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.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.