Light shine brightest in pitch dark environs and no place in the NBA can top Milwaukee’s dark ages unless your team is called the Philadelphia Sixers. Marooned in the north eastern side of the U.S. the Milwaukee Bucks is the least valued asset in the world’s best basketball league at just 600 million dollars. Has just a single championship banner raised all the way back in 1971 and has nothing to surpass that. The city’s frigid conditions have rendered the team devoid of top tier talents that can only dream of getting close to legendary names like Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Ray Allen. The unsavory weather has compelled many players to look elsewhere say Miami or Los Angeles when searching for a home. The many years of being stationed at the bottom of the food chain, things begun looking up for the Bucks with a change in ownership. In 2014, long time owner U.S. Senator Herb Kohl sold the team to hedge fund billionaires Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry for a reported 550 million dollars according to forbes.com.

The two managers went about securing the franchise’s future by drafting plans for a new arena to replace the outdated BMO Harris Bradley Center. They drafted super -athletic Greek teenager Giannis Antetokounmpo in the 2013 Draft, fired former Atlanta Hawks coach Larrey Drew and replaced him with NBA legend Jason Kidd through a trade with Brooklyn Nets before the 2014-2015 season got underway. Prior to that, college standout Jabar Parker was selected number two in the year’s Draft. The combination of young,long and athletic guys and a nine time NBA-All Defensive team member built the Bucks up to gate crash the playoffs as the sixth seed with a 41-41 record. Though their Cinderella story, made more enchanted by the absence of Parker through a season ending injury and the loss of best player Brandon Knight through trade,was cut short by Jimmy Butler’s Chicago Bulls, the team caused the biggest stir in the league.However, what was supposed to be the year of much greater things has turned into one with decline written all over it.


The Bucks currently sit 13th in the Eastern Conference standings after last night’s 91-79 victory over the Miami Heat which takes their record to 19 wins and 25 losses. Hitherto, this record would have put the Bucks on track for a playoff berth via the eight seed. Now, thanks to an improved East, the eight ranked Boston Celtics have a 22-20 record which puts the East on track to field playoff teams with winning records for the first time since 2005. Jason Kidd has blossomed into a very good coach, Jabari Parker has returned with some bounce in his step and the offense- ranked 22nd last year after averaging 97.8 points- got a jolt with the off season acquisition of big man Greg Monroe. So with all these facets in place, why is Milwaukee receding? It all starts with defense,
The Bucks made a surprise playoff appearance on the back of a top five defensive rating in the league. The team had a rating 102.2 to place fourth in the league according to basketballreference.com. through 44 games played this season, the Bucks defense has plummeted to 29th with a 108.8 rating.

A career average 7.2 rebounds, 5.9 rebounds and 0.4 blocks doesn’t jump out the stats sheets but in Zaza Pachulia, the Bucks had one of the most reliable, hustle defenders around. His experience and understanding of the game particularly on the defensive side, made him an indispensable figure to guide the young deers of Wisconsin. His move to Dallas Mavericks as replacement for DeAndre Jordan following his about face turn to return to Los Angeles Clippers, was perhaps the most less heralded move. The Mavericks who had to settle on JaVale McGee and Sallah Mejri as Center replacements plus acquiring out of form Deron Wlliams and Wesley Matthews coming back from a career threatening Achilles injury, didn’t project the Mavs as playoff contenders. Conversely, the inspired play of Pachulia has culminated in Dallas’ march to sixth in the Western Conference as the Mavericks continue to hold opponents to 101.1 points per game placing them 17th. In 2014-2015 season, the Mavericks held opponents to 102.3 points pitching them 25th in the league. Throw Monroe’s inadequate rim protecting skills and Milwaukee’s defensive decline becomes more apparent.

On the much glamorous side of the court, Milwaukee’s playoff run last season came off a 22nd ranked offense which averaged 97.9 points per game. This season, the Bucks are averaging 98.1 points that pegs them at 24th. Despite the uptick in points recorded, it must be noted that the sample size is relatively small (44 games) compared to that of regular season games last season. They averaged a .403 percentage on three-point shooting but has dropped to .345 this year. In a league that generates major points from anywhere but the paint, the Bucks are finding it difficult to score consistently from deep. Khris Middleton, Parker, Michael Carter-Williams, Giannis, Jerryd Bayless nor O.J.Mayo are above average three point shooters. Greg Monroe, John Henson and Miles Plumlee have no outside shot. Trading sharp shooters Gary Neal and stretch forwards Jared Dudley and Ersan Ilyasova in the off season worsened their woes. Greg Monroe’s post up heavy offensive game coupled with the inconsistency shooting young forwards Giannis and Parker bring clog the lane for fast penetrating guards Carter-Williams and Bayless to exploit.

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls - Game Two

Pointing out Kidd’s absence on the sideline due to ailments would have factored as a reason for Milwaukee’s drop off but looking out West to find Luke Walton holding the defending champions together renders the aforementioned point out of context.Chemistry issues due to the arrival of Monroe and Vasquez primarily does require time for the team to gel just like Houston where the Rockets disastrous start is eroding thanks to players being in sync more.


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