Tuesday, February 24, 2009

5 Good Reasons to Expect Playoff Basketball

Almost to the day a month ago I did my best to break down the Eastern Conference playoff race. I was looking for a term to describe it when the comments section did it's best and I was rewarded with "flaccid sword fight". Thanks to "Cookies" for that one. Well the fight has changed a bit so I thought it may be a good time to rehash the Bucks chances going forward. Since I'm still firmly entrenched in the position that the Bucks will be in the tournament I thought I'd give my top five reasons why they will make it.

(And as long as we’re here I’ll take a moment to gloat about the success of my previous playoff picks. I slotted Milwaukee into 7th just ahead of Philadelphia with New York, Chicago, New Jersey and Charlotte missing out. Currently Philadelphia sits in 7th ahead of Milwaukee with the aforementioned teams missing out. I had New York and Chicago flipped, same with Milwaukee and Philly. Pretty well done. Of course I’ve also announced the death of the 2008-2009 Milwaukee Bucks 38 times, but we’ll forget about that for now.)

5. Keith Bogans
Huh? I know, I know. Keith Bogans is a relative nobody in terms of the NBA. He’s a journeyman, semi-three point specialist and semi-good defender. But Luc Mbah a Moute is wearing down. He’s still doing his best to bring his usual hounding defense, but the rookie wall has robbed him of virtually any offensive game. For the first few months of the season Mbah a Moute was shooting roughly 45% from the field and 77% from the line. As they say in golf, that’ll play. Since February began and minutes have begun to add up a bit, Mbah has shot 38% from the field and an even more frustrating 48% from the line. Bogans is a veteran and very fresh from the few minutes he was getting in Orlando and should be able to take a lot of pressure of Mbah. Bogans hasn’t shot the lights out from the field but the man hasn’t missed a free throw as a Buck yet! 15-15. I’d count on his shot coming around before Mbah.

4. Three Point Shooting
When Michael Redd went down one of the most significant things it was assumed he would take with him was any scoring behind the arc the Bucks had. Charlie Bell is an okay shooter, but simply wouldn’t be effective enough doing everything else to take a lot of minutes behind Redd. Charlie V. and RJ have never been known as outside shooters so it seemed like a long shot that they would be of great help here. Well they’ve been of great help. Did they have some quick Lasik done or something? What has gotten into these dudes? Before this year Charlie Villanueva was a 32% shooter from behind the arc. In the last two months he’s shot 43%! He hit SEVEN on Sunday! I feel like I’m watching Tim Thomas from the 2000-2001 season. If I see a newspaper headline in July that says the Notorious C.H.A.R.L.I.E. with him signing a 60 million dollar contract I’m going to faint. Jefferson has been even better than Charlie V. in February, shooting a scintillating 58%. I haven’t even been able to throw hatred at RJ lately - he’s just been too solid. They’ve certainly been getting a lot more good looks, which brings me to my next point...

3. Ramon Sessions
I don’t want to beat a dead horse here...but have I mentioned that I think pretty highly of this guy? Is it a coincidence that the Bucks have averaged over 112 points per game since he’s taken the reigns as the starting point guard? I’m not the only one who thinks this guy is pretty good. Here’s an excerpt from a John Hollinger chat on ESPN.com on February 12th.

Jeremy (Milwaukee, WI): Does anyone outside of Milwaukee even know who Ramon Sessions is?
SportsNation John Hollinger: No, but they're going to find out pretty darn fast. It's criminal that he was left off the sophomores' roster for the rookie game, and it's equally perplexing that the Bucks kept him behind Luke Ridnour for half a season. I continue to be extremely impressed by what I've seen from him.
I’ve wrote thousands of words about Sessions already, so I’ll refrain from my usual Sessions poetry, but the man is for real. It’ll be fun to see him against Chris Paul this week. Not on ESPN though. Jerks.

2. Scott Skiles
Here is one hope I have for the rest of the season from Coach Skiles: Please do not play Ramon Sessions at the two guard any more. If you’re going to insist on playing Ridnour and he together, just put Ridnour at the two. It makes a lot more sense. Ridnour is a much better mid range shooter and has some three point skill. Sessions ENTIRE game is based on penetration. All he’ll serve to do at the two is clog it up. There is statistical evidence that Sessions has no business playing the two. I’m confident Skiles knows this and will change things. I’m so encouraged that he has left Ridnour behind Sessions on the depth chart that I’m willing to believe he’ll either stop playing them together or will play Ridnour off the ball. Prove me right coach.

1. Andrew Bogut
Bogut has been in and out of the lineup so many times this year that betting on him making a return is a risk. But If this season was a movie I feel like Bogut is the character who comes back in the end to save everyone. He is Red in Pineapple Express. You keep thinking he is dead and gone, but no, there he is jumping in to save Saul. Saul would be Francisco Elson. Elson always has this goofy stoner look on his face. Speaking of goofy, I never really said anything about it, but Andrew Bogut must have lost a bet or something a few weeks ago, because he had the most ridiculous looking white suit of all time on. I found a picture of it at RealGM.com. Words can’t explain. Anyway, if Bogut comes back with everyone else firing on all cylinders like they are now, that makes the Bucks a for real serious playoff team. Think if only he were manning the middle right now and not Elsonzuric. They wouldn’t even need to feed him in the post and he’d still get 16 and 10 a game with the tempo right now. He would feast on rebounds and put backs from Sessions penetrations. I’m holding out hope for an April stretch run comeback on the big man. And if that happens I’ll be seeing much more April basketball than I expected in November.

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