Don’t look now, but the Milwaukee Bucks Western Conference road trip is nearing its end. Coming off a heartbreak ending against the Utah Jazz, the Bucks will look to go 3-1 on the road against their final opponent before returning home, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
So far this season, Milwaukee has dropped games to the Miami Heat (who are good), the Boston Celtics (who are good), and the Utah Jazz (who are good). Needless to say, since they’re “only” 6-3 and on pace to win “only” 55 games, the Bucks have assuredly missed their chance to truly contend for a title and need to do something – anything! – to turn this ship around. Right?
A few weeks into the NBA season, and our projections have the league separating into reasonably clear tiers for title contention.— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) November 10, 2019
Tier 1: MIL, LAC, PHI
Tier 2: HOU, UTA, LAL, BOS! (yep, we're accounting for the Hayward injury), DENhttps://t.co/SfFhO0cq2P pic.twitter.com/0UP1PJLRwp
Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe have taken a fair amount of flack from Bucks fans lately, as have the twins Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez. Still, despite a disappointing start (if expectations were the same as last season’s 8-0 launch to the campaign), Milwaukee is a top-tier team, which begins and ends with Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 38 Pts, 16 Reb and 9 Ast in a win at the Clippers.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 7, 2019
He became the 1st player since the merger to have 3 straight 30-15-5 games and the 1st player in NBA history to have 200+ Pts, 100+ Reb and 50+ Ast in their first 8 games of a season.
h/t @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/YKo4bsHDIg
He’s playing like an MVP should, although his free throw shooting and foul rates could stand to improve (Giannis has fouled out of 3 games so far this season). The team is catching up to him as well; the Bucks are again top-10 in both offensive and defensive rating (per basketball-reference.com), and those numbers project to eventually settle in the top-5 (or higher).
For tonight, the only player unable to suit up will be Kyle Korver, who suffered a nasty bump to the noggin against Utah. Without Giannis’ favorite shooter, it will be up to Pat Connaughton, Sterling Brown, and Donte DiVincenzo to pick up the slack on the wing.
Player to Watch: George Hill
When you want to win a basketball game, it figures to be helpful to have George Hill involved. Hill has easily been one of Milwaukee’s best guards so far this year, though his counting stats don’t do him justice. He’s shooting the lights out of the gym (57.7% on threes!) with a 69.8% true shooting percentage, and is sporting an ungodly WS/48 rate of 0.253 (11th in the league, on the leaderboard that shows Giannis in first with 0.338). Hill has remained healthy so far; here’s hoping his own head injury continues to not include any ill effects.
Last year, they had Russell Westbrook and Paul George, and were a defensive stalwart that just couldn’t get out of the West. This year, they have Chris Paul, and they’re...fine. They’re fine! Milwaukee figures to be OKC’s first big test of the season, and they’re coming off a decent win over the suddenly paper-thin Golden State Warriors. Steven Adams is still here, as are Danilo Gallinari and Dennis Schroder. They have a ton of developing young talent, and look to capitalize on a road-weary Bucks team.
Player to Watch: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
You may have missed it, but SGA is in the middle of taking a leap. The 21-year old centerpiece of the Thunder’s return on the George trade is scoring 20.9 points per game, all while either maintaining or improving his efficiency, and playing a significant amount more this season.
This is no small feat, but SGA has done this while playing 9 more minutes a game, and a ~7% spike in his usage percentage. It’s hard to impress how difficult this is. A true achievement would be to maintain statistical rates having the ball more, but to become a better player in every way while having the ball more—that’s rare.
Imagine your boss asking you to work extra hours every day. Do you expect your work to get better or worse?
Game 10: Against Oklahoma City, the Bucks will...
This poll is closed
Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)