You know you're getting into the meat and potatoes of the NBA regular season when some of the best Bucks-related content you can find includes Brook Lopez signing microwaves. It is a sad admission, but that's just where we're at.
Still, over a third of way into the year there's plenty to look back on and put into context. How hard has the schedule been and what can it tell us about the future? Is the early wave of fan support novel or fleeting? What's the importance of guys not named “Giannis” to this team? When will Pat Connaughton and Stephen A. Smith come to fisticuffs?
With 56 games to go we'd be remiss to say any conclusions are “for real” for real, but the trends so far become ever more solid with each passing day. That top-rated net rating? Don't expect it to dip too much. Giannis MVP buzz is bound to stick around. And that Eastern Conference two-seed seems mighty fitting. Nothing is a reliable fact right now, but a once hazy picture is getting more beautifully clear as we go.
When a mass-appeal team of the moment would come to Milwaukee on a mid-season road trip you wouldn't be surprised when you arrived at the Bradley Center to scores of “Bryant”, “Curry”, or “James” jerseys on the causeways. That was just life as a Bucks fan confronting the malaise of years of under-performance.
This season has seen a tremendous jump in the other direction as Dan Wioke of the LA Time's pointed out after traveling to town with the Golden State Warriors. Fiserv Forum has been an attraction point on its own merits, but it conducts its primary function (being a place for Bucks fans to gather) with aplomb. Combine that with the on-court product and you've got one of the hottest basketball tickets in the country.
It's funny how vying for every edge when arguing why your team is better than XYZ team forces everyone to bust out that vaunted March Madness metric: Strength of Schedule.
SOS is probably better suited for comparing Upper Idaho State to Central Honolulu University, but it may have its place in the NBA.
In Milwaukee's case the tea leaves portend great things: The schedule thus far has been top-10 in difficulty and notably tougher than Toronto's, Philly's, Boston's, or Indiana’s. To come out of a difficult start and still stand at 19-9 (with a league-leading +8.7 net rating) seems to indicate that the WLWLWL ways of late should dissipate sooner rather than later.
I thought this was an interesting dive into the importance of Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe to Milwaukee's success from the outside looking in.
It is easy to get lost in the tide of discussion that happens on this website and elsewhere, but it is always helpful to be reminded time to time how critical just a few individuals are between team successes and failures.
Eric Bledsoe is having a stellar season under Mike Budenholzer; I've argued in the past that having his first “true” NBA coach will do wonders for Bledsoe's impact, and his buy-in to the new system bears that out.
Khris Middleton is harder to nail down due to a recent shooting slump, the infamous Knicks benching, and his pending free agency. I'm not one to argue that Khris can be replaced within the timeline of Giannis’s time in Milwaukee, though even his biggest fans may be nervous at his price tag once he hits the market.
Still, as last Friday's drag-out game against the Cavs showed, you miss even one of these guys and you're in for a tough night. Just stay healthy, win, and we'll figure out the rest later.
Even if it’s only temporary, Bucks guard George Hill is getting acclimated to his latest stop (Journal Sentinel)
You have to hand it to guys who find themselves in the “trade bait” part of their careers. Once deemed critical components worth building around, you're now more often than not on the move to fulfill cap maneuvers.
For George Hill and Jason Smith things become ever more complex with the chance the Bucks may ship them out once again two months from now at the trade deadline.
Even with an uncertain future Hill has gotten the call from coach Bud in all three games he's been available for. The early returns are mixed, though small sample size and a new team environment make an already dicey evaluation nigh-impossible. With time Hill may cement himself as a reliable bench option, or he may be wearing a jersey that says “Washington” on the front. Such are the vagaries of the NBA.
Brook Lopez Signs Fan’s Microwave (VICE Sports)
Just click on the link. You're welcome.
The Social Media Section
Hoping Marques put in a good word for All-Star 2029 in Milwaukee:
Me and the Commish getting in that early bird workout... pic.twitter.com/a9a6Gsrth1— Marques Johnson (@olskool888) December 13, 2018
The Antetokounmpo Brand Empire grows ever stronger:
As the biggest WUWM fan you'll meet this side of the Mississippi, this made me happy (even if it happened in October):
Love the @Bucks? A Milwaukee writer compiled a must-know Milwaukee Bucks stories into a book (and he's talking about the book @boswellbooks tonight): https://t.co/RdaffDXFx5 pic.twitter.com/WwRXR1dTBz— WUWM 89.7 FM (@WUWMradio) December 13, 2018
That which is dead may never die:
It is only a matter of when, not if, Pat Connaughton makes a guest spot on First Take:
Shoutout to Khris's card table:
Khris Middleton: Donut man of the people.
Sterling Brown is also a giving man of the people:
Riley’s 2018-2019 Weekly Prediction Record: 14-14
While I wouldn’t call last week's double-header against the Cavs (with a visit to Indiana popped in between) a “bore”, I think it's fair to say this next slate of games a bit more compelling.
It's a four night special with a visit to Detroit to play the Pistons tonight. Then the Bucks fly over Lake Michigan to host the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, only to have a road back-to-back in Boston on Friday and Miami on Saturday.
Each match-up is fascinating in its own way. The Pistons were easily dispatched the last time these teams met, but another 27 point Eric Bledsoe game may not be in the offing. Anthony Davis is this year's other odds-on MVP favorite and a clash of individual titans is always interesting. The trip to Massachusetts gives Milwaukee a chance at revenge and we'll see whether NBA players can be defeated by Miami nightlife if they fly into Florida at 3 AM the same day they play.
The Bucks should break out of their funk soon, but this week isn't the one which will feature an above-.500 record. Put me in for wins over Detroit and New Orleans and more frustrating road losses out east. That may not satisfy a lot of us, nor should it. But, the team is still growing and finding its own way. Losses to good teams will happen, and weekends on South Beach remain undefeated.