Having tons of familiarity with the team that we follow, but not being as knowledgeable about what’s going on around the league, is something we’re all a little guilty of. I’m going to try and make an effort this year to reach out and network with some other SB Nation bloggers around the NBA to preview significant games on Orlando’s schedule. This time around, Adam Paris of Brew Hoop was kind enough to answer some questions I prepared for him to help preview Wednesday’s match-up between the Magic and the Milwaukee Bucks.
1) The Bucks have dropped seven of their last ten games and now sit eighth in the Eastern Conference standings. What has gone wrong for Milwaukee during this recent stretch, and how likely do you think they will turn things around before the end of the regular season?
Adam Paris: Milwaukee’s offense hasn’t fallen off too drastically from it’s league average over the last ten games, down just 0.6 in terms of offensive rating, but the brief defensive resurgence they had following Kidd’s firing has largely evaporated. They’ve hemorrhaged points, with a 109.7 defensive rating over the prior ten games as opposed to the stingy 104.2 mark that Prunty led them to in the month of February.
They fattened up against weak opponents during that time, and while Milwaukee’s in a stretch here where they can do the same (sorry Magic fans), I’m not sure they’re primed for a renaissance before season’s end. They owe their pick to Phoenix if it falls anywhere between 10-16 in this year’s draft due to the Eric Bledsoe trade, so they need a few wins to avoid that distressing scenario.
2) Milwaukee made a huge move firing Jason Kidd at the end of the January after three and a half seasons. How do you feel the team has responded to interim coach Joey Prunty? What are some differences in the way Prunty coaches the team that you’ve noticed (compared to Kidd), and how likely is it that Prunty is considered for the head coaching position next season?
Paris: Prunty got the usual dead cat bounce with an easy on-boarding process against the league’s bottom feeders. Since then though, there’s been little that’s inspirational about Milwaukee’s play. Giannis has looked off and on, with a tough February where his percentage of shots at the rim dropped from what his performance all year has been, although he hasn’t led the league in minutes at least under Prunty.
There aren’t drastic changes to Milwaukee since Prunty was the offensive coordinator under Kidd as well, although we saw a bit more Giannis pick-and-roll at the start. The most drastic change has stemmed from his personnel, where he’s started working in Jabari Parker as a way to bolster bench units that are sorely missing Malcolm Brogdon as a ball handler and creator. With this recent swoon, I don’t think there’s any chance Prunty gets the gig next year. This team needs a coaching overhaul.
3) Jabari Parker returned to the Bucks’ lineup in early February (although he was held out in Orlando on February 10th, second night of a back-to-back). How has Parker looked now fifteen games into his comeback from a second major knee injury?
Paris: Parker’s been predictably doing Jabari things, which involves frenetic finishes at the rim and plenty of lapses on the defensive end. Milwaukee’s best proposition is hiding Parker as an on ball defender, which sounds strange, but helps prevent him from roaming out of position and losing his man with off ball action. Offensively, his play-making remains limited, despite talent as a passer, but most notably he’s stroking the ball willingly and efficiently from deep. He’s at a career high 46.7% from three (albeit on just 30 attempts), but it’s the way he’s willing to shoot it that makes all the difference. Curiously, he’s referenced the 3 ball as something he was reticent to add to his game, but he acknowledged its importance in a recent interview and is coming through in a big way so far.
4) Is there a positional match-up Wednesday when the Bucks visit the Magic that you are looking forward to or interested in seeing?
Paris: I’m not sure how much he will match up with Giannis, but I’m excited to see Jonathan Isaac suit up for his first game against the Magic. Physically, he seems to have the athleticism, height and range that could give Giannis trouble on the defensive end, although his baptism by fire will probably offer plenty of teaching moments against the Greek Freak.
I want to again thank Adam Paris from Brew Hoop for helping us preview the Milwaukee Bucks in anticipation of Wednesday’s match-up against the Magic. Game-time is set for 7:00 P.M. at the Amway Center.