Does God want Joe Prunty to be the Bucks next head coach?
By Jamie Wianecki
Since the Bucks fired Jason Kidd on January 22nd, they are 7-1 under interim head coach, Joe Prunty. Their defense is better, their offense is better, everything is better without Kidd and with Prunty. Jon Horst already said Prunty is going to finish the season as the head coach. But what if Prunty earns the 3 seed in the Eastern conference and wins a playoff round or two? Would Horst and the Bucks consider him? I hope not. Predicting how good a coach will be is quite difficult. Brad Stevens was the closest recent hire who everyone thought worst-case, wasn’t going to be a bad coach. Little did everyone (who doesn’t wear Celtics briefs) know that Stevens was going to be a top 2 or 3 head coach in the NBA.
The obvious rebuttal to Prunty’s success is they played such a shitty schedule. They beat the Suns, Nets twice, Bulls, the Embiidless-76ers, Knicks twice (once mostly without Porzingis) and then got hammered in a weird game against the Timberwolves. Their next game is Friday against the Miami Heat who have lost their last 5 games, but have beaten the Bucks twice this season so far. After Miami the Bucks go to Orlando and then face Atlanta at home. It’s very possible Prunty goes 10-1 in his first 11. The last game before the All-Star break is a tough one, home against the Nuggets; however, Denver has had quite the stretch themselves. Denver’s last 5 games have been against Charlotte, Golden State, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Boston. In between now and February 15th, they play Houston, Phoenix and San Antonio. Who knows what kind of rest schedule the Nuggets are going to have in their last game before the break. So what will the temperment be in Milwaukee if Prunty has an 11-1 or 10-2 record as interim head coach at the break. Quite the change since 20115-16 when he went 8-9 filling in for Jason Kidd. During that time, the Bucks had standards to make the playoffs after going 41-41 the previous season, but failed to do so. The standards this season, and even Jason Kidd would agree, isn’t just to make the playoffs but is to earn a top 5 seed in the Eastern Conference and win the first round. Giannis is one of the best 5 players in the NBA and then they have a complement of other players who fill their role well. Eric Bledsoe, though was kind of expensive, adds a ton of value to this team. He can get to the rim at any possession he wants. From there he can dish or finish strong at the rim. He is also one of the best ball-hawking defenders in the league, second in steals only to Paul George. His biggest flaw is his three point shooting. As a Buck, he takes the second most threes per game on the team, 5, second to Khris Middleton. Of the current Bucks who shoot at least one three per game, Bledsoe ranks 8th in percentage (that is even behind Jason Terry who was shooting 11% at one point). If Prunty really wants to make an impression, getting both Bledsoe and Giannis to shoot a higher percentage of threes would do the trick. Giannis is right behind Bledsoe in three point percentage.
I don’t think Giannis making more threes is the best formula for Bucks success, I think it’s more important for guys like Snell, Bledsoe, Middleton, Brogdon and especially Thon to make more threes from open shots created by Giannis drives; however, if Prunty were to get Giannis’s three percentage above 30% on a couple attempts per game, that would drastically improve this team. Prunty has already improved the defensive rating, but again, shitty schedule and also it wasn’t hard to improve.
Prunty hasn’t had all luck during his stretch as interim head coach. He has dealt with more injury issues than Kidd had. Giannis missed a full game plus parts of others due to an ankle injury. Both Delly and Brogdon are missing multiple weeks with injuries. And both Bledsoe and Henson missed time. But the team still overcame those guys missing time, with the exception of the Minnesota game. It was quite the luck of the draw to get the 76ers on a back-to-back where Embiid wasn’t going to play. The Bucks should have still beaten the Knicks, but they were again lucky to not have to face Kristaps Porzingis who already had 10 points, 2 boards and 3 blocks in 11 minutes of play. Even the game against the Timberwolves they had some luck on their side, prior to the game Minnesota had lost 3 of 4. Milwaukee just couldn’t capitalize. So from the stretch of January 22nd to the All-Star break, Joe Prunty would only have to face 3 playoff contending teams, the 76ers who were without their second best player, the Timberwolves who were on a losing skid, the Heat who are currently on a losing streak and the Nuggets who will be coming off a schedule from hell.
Does God want Joe Prunty to be the next Bucks head coach?