The Milwaukee Bucks are a team that is consistently overlooked year after year. This year, they are looking to prove that they are a legitimate playoff contender.
The Bucks are currently sitting at 21-18 on the season, which would be good enough for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference (a playoff berth) if the season ended today.
The Bucks have a good squad and they are looking to improve their record in order to get a higher seeding once the playoffs begin. If they want to get there, there are a few keys that they should focus on and that fans should look for.
If there is one thing the Bucks are good at, it's blocking shots.
The Bucks are currently first in the NBA with 7.6 blocks per game. The ability to deny scorers is a facet of the game in which other teams pale in comparison to Milwaukee.
Larry Sanders is the key for the Bucks if they want to continue blocking shots. He leads all players in the league in blocks, averaging nearly 3.2 per game.
If the Bucks want to continue playing solid defense, the ability to block shots like they have will be a big asset.
Along with blocking shots, the Bucks are also a team that is great at causing takeaways.
The Bucks are second in the league in forcing turnovers. Their opponents are averaging almost 16.2 turnovers per game, only .8 shy of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Two key players that help force these turnovers are Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. Both are averaging over 1.7 steals a game and are the big keys to the amount of forced turnovers.
While the Bucks still allows 97.6 points per game, the turnovers help take pressure off the struggling defense. If they weren't able to force as many turnovers as they do, they would likely be one of the league's worst defenses.
If there is one thing that the Bucks need to improve on most, it's shooting the ball more efficiently.
The Bucks are shooting only 43 percent from the field. That mark puts them at 25th in the league in terms of field goal percentage.
Perhaps the player who is most responsible for the low field goal percentage is Monta Ellis. Ellis has been a rather efficient career scorer, shooting nearly 46 percent. However, he has really struggled this year, shooting only 40 percent.
If the Bucks hope to become a top-tier team, they are going must shoot the ball more effectively. If that they increase their field goal percentage, they have the talent to be a dangerous offensive team.
While Larry Sanders is Milwaukee's most reliable defender, he is also an efficient player on the offense.
Sanders is only averaging 8.2 points per game, but he is still shooting 53 percent from the field. He plays well in the post and makes the most of his opportunities.
However, Sanders isn't shooting the ball as much as he could be. He is only averaging 6.8 field goal attempts per game. With his stellar field goal percentage, the Bucks need to find more ways to get him the ball in the paint.
Unfortunately, the Bucks have several players that like to take a lot of shots. If they are able to give up taking a few more shots to give Sanders more opportunities, the team could benefit a lot from it.
As stated earlier, the Bucks need to improve their shooting and with that must come Ellis
Ellis was very successful when he played with the Golden State Warriors, averaging over 20 points per game in four of his seven seasons with the team.
However, he simply hasn't been the same since being traded to the Bucks. He averaged 17.6 points per game in the 21 games he played with the Bucks last year. This year, he is showing some signs of improvement. He is averaging 18.8 points per game, as well as a pretty impressive 1.8 steals.
If the Bucks want to keep winning, Ellis must revert to form from his days with the Warriors. He is only 27 and is should not be slowing down physically.
If the Bucks can focus on all these aspects of their game, they should be in the Playoffs by the end of the season. Ellis will be the big focus for the team and his success could be directly related to how well the team does. If he can step up, the team could find themselves upsetting teams in the playoffs.