The Milwaukee Bucks maintained their preseason perfection on Saturday night in Madison, building an early lead and ultimately cruising to an 88-74 win over the short-handed Mavericks. Then again, we all know preseason wins mean far less than preseason progress, and in that regard the Bucks’ first two preseason games remain something of a mixed bag. To that end, on Sunday night we recorded a podcast to discuss what we liked and didn’t like from Saturday’s game:
Jabari is not bashful. Jabari Parker was once again looking for his shot early and often, scoring an efficient 21 points on 9/14 shooting to go with six rebounds in 24 minutes. That’s certainly encouraging given the scoring void left by Khris Middleton’s injury, though it’s also not as if we’re seeing a different player from the one we saw after last season’s all-star break. Parker didn’t take any shots outside of 15 feet on Saturday, which is both good (he was creating easy buckets in the paint) and bad (he didn’t really have to stretch his game out or do things out of his comfort zone). Remaining decidedly bad: his inbounds defense.
Thon looks the part. Rookie Thon Maker looked the part of an NBA player in his debut, scoring 9 points (3/6 fg, 0/2 threes, 3/4 ft) to go with four boards and a block in 21 minutes. He stroked an 18-foot jumper shortly after checking in off the bench and didn’t seem the least bit nervous playing his first (almost) real NBA game, which certainly qualifies as a good start to his NBA career. Expect the Bucks to give him extended run over the remainder of the preseason, though it’s less clear if we’ll see him much once the regular season starts.
Telly/Jabari/Giannis experimentation. Middleton’s absence makes the shooting of Mirza Teletovic all the more crucial to the Bucks’ spacing, so it was good to see Jason Kidd give Teletovic the starting nod alongside Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The downside is that playing big on the wings will likely push Antetokounmpo away from the rim defensively, an area that figures to be more vulnerable with Telly and Jabari sharing the court — and even more so if Greg Monroe starts as he did on Saturday.
On the flip side, a further benefit of starting Teletovic with Parker and Giannis is that it could open up backup power forward minutes for Thon Maker, who played exclusively at the four on Saturday. Michael Beasley could also lay claim to those minutes, but watching him huck up a flurry of questionable shots shouldn’t make anyone too eager for that. The helter-skelter style of both Beasley and Michael Carter-Williams made for some awfully chaotic reserve units in Madison.
Starters. After coming off the bench against the Bulls, Matthew Dellavedova was thankfully inserted into the starting five on Saturday, and hopefully he’ll stay there going forward. But the combination of Monroe at center alongside Parker and Teletovic doesn’t feel like a defensively sustainable option, leaving us to ponder when we might see Kidd try a starting group that makes a bit more sense. Miles Plumlee (or John Henson) would seem easier complements in the starting five, and Kidd will presumably give Plumlee another look at some point in the next couple weeks. Then again, has anyone really noticed Plumlee do much of anything in the preseason so far?
Anonymous Giannis. The Greek has yet to get particularly freaky through two preseason games; after an uneven performance in Chicago, Giannis hit just 2/8 shots against the Mavericks and appeared to be still trying to get his bearings alongside his new teammates in the Bucks’ offense. It’s hardly time to panic, but it does serve as a good reminder that running an NBA offense isn’t easy no matter how talented you might be.
Threes. After an encouraging 10/25 shooting night from deep in Chicago, the Bucks mostly forgot about the deep ball in Madison, hitting just 3/14 until Steve Novak heroically bombed a couple in the late stages of the fourth. Some of that was because of the ease with which the Bucks were getting to the rim, but it’d still be nice to see guys other than Teletovic and Dellavedova make a concerted effort to find the three point line, eh?