Most people saw the Milwaukee Bucks’s offseason additions (Corey Maggette, Drew Gooden, Larry Sanders, Keyon Dooling, Jon Brockman, and Chris Douglas-Roberts) and figured the Bucks had improved. Maggette and Gooden presumably helped in areas the Bucks needed to improve: namely scoring, rebounding and accumulating copious amounts of free throw attempts.
Not me. Oh no way, not me. I realized just what the Bucks had actually done. They overspent on middling talents who impress with their physical abilities but lack the required basketball IQ and teamwork to utilize said abilities. Corey Maggete and Drew Gooden, on paper and in name, aren’t bad players. But if you ever sit and watch them, you’ll inevitably come away with the same impression: umm, are you sure those guys have been playing basketball all their lives?
Drew Gooden, if you look at his stats and production, ain’t bad. In fact, looking at only stats and then comparing him to fellow overpaid big men like Darko Milicic or Brendan Haywood, one might think Gooden is a steal. (I laugh at the thought.) But anyone who has ever watched Gooden for an extended period of time knows how much truth the following paragraph holds (by John Krolik at Cavs the Blog):
Gooden was an excellent rebounder, had a decent touch from mid-range, could occasionally score in the post, and could attack off the dribble. On paper, Drew Gooden was and is a very passable NBA power forward. However, Drew was always far worse than his package of skills would suggest he was. He was never a very efficient scorer, wasn’t very tough around the basket, would settle for too many midrange jumpers, and would often start dribbling towards the basket without any sort of plan. Defensively, he never had any clue what was going on, and would regularly miss rotations. He was a tentative finisher around the basket, often pivoting a few times and tossing up an oddly angled hook instead of just catching the ball and dunking.
Maggete’s very similar. He posts big scoring totals and gets to the free throw line far more often than a mediocre player should. He shoots a great true shooting percentage (61.5% last year), mostly because of his ability to draw fouls but also because he shoots a damn good percentage from the field (51.6% last year). That high shooting percentage helps Maggette shoot a very solid effective shooting percentage (52.3% last year), which does not account for his obscene ability to draw fouls. But Maggette is also a chemistry killer and — for lack of a better term — a ball hog.
If I had to use one sentence to describe Corey Maggette, it would be this: “He’s the man where ball movement comes to rest.” Maggette catches the ball and puts his head down, charging toward the rim like an angry bull on steroids. He draws an insane amount of fouls and scores at an efficient rate, but when I watch Maggette play I come to one conclusion: he’s one of the very last NBA players I’d want to play with.
Which brings me to my next point: The Bucks acquired two paper champions (okay, not champions) who have never shown a real ability to improve teams. And not only that, but they will pay the two players $49 million over the next three years (and Gooden an additional $13 million for the two years after that). To top it off, they spent another $40 million this summer to re-sign John Salmons — another mediocre player in his own right. Salmons at least fits into what they Bucks are trying to accomplish, but when you commit $24 million per year to that trio it’s tough to field a contender.
If the Bucks were looking to field a competitive team, to remain a mediocre 5th- or 6th-seed in the playoffs every year, they likely accomplished their goal. But if they were looking to contend for a championship at some point in the near future, I don’t see it.
And about the Bucks’ latest acquisitions, the ones that were supposed to bolster their chances of becoming a top-four seed in the East? The following quote might be telling.
“I think team chemistry in the NBA is very underrated,” said Bucks coach Scott Skiles. “You need chemistry to be successful and we don’t have that at the moment, but we’ll get it hopefully.”
Paul Pierce 23 points shy of 20,000
Do you know how many points 20,000 happens to be? Yeah, me too. A lot.
If (when?) Pierce scores 23 more points, he will join three current Celtics on the 20,000 point list. Pierce would be the 36th player in NBA history to accomplish the feat. Besides the current Celtics who already have 20,000 points (Shaq, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett), three former Celtics have scored 20,000: Larry Bird, John Havlicek and Robert Parish. (Note: Apologies go out to Gary Payton and Dominique Wilkins, who also scored 20,000 points. No, I cannot consider you guys Celtics.)
Clearly, Pierce will be in elite company.