5 Reasons for Milwaukee Bucks' Poor Start
Each time the final buzzer sounds and the Milwaukee Bucks lose another game, the grin of the folks behind SaveOurBucks.com likely grows a bit wider. But regardless of what direction some fans feel the franchise should move, there are a handful of reasons why the start to 2013-14 is more woeful than anyone could have imagined.
Truthfully, the team assembled in the offseason isn't as bad as it has looked so far. That's a conversation for another day, though.
Unable to establish any kind of momentum or rhythm, the Bucks have struggled out of the gate. In order to understand why, several key areas need to be looked at.
From injuries to inconsistent play, it's no surprise that the team is off to a terrible start.
* All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference and accurate as of Dec. 16, 2013 *
While it's tough to say where the Bucks would be without injury problems, it is safe to say that they'd probably be in better shape than their current 5-19 record—which is a league worst.
Key additions like Brandon Knight were forced out of action for a period of time while Larry Sanders, a breakout player from a year ago, has missed most of the early season.
Unfortunately, no one has any idea what the Bucks would look like at full strength.
Knight, Sanders, Caron Butler and Carlos Delfino have combined to miss a total of 65 games due to injury.
Whether or not the play of these players would have made much of a difference is unknown.
However, had they been healthy from day one, those individuals would have brought experience and stability to a roster that desperately needs both.
In response to the injuries, head coach Larry Drew has been forced to tinker with lineups and minutes much more than he probably expected to.
That's never a good thing when you're dealing with a collection of guys who have never played with one another.
Even prior to the season, no one would ever confuse the Bucks with the high-powered offense of the Houston Rockets or Oklahoma City Thunder. However, no one would have predicted the team would only be scoring 89.8 points per game.
In its five wins, the team is scoring 98.6 points per game. In contrast, it's averaging just 87.4 in losses and struggling mightily to put the ball in the hoop.
Heading into 2013-14, it was imperative that the Bucks got good offensive production from their marquee offseason acquisition, O.J. Mayo.
To this point, though, Mayo has been the definition of inconsistent.
His 13.9 points per game lead the team but are well below where they should be. Despite scoring more than 20 points on eight occasions, the 26-year-old has had some clunkers. He has failed to reach double digits in 11 games, meaning he rarely finds a happy medium in terms of his production.
If the Bucks hope to rebound from this dreadful start, Mayo will need to assert himself and become consistently aggressive, and the rest of the team will need to start knocking down shots.
While being consistent is crucial to a team's success, being able to score efficiently is another key area.
In 2012-13, the Bucks had trouble converting offensively in an efficient manner. A season ago, they finished 28th with a field-goal percentage of 43.5. Currently, they've taken a step in the wrong direction and are connecting on just 41.7 percent of their shots—bad enough for 29th in the league.
While the 36.1 percent they shoot from three-point range is better than league average, it's not nearly enough to offset their woes from inside of that range—at 43.4 percent, the Bucks are comfortably in last on two-point attempts.
Even when given good looks, players cannot seem to connect.
We'll have to wait and see if the poor shooting is a trend that gets progressively worse or slowly improves as the season rolls along.
If shots start falling, though, hopefully the team will start putting together a better display on the offensive side of things.
Lack of Defined Roles
Before the season began, the Bucks projected to be a team with plenty of depth.
What wasn't expected, though, was that midway through December no one on the team would have a clearly defined role.
Only one player—O.J. Mayo—is recording more than 30 minutes per game, and a whopping 10 Bucks are averaging at least 20 minutes on the floor.
It's great to have depth but, at some point, consistency in terms of how much each individual plays becomes more important than how many play.
At the moment, this team has no identity and few—if any—players have a specific role.
Getting consistent playing time helps players develop a pattern and a rhythm. For example, now that John Henson is seeing the floor more, his production continues to increase, as evidenced in his game log.
Now that he knows what most of the players on his roster can give him, Drew needs to shorten the rotation a bit, and let his key guys get the bulk of the minutes.
In turn, better team chemistry will be forged.
Not Getting to the Line
There are few better ways to remedy poor shooting than by attacking the basket, getting fouled and shooting free throws.
The old adage says that when a shooter goes to the line and sees the ball go through the hoop, it helps him regain confidence in his stroke. And a lot of the time, it ends up ringing true.
So far in 2013-14, the Bucks have attempted 474 free throws, ranking 27th out of all teams.
Despite the low volume, they're connecting on 77.4 percent of the attempts they do take. Given this bit of information, the fact that Milwaukee isn't getting to the foul line more often is unacceptable.
For a team struggling to score, free throws provide an easy opportunity to put points on the board and, hopefully, get a better feel for making a shot.
Failing to attack and continuing to settle for jump shots is something that will hurt the Bucks moving forward. They need to be aggressive and get to the line as much as possible in hopes of jump-starting the offense.