Is Larry Drew at All to Blame for Milwaukee Bucks' Mishaps?

Jordan RodewaldContributor IIFebruary 19, 2014

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Larry Drew reacts to a call against the Detroit Pistons in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Monday, Nov. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/Associated Press

While the players of the Milwaukee Bucks are largely responsible for the struggles endured thus far, head coach Larry Drew certainly shoulders some of the blame.

Drew had modest success during his stint with the Atlanta Hawks, going 128-102 over three seasons, but has struggled to achieve even the smallest level of respectability with his new club.

And while he is dealing with a new set of players, it seems he has all but lost them.

So how exactly did the Bucks go from a team hoping to return to the playoffs for a second straight season to the league's worst team?

Much of it has to do with the way the roster was built, but some of it can be attributed to Drew.

Inconsistent Rotations

One of the big reasons the Bucks have failed to get anything going in 2013-14 has to do with the inconsistent lineups and rotations Drew puts on the court.

For example, through 52 games, Drew has trotted out a total of 23 different starting lineups (per Basketball-Reference).

Mark Duncan/Associated Press

While some of that can be attributed to the fact that the Bucks have had to deal with numerous injuries over the course of the year, much of it suggests Drew doesn't know what combination of players gives his team the best chance of winning.

At this point in the season, that's unacceptable.

Not only is he tinkering with the starting lineup too much, he's also trying to please too many people.

Here's a crazy stat for you: Outside of Miroslav Raduljica, every member of the Bucks is averaging over 20 minutes and only one is averaging above 30.

Taking advantage of depth is one thing, but this has gone beyond that. In fact, several players have commented on it already.

Almost immediately after the season started, center Larry Sanders voiced his frustrations to's Steve Aschburner:

I feel like I’m capable of being in the game at the end and helping my team win, coming up with blocks and rebounds,” Sanders told before exiting the locker room swiftly. “I haven’t been able to get my rhythm out there. I understand foul trouble situations, but tonight I wasn’t in foul trouble.

“Last year I finished so many games. I feel like that’s when I lock in the most. But I haven’t been able to get in the game to finish. That carries over to the next game. When you sit the last three quarters of each game, I can’t have no carryover. And it’s hard for me. I’m still a young player. It’s only my eighth year playing basketball.

And while Sanders has a knack for getting himself in foul trouble, he has a point.

Through the team's first three games, he averaged just 17.5 minutes and really was only in foul trouble for one of those games.

In January, as reported by Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, shooting guard O.J. Mayo expressed similar concerns:

It's the same thing it's been night in and night out," Mayo said. "It's been the same result, whatever the game plan has been.

"It's hard to get a rhythm when you don't know what's going to happen for you night in and night out. You may get 6 minutes, 30 minutes. There's no staple to what we're doing. You can hang in there, compete and keep it close.

"If you don't have a backbone to what you do, whether it's going to be a defensive thing, an up-tempo thing, a pound-it-in-the-paint thing, a drive-and-kick thing. We've got to find a staple as a team.

Again, like Sanders, Mayo's point has a lot of validity to it. 

The Bucks never established an identity from day one and, in turn, are the laughing stock of the NBA. 

Would they be a playoff contender had things been more consistent in terms of minutes and rotations? Probably not.

That's no excuse for the peculiar way in which Drew has managed this roster.

Not Playing to Strengths Offensively

In addition to the odd rotations he has put together, Drew hasn't discovered his team's identity on offense.

And that is a bit of concern considering it should be an obvious choice.

Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

If the Bucks have a plethora of anything right now, it's athletes.

Whether it's Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brandon Knight or Larry Sanders, the team has plenty of players who can get up and down the floor.

Given that fact, it'd make sense for this team to get out and run, right?

One would think so, but the Bucks rank 25th in pace and don't push the ball nearly enough.

Pushing the pace becomes even more important when you take into account that they're the worst shooting team in the league at 42.3 percent.

Surprisingly, these numbers—especially pace—don't reflect the plans Drew had for the team prior to the season.

Back in October, Gardner touched on the new coach's offensive mentality:

The number of the day was 4, as in 4 seconds.

That's the time allotted for the Bucks to push the ball past the mid-court line, after made baskets and misses.

Drew believes the Bucks can be more effective if they don't dawdle and push the pace, and it also will allow them 20 seconds in the frontcourt to generate a good shot.

Even with this approach, the team has taken a step in the wrong direction.

In 2012-13, the Bucks ranked third in pace (per Basketball-Reference) and 15th in fast-break points (per

This year, as mentioned, they rank 25th in pace and have dropped to 19th in fast-break points.

Considering Drew seemed to make a point of playing up-tempo when he was discussing the team during training camp, this is clearly not what he had planned.

And that hurts.

Both Sanders and John Henson are athletic big men who don't have a tremendous low-post presence. Additionally, they both run the court quite well.

Add to the equation the fact that Antetokounmpo, Knight and Khris Middleton are all great athletes and it becomes clear that this team needs to be running more and getting easy baskets in transition.

Summing It Up

Yes, the players who are on the floor ultimately dictate results.

However, coaches play an absolutely crucial role in a team's success as well.

Drew has managed to lose his team by not being able to settle on a consistent rotation and not doling out consistent minutes among his players.

Additionally, he hasn't followed through on his preseason promises of making the Bucks an up-tempo team.

While the team certainly wouldn't be in contention had he done these things, they likely wouldn't be an embarrassment either.

Not to mention, players often reflect the attitude of their coach. Perhaps some of his indecisiveness has rubbed off.

But hey, some fans are probably happy about that. The team continues to increase its chances of landing the draft's top pick and many feel that's just what the franchise needs.


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