Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

February 25, 2010

Here Come the Bucks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 2:34 pm

There is one NBA team that, above all others, has seen an immediate impact from its acquisition before last Thursday’s trade deadline. It’s not Antawn Jamison and the Cavaliers (who lost Jamison’s first two games), it’s not Marcus Camby and the Blazers (who saw Camby go down with a sprained ankle on Tuesday) and it’s not Kevin Martin and the Rockets (still in free-fall in the West Playoff race). No, the most meaningful addition in the extremely short term has been the Milwaukee Bucks dealing for John Salmons.

Milwaukee is 4-0 with Salmons, and has played 9.5 points better per game than an average team would be expected to do against the same schedule. The Bucks crushed New Orleans by 20 points last night and also came up with a big win over one of their rivals for the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, Charlotte.

Though Salmons has been Milwaukee’s leading scorer since his arrival, averaging 17.8 points per game, he’s done it on 39.0 percent shooting and a quick glance at the numbers shows the Bucks have been no better on offense (and perhaps even a little worse). But they are crushing teams on defense, allowing just 95.1 points per 100 possessions. For the season, Milwaukee’s Defensive Rating of 105.6 points allowed per 100 possessions is ninth in the league; nobody in the NBA is particularly close to allowing less than a point per possession. Even adjusted for a relatively weak schedule, the defense over the last four games has been 11.6 points per 100 possessions better than average.

What does this mean in terms of the playoff race? Basketball-Reference’s playoff simulator gives the Bucks a 67.0 percent chance of making the playoffs, while John Hollinger‘s playoff odds (which weight recent performance more heavily) has Milwaukee as a slight favorite for the eighth seed over Charlotte and with a 74.6 percent chance of reaching the postseason. Given that the Bucks upgraded their talent with the Salmons trade, even if perhaps not quite as dramatically as the results thus far would make it seem, and Milwaukee looks like a playoff team.

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