Bucks offseason homework: Figure out what kind of team they are

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There is a dump truck full of questions the Milwaukee Bucks need to answer this offseason — what to do with interim coach Jim Boylan, should they expend a lot of energy to keep Monta Ellis and/or J.J. Redick, how much to offer Brandon Jennings, and many more.

But the answers to all of those questions start with the answer to another question:

What kind of team do the Milwaukee Bucks want to be?

Because the past couple seasons they have looked like a collection of mismatched parts with no overarching plan. They have two ball-dominating backcourt guards (that when paired on the court had the team -2.7 points per 100 possessions compared to their opponents) and they threw J.J. Redick in the mix, but that mesh was up and down. The Bucks played fast but were a bottom 10 offensive team, it all didn’t work.

So pick a style, Milwaukee. If you want to be defense-first then great, slow the pace down and get some better defending role players on the roster. Want to be a running team? Great, you need a roster that starts with guards who mesh better.

My guess is they stay up-tempo (the Bucks played at the third fastest pace in the league).

Once you pick a style, then get a coach that fits it — if that is a Jennings led up-tempo style Boylan is not your guy. Boylan took over the job mid-season after Scott Skiles left (they were .500 when he did). There are a host of good top assistants out there, each bringing a different feel and style to the dance (there is Mike Malone in Golden State, Brian Shaw in Indiana, but the rumor is the leader would be Kelvin Sampson of the Rockets).

Then the Bucks need to figure out the backcourt — do they want to make a big offer to Monta Ellis and let Brandon Jennings go, or watch Ellis leave and match any offer (short of a max deal) for Jennings? And what about J.J. Redick? Both Ellis and Redick are unrestricted free agents — they have the freedom to sign anywhere. Jennings is a restricted free agent, the Bucks can match any offer he gets — which makes him the most likely of the trip to stay.

Let me just note this for fun: As mentioned, when the backcourt was Jennings/Ellis the Bucks were outscored -2.7 points per 100 possessions. Ellis and Redick were +6.2; Jennings and Redick were -10.5. So you may seriously want to rethink plans for a Jennings/Redick backcourt.

The Bucks will have Ersan Ilyasova back, as well as Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Larry Sanders and Drew Gooden. Mike Dunleavy is a free agent but said he would be open to staying.

The result of all tis is likely the Bucks take a step back next season. That’s fine if there is a solid plan being followed to move forward after that.

What I fear for Bucks fans is another roster made up of whatever guys they can grab, with little concern for how it all fits together. We’ve seen that movie, and how it ends.

Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17

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Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)

However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.

Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.

 

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

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John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more than Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

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The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary (especially given Wall’s comments about not wanting him to play as much) but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.