With the All-Star Break just days away, I thought it’d be interesting to look back and compare this year’s Bucks team to the last iteration to send two players to the All-Star Game: The famed 2000-2001 Bucks.
That team would send Ray Allen and Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson to Washington DC and eventually go on to finish with a record of 52-30. After 55 games they would sit at 35-20, and RayRay and Glenn averaged the following:
- Allen: 22.2 points (.476/.441/.893), 5.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists in 37.9 minutes
- Robinson: 22.6 points (.470/.282/.809), 6.9 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in 37.5 minutes
For comparison’s sake, here’s Khris and Giannis so far this season:
- Middleton: 17.2 points (.438/.379/.851), 5.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists in 31.0 minutes
- Antetokounmpo: 27.0 points (.580/.216/.715), 12.5 rebounds, and 5.8 assists in 33.0 minutes
It’s interesting that the top pair of scorers almost 20 years apart each averaged roughly ~44 points or so (though it’d take Ray and Glenn far more shot attempts and time on the court). The game of basketball has shifted more towards Allen’s style with the 3PAr nearly doubling from 21.8% to 41.5% today, yet it’s force with finesse embodied by Giannis that shines brightest. If anything it highlights just how much of an outlier Antetokounmpo is as a player: The league is shifting ever further away from his center of gravity and he still finds ways to shape and bend the game to his will.
That 2001 team would infamously fall just short of the NBA Finals; two decades later the franchise has it’s first legitimate chance to rectify history and go all the way.
No drama, all action: The Bucks are a riveting juggernaut hiding in plain sight (Washington Post)
Of all the mid-season reports that will come pouring in over the next week evaluating how good the Milwaukee Bucks are, I believe Ben Golliver’s report rings most true: The Bucks are a basketballing destruction-reaping machine.
To me what’s most remarkable is how obvious the plan was for how GM Jon Horst and coach Mike Budenholzer would build around Giannis from the start of last summer and consequently how little success the league has had slowing them down. It speaks volumes about how uniquely unstoppable Antetokounmpo is as a building block capable of keeping others honest inside in the era of the three-ball.
How The Milwaukee Bucks Brought Their Offense Into The 21st Century (FiveThirtyEight)
This one is for all you statheads who love to dive into the numbers behind the on-court success. A lot of this reinforces what the eye-test would tell you: Not only does Milwaukee generate a ton of offense at the rim and from three, but they’ve done so purposefully and with personnel who excel in those roles.
For me the biggest takeaway was how incredible Giannis has been at diming up teammates shooting from three. It’s a tall order for any player to retain control when diving into the pain surrounded by multiple defenders; that task grows tougher when you’re also responsible for then getting the ball out to others to take advantage of the thicket you just created. Per FiveThirtyEight, “On 289 total assists this season, Antetokounmpo has set up a teammate for a 3-point basket 168 times (58 percent), while he has assisted a teammate in scoring a 2-point basket just 121 times (42 percent).” Wow.
How an early season funk transformed Khris Middleton into an All-Star (Yahoo Sports)
Ignoring the fact that Khris is originally from South Carolina and not North Carolina, this one goes a bit deeper on the transition Middleton has had to make in his play style since Budenholzer arrived.
It’s strange how reliant Middleton had become on mid-range shots in his own head, and whether he can function outside of that space effectively will be the key question determining his value to Milwaukee. While Bud has been flexible in granting Khris creative freedom, I do wonder whether that will be advisable as a system crafted exclusively to fit Antetokounmpo’s needs appears to be the end-all be-all goal.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is next (NBC Sports)
Not just the next planetary superstar, but rather the next big name free-agent to-be.
With Anthony Davis staying in New Orleans until at least the summer, the heat on the Bucks (at least externally) should be tamped down for a few more months. Inevitably, though, the vultures will start circling the team as we edge ever closer to the point at which the Bucks will offer Giannis a super-max extension. Whether you think he’ll sign it without delay or stay aloof is a matter of personal belief (I count myself in the former camp), but it’s fair to say this article is an opening shot across the bow from national media of what awaits us a year from now.
The Social Media Section
This is the content we demand from the team:
The moment we've all been waiting for.— FOX Sports Wisconsin (@fswisconsin) February 7, 2019
The premiere of a new segment, Pedicures with @Katie_George05 featuring @Bucks big man Brook Lopez and his size 20 feet. pic.twitter.com/fVPNURro2u
The Coach bag with the retro Bucks jacket is as close to perfection as you can get:
One final salute to Thon on the way out:
View this post on Instagram
It's been an incredible journey here in Milwaukee. I am grateful to the Bucks organization and team ownership for giving me the opportunity 3 years ago to fulfill my dream of playing in the NBA. I will miss the community and fans whom I have come to love. Thank you to all of my teammates, coaches and the Bucks staff. Detroit here I come. #Detroitpistons
HE KEEPS DOING IT:
patiently waiting ... https://t.co/v1V6uNrs5E— Christian Wood (@Chriswood_5) February 10, 2019
And so the torch for “greatest player of all-time” was passed:
LeBron picked AD, and Giannis accused him of tampering pic.twitter.com/KDeFLCKVwE— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) February 8, 2019
Mirotic bobble-heads just went from oddity to rare collector’s item:
Guys...— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) February 7, 2019
Nikola Mirotic returns to the Smoothie King in March 12.
On what was scheduled to be...
Nikola Mirotic bobblehead night pic.twitter.com/ekZoJEz0rV
Donald would’ve been a helluva player in transition:
Watching @Bucks in TX. @Giannis_An34 I need that jersey. pic.twitter.com/3YyrqaQT7n— Donald Driver (@Donald_Driver80) February 9, 2019
Looks like the Bucks will be rolling four-deep at All-Star weekend!
Very excited to share that I was selected to be a host at @NBAAllStar this year. I feel so blessed, so honored and so READY to represent Milwaukee alongside Giannis, Khris and Coach Bud. To God be the glory. See you in Charlotte! #FearTheDeer #NBAAllStar pic.twitter.com/1xREytFeVL— Melanie Ricks (@melaniebricks) February 10, 2019
And the winner for Pretty Solid Financial Investment of the Past Five Years goes to:
NBA's biggest 5-year value gainers: https://t.co/5OQpKvMeh0 pic.twitter.com/FmveIfKVa7— Forbes (@Forbes) February 6, 2019
Riley’s 2018-2019 Weekly Prediction Record: 32-23
I had predicted last week that the most annoying loss of the year was going to come at the Washington Wizards. Well, one of the most annoying losses of the season did occur, I just got the date wrong as it was in fact Saturday’s drab Giannis-less affair that got the blood boiling. We’ll just have to resign ourselves to a hearty helping of smacking the Bulls to cure our ills.
On that note. it’s a short week for the Bucks as we finish the stretch before All-Star weekend with a Midwest two-game trip. Tonight features a short drive down I-94 to play the lowly-as-hell Chicago Bulls and the latter game sees Milwaukee in Indiana Wednesday.
Given the lackluster performance over the weekend against the Magic, and pending the return of Giannis/debut of Nikola Mirotic, you hope an inspired pair of evenings are on-hand. If the Bucks have any self-respect they’ll dunk the Bulls out of existence and find a way to keep the scrappy Pacers at arms-length. Cross your fingers for two more victories, a 43-14 record, and a table set for a run at domination to finish the season.