Welcome back to yet another year of the Brew Hoop Round Table, where we ask that everybody use coasters and please don’t feed the aging pugs from the table, thanks. Today, we’re putting pen to paper on the eve of the regular season for Over/Unders to track this season.
O/U - 22.8% usage rate for Bobby Portis
Adam: Portis has never shied away from finding his shot, and his career 22.8% usage rate would’ve placed him merely percentage points behind Eric Bledsoe’s 23.7% mark that ranked third on the team last year. In the regular season, I’m still not sure Bud is going to competently stagger his stars, so I expect Portis to be rolling full steam ahead on some all-bench lineups and hit the over on this.
Gabe: Over. I actually have a feeling that Budenholzer is going to really come to appreciate the energy and effort (apologies for the PTSD back to the Kidd era) that Portis brings. With everything that is this rushed season, I agree with Adam’s point about Bud staggering his stars. I’m expecting quite the bench usage, and Portis to be a key part of that.
Riley: Under. Look, I appreciate that Bobby Portis is a psycho whose first-and-only thought is, “It’s Bobby Portis time”. Truly, I do. You know who isn’t going to appreciate that a month into the season? Mike Budenholzer. Try as Bobby might, it’s going to be hard to have the third-highest usage rate when riding pine as a member of Bud’s dog house.
Mitchell: Under. Portis certainly could insist on putting his shots first, especially in a bench lineup where he’ll be depended upon to provide scoring in the frontcourt. However, Portis isn’t a wide-eyed (sorry...) youngster anymore, and he’s well aware that this is his shot to undergo a career renaissance. The Bucks need him to be their third big, which means he needs to do his job, and part of his job will undoubtedly include letting it fly. I think Portis and Budenholzer will find an easy middle ground as long as it helps the team win.
Andrew: This was tough, but I think it can break the over. Portis is the guy you hate to play against but would love to have him on your squad. I love the tenacity he has brought in the preseason and it is an encouraging sign as we can expect Portis to bring the energy whenever he is out on the floor, regardless of the score. With the shortened season, there might be some rest nights for other Bucks players which will thrust Bobby Portis into a larger role. I LOVE how hard he runs the floor, I would hate to take a charge from him.
Kyle: Under, as many jokes we make about it being Bobby Portis time, I think there will be some reigning it in once these games matter and the priority will be to play within the system. That doesn’t mean Portis won’t have chances but it will be tough if he is on the court with one of Giannis or Khris.
O/U - 70% Free throw percentage for Giannis Antetokounmpo
Adam: Even if it’s below his career average, it would be a pretty dramatic leap for him to hit the over after last season’s 63.3% mark on 10 attempts per game. I’d be curious how many players seemingly tinker with their free throw stroke year-after-year like Giannis, outside of the obvious abominations like Shaq or Andre Drummond. He’s got a fresh routine, but I don’t think it’ll get him back above this mark. I’ll take under.
Gabe: Unfortunately, I’m going with the under. It’s great to see that Giannis is dedicating this much time to resolving his free throw woes, but like any shooting development, change doesn’t just happen over night. I think we’ll see a slow climb in improvement, but not too sharp of one that gets him above the 70% FTR for the regular season.
Riley: Over, for no other reason than blind faith that Oppenheimer can live up to his family name and turn Giannis into a wonder weapon. Without the baggage of bringing ruination and likely extinction to life on Earth, of course.
Mitchell: Over. Optimism, baby! Giannis has improved everything except his shooting since he entered the league. He and the Bucks know that his poor performance at the stripe will cost them games when they matter most, and if there’s one thing we’ve been shown, it’s that Giannis takes his development seriously. Besides, the odds are against him to three-peat as MVP this season, so why not take another jump up in efficiency to make the case even harder for voters?
Andrew: Hmm, I wanted to take under, but I will go over. He is a career 72.2% free throw shooter and it’s hard to think that it will be worse than last season. Giannis is a player who will work tirelessly in order to perfect his craft and my money is on him busting his throughout the season in practice/down time to imporve and help the Bucks. A more reliable Antetokounmpo from the charity stripe would be hitting the lottery for the Bucks.
Kyle: Over, but barely. The change in mechanics will help out in the long run, but I have to think most of Giannis’ free throw woes have to be more on the mental side. =\
O/U - 50 FG% / 40 3P% / 90 FT% for Khris Middleton
Adam: The odds should be stacked against him given only nine players ever between the WNBA and NBA have ever accomplished this feat, but we all know he came within just a few made buckets of hitting the 50 FG% mark to join that club. It felt like a historic season for Khris last year, and while I think he’ll be nearly as potent offensively, I can’t tell yet whether Bud will make him take on tougher defensive assignments in the absence of Wesley Matthews. The preseason is pointing to Jrue Holiday getting those marks, but I think Khris may have some added defensive burden that limits his offensive output just enough that he’ll go under on the field goal percentage part. I’ll take over on the 3-point and free throws.
Gabe: Middleton looks to be in the best shape of his career, and rightfully so. He’s coming off another stellar season where he earned his second consecutive All-Star nod, and has a very strong chance of making it three straight All-Star appearances this year. With that being said, the 50/40/90 club is very exclusive, and it’s going to be difficult for those numbers to be replicated again. I agree with Adam — the toughest part of the equation will be field goal percentage, but I expect K-Midd to be just as sharp as he’s been from deep, as well as at the free throw line. Give me the over on the 3-point and free throws as well.
Riley: Slight under across the board, just because he did notch near career-highs in all three categories a season ago. He’ll have a larger load on his plate this season as everyone not named Giannis figures out their places in the pecking order. Not that he can’t be supremely efficient with more shots, but generally the math works against guys as their usage climbs higher and higher, especially jump shooters. Don’t be surprised if he makes a close run of it, though.
Mitchell: Under on all three, and here’s why: Khris Middleton is the Bucks’ #2 option. The preseason hasn’t shown us much, but it has shown that Jrue Holiday prefers to be a combo guard that prioritizes defense and hustle, while scoring ranks below playmaking on offense. Giannis is going to be Giannis, which means Khris is going to have to take on a similar burden this season while also picking up some slack on defense because of the offseason downgrades elsewhere on the roster (particularly on the bench). I still think Middleton will be great and even earn another All-Star acknowledgement, but I think his efficiency is going to dip just below the lofty 50/40/90 marks.
Andrew: Under, but it’s going to be close. Like Mitchell said, Middleton will be asked to do a bit more defensively which might tire out his legs on the offensive end. Being the number two option on the Bucks, Middleton will have a lot of volume to tee up shots. It wouldn’t be surprising to see opposing teams defend him differently and make a more concerted effort at shutting him down. Odds are, when Middleton has a good game, the Bucks win. Opposing teams know that.
Kyle: Over/Under/Over, if I can do that. I think Middleton will take more midrange turnaround jumpers. He truly excelled when a smaller defender switched on him and I think that is something he is going to hunt for more often. I do think however he will shoot just under 40% from three hovering around 38%. Going 50/40/90 is tough to do, but that doesn’t mean Middleton won’t be close to getting that again.
O/U - 3rd Net Rating Ranking
(under means better than 3rd)
Adam: I actually think they may go a bit over this. Everyone may be pegging them in for a top seed given they have the human wrecking ball in Giannis and a well-tuned system for the regular season, but that systems got a whooole lot of new components in it. It was clear from the preseason it may take these players some time to acclimate to one another. The hope is that it all pays off in the Playoffs, but it may be a slightly rockier regular season than last year’s destructive squad. I’ll take over.
Gabe: Due to the new nature of the squad, I’m leaning towards the over. The first few preseason games have shown that this will be a process, and I anticipate that this year’s squad will be a slow-building one. This means that it could be a slow start all across the board in terms of wins and stats. Give me the over as well.
Riley: Over. Let those other lames exert themselves “caring about the regular season”. I’m here for Bryn Forbes going 3/13 from three while Jrue gets to stand around above the break wondering why he’s being used as a spot-up shooter by Mike Budenholzer.
Mitchell: Under. Yes, I’m sticking with optimism! I think the first 15-20 games are going to be rough, because the Bucks are going to be figuring out what their deal is. But after that, once the bench is stabilized and the starting lineup has Middleton as the squad’s worst defender (behind Giannis, Jrue, Brook, and Donte), I think Milwaukee will surge and claim the league’s best mark for a third consecutive year.
Andrew: Over, with a lot of roster turnover it will take the Milwaukee Bucks time to gel on both ends of the floor, and that’s okay! I believe they will finish inside the top-6, but with the shortened season they would have to not miss a beat in order to keep the pace that they did last season.
Kyle: Under, even with all of the roster turnover, this is still a roster with the DPOY, a couple strong candidates for All-Defense in Brook Lopez and Jrue Holiday and a guy like Donte DiVincenzo who can get plenty of deflections and steals. While Budenholzer’s zone drop scheme has its flaws (and certain teams like the Dallas Mavericks can exploit it), this is still a roster with too many good defenders and a more athletic bench for the defensive rating to significantly drop off.
O/U - 2.5 Eastern Conference All-Stars
Adam: Under, while Jrue Holiday made it as an All-Star back in 2013, I think the East has too many new arrivals for him to get over the hump this year. Kevin Durant will take a spot, and Kyrie Irving has a chance to as well if the Nets are clicking. There’s even a chance Khris Middleton could miss out with Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook as possible candidates too. If the Bucks are the top seed or top two though, I’d expect Giannis and Khris to make it.
Gabe: I’ll take the under. I see Giannis and Khris being the two representatives for the Bucks this season once again. As Adam mentioned, I anticipate the fan vote to really help propel the Brooklyn duo of Durant and Irving. Westbrook will also be in the equation, which may make it tough for Holiday to make an appearance, even if he does boast strong numbers. I could see him being in a similar situation to Bledsoe two years ago when the argument could be made that he could deserve a spot, but ultimately, just fell short.
Riley: Under, mostly for all the reasons Adam and Gabe spelled out. Giannis is the obvious lock, but Khris has gotten in these past two years right at the edge of qualification. Injuries could always throw things for a loop, but there’s too much firepower elsewhere to think we’d get three All-Stars.
Mitchell: Under. Sorry, Jrue, optimism isn’t the same as delusion. I think that the Bucks will be a winning team and guys will have impressive performances, but their peak will be after the All Star break, not before. If the line was set at 1.5, I would take the over because I think Khris has demonstrated that he belongs in that conversation. I can see enough of the other Eastern Conference duos (Kyrie/KD in Brooklyn, Russ/Beal in Washington, Jimmy/Bam in Miami, Simmons/Embiid in Philadelphia, Lowry/Siakam in Toronto, Malcolm/Oladipo in Indiana, Brown/Tatum in Boston) either having disappointing outings or taking attention away from each other, but not so much that the Bucks get a third All-Star nod.
Andrew: Under. Aside from Giannis Antetokounmpo being a lock, Khris Middleton isn’t a sure thing and Jrue Holiday isn’t loved by voters. Having three All-Stars would be awesome, but means nothing to me in the long run.
Kyle: Under, Giannis is a lock but with KD’s arrival that will mean Middleton will compete with Siakam, Tatum, and Bam. I still believe Khris is better than all of them and will get the nod and that leaves Jrue Holiday to potentially get that last spot. Bledsoe narrowly missed it last year to Kyle Lowry and that was a close choice that might swing Jrue’s way this time. However, add in Kyrie and Russell Westbrook to the East and Bradley Beal and the guard spot will be tough to win.
O/U - 49.5 Wins
Adam: I am math dumb, so the non-82 game season thing is really messing with my mind. I am going to be conservative and take the under here. This season could get really wacky if the team takes a while to mesh, and the specter of COVID makes me wary of hoping for any type of overperformance in the regular season.
Gabe: I’ll take the under as well. As I mentioned a little bit above in one of my answers, I think this will be a slow build for the squad. I’m not saying they’re going to end the season in a poor place, I just think that it’s going to take a little bit of time for the squad to gel and get things flowing. I can see a bit of a rocky start and thus, making it a little difficult for the over to hit on this one.
Riley: Under. See: Bryn Forbes 3/13 from three and Jrue’s main responsibility being a spot-up shooter in Budenholzer’s offense.
Mitchell: Over. 50 wins in a 72 game season is a winning percentage of 0.694. The last two years, Milwaukee had a winning percentage of 0.732 and 0.767, so we’re talking about a minimum 10% drop in wins overall from last year. I do think the Bucks will struggle in the beginning of the season but overall, the changes they’ve made will propel a basketball engine helmed by Giannis Antetokounmpo that lives up to the juggernaut status Milwaukee earned the past two regular seasons. There are tons of variables working against the NBA and each of its franchises (particularly COVID), but I think the Bucks will end up just above that 50 win mark.
Andrew: Under, just due to the fact that there has been a decent amount of roster turnover and the Bucks have a brand-new point guard who needs to get acclimated within the system. The Bucks can be an elite team and win less than 50 games...both can be true!
Kyle: Under, Winning 50 games in a 72 game season is a really tough ask. Plus, the Eastern Conference will be better than last year which will mean teams will take wins from each other. I think Milwaukee winning 46 games will still get them the 2nd seed. I expect a longer rotation from Bud to account for a more condensed schedule, which will mean some games slip through the Bucks’ fingers.