I was soooooo close to kicking in the door to this week’s MMR and declaring the Bucks to be one of the NBA's undeniable teams. Then the Phoenix Suns game happened, and then it took divine intervention to help Milwaukee get past San Antonio's 6,000 mid-range points.
So now I'm in a bit of a conundrum: My heart wants me to shout from the rooftop that the Bucks have arrived and damn the consequences. My head? It worries, if only a little bit.
The offense continues to regularly blow the doors off opponents and really only gets into trouble when the few true “shooters” on the roster struggle. With increased understanding of tendencies and possible reinforcement once buyouts start to happen we can assume scoring won't be a huge issue.
Defense is a bit harder to grapple with. Had you told me the Bucks would be sitting at fifth in the league in defensive rating this deep into the year I'd have either spit my drink everywhere or slapped you for saying such madness. Yet here we are. The harder going as of late could shake confidence in the effectiveness of Bud's approach over the course of a season, but we shouldn't anticipate fundamental changes if opponent scoring doesn't get too out of hand. All I can advise is that we keep an eye on the defense, put faith in the system, and hold on tight.
Maybe a 74% winning rate isn’t sustainable over 82 games. Maybe the Bucks will fall onto rough times between now and May. Maybe its too much to expect them to win closer to 60 games than 50. Or maybe everything is lining up for this team to do find a way to do special things right now. It won't come without bumps and bruises, but there's nearly no cap on what the Bucks can do in 2018-2019.
Add USA Today to an ever-growing list of publications that openly acknowledge the greatness of Milwaukee basketball.
This piece accomplished two things: 1) It acknowledged that, early success notwithstanding, the Bucks still aren't the “big show” even in their own state (though this may be changing) and 2) That, Milwaukee being Milwaukee, it will take some time for legitimate nationwide interest in the team to build.
Neither of those are bad things; winning cures all including a lack of attention locally and beyond. The spotlight is slowly starting to move Milwaukee's way, though, and it has the potential to be fixed directly on Giannis & Co. come All-Star Weekend.
File this one under “Believe in the system, and the system will believe in you.”
Slow starts on the offensive end do make for stressful viewing, but unless falling behind forces bad habits of old to resurface I'm not particularly worried. As long as Bud is able to continue to keep the team focused on executing sets as planned in favor of good shots things should come around.
I'm sure the temptation for some players to revert to isolation play can be strong when threes aren't dropping no matter how wide open, but we’ve seen the offense come online and erupt for 20-25 point bursts too often to swerve far from the path. With a 20 game track record of success I imagine players will buy even further into the system as the year goes rather than go the opposite direction when the going gets tough.
The Key to Malcolm Brogdon’s Unassuming Success? Keeping It Simple (Sports Illustrated)
Ah Malcolm Brogdon, the much-maligned token of Bucks fans’ ire as of late.
On the one hand, the unrest with his play is understandable: He's prone to dribbling the ball instead of keeping it moving around the arc, even though he's a 45.5% three-point shooter he takes 48.8% of his shots within three feet of the basket, and he lacks either sheer strength or craftiness to keep contact with his man defending a motion offense.
Still, he's putting up career numbers at roughly the same minute load as a season ago. Averages of 14.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.2 assists on .521/.455/.970 shooting are nothing to sneeze at for the second-round pick. It is an open question whether the Bucks should prioritize keeping Brogdon around or seeing if moving on would bring more value to the team. Either way I can't label Malcolm's time in Milwaukee as anything less than a success for both player and team.
Now, if he could just score 30 a night to keep the online wolves at bay, that'd be wonderful.
Bucks’ Khris Middleton won’t let newfound stardom, max-deal buzz change him (Sporting News) & Lakers reportedly have interest in signing Khris Middleton in free agency (Silver Screen & Roll)
Some more deep dives incoming on what next summer may hold for Khris Middleton as he hits unrestricted free agency for the first time. The first article is a closer look at the person at the heart of a lot of debate on player value, and the second is just an example of how far and wide interest in Middleton could be a few months from now.
The Bucks can offer Khris more money over more years than any other team in the league while holding his Bird Rights. For a guy who started out on a second-rounder's rookie deal and is now finishing out a value contract the appeal of hitting a major payday will probably be the overriding appeal to stay in Milwaukee. If Milwaukee is reticent to offer a full max, though, things could get interesting if other teams get a meeting with the free agent wing to pitch him on the appeal of building something in La La Land or NYC.
Gone are the days of being the league's best-kept secret talked about in hushed tones and in utter disbelief. Giannis Antetokounmpo (and his emphatic/eye-pleasing style of play) has emerged as a full-blown attraction in a league full of them.
Under coach Mike Budenholzer he has continued to put on thrilling performances night after night. Where before he made a name for himself in spite of a system that denied him victories to go along with highlight reel moment after highlight reel moment Giannis now does his Giannis thing at the helm of a successful team that should bring him even more notoriety.
We're just a few steps away from transitioning from “folk hero” to “global icon”. Buckle in, everyone.
The Social Media Section
Happy belated Thanksgiving!
With the 15th pick in the 2013 NBA draft, the Milwaukee Bucks select Giannis Antetokounmpo https://t.co/SU2kd5shbg— Ty Bauschek (@TyBauschek) November 22, 2018
‘I just wanna be like Giannis!’:
Asked @Giannis_An34 to grade @Chriswood_5's mean mug post-game.— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) November 22, 2018
"Okay. Let's talk about Christian now that we have the chance. Christian just wants to be like me. You know how kids grew up and they say they want to be like Mike? He wants to be like Giannis."
Joe Prunty dodges the suplex and serves revenge as a cold dish:
Welcome back, Coach Prunty pic.twitter.com/rVnLtJImmI— FOX Sports Wisconsin (@fswisconsin) November 24, 2018
Absolutely necessary OJ Mayo update:
O.J. Mayo made his debut in the Taiwanese league with the Dacin Tigers, finishing with 14 points, 6 assists and a 19-point loss vs. Taiwan Beer (photo via ETtoday): pic.twitter.com/JL9HNhhDLc— Alberto De Roa (@AlbertoDRoa) November 19, 2018
A shoutout to our friends at the always wonderful ‘The Daily Gopher’ and their recap of a seminal moment in University of Minnesota sporting history!
Paul Bunyan’s Axe Returns to Minnesota as Gophers beat Wisconsin 37-15 https://t.co/hcvBYC8gn2— The Daily Gopher (@TheDailyGopher) November 24, 2018
...oops, forgot where I was for a second there.
Riley’s 2018-2019 Weekly Prediction Record: 9-10
10 of Milwaukee's last 11 games have been against Western Conference opponents, so to have gone 7-4 in that stretch is solid work. The small step back from the high-flying start to the year is disappointing, but even a minor course correction was bound to happen.
As a reward for surviving an extended visit with the West the Bucks will return to stomping out the riff raff of the Eastern Conference.
Things kick off this evening with a trip out to Charlotte to once again face the Hornets. Then the Bucks return home Wednesday to likely demolish the Chicago Bulls once again. Finally, a trip to New York City on Saturday to play the Knicks will close the work week.
It feels like all three teams have already given Milwaukee their best shots in their initial meetings this season. Kemba Walker and the Hornets are certainly the most dangerous of the trio, but it feels like a 3-0 slate and an even bigger heap of attention as the Bucks get back on track to claim the top seed from the Toronto Raptors.
Or they'll stay on the “win one, lose one” trend of late and drive the entire fanbase perilously close to the edge of a proverbial cliff. No pressure, Bucks!