Opening Statements 22: Wizards vs Bucks — Grunfeld’s Ex vs His Present Day | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements 22: Wizards vs Bucks — Grunfeld’s Ex vs His Present Day

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Updated: December 10, 2016

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The 11-10 Milwaukee Bucks visit D.C. on Saturday night holding down the 7-seed in the East with 75 percent of the season left, while the 8-13 Wizards rank 12th in the conference.

Since Ernie Grunfeld arrived in Washington from Milwaukee in 2003, he’s overseen a 452-619 record (.422)—ranked 24th in the NBA during that period, a hair above the .419 winning percentage of the Milwaukee franchise in that time. The Bucks have had two GMs since: Larry Harris (also was assistant GM under Grunfeld), .402 record from 2003 to 2008; and John Hammond, .430 record from 2008 to present.

Harris cycled through two seasons of Terry Porter as head coach, 1.75 seasons of Terry Stotts, and 1.25 seasons of Larry Krystkowiak before being shown the door. Porter made the playoffs in his first season (6-seed, 4-1 first round loss to the Pistons), and Stotts did the same in his first season (8-seed, 4-1 first round loss to the Pistons).

Hammond has cycled through 4.5 seasons of Scott Skiles, making the playoffs in year two of the coach’s tenure (6-seed, 4-3 first round loss to the Hawks); a cup of Jim Boylan coffee, who made the playoffs in replacing Skiles midseason (8-seed, 4-0 sweep by the Heat); one non-playoff season under Larry Drew; and then has had Jason Kidd as his head coach since 2014-15. In Kidd’s first season, the Bucks surprised (and delighted) the NBA with a 41-41 record and a playoff appearance (6-seed, 4-2 first round loss to the Bulls), but disappointed last year (33-49) and are now trying to claw their way back.

For Wizards context, beginning with his second year in Washington, Grunfeld’s teams made the playoffs four consecutive years (three first round exits, one second round exit) under a coach he didn’t hire, Eddie Jordan. His hire of Flip Saunders did not work out (under failing infrastructure, roster- and culture-wise) and that beget the bargain-basement replacement option of Randy Wittman, which didn’t turn out to be holistically great for culture either (although it did bring two consecutive trips to the second round). Now the Wizards are trying to find their way, still in the dark tunnel of the Grunfeld regime, with a coach, Scott Brooks, who has had trouble simply getting his players to exert #effortmetrics (and under a ‘Plan D and below’ roster infrastructure).

Like the Wizards with Ian Mahinmi, the Bucks are missing a key part of their team, Khris Middleton. But with seemingly a deeper, better constructed roster and a cadre of young players (including but not limited to Thon Maker, Jabari Parker and, of course, Giannis Antetokounmpo), the Bucks have been more consistent this season. They’ve won 5 of 7, losing to the Spurs at home by one point and to the Hawks by four points at home last night. Atlanta outscored Milwaukee 70-46 in the second half, so you know they will be sore to bounce-back in Washington, even on the second night of a back-to-back.

The Wizards backed off the ledge with a home win over the fledgling Denver Nuggets on Thursday evening. A 17-12 fourth quarter sealed a 92-85 win. Washington, looking to turn their season around and establish something against the Nuggets, only scored five points in the first eight minutes of the contest and trailed by as much as 14 in the first quarter before Denver slowly let them back into the fold over the duration of the game. The Nuggets missed their last 14 3-point attempts … but don’t exactly blame the Wizards. Denver shot 1-for-11 from 3 when “wide open” (no defender within 6 feet).

No surprise, the one-game-above-.500 Bucks come to Washington middle-of-the-pack in several key categories:

  • eFG% – 50.9 (10th)
  • FTA Rate – 0.271 (17th)
  • TO Rate – 14.6 (19th)
  • OREB% – 22.6 (17th)
  • OffRtg – 104.5 (14th)
  • DefRtg – 102.1 (10th)
  • NetRtg – plus-2.4 (11th, tied)

While the Wizards are average or below average in most of the same categories:

  • eFG% – 49.9 (16th)
  • FTA Rate – 0.244 (25th)
  • TO Rate – 14.7 (20th)
  • OREB% – 24.9 (9th)
  • OffRtg – 102.9 (17th)
  • DefRtg – 105.2 (18th)
  • NetRtg – minus-2.3 (17th)

Meaning, it could be anyone’s game. Sporting outcomes, particularly game by game, cannot be predicted by statistics alone, if at all. Let’s remember that.

Jason Kidd’s starters, Matthew Dellavedova (6-4), Giannis Antetokounmpo (6-11), Tony Snell (6-7), Jabari Parker (6-8), and John Henson (6-11) will be a handful. Over the last seven games (120 minutes) they’ve fielded a NetRtg of plus-12.3 compared to the plus-8.6 of Washington’s starters.

A Milwaukee second unit of Jason Terry, rookie Malcolm Brogdon, Michael Beasley, Greg Monroe, and the Greek Freak is plus-16.7 for NetRtg in 25 minutes. That lineup drops off to plus-1.1 when you replace Giannis with Mirza Teletovic (25 minutes). Also, continue to be glad that the Wizards did not go after Greg Monroe.

Otto Porter will likely check Giannis to start; Otto played well in a loss to the Bucks last February. But that also means that Wall can’t get caught gambling and let Dellavedova drive past him, Beal can’t let Snell body him around the court, Morris can’t get into a midrange jump-shooting contest with Parker only to later lose him baseline, and Gortat can’t let Henson be more active than him.

Tonight could be a chance for Scott Brooks to further unleash a lineup that has become fashionable over the last two games versus Brooklyn and Denver—basically the starters with Kelly Oubre instead of Markieff Morris. They are plus-59.5 in NetRtg over the small sample size of 20 minutes recently (lineup implemented in four games over the last seven).

But it’s still about the bench for Washington. A five-man crew of Trey Burke, Marcus Thornton, Kelly Oubre, Markieff Morris, and Andrew Nicholson has been plus-7.9 in NetRtg over a mere eight minutes lately, but as we’ve all observed in practice, that lineup is no longer sustainable, even in theory. Replacing Burke with Tomas Satoransky could be considered for a defensive boost, but then there are still the facts. Satoransky and Oubre are young and inexperienced defenders, Morris is an absent-minded defender, and Nicholson and Thornton are just bad.

Net Ratings and minute averages over our working window of the past seven games:

  • Nicholson: -8.2, 6.4 minutes
  • Jason Smith: -14.7, 12.2
  • Burke: -15.2, 10.0
  • Thornton: -18.3, 16.0

Until those glaring problems are solved, the Wizards will trudge on an uphill climb each and every game, hoping their stars will carry them or their opponents fall apart. Or they could just continue to strive for average.

[Stats via Basketball-Reference.com and stats.nba.com]

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.