz is coming off of a blowout of Oklahoma City last night while fighting through injuries that have left the team without Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko. You’ll find no bigger Paul Millsap fan than I, but that is brutal in terms of depth and has left Utah giving regular minutes to young centers Kyrylo Fesenko and Kosta Koufos.

Though it’s probably too early in the season to look at these numbers, a win tonight would give the Blazers a four-game edge on the Jazz in the standings. Conversely, a loss would leave the teams separated by two games and give Utah the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Portland 33, Utah 26 (end first quarter): The Blazers lived by the three in the first quarter, knocking down five of their eight attempts from beyond the arc to power an offense that put up 33 points in the first quarter in just 22 possessions–an Offensive Rating of a cool 150. Rookie Nicolas Batum kicked things off with a pair of early threes that helped Portland take a quick lead. The Blazers got 15 points from Batum and Sergio Rodriguez, production that has to be considered a bonus.

Portland 52, Utah 47 (halftime): This game looked like it had serious blowout potential early in the second quarter when Portland went up 14, especially with the Jazz on the back end of a back-to-back. This is Utah, however, and the Jazz kept up the effort while finding some offense in the form of Deron Williams. Williams took control of the game in the second quarter, scoring 14 of his 18 points. The Blazers have yet to find an answer for the screen-and-roll with Williams with either Jerryd Bayless or Sergio Rodriguez at the point.

Utah took away the three-pointer in the second quarter and Portland had a much more difficult time scoring the ball, with Brandon Roy as their only consistent option. The Blazers need to get LaMarcus Aldridge (1-of-7 from the field) into a rhythm.

Portland 90, Utah 73 (end third quarter): Well, so much for the Blazers’ offense stagnating. All they did was throw up 38 points in the third quarter, shooting 15-of-24 (62.5 percent) from the field and adding three more three-pointers. Aldridge did indeed get going, Brandon Roy kept up his terrific play and Nicolas Batum is 4-of-5 from three-point range and has 16 points, one shy of his career high.

This definitely looks like a second game of a back-to-back for the Jazz, who are slow in their rotations, particularly in defensive transition. Portland has been able to outhustle Utah, and that generally spells doom for the Jazz. Do give credit to the Blazers for excellent ball movement–23 assists on 32 field goals is very strong for a team that gets a lot of second-chance scores.

Also, no one will ever top Gary Payton-to-Shawn Kemp as an alley-oop combination in my mind, but Sergio Rodriguez-to-Rudy Fernandez is awful impressive. I don’t know if I’ve ever before seen a buzzer-beating alley-oop like Rodriguez and Fernandez pulled off at the end of the third quarter.

Portland 122, Utah 108 (final): Apologies for not completing the blog in real time, as other duties called. Alas, the only drama of the fourth quarter was which Blazer would push the team to 100 points and guarantee fans chalupas. My favorite part: The crowd sighing when Travis Outlaw missed a free throw with Portland sitting on 99 and eight minutes left in the game. Did they really think Utah was going to shut the Blazers out for two-thirds of a quarter?

This was the Blazers offense at its best–the usual threes and offensive rebounding to go along with rapid ball movement and well-timed early offense. The Jazz’s fatigue helped, certainly, but credit Portland for doing what needed to be done.

January 30, 2009

All Apologies

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 8:25 am

I apologize to Evansville, for suggesting that they shoot way too few threes. Hey, they shoot more of them in their league than Wake Forest does in theirs, and the Deacons seem like they’re doing OK. And, anyway, look at the Purple Aces now, surprise winners at Drake last night and 5-5 in the Missouri Valley. Maybe Evansville’s onto something. Back to the ’80s and short shorts!

Then again that 5-5 mark’s been a little aberrant.

Down in the Valley: Pace and Efficiency Rankings
Through games of January 29, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession    Opp. PPP: opponent points per possession
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

                                  Opp.
                   Pace    PPP    PPP      EM
1.  N. Iowa        61.4    1.13   0.97   +0.16
2.  Illinois St    62.8    1.05   0.96   +0.09
3.  Bradley        61.4    1.03   0.98   +0.05
4.  Creighton      65.0    1.06   1.02   +0.04
5.  S. Illinois    62.0    1.03   1.03   +0.02
6.  Drake          63.3    1.01   1.01    0.00
7.  Evansville     65.2    0.91   0.97   -0.06
8.  Missouri St.   61.0    0.98   1.05   -0.07
9.  Wichita St.    61.5    0.97   1.06   -0.09
10. Indiana St.    63.8    0.96   1.07   -0.11
 

The Aces play excellent D but they have the league’s worst offense (perhaps in part because opponents know they can pack the paint without penalty) and have achieved 5-5 even while being outscored by 0.06 points per trip.

There. A critical apology. How Hegelian! Now, back to the more customary apologies.

I apologize to the Pac-10 for saying they’re slower-paced than the Big Ten. They were indeed slower when I said it. But last night the “slower” conference put up a final score of 106-97 (Arizona‘s somewhat surprising win at home over Washington) while the “faster” one hosted a 59-36 game (Minnesota‘s surprisingly easy win at home over Illinois). 

You know what that means. As of this morning the Pac-10’s faster, averaging 62.6 possessions per 40 minutes to the Big Ten’s 62.1. Still, it promises to be a close race. I’ll keep you posted.

I apologize to now former Georgia coach Dennis Felton, for observing the occasion of now former Alabama coach’s Mark Gottfried‘s exit earlier this week by remarking that the Tide were “far from being the SEC’s worst team.” Indeed I was thinking of the Bulldogs when I wrote that. This year’s UGA team will now have an asterisk by it (though Georgia can at least hope for the kind of quiet surge that LSU experienced last year under interim coach Butch Pierre), otherwise the Dawgs appeared to be on-track for setting a new asterisk-free standard for offensive futility in the tempo-free-conscious era. 

I apologize to Nick Calathes of Florida for leaving him off my All-Underrated Team. I just couldn’t give the SEC three slots. (Patrick Patterson and Marcus Thornton were already in.) Too bad, Nick, you would have been a perfect fit: a 6-6 point guard with an outstanding assist rate who takes a kind-of starring role in his balanced offense, making 42 percent of his threes and 60 percent of his twos. Zounds. That story needs to be told. 

Yes, I am all apologies. What else should I be?

A Chat, an Apology and a Link

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 2:51 am

Three quick hits on a Thursday night while I try to forget about UW’s non-existent defense tonight at Arizona.

– I’ll be chatting tomorrow morning at BaseballProspectus.com. In case you checked earlier in the week, note that the chat will now be at 2 p.m. Eastern as opposed to the original 1 p.m. time. I’ll be busy earlier explaining to high schoolers why they should work in sports. If you can’t make it for the chat itself, remember that you can always leave me a question now and come back for the transcript.

– I owe a major, major apology to the talented behind-the-scenes Prospectus technical folks. It is absolutely inexcusable that I did not make any mention in my introduction of our new stats pages of the work done by the brothers Pease (primarily Jeff but also Dave) in putting together the pages and Bil Burke in getting the data from our Excel spreadsheets to the Internet. They really deserve all the credit; Bradford and I are basically innocent bystanders in the process.

– Lastly, in case anyone’s interested, I’ve started a Twitter account to share some quick-hitting thoughts on the NBA and college hoops that can be contained within 140 characters and don’t rise to the level of even a BP: Unfiltered post. I was inspired by @THE_REAL_SHAQ‘s Twitter prominence.

January 29, 2009

More Rookie Similarity

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 3:20 am

In the follow-up to today’s column picking rosters for the Rookie Challenge, I’ll take a look at similarity scores for some other rookies who did not crack my roster. This list is not definitive. I looked at players I considered interesting and cut a few without noteworthy comparable players.

Michael Beasley, Miami
While Beasley did not make my team, he is on the actual rookie roster–and it’s a shame. Kevin Love was picked three spots after Beasley, has played basically the same amount of minutes and has been more productive in every aspect of the game save creating shots. I don’t see a strong argument to take Beasley over Love, but scoring average (13.2 ppg vs. 8.8) and talent triumphed.

That being said, the slow start to Beasley’s career, as I considered last week, is not a terribly bad thing. His comps are still OK, just more of the fringe All-Star variety (Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Antoine Walker are the top two) than superstars. (For the record, none of Erik Spoelstra‘s four comparisons made the list.)

Joe Alexander, Milwaukee
Alexander’s low minutes total makes similarity an inherently challenging project. Of course, that Alexander has played so little tells us something in and of itself, and his top 10 comps feature a disturbing number of journeymen. Oddly, the success stories (Orlando Wooldridge, Robert Horry) tend to be power forwards, though Horry did come into the league as a three. Is Alexander’s future as a floor-spacing four?

D.J. Augustin, Charlotte
Led by Deron Williams (don’t expect quite that big a leap in year two), Augustin’s group is pretty good. The disturbing note is that Raymond Felton of all people shows up as second in similarity.

Jason Thompson, Sacramento
I’ve liked what I’ve seen of Thompson as a rookie; SCHOENE is unimpressed, demanding better immediate production from a four-year college player. His similar players are remarkably underwhelming. The group is led by Donald Hodge, a Temple product who was surprisingly decent during his rookie year in Dallas. The rest of the group features a lot of centers, many of whom never developed a whole heck of a lot.

Anthony Randolph, Golden State
I was intrigued by seeing Randolph’s results, and similarity confirms that his skillset is unique. Just four players score a similarity of higher than 90. Josh Smith leads the list in a case where most similar is really least dissimilar. Even removing the age requirement does not yield a lot of close matches, though it’s worth noting that it offers up a pair of LSU products (Stromile Swift and Tyrus Thomas). Just what is in the water in Baton Rouge?

Marreese Speights, Philadelphia
Speights was the toughest cut from my rookie squad, and his list of similar players confirms a bright future, including standouts like Shawn Kemp, Shawn Marion and Amar’e Stoudemire. LaMarcus Aldridge scores as most similar.

Courtney Lee, Orlando
A couple of really good sixth men on Lee’s list–Aaron McKie and James Posey. Morris Peterson represents another reasonable career expectation. Lee should be useful for a while without ever being a standout.

Nicolas Batum, Portland
Even though Batum’s production has not been outstanding this season, players who see so much action at age 20 have turned out pretty good. Hence Batum’s list of comparables includes some pretty good players. Joe Johnson comes out as easily the most similar player, which would suit the Blazers just fine, I suspect.

Mario Chalmers, Miami
Generally speaking, similarity scores are tilted somewhat towards more recent players. This isn’t intentional; it just seems to come out that way. Not so for Chalmers; just two of his top 10 comps debuted after 1990. Overall, the list isn’t as impressive as you might expect given the large role Chalmers has played as a rookie. He looks statistically like a relatively finished product.

DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers
On the strength of Jordan’s phenomenal rebounding and shot-blocking in limited PT, there are but two players who score as remotely similar: Andris Biedrins and Tyson Chandler. Hmm. . .the Clippers might have something on their hands here.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Milwaukee
Grant Long comes out as a near-perfect match, which makes some sense. Long was a little bulkier and not quite the athlete, but maybe that’s me remembering the vintage Long and not the earlier model (hey, I was seven when Long was a rookie). Generally, the comps underscore the notion that Mbah a Moute can be a very useful defensive specialist for the Bucks.

Teams Just Want to be Home

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 2:13 am

Unless of course they’re Tennessee or Florida State. From the top….

Wake Forest beat Duke in Winston-Salem, 68-66, on a last-second layup by James Johnson. The Deacons had this game in control with nine minutes to go, leading 61-48. Then they started looking as young as they are and they nearly allowed the Blue Devils to steal a win on a night when Mike Krzyzewski‘s group looked like anything but the number 1 team in the nation. At 76 possessions, this game was that strangest of creatures: the fast-paced defensive struggle. With both Duke and Wake playing outstanding D, ACC fans should get used to the spectacle.

Watching this game you may have had the impression that ordinarily Duke shoots a lot of threes. (You may have had that impression because the announcers pretty much said so.) Anyone would seem like they shoot a lot of threes compared to Wake, of course, but the truth is this year’s Blue Devils aren’t particularly perimeter-oriented. Still, the Deacon D shut down the perimeter entirely and Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson were forced to be the alpha and omega of their offense. Which actually isn’t that unusual.

BONUS James Johnson note! You simply can’t watch a Wake game without hearing that Johnson is from Cheyenne. It cannot be done. You can go a long way in life without learning that Jeff Teague is from Indianapolis or that Al-Farouq Aminu is from greater Atlanta. But by Godfrey it’s important for you to know that Wyoming can export someone (repeat: someone) who can hoop it up.

Providence beat Syracuse 100-94 in an 82-possession game in Providence. I’ll heap due praise upon Keno Davis and his Friars on a more suitable occasion, but for now note simply that the Orangemen are yet to show that they can defend a Big East team as good as they are.

Oh yeah, Providence is as good as they are. Up-to-the-minute:

Big East: Pace and Efficiency Rankings
Through games of January 28, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession     Opp. PPP: opponent points per possession
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

                                  Opp.
                   Pace    PPP    PPP      EM
1.  Marquette      68.8    1.16   0.97   +0.19
2.  Louisville     68.7    1.05   0.86   +0.19
3.  Connecticut    66.6    1.13   0.97   +0.16
4.  Pitt           66.0    1.12   0.99   +0.13
5.  Providence     72.3    1.11   1.04   +0.07
6.  West Virginia  65.3    1.05   0.98   +0.07
7.  Villanova      69.9    1.04   0.98   +0.06
8.  Syracuse       71.5    1.09   1.04   +0.05
9.  Georgetown     64.9    1.04   1.08   -0.04
10. Cincinnati     65.3    1.01   1.06   -0.05
11. Notre Dame     69.6    1.04   1.09   -0.05
12. S. Florida     63.4    0.98   1.06   -0.08
13. Seton Hall     69.6    1.04   1.19   -0.15
14. St. John’s     67.9    0.93   1.09   -0.16
15. DePaul         66.1    0.94   1.13   -0.19
16. Rutgers        66.8    0.94   1.15   -0.21

Cincinnati beat Georgetown 65-57 in Cincinnati. Since I fretted openly about the Hoyas’ defense, their offense has collapsed. Go figure.

Villanova beat Pitt 67-57 in Philly, as a foul-plagued DeJuan Blair logged just 23 minutes. What’s this? The Panthers are a different team without Blair on the floor? Who knew! Seriously, the Wildcats get too little love for their strangely exemplary defense. By strange I mean: just visually, they don’t look like Pitt or Louisville. But they do make the other team miss.

Kansas State beat Missouri 88-72 in Manhattan (Kansas). Wow. Keep in mind the Wildcats needed overtime to record their first conference win at Colorado on Saturday. And the previously under-hyped Tigers looked so good on paper. Alas.

BONUS KSU note! If you’re looking for some really serious sideline scowling, is there a better candidate to replace Gene Keady than Frank Martin? The dude looks like the villain in a silent movie. I keep expecting to see him wearing a cape and tying Mary Pickford to some railroad tracks.

Northwestern beat Indiana 77-75 in Evanston. The Hoosiers are still winless in the Big Ten. Oy. 

The home team domination stops here.

LSU beat Tennessee 79-73 in a 66-possession game in Knoxville. I had my say on the Tigers on Monday. As for the Volunteers, their offense is still good, they’re just not getting any stops this year. Marcus Thornton scored 29 points for the visitors on 9-of-16 shooting. Is there a better juco transfer in the country than Thornton? Just asking.

North Carolina beat Florida State 80-77 on a last-second three by Ty Lawson, off a floor-length drive that started with 3.2 seconds remaining in the game. Very Tyus Edney-esque in appearance, only a three.

January 27, 2009

Value Over Tim Thomas

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 6:32 pm

Within mere hours of my intro to our NBA statistics pages being posted, alert reader CW tipped me off to something remarkable. In his 2007-08 regular season review, ESPN.com’s Bill Simmons proposed a new statistic:

I guess the question is this: Is there an NBA forward alive who couldn’t play 31 minutes a game, score 12 points, notch five rebounds and three assists, miss 70 percent of his 3-pointers and allow his guy to score at will? If baseball has VORP (value over replacement player), then basketball should have VOTT (value over Tim Thomas).

This touched off a brief debate at the APBRmetrics forum about whether Thomas was, in fact, a replacement-level contributor. What CW noticed is this: Thomas scores exactly at replacement level by my WARP rating system this season. On its own, that would be a semi-interesting note. However, I went to look up how Thomas rated a year ago and–believe it or not–he was precisely replacement level in 2007-08 too. That can’t possibly be a coincidence.

I suspect Free Darko would view this result as a form of NBA determinism. At this stage of his career, Tim Thomas is replacement level. Replacement level is Tim Thomas. There can be no other way.

The Messy, Muddled Mountain West

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 2:05 pm

If you’re a league outside the select circle of the six “major” conferences, you want your best teams to identify themselves right at the top in November and to win consistently all the way to March. That way your team or teams might be able to secure an NCAA tournament bid even if they don’t happen to win the conference tournament. Think Butler in this or any other recent season. The Bulldogs appear to be an NCAA lock no matter what happens in the Horizon tournament.

Unfortunately it’s not working out that way for the Mountain West this year….

Mountain West: Pace and Efficiency Rankings
Through games of January 26, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession     Opp. PPP: opponent points per possession
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

                                  Opp.
                  Pace     PPP    PPP     EM
1. New Mexico     65.5    1.11   0.94   +0.17
2. Utah           65.9    1.09   0.96   +0.13
3. UNLV           66.9    1.09   1.02   +0.07
4. San Diego St.  66.2    1.10   1.04   +0.06
5. BYU            69.0    1.07   1.01   +0.06
6. TCU            62.6    1.07   1.08   -0.01
7. Wyoming        69.0    1.07   1.15   -0.08
8. Colorado St.   66.7    1.01   1.14   -0.13
9. Air Force      57.1    0.85   1.12   -0.27

You might be thinking: OK, so New Mexico‘s the best team. They certainly have been thus far. The problem is that, at 12-8 and sporting an RPI of 85, the Lobos are all but invisible for NCAA tournament purposes right now. In fact Steve Alford‘s team is nowhere to be seen in Joe Lunardi‘s latest Bracketology update, not even among the “first” eight teams left out. The fact that UNM lost at home to C-USA middleweights like UCF and UTEP means the Lobos will have to wreak some serious in-conference havoc if they’re to have any hope at all of getting an at-large bid.

Meanwhile BYU was widely assumed to be the Butler of the MWC this season, but the Cougars were whomped 81-62 by those aforementioned Lobos in Albuquerque a couple weeks back. Worse, Dave Rose‘s team then proceeded to drop a six-point decision to UNLV in Provo, where the Cougars were supposed to be unbeatable for any opponent other than Wake Forest.

Then there’s Utah, the proud owners of what would now appear to be a rather impressive 30-point win over LSU in Salt Lake City on January 6. They’re playing great defense, no doubt, but the Utes are just 1-2 in conference road games thus far. San Diego State? In league play they’re undefeated at home but 1-2 on the road.

If you think you’re seeing a pattern here, you’re right. This year at the bottom of the league there are three teams exhibiting varying degrees of haplessness, from “some” (Wyoming), to “well, more than some” (Colorado St.), all the way up to “quite a lot, actually” (Air Force). The Mountain West team that can win some road games outside of the states of Colorado and Wyoming will therefore separate itself from what right now is a very muddled field.    

Gosh, Maybe the SEC Does Care about Hoops

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 11:57 am

Yesterday Mark Gottfried resigned as head coach of Alabama, marking the second consecutive winter that SEC football’s notorious in-season coaching turnover has reared its Darwinian head in the hitherto more sedate precincts of the conference’s hardwood. (Last year it was John Brady of LSU who made a hasty exit.) Gottfried’s departure provides further confirmation of Gasaway’s First Law: “embattled” is one word you never want to see next to your name. (Can you just be “battled”?)

At 12-7 and 2-3 in-conference, the Crimson Tide are far from being the SEC’s worst team, nor are they underperforming so very greatly in relation to preseason expectations. True, this year ‘Bama landed McDonald’s-esteemed freshman JaMychal Green, but he has played a relatively small role in the offense. Meanwhile oft-injured point guard Ronald Steele left the team last week. The school said Steele wanted to give his plantar fasciitis time to heal. Others suggested the real issue was Steele’s relationship with Gottfried

Whatever the reason, Gottfried is gone and interim coach Philip Pearson is now in charge. Speculation will unavoidably center on whether Pearson can coax Steele back into uniform, but what Alabama really needs at this point is some defense: both on the perimeter, where SEC opponents have made 41 percent of their threes; and down low, where the Tide has rebounded just six in every ten of their conference opponents’ misses, the worst such performance in the league.

Defense, Coach Pearson. Defense.  

BONUS post-mortem note! My understanding is that Ronald Steele is or has in the past been one player who puts the “student” in student-athlete. If that is still correct I salute him for accomplishments more substantial and enduring than mere hoops. But speaking of mere hoops, the manifest awe in which Steele’s on-court performance “when healthy” has long been held–indeed continues to be held–has always completely mystified me. Steele was a very good player during his healthy season in 2006, yes, but he was said to be much more than “very good.” In fact he was named a first-team preseason All-American going into the following year. Strange praise indeed for a 6-1 point guard with an average assist rate who made just 42 percent of his frequent twos. How Steele was able to hypnotize the national media from relative (hoops) obscurity in Tuscaloosa while his outstanding teammate Richard Hendrix could hardly get so much as a “He’s good!” (well, except for this one) is surely one of the enduring media-studies mysteries of our time.

January 26, 2009

EXCLUSIVE! Prospectus Nabs Bo Ryan Impostor!

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 11:59 am

MADISON — In what authorities here are terming the most brazen and audacious case of identity theft in this city’s history, a 61-year-old motivational speaker, Tevye R. Van Huysenton, has been charged with impersonating Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan for the past 30 days.

Local investigators, working closely with the diligent and uncommonly charismatic researchers at Basketball Prospectus, gathered evidence over the course of the last several weeks and made their arrest Saturday as “Ryan” walked off the court at Assembly Hall in Champaign, IL, following the Badgers’ 64-57 loss to Illinois.

Investigators said their suspicions were aroused as early as January 15, when Wisconsin blew a 14-point second half lead and lost in overtime to Minnesota in Madison. Suspicion turned to proof, however, when Basketball Prospectus provided local authorities with evidence of a shockingly uncharacteristic increase in fouling by this year’s Badgers.   

The smoking gun: Wisconsin’s fouling skyrockets under “Bo Ryan” in 2009
Conference games only 

         Opp.      Big Ten
       FTA/FGA       avg.
2007     0.26        0.35
2008     0.25        0.34
2009     0.39        0.33

“They’re just this hack-tastic team all the sudden,” said Randy Graber, Assistant Chief of Police Field Operations in Madison. “We’re looking at the numbers and thinking, ‘What are they, Kansas State?’ Something just didn’t smell right.”

Long known for their stolid upper-Midwestern players who move their feet and never reach, Wisconsin this season has actually been the most foul-happy team in the Big Ten in conference play. The sudden willingness to send opponents to the line has contributed to this year’s defensive collapse in Madison, one that has seen the Badger D fall from “outstanding” to “average.”

At an emotional press conference on Sunday, Ryan dismissed questions about his abduction and time in captivity and instead read a prepared statement, saying only that he’s looking forward to “getting this team back to its true identity.” 

January 25, 2009

Bucks Lose Redd to Torn ACL

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 6:12 pm

Ouch. The Milwaukee Bucks learned this morning that shooting guard Michael Redd, their leading scorer, will miss the remainder of the season after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee during last night’s win over Sacramento.

If the season ended today (it does not), the Bucks would be back in the playoffs for the first time since 2004-05. And while Milwaukee was seeded eighth, a half-game ahead of New Jersey, the Bucks boasted the conference’s sixth-best point differential, better than higher-seeded Detroit and Miami. Alas, that pace will be hard to keep up without Redd. Milwaukee was 5-9 when Redd missed 14 games earlier this season with a sprained right ankle, and the Bucks are 7.3 points better per 100 possessions with Redd on the floor.

Defense will give Milwaukee a chance to compete. Scott Skiles has the Bucks 13th in the league in Defensive Rating, which might not sound so great unless you know Milwaukee was dead last in the league in D a year ago. Redd isn’t known for his defense, and the Bucks’ Defensive Rating is better with him on the bench.

The question then becomes whether Milwaukee can score without Redd. The Bucks are going to need continued production from forward Charlie Villanueva. I had seen Villanueva have a big game or two, but had no idea how productive he had been until looking at the stats today. Villanueva leads the team in WARP. Milwaukee also must get better production from Richard Jefferson, a disappointment since coming over in a draft-day trade from New Jersey. I like the chances of that. Jefferson is making 44.0 percent of his two-point attempts; he’s been over 48.0 percent every year of his career save one and two-point percentage has a tendency to fluctuate randomly.

While Charlie Bell will presumably replace Redd in the starting five, I’d like to see Skiles make extensive use of the Luke RidnourRamon Sessions backcourt that was effective during Redd’s previous absence. There’s a lot of talk about how Sessions should play more that is somewhat unfair to Ridnour, who has had a good season in his own right. Playing them together is the best way to get both the minutes they deserve.

Sidenote: When was the last time an NBA  player as prominent as Redd suffered a torn ACL? We see maybe three or so ACL tears a year, but they’ve almost exclusively been the province of role players in recent years. Unless I’m missing someone obvious, Tom Gugliotta in 2000 seems to be the last semi-elite player to suffer the injury.

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