Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Buck for A King

If you took a poll before the season began of the vast majority of people who care about NBA basketball, 99.8 percent of them would have told you that the Milwaukee Bucks and Sacramento Kings would spend this season vying for the dubious honor of being the worst team in their respective conferences. Even the most positive glass half full Bucks faithful would have told you that the playoffs were a stretch and the most optimistic Sacramentonians would have been ecstatic with 30 wins.

Of course, there was plenty of ink dedicated to the franchises two respective rookie point guards. On that front, nothing has changed, not with Brandon Jennings’ 55-point explosion, his 22 ppg average or his dynamic ability in leading the surprising Bucks to a 9-7 record. Nor with Tyreke Evans leading the Kings to an 8-8 record in the ultra-competitive Western conference, while averaging nearly 19 ppg, 5 assists and 5 rebounds and joining the Dwyane Wade/Andre Igoudala/Lebron James trio of wings who are averaging at least 18 points, 5 dimes and 5 boards.

So, I’m sure you’ve heard of them if you’ve even remotely been paying attention to the NBA.

But the rookie sensations are only half the story. Here’s a few guys from both the Kings and the Bucks who probably haven’t gotten too much ink, but whose importance and contributions to the hot starts of both teams can not, nor should not be overlooked. Basketball is a team sport and these guys have helped put Ws in the left column.


Andrew Bogut

Andrew Bogut is being more aggressive on the block which has resulted in a career year in the scoring department capped off by his 22 point, 15 board, 3 assist, 4 block, 3 steal-night on Monday. This season, in the games the Big Aussie has played in, the Bucks are 6-2 (both losses by shots at the buzzer). More importantly, Jennings has shot 45 percent when Bogut plays as opposed to 36 percent when he doesn’t. While Bogut may never live up to being taken over Deron Williams and Chris Paul, in a twist of fate, it’s worked out pretty nicely now that Jennings is on board. Outside of Greg Oden, haven't seen any 7-foot double-double machines with a post game in the last three drafts.

Luke Ridnour

Remember this past offseason when everyone had no idea why the Bucks wouldn’t re-sign Ramon Sessions, a 23-year-old guard with a career PER over 17? Remember in August of 2008 when everyone questioned the Bucks motive in trading for Luke Ridnour? Well, Jennings is the answer to question one and Ridnour has thus far answered that second question. At 28, Luke is having his finest season blowing away his career highs in field goal percentage (51), 3-point percentage (38) and PER (18.39). He’s hit some clutch shots and has been key in facilitating the Bucks offense when Jennings goes to the bench.

Ersan Ilyasova

Ilyasova’s two seasons playing in the ACB with Barcelona have done wonders for the 22-year-old. While I don’t hold too much stock in per-minute numbers, Ilyasova’s rebound rate puts him in the top 25 rebounders in the entire Association and he hits threes at a 36.4 percent clip, which is a rare combination. While he sometimes looks skittish during crunch time, there’s no doubt that his emergence has helped soften the blow of losing Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and to a lesser extent Joe Alexander. Ilaysova has averaged 14 points and 8.6 rebounds over the past five games. While the Bucks lost four of those, it must be noted that they lost to the Magic by two points and the Hornets by three and were missing not only Mbah a Moute, but Andrew Bogut and for all intents and purposes, Michael Redd.

Carlos Delfino

I’ve always like Carlos Delfino’s game and though his shot hasn’t been falling and his rebounding is down, he has been money from beyond the arc at 42 percent, a crucial aspect of the Bucks offense.


Omri Casspi

I love watching Casspi play. While it’s notgood that his freethrow percentage (47.4) is nearing his three point percentage (45.7), in another light, you can think of that as phenomenal even if you have to sit through the occasional hack-a-Cass. Casspi is averaging 10 ppg and 3.7 rpg on 51.7 percent shooting, but more than the boxscore, he’s one of those players who just makes things happen. In fact, he is third on the team in +/- behind, well, behind the next two players.

Beno Udrih

ESPN’s John Hollinger is pretty reserved in his bias, but when the numbers speak to him, he sometimes listens with a vengeance. To that end, he’s been extremely critical of Beno Udrih after the Kings signed the 27-year-old to a five-year $32 million contract before last season. Udrih is currently making the Stat-king eat a bit of crow. Using Hollinger’s own system, Udrih is putting up nearly a 17 PER, which ranks him ahead of such all-star players as Devin Harris, Jameer Nelson, Mo Williams, Gilbert Arenas and Jason Kidd, while also outplaying up-and-coming talents like Tyreke Evans, Derrick Rose and Aaron Brooks.

Sergio Rodriguez

I knew Sergio would have a blast in a Paul Westphal-run offense. So far, when given the opportunity, he’s played out-of-this-world. In his last five games, he’s gotten 20 minutes per and done wonders with the limited time. He’s shot 56 percent, including 41 percent from three, while averaging 13 points and 4.6 assists to only 1.4 turnovers. The Kings have won three of those contests (sure, they included the Nets and the Knicks, but still). Right now, the Kings have an extremely potent three-guard combo that doesn’t include Kevin Martin. Who would have thought?

John Brockman

Mr. Garbage man has to get some love here, since he’s fourth on the Kings in +/- and fourth in the entire Association in rebound rate. When put in that light, his 2.8 points and 3.7 boards on 61.5 percent from the field look pretty spectacular for a 6-7 power forward.

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