At Least We Have the Bucks

Posted on July 18, 2008 by


Here is one reaction Wisconsin fans could have to the Brett Favre saga:  “Well, at least we have the Bucks”.

Okay, I don’t expect most Wisconsin sports fans are thinking the Bucks are going to provide much of a distraction.  At least, you wouldn’t think so if you looked at their performance in 2007-08.

Milwaukee in 2007-08

The Bucks won 26 games last season, their worst mark since the 1995-96 season.  The story is even more depressing when you look at efficiency differential and Wins Produced.  The Bucks posted a differential of -7.25 last season, the worst mark in franchise history.  

Table One: The Milwaukee Bucks in 2007-08

When we turn to Wins Produced (which is based on the efficiency differential elements), we see that the Bucks should have expected to win about 23 games in 2007-08.  Such a mark is actually a small improvement upon what this team should have expected given the past performance of its players.   Had Milwaukee’s players maintained what they did in 2006-07, this team would have won only 20 games last year.  In sum, the Bucks were not good and this result shouldn’t have surprised.

Last March the Bucks decided to fix this problem by firing Larry Harris, the team’s general manager. Because a team’s GM is the person primarily responsible for picking the players, this can be a very good move.  Of course that depends upon the ability of the new GM to pick players. 

The Bucks new GM is John Hammond.  And one of Hammond’s first moves was to send Yi Jianlian (the Bucks 2007 lottery pick) and Bobby Simmons to the New Jersey Nets for Richard Jefferson.

Evaluating Hammond’s Big Move

Last May I identified Jefferson as the Most Overrated Player in the NBA.  I have also noted that the decline of the New Jersey Nets can be directly tied to the declines we observe in Jefferson’s performance.  In sum, Jefferson used to be a prolific producer of points and wins.  Now his wins production is lacking (although he still gives you points, for whatever that’s worth).

Although Jefferson is not what he used to be, he’s still more productive than the small forwards employed by Milwaukee last year.  Desmond Mason and Bobby Simmons played 3,223 minutes last year and produced a combined 1.2 wins.  Jefferson played 3,200 minutes for the Nets and produced 2.6 victories.  So Jefferson is a small step up.

The Bucks also lose Yi Jianlian.  As Table Two reports (taken from an earlier post), only Al Thornton and Jeff Green offered less production than Yi among the NBA’s 2007-08 rookies.

Table Two: The Rookies of 2007-08

Although Yi could improve, his first year was clearly not promising.  Given Yi’s shortcomings, one wonders what would happen if the Bucks transferred all of Yi’s minutes to Charlie Villanueva (as I note, this can’t actually happen)?

Yi posted a -0.056 WP48 in 1,647 minutes last season.  Villanueva’s WP48 was 0.014 in 2007-08, so in Yi’s minutes Villanueva would have produced 2.4 additional wins.  Of course this means Villanueva would have to play 3,476 minutes or 42.4 minutes per game.  So clearly the Bucks need to give minutes to someone else at power forward.

A possibility is to shift 2008 lottery pick – Joe Alexander – from small forward to power forward.  Alexander’s college production, though, doesn’t compare favorably to an average small forward taken in the draft in recent years.  Therefore – given that he probably won’t be a productive small forward — moving him to power forward doesn’t seem like such a good idea. 

It seems likely the Bucks will have to add another big man to the roster.  Until we see who that person is we are not going to have an exact forecast of what Milwaukee will do in 2008-09.  That being said, unless that unknown big man is quite good and Richard Jefferson returns to the RJ of old, it doesn’t look the trade of Yi Jianlian is really going to help much.  

So at this point the Bucks of 2008-09 don’t look much different from what we have seen in recent years.  This team is still led by three players – Andrew Bogut, Mo Williams, and Michael Redd – who are average or somewhat above average.  The rest of the players projected to be part of the rotation were below average last years, or for the rookies, expected to be below average this season.  Such a combination suggests that the Bucks will once again field a losing a team, and therefore not make sports fans in Wisconsin forget the Brett Favre saga anytime soon.

Comment on Bogut Deal

One last note on the Bucks.  A few days ago I noticed that Bogut signed a $72.5 million contract.  This led me to offer a very quick post on how Bogut – given what he had done before – was not really worth this amount of money.

It is important to note that I did not investigate the details of the Bogut contract.  Nor did I spend much time thinking about the post.  Basically, I saw the news, grabbed some data, and started writing.

After I posted this comment, though, I realized that given my own calculations – posted a few weeks earlier – Bogut might be worth $72.5 million.  And then I also learned that Bogut was actually scheduled to get $60 million, with the remainder in incentive pay.  In sum, the whole Bogut post just didn’t work.

Hopefully this post will be better.  If it is not, perhaps my previous posts on the Bucks might be more enlightening.

The Bucks Are Stopped Here and Now

The Least Interesting Team in the NBA

Maybe Players Are What They Are

Mediocrity in Milwaukee and Number One Choices the Second Time Around

The Milwaukee Bucks in 2005-06

As you can see (if you read all these), my story on the Bucks doesn’t seem to change. 

UPDATE: Okay, just saw that the Bucks added Tyrone Lue and Malik Allen to the team yesterday (yes, one should always do the research after you write).   If Allen is the mystery big man the Bucks were going to add, then Wisconsin fans can just keep thinking about Favre.  Allen’s career Wins Production is in the negative range.   And yes, that doesn’t help.  So although the linked article by Charles Gardner says the Bucks are trying to “build a winning team in the near term”, unless we are defining “near” as in the next ten years, this move is not consistent with that sentiment. 

– DJ

The WoW Journal Comments Policy

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at provides substantially more information on the published research behind Wins Produced and Win Score

Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.