Reasons Larry Drew Can Make Milwaukee Bucks a Playoff Team

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Reasons Larry Drew Can Make Milwaukee Bucks a Playoff Team
(Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Larry Drew probably wasn't the leading candidate when the Milwaukee Bucks were searching for a new head coach over the summer, but he brings a history of success to town and can help the franchise reach the playoffs again in 2013-14.

But how?

After coaching the Atlanta Hawks for three seasons and taking them to the playoffs each year, Drew knows how to make the most of his talent.

His teams were efficient, solid both offensively and defensively, and he helped develop Jeff Teague into an up-and-coming point guard.

With any luck, he can do the same for the Bucks and guide them back to playoffs.


His Teams Are Efficient

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In 2012-13, the Bucks ranked 28th with an appalling 43.5 field-goal-percentage. If they want to make a return trip to the postseason, that's a number in need of major improvement.

That's where Drew's value starts coming in.

During his three seasons with the Hawks, the team finished 12th, 11th and 7th in that category. 

In that time, Drew used his creativity on offense to get his players open looks and play to the strengths of his big men. The utilization of pick and rolls with his big men was one noticeable, unique touch.

While Josh Smith and Al Horford are a more proven frontcourt combo than anything the Bucks have, it's not hard to picture the same strategy working between Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova.

Ilyasova possesses a very good mid-range game and has been lethal from three-point range over the past two seasons. Meanwhile, Sanders' athletic ability allows him to step away from the hoop, and though his mid-range jump shot needs a lot of improvement, he can occasionally knock it down.

This kind of look will be difficult for most defenses to guard and it will also open other things up.

Atlanta was efficient prior to his arrival, but Drew helped continue that success while tailoring the offense to better fit the personnel he had at the time—less isolation, more motion.

With their two worst shooters—Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings—gone and the addition of a coach who has had success scheming an efficient offensive gameplan, the Bucks are headed in the right direction.

Not to mention, it can't get much worse.


He Balances Offense and Defense Well

While the Bucks have gone the route of hiring a defensive-minded coach recently—Scott Skiles—they haven't been successful finding one who is diverse offensively at the same time.

With any luck, Drew will continue to fit that mold in Milwaukee.

Atlanta Hawks' Offense and Defense Under Drew
Year Team PPG (Rank) Offensive Rating (Rank) Opponent PPG (Rank) Defensive Rating (Rank)
2010-11 95.0 (26th) 106.1 (20th) 95.8 (22nd) 107.0 (13th)
2011-12 96.6 (17th) 104.9 (16th) 93.2 (25th) 101.2 (6th)
2012-13 98.0 (14th) 104.8 (18th) 97.5 (18th) 104.4 (10th)

Basketball-Reference.com

As the above chart illustrates, the Hawks became better from a scoring perspective in each of the seasons Drew coached them. During that time, they maintained their ability to play very good defense.

In order to become successful, a balance of offense and defense is crucial. Drew's track record of doing that is further evidence by Atlanta's appearances in the postseason during each of his three years there.

If he can get the Bucks to play hard on both ends of the court, he might have a winning solution.

And it certainly shouldn't be difficult to do.

With Larry Sanders and John Henson manning the paint, Milwaukee already has a very formidable frontcourt—more than the Hawks ever had under Drew—and now the coaching staff must get the rest of the team to buy into the concept.

Brandon Knight and O.J. Mayo are both capable of defending, it's just a matter of whether or not they will do so consistently.

Calling Drew a genius on either side of the ball would be a massive stretch, but he's the definition of solid. That may sound like a knock, but it's not.

Without question the Bucks have the talent to be good both offensively and defensively. The only thing they need is some guidance from an experienced coach.


Point Guard Development

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Knight and Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers were the two top point guards heading into the 2011 NBA draft. 

To this point, they have had pretty opposite starts to their respective careers.

Irving won the NBA's Rookie of the Year Award in 2012 and, a year later, was selected to his first All-Star team.

Meanwhile, Knight has struggled to prove he's worth the attention he received after his one season playing for John Calipari at Kentucky.

It's not that he has been bad, though.

Through two seasons, Knight is averaging 13.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists on 41.3 percent shooting from the field. On top of that, he's hitting a respectable 37.3 percent of the threes he takes.

For someone entering his third season, it's hard to ask for numbers better than those.

However, because of Irving and other players who immediately make a major impact and have significant success, it's easy to dismiss those who progress slower.

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Enter Larry Drew.

Taking over the Hawks in 2010-11, Drew found himself in an interesting predicament. His only two traditional point guards were Mike Bibby and Kirk Hinrich. Neither of them were suitable moving forward.

So he turned to Teague, the then second-year point guard out of Wake Forest.

Though he averaged just 5.2 points, 1.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 13.8 minutes that season, it was the start of his development into where he's at now.

In 2012-13, Teague emerged as one of the best young point guards around. He could score, he could pass and he played pretty solid defense.

And when he hit the market as a restricted free agent over the summer, he almost followed Drew to the Bucks. Unfortunately, as ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst reported, the Hawks matched Milwaukee's offer.

Teague's willingness to come to the Bucks likely had plenty to do with the $8 million per year they were offering, but it wouldn't be surprising if a lot of it had to do with Drew's coaching.

If Drew can help Knight hit his stride and develop into a complete point guard, the Bucks will be a lot more success than most think this season and into the future.

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