Brandon Jennings wasn’t supposed to be this good. In just his 7th game in the season he dropped 55 points on the hapless Golden State Warriors. He never looked back. While he didn’t quite score in volumes like that again he did steadily improve. He’s a fast and nimble point guard with a killer floater. But he’s 6’1″ and weighs 169 pounds wet. Just the type of player that Deron Williams eats for breakfast. Jennings will be improved in his sophomore campaign but unless he grew 3 inches and put on 30 pounds this is going to be a rough matchup for Jennings.
Brandon also struggled last year with his jumper only hitting 32.3% on 2s away from the rim and has trouble finishing inside against bigger opponents, only 39.7% – worst mark for any player with 200 attempts or more. Expect the Jazz to get Deron isolated against Jennings in the post often. Defensively the Jazz’s tendency to allow more 3s than most teams could allow Jennings to burn them. This is a guy that can light up anybody for 30+ points if the conditions are right. But Deron’s size should bother Jennings all game long. If Deron seems to have trouble guarding his speed the Jazz could potentially put Raja Bell on the Young Buck. You don’t want to see Raja when he gets angry.
Advantage – Jazz
I know that in Utah the matchup that will get all the press will be Big Al vs. Andrew Bogut, but that matchup won’t determine the game. What, you say? How do these teams’ second best players not impact the end result? I’ll show you.
The Bucks last year were the 3rd best team in defensive efficiency. Out of 100 possessions opponents only got 94.05 shots up on them. What does that mean? Well, for a Jazz team that averaged a FG% of 49% getting less shots means less points. Less shots turns a 49% field goal percentage to a 47% field goal percentage if you count those lost possessions as misses instead of simple lost possessions. What does that have to do with Maggette and Salmons?
[Author's Sidenote: This team is going to give Miami fits. Really.]
For all of the Bucks defensive strengths they were an offensive mess. They ranked 23rd in offensive efficiency – only averaging 97 points a game. Their offense received a shot in the arm when it acquired Salmons in an offseason trade. He was their offense most nights. Now in the offseason the Bucks added Maggette to boost this offense. The quickest way to put the Bucks’ offense in a standstill is to shut these two down. It will be AK and Bell’s responsibility. It will be a rough night.
The Jazz are known for taking risks on defense. This by default results in fouls – a lot of fouls. Maggette is the league’s best at getting to the charity stripe. Expect Maggette to bring a tent, a sleeping bag, and some marshmallows to the game because he’ll be camped at the free throw line all night.
Advantage – Milwaukee.
This is an up and coming team. They overcame injuries to key players (Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut) to have a successful season, still made the playoffs without arguably their best player (Bogut), and even managed to push Atlanta to 7 games shorthanded. Now they have reloaded in the offseason by adding Maggette, Drew Gooden, and Chris Douglas-Roberts. This will no longer be an offensively challenged team. They were already a good team despite their offense being ranked 23rd in the Association. Now they added offensive firepower to a top 5 defense. If Brandon Jennings can continue his development as one of the best up and coming point guards in the league and Maggette can buy into playing defense expect the Bucks to be a top 10 team.
All time series is tied 41-41; 1-1 last season season.
The Milwaukee Bucks only allowed the Jazz to score 99 points a game in their two meetings last season. The only teams to do better? Atlanta, L.A. Lakers, Boston, and (gasp!) New York. To make matters worse the Jazz averaged 23 assists per game against them and shot a miserable 30% from 3. Milwaukee gives the Jazz offense fits.
2005 #1 draft pick out of Utah, Andrew Bogut, will make his annual reunion tour with his beloved Utah. Technically he’s from Australia but it’s a homecoming of sorts.
The most recent meeting between these two was a physical match that resulted in ex-Jazzman Carlos Boozer being ejected from the game with 16.7 seconds left while disputing a non call. It was one of those close losses (even though the final score doesn’t give the game justice) the Jazz wish they could have had back.
Scott Skiles and Jerry Sloan are known for their hard-nosed approach to defense. Both will agree that it doesn’t matter how many points a player can score; if the player can’t play defense he’s not cut out for this league. In fact, last season while Scott Skiles’ Bucks allowed only 94.05 shots per 100 possessions the Jazz allowed 94.91 per 100.
Watch the sidelines. Skiles and Sloan could set a record for most combined scowls in a game.
Fear the Deer.
This is a team that despite numerous weaknesses made up for it with their defensive prowess. This year’s model now is more potent on offense and will continue to test teams on the defensive end. They lost to the Hawks in the 1st round of the playoffs last year. But they were arguably without their best player and still managed to push the Hawks to 7 games.
Watch out for this team.
They are the Bizarro Heat. Defensively sound. If Bogut can stay healthy for the season the Bucks could surprise some people in the East as a 4 seed.
[Author's Note: This team is built like the 2004 Detroit Pistons that beat the powerhouse 2004 Lakers. Defensive minded and hard-nosed. I would love to see the Bucks play the Heat in a 7 game series. Delicious basketball right there. Milwaukee could very well be their Kryptonite. Just a prediction.]
The Jazz split the season series with them 1-1. But the Jazz’s win against them came before the Salmons trade. The Bucks then went on to win 14 out of their next 16 games after that trade. Don’t forget that the Jazz’s loss to the Bucks last season came during that stretch.
I see the Jazz splitting the season series against them with each team winning at home but the Jazz will play the Bucks on the back end of a back to back after playing the Clippers this season. That might spell disaster and allow the Bucks to steal one in Utah while Utah is licking their wounds from battling inside against the man child, Blake Griffin, and the Geico Caveman, Kaman.
Follow Mychal on twitter. (@My_Lo)