Oh what a difference a week can make in the NBA. Just two weeks ago the Bucks were in a decidedly precarious early-season position: Expectations were high, a lightning-quick start by Giannis Antetokounmpo only inflated hopes more, and then the team crumbled to a jolting 4-6 start. Somehow, after 10 games, the Bucks had already found themselves in or around the Eastern Conference's eight-seed.
General Manager Jon Horst jumped into action early to correct the backslide, capitalizing on the deflated value of Eric Bledsoe with the Phoenix Suns and acquiring a sure-fire NBA talent for milieu of assets in return. (Most notably, Greg Monroe) And, through the first full week since the trade happened, you'd be hard-pressed to argue that the addition of Bledsoe as a Milwaukee Buck has been anything less than an encouraging success, embarrassing debacle in Dallas aside.
Wins piling up on the court has been accompanied by the return of positive feeling in the media at-large about this Bucks team. It is legitimately shocking that, two Mondays ago, I had no difficulty in finding a trove of pieces asking where it “all went wrong” with the Bucks. Those big-picture concerns still linger, but the quieting rumbles around the franchise just goes to show that, at least in the short-term, winning fixes everything.
This one caught my eye as it was the first attempt (of many to come) trying to understand how Eric Bledsoe exists schematically within the Bucks’ system. While his raw counting stats haven’t been mind-blowing, he shows a knack for regularly reading opposing defenses and reacting suitably.
Take his mid-range jumper to help separate the Bucks from the Detroit Pistons in a close game. His seamless understanding of how the Pistons reacted to the mere threat of a Giannis roll to the basket ensured he'd take advantage of an open floor and spread defense. Instead of forcing the issue inside, he stopped and popped, nailing a critical shot that helped key Milwaukee's eventual victory.
I eagerly look forward to more analysis in this vein as the season unfolds.
Why the Bucks Bet on Eric Bledsoe (Sports Illustrated)
In all the Bledsoe hullabaloo of last week, I somehow let this great piece over at Sports Illustrated fall through the cracks. It helps synthesize the arguments and viewpoints of the last week and a half into one coherent whole, and most of all it sets the table for the most pressing issues in Milwaukee.
Will Jabari Parker stay? If he does, how does he fit with this new roster? Can Thon Maker contribute? Is Jason Kidd a reliable coach in today's NBA?
All those are pressing questions, and while the Bledsoe deal comes with risk, the sense of immediacy it brings to a franchise on an off-kilter timeline might make it a very profitable venture.
Bigfoot. The evolutionary “missing link”. Chupacabras. Giannis’s jumper.
At this point, all the talk about Giannis developing a jumper feels close to borderline conspiratorial: He's nowhere close to adding it as an offensive tool. No, wait, wait, maybe he's got it, but he wants to keep opponents guessing. Hold on, perhaps he only takes jumpers in months that start with vowels?
None of that could be the case, or all of that could be the case. The beauty of Antetokounmpo's run of dominance is that it just doesn't matter. He takes nearly 82% of his shot attempts within three feet of the basket and converts on such a ridiculous number of them that all arguments are rendered irrelevant.
Don't believe me? I wouldn't either. But SB Nation's Mike Prada gives you the video evidence that a jumper, hidden away from the public or otherwise, is wholly unnecessary at this stage in Giannis’s career.
Yes, yes, we're all super happy that Giannis got a presumably lucrative deal to stay with Nike as his exclusive brand. And yes, we're all very excited that Giannis 1s are projected to be available by fall 2019. But don't let all this distract from the tragic fact that Matthew Dellavedova has already had signature shoes for two seasons at this point while Giannis was scraping by with a Nike contract he signed as an unknown player featured in grainy videos in Greek leagues we've never heard of.
A travesty, I declare.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: The NBA's Unstoppable Force (Sports Illustrated)
Sometimes, to better understand how Giannis does what he does, you have to give his game a full video breakdown. Lucky for me there are professionals out there dedicated to just that, and all I have to do is the backbreaking work of bringing it to you folks every Monday. Enjoy!
Steve Novak talks Bucks, Downtown development and Milwaukee's NBA reputation (OnMilwaukee.com) & Peter Feigin Spans The Globe To Bring Money To Milwaukee Bucks New Arena (Forbes)
These two are a bit more behind-the-scenes focused than the other articles today. Part of the fun with the franchise right now is the level of activity outside of NBA basketball: Wisconsin Herd starting up, arena closing in on completion, and an international outlook for the future all combine to show that this isn't the same Milwaukee Bucks of even a decade ago.
And so we fall back on the perspectives of two individuals involved in those changes (though in obvious quite different capacities). OnMilwaukee sat down with Steve Novak to chat Milwaukee within the NBA's landscape, and team president Peter Feigin who gives a status update on how it is going sell the Bucks as a brand to an international audience.
From the Social Media Realm
An added bonus of having Eric Bledsoe around Milwaukee? He brings a bit more league-wide cache to the roster. And so we get more regular interviews like this:
The way John Henson has been playing this season, it'd be almost easy to suggest that he may have been taken over by some sort of inner demon or somethi...
Giannis Antetokounmpo: Man of the people. Man of the frying pan.
Giannis went live on Instagram and shared footage of him walking down isles and signing autographs (presumably after the signing was officially over).— Brew Hoop (@brewhoop) November 17, 2017
And yes, he did autograph a cooking pan. pic.twitter.com/gODwKTC8Ca
And finally, a comic strip featuring our favorite good Samaritan:
I've got to be honest: The great start to the Eric Bledsoe season has me feeling positively... positive. His presence has forced a recalculation as to how each guy carries the offensive load, and it is clear they haven't gotten each others’ timing down pat, but the fact that everything is an active work in progress and the team is winning games is a staggering development.
With that in mind, the Bucks have three more intriguing match-ups this week: Tonight they host the Washington Wizards (East contenders collide), Wednesday they go to Phoenix (Greg Monroe started actively playing for the Suns last week) , and Saturday they go to Salt Lake City to face the (Rudy Gobert-less and Ricky Rubio-centric) Utah Jazz. Peg me for a loss to a tough Wizards team and solid wins over the Suns and Jazz. A 2-1 week wouldn't be the worst result in the world.
In honor of Kevin Garnett's appearance last week in Milwaukee to work with Thon Maker (among others), I've only got one piece of inspiration for you. Today, strive to be the ‘best in the [freaking] office’ today.