Milwaukee Bucks Struggling To Repeat 2010 Surprise Success Thanks To Injuries, Poor Shooting

MIAMI FL - JANUARY 04: John Salmons #15 of the Milwaukee Bucks argues with the officials during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on January 4 2011 in Miami Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this Photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

After a late surge last season that ended with a first round Game 7 loss to Atlanta, the Bucks have struggled this season. And the reasons why are clear.

The Milwaukee Bucks, led by trade-deadline acquisition John Salmons, all-around center Andrew Bogut, and coach Scott Skiles, surged into last season's NBA playoffs on a 29-12 run. They eventually took the Atlanta Hawks to a decisive seventh game in their first-round matchup, doing so without Bogut, who suffered a gruesome arm injury near the end of the regular season. Had he been healthy, the Bucks may have pulled off the upset.

Entering the offseason, they had a clear goal: upgrade the offense. Milwaukee ranked 25th in the league in offensive efficiency last season, at 104.9 points per possession, despite knocking down threes at a high volume. The issue, everyone seemed to agree, was foul-drawing, as the Bucks finished the season ranked last in the NBA in made freebies and second-to-last in attempts. If they got to the line more often, they could offset their deficiency as jump-shooters and Bogut's underrated, but still incomplete, offensive game.

In acquiring foul magnet Corey Maggette and offensive rebounding expert Drew Gooden, the Bucks addressed those issues. Maggette has made a career out of driving head-down into defenders for fouls, and while Gooden isn't nearly as prolific at getting hacked, his presence in heavy traffic under the rim can still help in that regard. Despite adding those two players, the Bucks now have the league's worst offense, scoring 101.1 points per 100 possessions. The reason is simple: nobody can shoot. At all.

Of the 16 Bucks to take the court this season, only Jon Brockman has an effective field-goal percentage--a metric which adjusts for three-point shooting--over the league average of 49.7 percent. His 55.6 percent figure is fantastic in and of itself. However, because he's a rebounding specialist who averages one shot attempt every 7.5 minutes, it's very nearly as though the Bucks don't have a single competent shooter.

Brandon Jennings, Salmons, and Carlos Delfino lead Milwaukee in shot attempts per game. They rank 12th, 11th, and 5th on the team in effective field-goal shooting. Skiles' go-to players simply can't score efficiently. Not even Bogut, whose combination of minutes played, offensive involvement, and scoring ineptitude puts him in some unflattering company among centers.

To be fair to Milwaukee, though, injuries have played a key role in derailing its season. Delfino missed 32 games with a concussion; Gooden hasn't played since January 21st with a nagging plantar fascia issue; Jennings' broken foot pressed Keyon Dooling into the starting lineup 22 times; Salmons missed all of training camp with a sore knee; and Bogut's nasty spill from last season has taken a toll on him this one, as he told SB Nation colleague Mike Prada just prior to the All-Star Break.

To Skiles' credit, he still has the Bucks defending at an elite level, as they rank behind only the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, and Orlando Magic in defensive efficiency. However, it takes more than defense to win in this league, and the Bucks' NBA-worst offense won't be enough to get them into the postseason despite a $68 million payroll.

Perhaps they can try their luck again next season, when everyone figures to be healthier. Given that, there's no reason why a team with Bogut, Salmons, and Maggette can't at least be league-average at the offensive end.

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