A surprisingly clean bill of health. That’s what the Bucks worked with for a long stretch of this, their best season in decades. Bench guys took some damage, starters have needed nights off from time to time, but Milwaukee has been remarkably stolid.
Until a few days ago, that is.
We head into the home stretch of the season down a critical piece with Malcolm Brogdon sustaining a foot injury that will sideline him until the playoffs at the earliest. All that assumes a setback-free recovery and doesn’t even account for how much time he may need to ramp back up to playing shape. To do all that on the fly and heading into the deeper phases of the playoffs is a major concern and can’t be understated.
Sometimes a championship contender rises to the top on the backs of opponents falling flat due to injuries of their own. It’d be an unbelievable shame if the promise the Bucks have shown turns into the stepping-stone footnote of another team’s march to glory only because affliction found Milwaukee too late to be readily managed.
If it weren’t for the depth of the roster I’d be approaching a minor panic. I’ll give the Bucks time to adjust as best they can before sound the alarm, but this was not the way I wanted the final few weeks of the year to go.
If I told you that Milwaukee’s complete turnaround could quantified in four statistical metrics, which would you choose? Would you focus on jumps in rebounding? There’s the obvious improvement in shot selection. Maybe you could even point to Giannis expanding his game even further than the height he reached a year ago. According to ESPN’s Kirk Goldsberry, it’s as simple as threes made, defensive efficiency, interior defense, and defensive rebounding. I’ll allow him to dive deeper into each within the article.
The Bucks Could Sure Use Malcolm Brogdon Right Now (The Ringer)
Just a little more food for thought as we continue to absorb the news that Malcolm Brogdon is set to be out for nearly two months with a minor plantar fascia tear.
The continuing debate as to which of the pending free agents are most important to continuing Milwaukee’s success may get a revamping by Brogdon’s sheer absence. A sample size of one game isn’t much to go off of, but his unavailability against the Philadelphia 76ers left a decent hole in the rotation that Nikola Mirotic, Khris Middleton, Tony Snell, and others just couldn’t quite fill.
Milwaukee will probably get through without Malcolm, but he was a core piece that helped the machine run. Some more frequent starts, stops, and sputters are probably on the way.
Greek goes for gold: Diving into Giannis Antetokounmpo’s MVP candidacy (OnMilwaukee) & Giannis Might Be The MVP And He Might Be The Defensive Player Of The Year Too (Bucks.com)
Is it me, or does it feel like the MVP race has cooled back down as of late? Giannis has been a constant throughout the season, but the recent rises of James Harden and Paul George have quieted a bit. That’s probably a function of Harden decreasing his workload and George dealing with injury, but I believe it couldn’t have come at a better time for Antetokounmpo’s MVP odds.
In the end, barring some final last gasp of brilliance from the field, a clear top seed and best record in the NBA on the back of historic statlines should be enough to push Giannis to the top of the pedestal. The folks at OnMilwaukee agree, and Alex Boeder goes one step further to argue a dual MVP/DPOY season is within reach. Now that’s bold.
The NBA Has a Kyler Murray of Its Own (The Ringer) & The building of Giannis continues with teammate Pat Connaughton (USA Today)
A final pair of pieces about one of the quieter acquisitions of the offseason in Pat Connaughton. While he built up a bit of an identity during his time with the Portland Trailblazers, I think Pat has really blossomed a bit since arriving in Milwaukee. Not only has he contributed in bursts on the court, but he very quickly became the point guy on strength training with Giannis Antetokounmpo (see: The Rock back-and-forth). Add in the two-way athlete background that Alan Siegel at the Ringer touches on and you’ve got quite the character in Milwaukee’s locker room.
The Social Media Section
Consider the hype train fully engaged
I have a feeling I know who fired up the team at the half in Miami
Time is a flat circle, and “Bucks in Six” always wins
As it stands, tonight's Bucks-Heat game is a first round playoff preview and it only seems fitting.— Jordan Treske (@JordanTreske) March 15, 2019
I look forward to the role reversal a month from now where Dion Waiters proclaims Heat in 6 for only Eric Bledsoe to give us a piercing stare a la Dwyane Wade. pic.twitter.com/DMA7sF31LK
The messianic imaging is almost too on the snout
Oh to be young and wild like fellow Brew Hooper Kyle Carr was
Narrator: It was NOT a good trade! pic.twitter.com/mTk3bknvHq— Kyle Carr (@KyleCoche) March 13, 2019
Darvin Ham looking real skeptical
Does this mean we can get some Barca players on loan?
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It's an honor to team up again with @FCbarcelona, this time away from the court, while I continue competing in the @NBA. I am excited to help the club grow the Barça brand in the US and I am also thrilled about the partnership between the @GasolFoundation and the @FundacioFCB És un honor representar el @FCBarcelona, aquesta vegada fora de la pista, mentre segueixo competint a l'@NBA. Estic content d'ajudar al club a la consolidació de la marca Barça en el context americà i m'omple d'il.lusió la unió de forces entre la @GasolFoundation i la @FundacioFCB Es un honor representar al @FCBarcelona, esta vez fuera de la pista, mientras sigo compitiendo en la @NBA. Contento de ayudar en la consolidación de la marca Barça en el contexto americano e ilusionado por la unión de fuerzas entre la @GasolFoundation y la @FundacioFCB
Riley’s 2018-2019 Weekly Prediction Record: 42-28
It doesn’t get much more deflating than dropping one at home in front of the bright lights to the 76ers. That’s doubly so for me, not because I ride high or low more than any other fan, but because I talk a lot of mess about Philly. While the rest of my Sunday wasn’t ruined per se, I must admit a certain modicum of dejection hung over me until it was lights out.
A pallet cleansing week couldn’t come at a better time for me, you, or the Milwaukee Bucks. Four games in seven days is a tough order, but not a single opponent should do anything but strike warmth and comfort into your hearts. That’s right, I’m talking about LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Miami Heat.
We’ve got a double-header Tuesday and Wednesday with a visit by the Lakers and then a trip to Lake Erie to play the Cavaliers. Then it’s a day off before starting a four game home-stand Friday against the Heat and ending the week by playing turnaround host to the Cavs once again.
With Brogdon down I’m not sure if coach Budenholzer can afford to try many more off-nights for Giannis, but if one’s going to happen it’ll be Wednesday against Cleveland. That may mean a shakier performance than usual and maybe even a loss. Peg me for 3-1 and wins in the three games at home, though.
Make sure you ice your joints, get in your morning stretches, and don’t forget to hydrate. If it could happen to Malcolm, it could happen to you. The last thing this team needs right now is sustained injuries in the fanbase to go along with those on the court.