Thunder Update. OH THE HUMANITY! If you put together a starting five using only injured players from Oklahoma City, that group would probably compete for home court in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. They've lost their two biggest stars and a bunch of solid backups, meaning the Bucks will be contending with Serge Ibaka and a group of young (but talented) role players tonight.
OKC shouldn't be overlooked, though. Serge Ibaka has had success against the Bucks in the past to the tune of 58.4 True Shooting, and point guard Reggie Jackson has averaged 20 points and over 8 assists per game filling in for Russell Westbrook, though he's struggled with efficiency (47.9 TS%). Perry Jones III was also putting up some monster numbers as a starter, but he went down with a knee injury last week and is listed as questionable for tonight's contest.
Brandon Knight, Unending Conversation Topic. There are no shortage of topics to discuss when it comes to Brandon Knight's early season success, including whether "success" is really the best word to describe it. Bucksketball devoted some time in their most recent podcast to the question of whether Knight, despite continually gaudy box score line, is actually hurting the Bucks' overall team performance. Last week Nylon Calculus highlighted the improvement Knight has shown this season as a drive-and-kick point guard. And yesterday I noted that Knight's three-point shooting has been excellent but he is turning the ball over at an alarming rate. For what it's worth, the Bucks' two most-used lineups this year both involve Knight and both have played with positive scoring margins. According to NBA.com, the Knight/Middleton/Dudley/Parker/Sanders lineup that started the year is +2.2 pts/100 in 49 minutes (97.0 pts/100 for and 94.9 against) while the current starting five has been much better offensively is +11.7 pts/100 in 32 minutes (108.3 pts/100 for and 96.7 against). As usual, small sample size disclaimers apply.
What all these numbers and discussions seem to zero in on is that Knight has fallen into a fairly absolute trend with regard to his role or usage in the Bucks' offense. When he drives to the basket and passes to open teammates, the Bucks have scored fairly well. The same goes for when he can find shots from behind the arc. But barring those two occurrences, the Bucks can struggle with Knight at the helm, because he's still struggling to score inside the arc and he's coughing up possession nearly a fifth of the time. Three positive contributions can probably outweigh one negative, but I'm not sure the Bucks or Knight himself can find sustained success with a 50-50 split.
Grading Jabari. Reader ShafftyBro wrote up a FanPost breaking down Jabari Parker's first seven games using a handy 2K-inspired grading system. He looks to have averaged around a "B" grade through his first seven, losing lots of points by not boxing out on rebounds but earning them back by grabbing boards himself and with surprisingly good steal numbers.