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Last 10, Next 10: Bucks November Check-In

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The Milwaukee Bucks are 7-3 after their first 10 games.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Last 10, Next 10, a new feature we plan on running over the course of the Milwaukee Bucks’ regular season and (hopefully) playoff run. With 82 games, this should run eight times before the postseason comes around, where we’ll review the team’s last 10 games and the next 10 games. Hopefully this approach helps us better digest the slog of the NBA calendar. Unless otherwise noted, all stats are from basketball-reference.com, as of Wednesday, November 13.

Bucks’ Last 10

Record: 7-3 (5th in Eastern Conference)
Offensive Rating: 111.2 (4th in NBA)
Defensive Rating: 103.7 (9th in NBA)
Strength of Schedule: 3.28 (hardest in the NBA)

Schedule:

October 24 – at Houston Rockets (W, 117-111)
October 26 – vs. Miami Heat (L, 131-126)
October 28 – vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (W, 129-112)
October 30 – at Boston Celtics (L, 116-105)
November 1 – at Orlando Magic (W, 123-91)
November 2 – vs. Toronto Raptors (W, 115-105)
November 4 – at Minnesota Timberwolves (W, 134-106)
November 6 – at Los Angeles Clippers (W, 129-124)
November 8 – at Utah Jazz (L, 103-100)
November 10 – at Oklahoma City Thunder (W, 121-119)

Notes:

3 home games, 7 away games
5 Eastern Conference matchups, 1 division matchup
Combined opponent W/L: 61-40 (0.604 win%)

GIF of the Bucks’ Last 10:

Despite what you may have heard, the sky is not yet falling. The Bucks are on pace to win 57 games after playing a slate of teams that (when aggregated) have played at a 50-win pace. This is not a creampuff schedule! Moreover, they’re doing it in the same fashion they won games last year: lots of outside shooting (3PAr of 0.458, second in the league and probably excessive), sealing off the rim (opponents are taking only 20.2% of their shots from 0-3 feet, first in the NBA by over two percentage points), and letting Giannis Antetokounmpo get his (Greek) freak on (29.7 ppg, 14.3 rbg, 6.8 apg, elite ranking in basically all the metrics).

So what has gone wrong, besides “not much?” Well, Brook Lopez hasn’t had a hot start (shooting below 30% from three), which is still downright scorching compared to twin brother Robin (shooting below 20% from deep and generally looking awful). Ditto for reserves Pat Connaughton and Ersan Ilyasova (both shooting below 30% from behind the arc), and the starting backcourt of Eric Bledsoe (0.300) and Wesley Matthews (0.333) haven’t been much better. That’s three starters and three rotation players who are simply not hitting shots consistently, which becomes seven of the team’s top 10 players (in minutes per game) having a poor shooting performance when you add Giannis to the equation.

The Bucks are taking a ton of threes, as we noted above. That long-ball reliance introduces a higher degree of variance in the team’s offensive output, which directly led to two of the Bucks’ three losses (Boston and Miami) both games where the Bucks had significant leads evaporate due to cold second-half shooting. The defense has also been worthy of critique, but the team’s accuracy feels more to blame. It’s reasonable to expect that at least some of these shooting numbers will normalize and work themselves out as the season progresses...which is encouraging if the Bucks are already winning 70% of their games!

Bucks’ Next 10

Schedule:

November 14 – vs. Chicago Bulls (4-7)
November 16 – at Indiana Pacers (7-4)
November 18 – at Chicago Bulls (4-7)
November 20 – at Atlanta Hawks (4-6)
November 21 – vs. Portland Trail Blazers (4-7)
November 23 – vs. Detroit Pistons (4-7)
November 25 – vs. Utah Jazz (8-3)
November 27 – vs. Atlanta Hawks (4-6)
November 29 – at Cleveland Cavaliers (4-6)
November 30 – vs. Charlotte Hornets (4-6)

Notes:

6 home games, 4 away games
8 Eastern Conference matchups, 5 division matchups
Combined opponent W/L: 47-59 (0.443 win%)

GIF of the Bucks’ Next 10:

Compared to the start of the season, I hope the Bucks are hungry because they should be able to eat. The upcoming ten-piece meal includes a pair of good teams (Indiana and Utah), but the rest of the schedule is against struggling squads or bottom feeders (the next 10 opponents are, in aggregate, winning at a 36-win pace). That said, Milwaukee will be without one of its best instruments. Khris Middleton, who may not see the court again until December with his leg contusion, has had a strong start thus far, and his absence will test the Bucks’ depth in a big way.

Pat Connaughton, Donte DiVincenzo, and Sterling Brown are all in line to soak up the minutes left behind by Middleton. Wes Matthews and Kyle Korver, with their veteran status, will likely see their playing time remain steady, meaning one of these young wings will be given an opportunity to work their way up in the rotation. Ideally, Giannis’ minutes are able to actually decline over this 10 game stretch, as long as the Bucks put teams in a hole early and can lean on their depth to carry them through long stretches.

The center position may soon become the center of attention. Besides Rudy Gobert and maybe Andre Drummond, the upcoming group of ten teams don’t boast the most firepower at the five, which may be the break that the Lopez brothers need to get themselves on track. Mike Budenholzer will insist on maintaining the zone drop and the green light, making this stretch a perfect opportunity to work out some wrinkles. If the LoBros don’t, there may be an outside chance for D.J. Wilson to break free and take his best shot at cracking the front court rotation, even if it’s during garbage time of a double-digit victory.

On the schedule side, Milwaukee has twice as many home games coming up than they did in their first ten contests, meaning the Bucks will be navigating their short-term Khris-less future in the undoubtedly more friendly environment of Fiserv Forum. So while we may all be paying attention to the chance at revenge against the Jazz, or the looming “Malcolm Brogdon Revenge Game” when visiting the Pacers, there are plenty of opportunities coming up for the Bucks to bank easy wins. Here’s hoping they seize the day...or rather the next ten.