The Bucks Should Fire Jason Kidd
As I write this, the Milwaukee Bucks are 19-15, currently seeded in the 6th spot in the East. They have struggled to be consistent in their play and have suffered some tough losses. They have lost twice to the 13-23 Charlotte Hornets, twice to the 13-23 Chicago Bulls, and were beaten by 32 points in Dallas against the Mavericks. These five losses are in many ways why there are some rumblings about the Bucks and failing to meet expectations, but a voice that is growing louder is from fans that want to see head coach Jason Kidd gone. I agree with those fans for a number of reasons. Jason Kidd’s failure to build a good defense, his odd strategies, and his character are reasons that it is time for a change in Milwaukee.
Unfortunately, there are precedents in the NBA for firing coaches that have had success. Two of the most recent examples are the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors decided to make a coaching change after winning 51 games, the result was a three year run of going to the NBA Finals and winning two championships. The Cavaliers fired their coach when they had a record of 30-11. That season they went on to win an NBA Championship with their interim coach. These two situations do not bode well for coaches and it does not bode well for Jason Kidd.
Kidd has had success with this Bucks team. They have made the playoffs in two of the last three seasons and have only had a losing season once. Making the playoffs was a big deal for a Bucks franchise that has not won 50 games since the 2000-01 team and has made the playoffs 5 times in the last 13 seasons, but now the fans want more. The reason for this is the arrival of Giannis Antetokounmpo as a superstar in the NBA. He is a top 5 player in the league, although some might say top 10. The point is that Giannis is ready and with that kind of talent, fans want the team to win.
The Bucks have won more than they have lost this season, but Kidd’s inability to create a good defense with the roster that he has is troubling. The Bucks were the 4th best defense in the NBA, going by Defensive Rating, in Kidd’s first season in Milwaukee. Every year that rating has dropped and they are currently the 23rd ranked defense according to basketball-reference. This piece does a great job of explaining the Bucks current defensive issues and how the once promising ultra aggressive defense is the reason behind the Bucks horrendous play on that side of the court.
The problem with the Bucks being a bad defense is that the roster is full of good and willing defenders. Giannis, Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, and the rest of the Bucks roster can defend. While coaches can only do so much, it is difficult to believe that the Bucks lack energy and effort in so many games they lose, which is a common thing that Jason Kidd likes to say after tough losses. The fact that the defense has been so bad speaks to a scheme that may need changes and if the coach is not willing to change, it is time to make a coaching change.
Although I think the Bucks should make a change, I would have to say that I would miss Jason Kidd’s antics and unique strategies during the game. There was the time he asked a player to intentionally bump him so he could spill his drink on the court and talk to his team. The time that he wanted a player to miss a free throw that could’ve put the team up by four with little time remaining because he did not want to give up a four point play. There is also his excitement to call timeouts in close games. You just do not have many coaches that are going to do the things that Kidd does on the sideline.
My final thought on Jason Kidd being fired is that it is worrisome to see how often Jason Kidd refuses to take the blame for something happening with this team. Watching him interact with the media, he will rarely say that was my mistake or that the coaches need to do better. While that is not a new trait for coaches it is one that has always made me weary of someone’s ability to be successful. Gregg Popovich in my eyes is a great coach because he is honest and open with his players. He was so willing to accept some of the blame for LaMarcus Aldridge’s struggles last season and you can see the difference in Aldridge’s play this season. I just do not see Jason Kidd being willing to do that. Does this mean that he is a bad coach? No, but it is obvious that the Bucks would benefit from a new coach. They have the talent and they need someone that is going to help fix their defense and help them keep Giannis around.
Ultimately, that is the goal for the Bucks. Giannis is ready to play meaningful basketball and if the team continues to struggle, there is precedent for him to see and realize that he may be better off somewhere else. The Bucks have to make sure that Giannis is on board with what they are doing and that starts with the coach. Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe will both be free agents after next season, with Jabari Parker heading to free agency this summer. The Bucks have to make some important decisions to make sure that they are giving their superstar a chance to win. While he is locked up contractually for the next three seasons after this current season, things can change and players can ask for a trade. Giannis could do that if he gets frustrated with the direction of the team. The first step in preventing this is to fire Jason Kidd and replace him with a head coach that is going to help this team reach their potential.