Jason Kidd returned to the Bucks bench tonight, putting to rest (for now)
negligent speculation by dicks like Woj rumors that the hip surgery was a convenient way to get out of job that seemed to be going south. Prunty did an admirable job by at least not allowing a poor-performing team to get noticeably worse, and there were even a few sparks along the way that offered hope the Bucks were improving. But now that his interim tenure is done, let’s take a look at how the team performed with each coach so far this year.
All stats from nba.com
First, the basic overview:
So what changed here? Not a lot. The record is better, and the Prunty wins have come against the following teams:
It’s a mixed bag of opponents, but wins are wins. Especially the four games on the road, since their most “impressive” road win prior was an early game against the Knicks.
They’ve managed to make a real impact on the offense as well, while keeping the defense at a consistent but still terrible level.
The major caveat to the general numbers, and all of the numbers really, is to remember the team is super young and started the year off unhealthy. Parker slowly increased his minutes and is still working on getting his game in order. Mayo missed a lot of time to start the year. There was an MCW injury and benching under Kidd as well. Prunty has had some injuries as well, but nothing major and his available roster has been a lot more steady.
Let’s look a little deeper at what’s changed. Here’s kind of a summary of advanced stats that begin to tell more of a story.
I start with assist/TO ratio because it’s an interesting number. It’s barely changed, but the Bucks were ranked 10th in the league under Kidd and fell to 20th under Prunty. While a lot of teams settled in and improved their ball movement and care over the first few months, the Bucks stayed put.
The Bucks have been strong at generating assists, especially under Kidd where they were 4th in Assist % and Assist Ratio. With Kidd calling the shots, the Bucks live with their poor-shooting athletes cutting to the basket. Since Prunty has taken over, there’s still plenty of that, but it’s been mixed up with more isolation (especially as Middleton has started to find his shot) and a lot more work in the paint.
The offensive rebound and shooting numbers speak to that latter point. Prunty has going heavy on inside work on offense, with Parker, Giannis and Monroe all getting heavy use inside in the post and facing up. Of course, keeping guys inside to grab rebounds often creates more chances for easy shots on the other end, which does not help their struggling defense.
The pace numbers are still really slow compared to everyone else. Part of that is their offensive spacing has been a mess all year, so they have to rely on slow developing plays in order to score. That could be Moose in the post, multiple screens to get Middleton open, or a lot of dribble-drive attempts to get someone to the rim. That hasn’t improved and outside of a trade it won’t this year. Still, all of those numbers are fairly average.
The bigger part of the pace seems connected to the terrible defense. They’re one of the bottom teams in defensive rebounding rate and opponent 2nd chance points. That will limit possessions. They also do slow down opponents a bit with their frantic defense, in the sense that possessions take longer. It just hasn’t been effective enough to limit points
That hasn’t changed, nor would you expect it to as Sean Sweeney is primarily responsible for the defense and has struggled to keep the same scheme as last year with vastly different players.
So what has changed the most? Style of offense, by far.
We’re talking fairly small changes in terms of absolute points here and the Bucks are scoring more as a whole, so most categories should be better. But the big changes are down low, where they are scoring more points and spending more of their time.
What’s the reason for the shift in how they score? Well it goes back to the previous point about health. The primary starting five coming into the year was MCW, Middleton, Giannis, Parker, Monroe. It’s that same group today. But due to injuries, that’s not who played early on.
That lineup played 110 minute for Kidd. They played 268 minutes for Prunty. Kidd had to play a lot of odd lineups, including starting Tyler Ennis at point guard at one point.
Bottom line? The Bucks coaching story is really a non-story. It appears the real story is the delay in getting the ideal players on the floor together for an extended period of time. We’re not seeing great results since it happened, but things are getting better here and there. The offense is better, the record is better. Maybe by the end of the year we’ll see more improvement across the board.