Absolutely hammer the bad teams and lose to the good ones (or the Knicks): That is the story of the 2020-2021 Milwaukee Bucks so far. At this rate they’ll find a way to be the first .500 team who posts the league’s best net rating. So far, they’re 1-3 against teams with a record above .500 (small sample, of course) and 4-1 against teams below .500 while also posting a +10.3 net rating. The closest team in net rating are the 7-3 Lakers at +7.3, which means that the Bucks are officially the weirdest “good” team out of the gates.
The Efficiency Landscape. What Jumps Out? pic.twitter.com/EbigM568f4— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) January 8, 2021
All of this belies the hot and cold nature of a roster still coming together, I think. When they’ve been on, the Bucks have been really on setting three-point records. When they’re off they don’t lose too badly, but they’ll look ugly while getting to the finish line.
I’ll continue to see the good in the chaff of the results so far given the extraordinary circumstances the team is working in right now. Would it be nice if we didn’t play so sloppily against the Pistons or the Heat? Yes, of course, as winning is always the preferable outcome. It’s the glimpses of something truly dangerous that will have to keep the appetite whetted right now. No, there isn’t an expectation that they’ll come around and pummel opponents to the tune of the Golden State Warriors of yesteryear, but a facsimile of that juggernaut may lurk in this roster.
Now we get to see if they can survive long enough to bring that beast to life.
The Bucks Built The NBA’s Best Defense. Now, Other Teams Are Copying It. (FiveThirtyEight)
How does the old phrase go? “We have nothing to fear, but fear is the sincerest form of flattery”? Sounds about right to me.
In reading this piece about other teams starting to mimic the principles underpinning our defensive scheme, I thought this was a pretty visceral chart:
What we see here is a list of the 16 highest opponent 3PAr values in league history, and you’ll note that all but two of them were set last season. This begs the question: In a league so awash with perimeter-oriented offenses, is it the chicken (teams walling off the paint) or the egg (teams gunning from three) responsible for these results? If it is the egg, are we at risk of falling into a vicious cycle where teams can gradually adjust their shot charts to take into account that their diet will need to decrease in the paint in lieu of shots from distance? Or is the math still so firmly in Milwaukee’s favor that it can generally brush past those annoying outlier shooting performances we’re subject to from time to time?
It’s a hard puzzle to put together, though discussion about our defense never really ends. For now, we look set to see even more opponent 3PAr records set this year (teams are taking 51% of their shots from three against the Pelicans so far this year, for example). The three is dominant, but the bet is that teams aren’t good enough at it yet to make you pay.
For the Milwaukee Bucks, the time to win a title is now. Again. (Wisconsin State Journal)
I’m a little late on this piece, but I think the general mindset the team exhibited prior to the season’s beginning is a good focus point for us to recall as the year goes on. While the droning on about winning a title being a “process” can get stale for us outsiders, if it is truly regarded as a strategy internally then it allows the pressures of the moment to subside in the clarity of time.
It would be pretty cool if that process did actually result in a title eventually, though.
George Hill: ‘We’re way more powerful than they think we are’ (The Undefeated)
A pretty interesting sit-down with George Hill over at The Undefeated where he reflects back on his involvement with racial justice and getting out the vote in Wisconsin, alongside talk on his new activities now that he is in OKC. He does skirt his relations and reaction to getting traded by Milwaukee a bit, but I think it wholly understandable to be leery about the reasons for being shipped out after having become such an integral part of a team and community. What matters most is his continued dedication to righting wrongs that he sees in the world, and it appears he’s sticking to the path he struck out on most vigorously in The Bubble.
Wisconsin Herd not playing in NBA G League ‘bubble’ season at Disney, remain ‘deeply committed to Oshkosh’ (Oshkosh Northwestern)
I find it mildly interesting that there was a chance the Herd would terminate their lease with the relatively brand-new Menominee Nation Arena operating group. We’re already pretty used to professional teams holding their relatively large markets hostage for arena deals. Maybe it is only a matter of time until the Herd start playing Oshkosh off against La Crosse or, dare I say it, Rhinelander for the sweetest lease agreement?
Oh, the Herd are also not playing this year. Cash flow and all that.
How the Pacers are limiting threes while crowding driving lanes (Indy Cornrows)
It is almost impossible for one roster to completely steal the schematic principles of another for a number of reasons. The skills of your personnel may not allow it, the change in strategy is so anathema to your base system that you can’t incorporate it, or you just think it is a flat-out gimmick.
So I don’t expect Mike Budenholzer & Staff to rip off the unique nail coverage the Pacers are running outlined in excellent fashion by Caitlin Cooper, but perhaps there is an idea or two in there worth imagining in Milwaukee’s repertoire.
Fanpost of the Week
Kyle Carr (??? isn’t he part of the staff???) with “Overreactions: A potential new series??”
I like overreacting, you like overreacting, Kyle likes overreacting, stoneAge likes overreacting, we ALL like overreacting. So why not let the rest of us know what it is that has your goat 10 games into the season?
Know Your Enemy
- Orlando Magic - Orlando Pinstriped Post - Without Markelle Fultz, where do the Orlando Magic go from here?
Injuries are always an awful thing, and especially so for young guys who seem to be rounding into form like Markelle Fultz. Fultz, the former no. 1 overall pick, had survived a hellish time in Philadelphia and seemed set to have a productive year after signing a rookie extension with the Magic. Then, bitterly, it fell apart, and now Orlando has to reset the table. Again.
- Detroit Pistons - Detroit Bad Boys - How other NBA players have fared with similar hip injuries to Killian Hayes
...did I mention that injuries suck?
- Dallas Mavericks - Mavs Moneyball - The Mavericks new starting lineup paid off in a big way against the Rockets
If it is any consolation to you fine folks, it turns out we aren’t the only title-contending team who have had a rough go of it to start the season. For the Mavericks, trying to make things work with Dwight Powell in place of Kristaps Porzingis proved a bit too much to handle, especially on defense. Now, Rick Carlisle is opting for a couple of swaps like Willie Cauley-Stein and Maxi Kleber to help shore things up on defense while letting Luka Doncic continue to do most of the coordinating work on the other end.
The Social Media Section
He’s still staying ready, folks
This was essentially me when I interviewed for a position here at Brew Hoop
Going to be good when Giannis baptizes Stewart this week
Giannis and Stewart have to be separated after the game pic.twitter.com/YsMatmDgAi— Main Team (@MainTeamSports) January 7, 2021
“Be-traded”... I think we might’ve dodged a bullet here
"It’s not the part that you were traded, but it’s more like you feel a little be-traded." - Bogdan Bogdanovichttps://t.co/PXxzAK7uD8— The Athletic NBA (@TheAthleticNBA) January 5, 2021
I too like watching Giannis play basketball
Riley’s 2020-2021 Prediction Record: 5-5
retired janitor’s 2020-2021 Prediction Record: 6-4
A somewhat shorter week up ahead with three games coming up, starting tonight in Orlando against the Magic followed by a trip to Detroit on Wednesday to play the Pistons yet again, finishing the week Friday hosting the Dallas Mavericks.
Wins against the Magic and Pistons feel like foregone conclusions, either because of injury troubles or too large a disparity in base talent. The game against the Mavs is the big ticket here, and I think the Bucks will be able to pull it off and notch their first signature win against another contending team this season.
Terrence Ross will probably make me eat my words.