This edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” – Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews key upcoming 76ers games – features tonight’s opponent, the Milwaukee Bucks who are 2-8 and will be missing a couple key players tonight.
After the jump, I’ll look a Fo’ key items for tonight’s game. Additionally, we’ll get a little more insight into this Milwaukee team the Sixers face tonight from our colleague Frank Madden at brewhoop.com, as Frank will answer Fo’ questions on his Bucks from us here at Philadunkia.
Here are Fo’ key items I will be watching for tonight from the Sixers end…
1) Win this one: Even though this is the season of the tank, I’d like to see the Sixers take advantage of a 2-8 Bucks team that is riddled with injuries and end this 4-game losing streak. The Bucks took three of four meetings from the Sixers last season, but their two top scorers in that series — Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings — are no longer with the club.
2) Michael Carter-Williams vs. Luke Ridnour: On the defensive end, Ridnour struggles to keep quick guards in front of him, so I’ll be interested to see if MCW’s foot injury limits his ability to go past Ridnour. If his foot is solid, MCW should get to the rim at will and it could be a big night for the 76ers rookie.
3) “The Enigma” Returns?!?: Evan Turner has been held below 14 points in two of his past three games after averaging 23.4 through the first 10. If Turner is returning to “The Enigma” level of play we saw last year it’s going to kill his trade value. I’m willing to bet this recent stretch is just a minor slump and he gets back on track tonight.
4) Rebounding: The Sixers rank 7th in the League in rebounding (45 per night), while the Bucks rank 28th (40 per night). Without Thad, the battle on the glass could be a little more even than the numbers would predict, so I’ll be interested to see if the other Sixers bigs and Turner can hold down the fort on the boards in Thad’s absence.
Q&A with Frank Madden at brewhoop.com:
Philadunkia: The Bucks have been dealing with a significant number of injuries in this young season. At times the team has been missing as many as four starters (Ersan Ilyasova, Brandon Knight, Caron Butler and Larry Sanders). When will MIL get healthy and what do expect from Bucks when they are finally competing with their forecasted lineup?
Frank Madden at brewhoop.com: Even before the injuries, projecting this team was a complete crapshoot given all the unknown variables at: 11 new players, a new coaching staff, lots of young players needing to play big minutes, etc. That said, I felt like a win figure in the low-30s seemed most likely going into the season, with the upside of creeping close to 40 if Sanders/Ilyasova played like they did in the second half last year, young guys developed, and the veterans didn’t regress. But it’s all up for grabs at this point because Ilyasova is only now getting healthy and Sanders is likely out for the rest of the calendar year. The Bucks’ depth will keep them from being blown out most nights, but their starting five won’t scare anyone even when healthy and they’ll need to take advantage of a soft schedule over the next three weeks in order to avoid digging deeper into the East cellar.
Philadunkia: With an injury induced 2-8 start, have the Bucks entered the Andrew Wiggins / Jabari Parker sweepstakes or do you still have some hope for a decent season?
Frank Madden at brewhoop.com: Especially given the injuries, I think many/most fans would be more than happy to play the youngsters (who might actually be better than their vet counterparts anyway), hope for a 25-win season and roll the dice on a top-five pick next summer. From a franchise-building perspective, there’s no way that’s a worse outcome than winning 38 games again, but then again I’m not sure how much the Bucks can do to upgrade their roster at this point even if they wanted.
That said, I don’t expect the Bucks’ front office to throw in the towel anytime soon. They can justifiably lean on the injury excuse to explain some their struggles so far, and given their annual mandate to compete I’d be surprised if they made any “sell” moves even if they’re out of contention by the trade deadline. Bottom line is that they probably will want to keep up appearances, and I’m not sure their veterans would net them much anyway–it’s not like anyone’s giving up a first round pick for Caron Butler’s expiring deal.
Philadunkia: Because of all the injuries a player I really liked coming out of college, rookie point guard Nate Wolters (76ers held his rights briefly back in June), has received a ton of minutes. What have you seen in his play so far?
Frank Madden at brewhoop.com: Wolters has been arguably the most pleasant surprise of the season to date. He’s really struggled with his jump shot–a bit strange given he was a good shooter in college–but he’s shown a very mature floor game (4.5 ast/to) and his defense has also been much better than advertised. I don’t like his release (bit slow and low), but he’s got a sneaky quick first step, uses his size well defensively and keeps the ball moving (was leading the league in hockey assists as of last week). I’m not sure he’ll ever be a quality starter, but at a minimum he looks like he’ll be a capable backup whose size and versatility will allow him to play both backcourt positions.
Philadunkia: Before the announcement that he would have thumb surgery there was criticism of Larry Sanders play. Was it justified?
Frank Madden at brewhoop.com: He definitely looked to be pressing in the first three games of the season, especially on the offensive end where it seemed like he was a bit over-eager to show he could do more than just be the garbageman he was last year. But I think the most worrying thing was his problem dealing with the physicality of Tyson Chandler, Vitor Faverani and Jonas Valanciunas in those games. He made huge strides as a defensive rebounder last season, but he was just getting bullied early on and you could tell it was impacting the rest of his game. I’d expect him to bounce back once he’s healthy, and for Larry it’s really just a matter of keeping things simple on both ends. The less he thinks, the better he typically plays.
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