In surveying the NBA landscape in the wake of last week’s James Harden trade to the Brooklyn Nets, there appeared to be two Bucks-specific narratives emerging: Either you thought the Bucks actually matched up well against Kyrie Irving, Harden, and Kevin Durant defensively, or your skepticism of Milwaukee’s odds of advancing out of the East grew when you combined recent (bad) history with the emergence of a true super team.
As ever, I’m far too basketball dumb to run the theoretical numbers and matchups in my mind to come to a firm conclusion on either point. The arc of NBA history bends towards star power and there is no denying that the Nets now have that in spades. When doing the math, the Nets have three bonafide stars while the Bucks have... maybe three? That isn’t to dismiss what Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday have done this season, but the career highlights for Brooklyn’s grouping feel a notch or two higher than what Milwaukee’s have achieved.
Milwaukee will have a deeper bench to call from in order to shore up their starting lineup, but given the prior difficulty of translating Giannis’s game to the postseason, it’s fair to wonder whether there’s enough juice there to squeeze into winning playoff basketball.
Yet somehow fate has a way of providing us with a glimpse into the future just when we need it most. If you like speedy resolutions to further a narrative, you’re going to love the fact that we’ll be the first team to play the Super Nets in their full iteration.
What happens tonight won’t be forever, but it sure as hell will set the table for the months to come.
The NBA Has Become an All-in League (The Ringer)
Isn’t this... sort of the structural lifecycle of the league given the circumstances surrounding player contract length/financing? Bereft of the option of signing dudes to 15 year contracts, and with players capable of earning large contracts with quick turnaround times, a franchise with aspirations to win it all is forced by design into these trades moving massive draft capital around.
While there are some teams that will remain insulated from this process because of their ability to appeal to free agents (i.e. the Lakers), most of the other teams must content themselves with a lifecycle that sees them be bad and acquire draft capital, hopefully develop a player or two of stature, and then jettison the remaining resources to a team on the way down in order to make a legitimate go of it.
So yes, the NBA is an all-in league, but that’s been purposeful for awhile now.
There’s no such thing as a free point (Last Night, In Basketball)
Are Giannis free throws the ultimate weakness that will end up being our doom? I have no idea! But it sure looks grim when someone like Jared Dubin plots it out in a visual graph. Have no fear, though, because surely this is all part of Josh Oppenheimer’s long-term plan to turn the shooting at the stripe around...
...or maybe the plan is to just keep trying new stuff and new numbers of dribbles and new hand placements and new times of day to practice his attempts and new ways of getting fouled and new...
This is one of those articles from Eric Nehm that make The Athletic a worthwhile subscription for those looking for a glimpse behind the strategic curtain at Bucks HQ.
In this piece, Nehm logs a slight fold to Milwaukee’s offensive scheme so far this season: Adding the “dunker spot” in place of one of those five famous blue squares of two years ago. The idea works most in transition where a player purposefully dashes as quickly as possible under the basket in lieu of finding a spot on the perimeter. This theoretically opens up a chance for whoever has the ball to use the guy underneath the basket as a release valve in case a lane is blocked. The biggest beneficiary should be one Giannis Antetokounmpo who *ahem* has a tendency to see a wall of players put in front of him.
So make sure you take a look for the player positioning next time things are in motion. It’d make all of us a little basketball smarter!
Know Your Enemy
- Brooklyn Nets - Nets Daily - FILM STUDY: Keys to making the James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant trio work
If you’re a fan of watching the “film” to try and gain a deeper appreciation for the subtleties underpinning any given team’s approach to the game, you’ll probably get a lot of good insight from this bit of strategic discussion over at Nets Daily.
- Los Angeles Lakers - Silver Screen & Roll - The Lakers’ offense is dangerously unselfish
Yeah yeah yeah WE GET IT. You guys are good and have two top-five players on the team. No need to get everyone else on the roster looks, is there?
- Washington Wizards - Bullets Forever - The Wizards’ lack of an offensive identity adds to their defensive struggles
I acknowledge that the Wizards were stuck in a hole the moment John Wall essentially lost use of both his legs after signing a supermax extension. Acquiring Russell Westbrook who, at this point in his career, isn’t exactly a plus-player also hurts. Add on top Scott Brooks who appears to be simply “fine” as a NBA coach and you get... the second-worst record in the NBA.
- Atlanta Hawks - Peachtree Hoops - Bogdan Bogdanovic diagnosed with avulsion fracture, bone bruise in right knee
Even after everything went down over the offseason that denied Bogdan Bogdanovic from ending up in Milwaukee, it’s a shame to see a player incur an injury like this. The Hawks have played things pretty close to the chest as to Bogdanovic’s timeline after messing up his knee with an “avulsion fracture”. Some people think it could be a six-week injury, others note that there’s a chance of some legitimate ligament damage alongside the fracture. Either way, heal up, Bogdan.
Fanpost of the Week
Dan Gadzurich (no, not THAT Dan Gadzurich) with “Big Man Depth”.
The Fake Dutchman spotlighted the fact that the Bucks anticipated shallowness in their big man rotation leaves them in dangerous waters. Without more bodies (or a willingness to use some of those bodies a la DJ Wilson or Mamadi Diakite), any injury or illness leaves a gap in plus minutes from the four and five slots. Add on top the fact that the likes of Giannis, Brook Lopez, and Bobby Portis all have relatively well-carved roles on the squad and the tactical picture also narrows depending on how an opponent responds.
Which is a long-winded way of saying thank God Ersan is staying ready with dudes rocking Milwaukee Bucks training gear:
The Social Media Section
Brick by brick*
Thon just in awe of Augustin’s skills
Would be a shame if Donte jinxed the Packers...
It is flexes like these that will get Bobby into a fist fight this year
The present and the future on the court at the same time
Grind never stops.— Zora Stephenson (@ZoraStephenson) January 16, 2021
Giannis getting free throws up...on the other end Jordan Nwora and Sam Merrill knocking down threes. pic.twitter.com/F2v242zJ7o
The Houston “Milwaukee Bucks” Rockets
Starting lineup: Sterling Brown, Ben McLemore, Jae'Sean Tate, P.J. Tucker, and Christian Wood— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) January 14, 2021
A new era of #Rockets basketball
Translation: We heard you, haters. Check out these minute loads.
A few were surprised the starters were in so long so I asked Bud about it:— Kane Pitman (@KanePitman) January 14, 2021
"We're trying to increase the conditioning of our group to be able to play faster, longer, execute defensively longer....we want them to be conditioned to play and so far we are pushing that envelope"
Greatness finds a way
The arc of history bends towards Torrey Craig’s style
Giannis got the “Torrey Craig” haircut pic.twitter.com/YewEVC8oZx— Bucks Lead (@BucksLead) January 10, 2021
Riley’s 2020-2021 Prediction Record: 8-5
retired janitor’s 2020-2021 Prediction Record: 9-4
You’ve probably already heard it elsewhere, but in many ways the easy part of Milwaukee’s schedule is now behind them. From here on out most weeks include a game against stiffer competition in some form or fashion. This week we’ve got two on the docket with the Nets tonight and the Lakers on Thursday, followed by the Wizards Friday and Hawks on Sunday.
I’ll put myself down for three wins and one loss, the wins against a Nets team finding its feet with new personnel and wins against lesser teams in Washington and Atlanta. The Lakers, however, are playing far too well to be discounted, and it isn’t like the Bucks have been decimating the good teams they’ve played this year. A loss and another notch in the narrative there for Milwaukee.