The Milwaukee Bucks in 2005-06

Posted on September 11, 2006 by


In the 1980s the Bucks were just short of the NBA elite of the Celtics and Lakers. Beginning in 1980-81 Milwaukee won at least 50 games for seven consecutive seasons. Since this streak ended with the 1986-87 season, though, the Bucks have become the poster child of an average NBA team.

For the past 19 seasons, the Bucks have averaged 38 victories per season. In only one year – 2000-01 – did the Bucks pass the 50 win mark. In three seasons in the mid-1990s the Bucks failed to get to 30 wins. In the other 15 seasons, though, the Bucks have been within shouting distance of the 0.500 mark.

The past five years have been consistent with this two-decade pattern. Since winning 52 games the Bucks have posted the following win totals: 41, 42, 41, 30, 40. In sum, the Bucks are, with the occasional blip, an average team.

To be average you must have a few good players, but not too many. Looking at the Bucks in 2005-06 – which can be found HERE – that is what we see.

The list of few good players begins with Michael Redd. In The Wages of Wins we noted that Redd was one of the most over-rated players in 2004-05. Of 72 veteran players who played at least 2,000 minutes, Redd ranked 31st in NBA Efficiency but only 54th in Wins Produced (explained HERE and HERE).

The key for Redd was shooting efficiency. The NBA Efficiency metric fails to penalize players sufficiently for inefficient scoring, a point detailed in Chapter Seven of The Wages of Wins. Consequently Redd was able to increase his value in NBA Efficiency in 2004-05 by taking a large number of shots. His below average shooting, though, did reduce his production of wins.

In 2005-06 Redd was above average in shooting efficiency. Hence, his Wins Produced per 48 minutes (WP48) – which was 0.049 in 2004-05 – rose to 0.144 in 2005-06. As noted before, an average player posts a WP48 of 0.100.

In addition to Redd the Bucks also received an above average performance from the player taken number one in the 2005 NBA Draft – Andrew Bogut. Although Bogut was not quite as good as Chris Paul, his 0.140 WP48 was one of the better marks by an NBA rookie.

Beyond Bogut and Redd, the Bucks employed a collection of players who hovered around the 0.100 mark. These included Jamaal Magloire, T.J. Ford, Charlie Bell, Dan Gadzuric, and Joe Smith.

If all the Bucks had were average players, and two above average players in Bogut and Redd, then the team could have expected to see more than 40 wins. Unfortunately the team also employed three players who were a bit below average. These included Bobby Simmons, Maurice Williams, and the aging Toni Kukoc – who I believe is now 83 years old (actually he will be 38 in a week). These three players balanced the above average performances of Bogut and Redd, and thus the Bucks were able to post only 40 wins.

In the off-season the Bucks have been quite busy, supposedly trying to change their ways. Gone are Magliore, Ford, and Smith. New additions include Steve Blake, Ruben Patterson, Brian Skinner, and Charlie Villanueva.

Blake had a WP48 last year of 0.122. Skinner has a lifetime mark that has hovered around 0.100. Patterson has been a bit better, with a career mark of 0.125, although he was below that mark in Portland and Denver last year. In sum, these three players can be above average, but not very far above the 0.100 mark.

As for Villanueva, he was second in voting for both the Rookie of the Year – selected by the media – and the All-Rookie Team – selected by the coaches. Bogut, as detailed in one of the first posts to The Wages of Wins Journal, finished third for both honors. So the media says Villanueva is better than Bogut. Unfortunately, the data says something else. Villanueva spent much of last year playing power forward for the Toronto Raptors. As a power forward, his below average rebounding reduces his production of wins. As a small forward, though, he can be quite effective.

If the Bucks use Villanueva at both forward spots, and Villanueva does not improve, then the Bucks will have a slightly below average player.

And if that is the plan, he should fit right in. The Bucks in 2006-07 look to be a team that is quite consistent with its past two decades. With Bogut and Redd leading a collection of slightly above and below average talent, this team should hover around the 0.500 mark once again.

If you are a Milwaukee fan you can thus look at this as a glass half full or a glass half empty. Either way, if you are thirsting for a championship, you will probably be disappointed.

— DJ


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