Fear the Deer Without Bogut?

HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

MILWAUKEE BUCKS IN TROUBLE
WITHOUT ANDREW BOGUT IN THE LINEUP

by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

One of the great stories of the NBA season turned into one of the most disappointing with one very awkward fall the other night. The Milwaukee Bucks had been the surprise of the season thanks to great team play in the areas of defense, ball movement, and rebounding. A huge weapon in those areas, center Andrew Bogut, was lost for the season due to multiple arm injuries suffered Saturday Night in a game against Phoenix..

You've either seen the video of the fall, or hidden your eyes after you heard how bad it was!

Here's what Milwaukee had done this year with Bogut:

5th in the NBA in defensive efficiency (points allowed per possession)
4th in the NBA in offensive turnover rate (Bogut is a great passer, and was a key factor in ball movement)
16th in Rebound Rate (not great, but that's tied for 6th in the Eastern Conference, which is enough to get you in the playoffs).
6th in the Eastern Conference standings as we go to press

With Bogut, Milwaukee had a legitimate chance to rise up to #5 and face vulnerable Boston in the first round. A sixth place finish would probably have drawn Atlanta, which would also have been a great series if Bogut were healthy.

Now what are handicappers and fans to expect? Do the Bucks turn into the 10th best team in the East? The 14th best team in the East? Are they going to be a very easy out for whoever draws them in the first round?

We'll learn more this week thanks to a busy Bucks schedule:

*Tonight: Milwaukee at Chicago
*Wednesday: New Jersey at Milwaukee
*Friday: Milwaukee at Philadelphia
*Saturday: Boston at Milwaukee
*Monday: Atlanta at Milwaukee

What a killer schedule! Milwaukee will have two back to backs...four games in five nights, and five games in seven nights in this next week. And, the tail end of that stretch features home games against teams who will have home court advantage in the first round of the Eastern playoffs.

What should we expect from the Bucks in the playoffs? We'll know shortly!

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We have to admit we were excited about the cover potential of the Bucks in the playoffs. The line had caught up recently to their incredible regular season stretch they've been enjoying. They weren't going to get the respect they deserved in the playoffs based on how experience is usually reflected in the Vegas line. Now, we're focused on determining value in either direction. Bogut isn't seen as a superstar...but he's such a key element that the Bucks could well prove to be a big go-against team the rest of the way.

POSITIVES:
*John Salmons is a scorer who can be counted on in crunch time. He was a perfect fit here. Unfortunately, it will now be easier for defenses to key on Salmons because Bogut isn't drawing attention in the middle.

*The Scott Skiles kool-aid is still in the pitcher. Skiles is one of those coaches who creates improvement wherever he goes, but then eventually wears out his welcome because of his intensity. The Bucks were playing with such intensity the past few months that you have to believe they're going to hunker down and keep battling. They may eventually give up if the results aren't there. We don't think they'll throw in the towel right away.

NEGATIVES:
*Brandon Jennings is a great young talent, but he has a tendency to get in the way of the offense by forcing shots and trying to do things he's not capable of consistently. He had that great early season game against the non-defense of Golden State...but then spent the next few months posting a horrible shooting percentage against teams that would guard him! There have been times where backup Luke Ridnour was running the point late in close games rather than Jennings. That's okay with a steadying force like Bogut on the floor. Now, who knows?

*Jerry Stackhouse and Kurt Thomas are guys who can contribute as role players, but tend to be net negatives when they have to carry an important load. With Bogut healthy, they were a very nice fit. With Bogut out, they'll now be asked to use their 'experience' to carry the team the rest of the way. The track record just isn't there.

*We should mention that ALL of Milwaukee's strengths take a hit with the loss of Bogut. He was the anchor of that very good defense. He was their top rebounder on a team that was top six in the East if not a league power in that stat. People marveled at Bogut's eye for passing back when he played college ball at Utah. Maybe he wasn't Bill Walton with the Portland Trailblazers back in the day. He was the closest thing we've seen to that in recent history...and it was reaping dividends out of the halfcourt offense.

In our mind, this is a huge loss. Maybe the single biggest loss that could hit a playoff team (outside of Cleveland losing LeBron James) considering the central role Bogut played in Milwaukee's success.

We'll be watching this week's challenging stretch very closely. And, we'll be working with our one site sources to gauge Milwaukee's mindset on a daily basis. It could turn out that Milwaukee is a value play right away...but then a very clear 'go against' when fatigue hits against those tough opponents later in the stretch. Or, it could be that Milwaukee is going to play opossum a bit so they can save something for Boston and Atlanta on Saturday and Monday. Either way, the Vegas lines will be vulnerable because oddsmakers will have to take some blind guesses. The exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach of JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK will keep us way ahead of the curve as this story develops!

In fact, we've been ahead of the curve in the NBA all season. Now that the college basketball campaign is in the books, it's time for YOU to focus on the pro's. We've got two more weeks of regular season action...followed by what could be an extremely entertaining Spring of playoff action:

*Cleveland and Orlando are set to battle it out once again for the Eastern championship.

*Atlanta and Boston aren't just going to roll over and get out of their way.

*The Lakers are suddenly struggling in the West (more on that story in our Thursday report as we preview the Lakers-Nuggets clash on TNT), which has opened the door for all sorts of bedlam.

*San Antonio, Utah, and Phoenix are arguably the new favorites in the West given how shaky the Lakers have been. Really, ANYONE in the Western brackets can reach the finals if the Lakers are toast. Are the Lakers toast?

You had a great time watching the Cinderella story in the Big Dance...and watching all the BIG JUICY WINNERS role in here at NETWORK. Don't stop now. Basketball isn't over...it's about to get even better!

Call 1-800-323-4453 right now to sign up for service. Be sure to ask about Major League Baseball when you call. The season is underway. And, the best time to attack the bases is early in the season when Vegas lines are still based on perceptions from last year rather than this year's reality. We'll talk more about baseball tomorrow here in the NOTEBOOK. You can look forward to heavy duty NBA and MLB coverage for the next several weeks right here on these pages. But...we don't post selections here...so you have to sign up to get the WINNERS!

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The Andrew Bogut saga is just one of several big stories going on right now in the NBA stretch run. One story that never changes...JIM HURLEY BASHING THE VEGAS SPORTSBOOKS!

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21
Nov

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