This Monday morning I come to you and proclaim the obvious: We are a long ways away from the 7-0 start to this season, at least in terms of wins and losses. On the upside, the Bucks still haven't had back-to-back losses. On the downside are defeats at the hands of tank-o-rific teams like the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks.
Still, the team is having its best start to a campaign in nearly 30 years and continue to hold the top offense in the league and the sixth-best defensive rating. It is healthy to keep those facts top of mind when contemplating what it is that ills this Milwaukee Bucks team. Injuries have already hobbled the rotation, opponents continue to shoot at historically-great levels, and coach Mike Budenholzer has shown a willingness to prove a point to players even in tight situations. All of those things should level out over time for the better. In the meantime it means losses will happen, expected wins values with fluctuate, and hand-wringing will ensue. The pain is worthwhile, though, especially if it means a smoother ride come May (and June).
Instead of lamenting tough nights and slow starts, we chose to highlight a few positive stories about individuals who have made this season their own. Brook Lopez leads things off with not one, but two feature pieces on his role in the 15-7 start. Eric Bledsoe gets shine for producing career-high numbers. Even Matthew Dellavedova receives a dollop of appreciation as an off-court leader. If we can't celebrate routine crushing victories we can at least give credit to the guys who will play critical roles in future successes.
Unwanted in L.A., Brook Lopez Became Milwaukee’s ‘Splash Mountain’ (New York Times) & How Brook Lopez turbocharges the Bucks’ offense by just standing at the 3-point line (SB Nation)
It has been a pleasure to watch a genuinely organic meme metastasize from the shadowy depths of Bucks social media fandom to the New York Times. “Splash Mountain” being a thing is peak 2018.
Catchy nickname aside, it is strange to think that Lopez, an acknowledged talent in the league for over a decade with an adaptable mindset, found his way to Milwaukee. The Times’s Marc Stein dedicates his article chronicling Brook's journey from the outs in LA to Milwaukee, and Mike Prada at the main site dives into how exactly Lopez’s skill set has translated into flourishing on-court results.
There's plenty to laud about Lopez and the Bucks, but I think Mr. Prada says it best: “They found each other at the right place and the right time.”
So This Is What Prime Eric Bledsoe Looks Like (Bucks.com)
More Bledsoe love! Of all the guys who have translated well into coach Mike Budenholzer’s regime, Bledsoe could arguably top the list. He’s retained his scoring edge while dialing back how many possessions he’s using, the AST:TO ratio is creeping into career-best territory, and the defense, OH, the defense. To have such reliably good starting PG play, even in the PG-heavy NBA of today, is a relief.
The difficulty with assessing 2018-2019 Eric Bledsoe will always be determining how much of a multiplier should be assigned to the “contract year” variable at play. I don’t mind much if getting paid big one more time is the fuel fanning Bledsoe’s fire; just win, baby, and the rest will figure itself out in time.
Bittersweet symphony: Matthew Dellavedova conducting his best work from the sideline (ESPN) & Thon Maker’s energy gives Bucks a lift (ESPN)
Aussies always have other Aussies’ backs, and so two articles from ESPN’s Nick Metallinos on Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker as they stopped in NYC.
Neither player has featured all that prominently in Milwaukee's early-season success, though as John Henson's injury showed that can change in a flash. Now, with minutes thrust upon him, it is up to Thon Maker to showcase why it is he should retain a place in this team's rotation.
The initial returns are mixed at best - something Bucks fans have gotten used to after his first two seasons with the team. Being gifted the backup-center spot didn't seem a possibility until a little over a week ago, so hopefully Thon adjusts and regularly contributes (I won't be holding my breath).
For Delly, what is there to say? He's making gobs of money, is firmly at the back end of the guard rotation, and doesn't have a special skill that forces the team to give him burn. In a tight pinch he can give you adequate PG play, but other options have rightly taken precedence before him. Such are the breaks of the NBA.
8 reasons you should jump on the Milwaukee Bucks bandwagon (Milwaukee Record)
Here’s some good work from long-time Bucks fan Dan Shafer over at Milwaukee Record. He’s doing his level-best to rope the casual masses away from local music, food, comedy, and film and into the Fiserv Forum for some basketball. And why not with so many reasons to go? Such as...
- Giannis (duh)
- Shiny new building
- Coach Bud
- And so much more!
So what are you waiting for? Get off this exclusively Bucks-centric website and into a Bucks game near you!
Can you declare yourselves to have “made it” when you find a way onto Forbes.com? Fine, it isn't a spread in the actual magazine, but I'm willing to settle with the thought that extremely or faux-extremely wealthy people know the Bucks are a slow-starting team as of late.
The larger point made by Andrew Wagner is valid, though: If you uniformly start second quarters and second halves at a deficit the odds of digging your way to a W can be long. In years past you'd worry whether the Bucks could even get it back to within 10 points; nowadays, thanks to Bud's high-flying offense, I find myself going for the Tums less and less frequently as my belief that no differential is too great to overcome grows.
The Social Media Section
Something something BBQ chicken, Chuck something something:
Jeez, projecting a return for right before the playoffs? Didn't think the recovery time was that long...
Bucks are hopeful that Henson will minimally return for the playoffs, if not a little sooner, league sources say. https://t.co/IpMODMwDYE— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 28, 2018
You know it's a Khris Middleton feature story when a quote like “it's tough having to give [mid-rangers] up, but you gotta sacrifice for the team” is made:
You come at Giannis Antetokoumnpo on Twitter, Jim Paschke will come at you in the mentions:
Always a triple double threat without your jump shot requirement. Why nitpick? Appreciate. https://t.co/5EV5U8uUVx— Jim Paschke (@Paschketball) November 28, 2018
Might be time to contemplate banking with BMO Harris:
Yeah, the Bucks lost, but I got to (finally?) watch the Giannis/BMO commercial for the first time...— Tim Wray (@TimRWray) November 27, 2018
It is AMAZING. pic.twitter.com/q31QOn1gD5
Ayo Giannis I'll swap you Minneapolis Metro Transit buses for your Beamer...
Christmas spirit, or something:
Of course, your biweekly “what is DJ Wilson up to?” update:
In the spirit of the holidays, get your taking on in the comments:
The @brewhoop podcast wants to know: What position would Santa Claus play in today's NBA? @KyleCoche says he'd be riding the bench. @adamrparis says he'd be Zion Williamson before Zion Williamson was Zion Williamson.— Riley Feldmann (@RileyFeldmann) December 2, 2018
What say you, denizens of Bucks Twitter?
Riley’s 2018-2019 Weekly Prediction Record: 10-12
I can't recall who it was a few weeks ago who chided me for not picking the Bucks to win every game and riding my way to what would be a 15-7 mark. Was it oldresorter? retired janitor? Who it was is irrelevant. What matters is that I followed that advice and how am I rewarded? With a 1-2 week from hell.
You know what I say? No more! From this day forth I shall no longer predict the Bucks to have a perfect week of basketball (unless and until every game is against the Cleveland Cavaliers). I'll return to being my own man, thank you very much.
My return to independence coincides perfectly with a relatively tough week of basketball for the Bucks. We have to wait until Wednesday to welcome the hot hot hot Detroit Pistons (winners of five-straight as of this morning) to Milwaukee, followed-up by a visit by the Golden State Warriors on Friday. Things finish out Sunday in America's northern neighbor with a trip to Toronto to play the Raptors.
That's a slate of games with high variance in outcomes. Having been burned once too many times I'll tap the Bucks for a win over the Pistons and losses against the Warriors and Raptors. With that now having been written in e-ink you can reliably guess each of those outcomes to go the exact opposite way. Yay predictions!
Anyways, here's to another week of basketball with less stress than the one we just survived, and as always...