What Jason Kidd’s Firing Means for the Bucks

What Jason Kidd’s Firing Means for the Bucks article feature image
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Jan 14, 2018; Miami, FL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd reacts in the game against the Miami Heat during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday afternoon, the Milwaukee Bucks fired head coach Jason Kidd, who had been with the team since the 2014-15 season. What does this mean for Giannis’ future with the team? And what should bettors and DFS players be watching for in the aftermath? The Action Network NBA crew quickly gathered to discuss all short-term and long-term implications of the move.

The Big Picture

The first question, above everything else, is what this means for Giannis Antetokounmpo. You’d think, with the Greek Freak in the first year of his extension, the Bucks would have some time before they have to worry about him wanting out.

They don’t.

Giannis already made comments this summer that were ambivalent about his future in Milwaukee. For all of Kidd’s faults, Antetokounmpo was reportedly “devastated” by the firing of Kidd. It’s important to note that what fans and media see of coaches, and the overall machinations of coaches within organizations, don’t always reflect those personal relationships.

Assistant coach and current interim head coach Joe Prunty is the fourth coach for Giannis in his career. He’ll have a new coach if Prunty isn’t retained — that’s five in his short NBA career. That doesn’t bode well for a small market team attempting to retain a top-five talent in the league.

At the same time, Kidd wasn’t taking the Bucks anywhere. For every good thing he did, which included unleashing Antetokounmpo and not boxing him into a position or role, there were a ton of mistakes that limited the potential of the team.

And that’s before dealing with Kidd’s notoriously taciturn personality. It was a no-win situation.

Kidd made his own bed, that’s clear with how his relationship with ownership soured from such a privileged place to start. The trick with firing a coach that had your team in the playoffs last year and in line to make it again this season is that “not terrible” isn’t good enough — you have to land a big upgrade.

Antetokounmpo is locked in on his deal through 2021. On the surface, that means the Bucks don’t have to worry about this situation for a while. But the clock keeps moving back on these decisions. Now, the year before the final season is where you start examining if you can retain a player and, if you can’t, dealing him. That means they have until the summer of 2020… or 2.5 years… which means this next hire has to be the right one.

No pressure. — Matt Moore

What the Metrics Say

  • Under Prunty: 19 games, 8-11 W-L (.421), 104.1 ORtg, 108.0 DRtg, 97.2 Pace, 26.4 OREB%, 74.3 DREB%
  • Under Kidd: 190 games, 90-100 W-L (.474), 105.2 ORtg, 106.3 DRtg, 96.9 Pace, 22.0 OREB%, 75.0 DREB%

— Data from Justin Phan

The Bucks have been fine offensively this season, ranking 12th in points per possession and seventh in effective field goal percentage. They’ve been awful on the boards on both ends, and they’ve really struggled to defend, ranking 25th and allowing 110.3 points per 100 possessions. Kidd believes in an aggressive, switching scheme that attempts to deny every shot instead of playing off the opposing offense’s strengths and weaknesses. Under Kidd, the Bucks have been very offensive with their defense.

Unfortunately, a switching, maniacal defense is a lot to ask of players, and it’s particularly a lot to ask of a young team like the Bucks. They clearly struggled with it, evidenced by their poor defensive rating, rebound rate, and foul rate. Despite wanting to limit advantageous situations for the offense, they actually rank dead last in the league in opponent shots at the rim. They’re dead last in 3-point percentage allowed. Having a scheme is one thing; having one that doesn’t fit the personnel is another.

It’s unclear by the metrics whether the Bucks under Prunty — if he is indeed the coach for the rest of the season — will change. Perhaps they won’t. But make sure to monitor whether their rotations or defensive schemes are altered with Kidd permanently gone. They have clear weaknesses, and any change in those would certainly affect the outlook of this talented squad even this season. — Bryan Mears

DFS and Betting Market Spin

Again, it’s unclear what the Bucks will look like under Prunty without Kidd in the picture. The data suggests they’ll be the same team. However, it is possible Prunty uses the remainder of the season to push for the playoffs — apparently the Milwaukee management was unhappy with the Bucks slipping to the No. 8 spot of late — and audition to be the head coach moving forward. If that’s the case, he could ride his top players, who have been excellent together. Each of the Bucks’ top lineups — mostly a combination of their top-six players in Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, Tony Snell, Khris Middleton, Giannis, and John Henson — have performed well this season. In fact, their top-three most-played lineups have posted net ratings between +11.0 and +14.0.

The issue is when the bench comes in, and especially when the ball-handlers in Bledsoe, Brogdon, or Giannis are out of the game. Giannis and Middleton already lead the NBA in playing time, averaging 37.4 and 37.2 minutes per game, respectively, and it’s unlikely that will change given the current stakes. While the offensive numbers may not change for the Bucks, their overall metrics will improve if they limit the damage of their bench under Prunty as they push for a better seed in the playoffs.

Evan Abrams below has an interesting trend on the Bucks’ second half performance. That is particularly intriguing given the outstanding metrics of Milwaukee’s best players and the fact that as a team they rank fifth in clutch net rating. They have incredible talent on their roster, and playing them even a couple minutes more together could affect their performance in DFS and against the spread in the betting market. — Bryan Mears

Trends to Know

Bucks ATS Last Two Seasons

  • Overall: 43.9% (28th)
  • Home: 42.6% (28th)
  • vs. East: 37.7% (Last)

The Bucks are the second-worst team against the second-half spread in the NBA this season, posting a record of 17-27-1 (38.6%). That mark includes an 8-14-1 record against the second half spread at home. Kidd went 0-4 in that regard over his past four games before getting fired. — Evan Abrams

Photo via Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports