Part of why the absence of Brook Lopez has been so notable has to do with the loss of expected results. For both us as fans and his teammates, he has gradually carved out a reliable role as the second line of defense perimeter players can rely upon and as an imposing wall on defensive rebounding opportunities around which the likes of Giannis could hoover up loose balls. He was very much that same reliable guy on opening night against the Brooklyn Nets, so we can at least take solace in the fact that at some point we should count on his retaining his place.
In the meantime, it’s been something of a work in progress as Giannis Antetokounmpo has tried his hand at something like full-time shifts as a center. To say it was so-so is probably an understatement, but part of the trouble stemmed from a rotating cast of frontcourt mates, whether they be Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, or Pat Connaughton. Since Bobby Portis’s insertion into the starting lineup back on November 7th on the road against the Wizards, though, it seems as though the Bucks have begun to level things out. The Bucks have gone 5-3 in his 8 starts, and he’s put up some solid numbers in that stretch:
Exactly the kind of output needed from a slot-in starting big man to help take the load off Giannis. Notable as well beyond Bobby’s raw output have been the gradual increase in Milwaukee’s rebounding numbers and decrease in opponent rebounds since this latest stretch. From games 2 through 9 (i.e. games without Bobby as starter), the Bucks averaged 8.8 OREBs and 44.0 REBs a game with a 47.6% TRB%, while opponents were nabbing 11.5 OREBs and 48.4 REBs. Since the tandem of Bobby-Giannis got going, those numbers have increased to 10.4 OREBs, 48.1 REBs, and 51.0% TRB% for Milwaukee while opponents have dropped to 10.4 OREBs and 46.3 REBs.
Part of that increase has to do with playing some bad teams, but I also get the sense that Giannis is finding ways to play off Bobby’s particular brand of interior defense. A more mobile interior defense asks that you be actively mindful of your positioning while an offensive player drives towards the basket, and repetition can go a long way to teaching you best practices in this regard. Maybe all Giannis needed to get right was a reliable running mate who could help lessen the physical load on both ends even a hair. If that’s the case, maybe we’ve found our stopgap solution for as long as it takes Brook Lopez to get right again.
Better known as the article that kicked off a fresh “did Giannis just say he’s going to demand a trade in two years” cycle of online handwringing, I still encourage you take a read on this very long piece wherein Giannis is covered as GQ’s sportsman of the year. He’s a remarkable individual who fully deserves this kind of profile treatment, so soak it up.
Outside of his three point percentage ticking up gradually with the passing of time, I do wonder what part of his game Giannis can really continue to markedly improve. His passing, maybe, and he’ll need to continue to remain flexible as the roster shifts around him, but he’s at such a level in his development that the main question is whether he can churn out ever-gaudier statlines. In that respect, I understand why he wonders aloud what his next challenge is. Maybe just going out and proving yourself to be one of the titans of the sport is the next hurdle in his way.
This honestly might be one of the longest articles I’ve ever posted on here, and it being nearly 11 PM I will not admit to having read the whole thing in order to glean what exactly happened, but I heartily hope you have the free time this morning to dive in and make sense of it all.
The methodology of these rankings appears to literally be a subjective rating of whether a Facebook comment made on a team’s official account was “positive, neutral, or negative” after wins and losses, so suffice it to say the dataset is... narrow. Still, if you mix the sliders enough you’ll find that Bucks fans are the 4th most negative NBA fans after a defeat, trailing the Hornets, Kings, and Suns. Unacceptable. We have to work extremely hard to reclaim our rightful place atop the team hate rankings.
G may asking the question I’ve been demanding the answer to for weeks with, “Where did the fan posts go?”; a post so bold as to earn the distinction of winning this week’s FPOTW award. There’s good feedback in the comments on that piece from some of our regulars, and I happily invite others to go add their own takes there (or in the comments on this piece). I tend to agree with a lot of the thrusts you guys are getting at (be the change you want to see in the world, I know), so I take heart in knowing we’re not on different planets. Also, I’m going to pretend I didn’t see stoneAge’s bolded & italicized comment: The MMMR retains its populist touch because it is an operation completely bereft of money.
Know Your Enemy
Cole Anthony was unavailable on Saturday and I haven’t seen news on if he’ll play tonight, but part of being a rebuilding team is giving guys in Anthony’s archetypal vein some run to figure out what you’ve got. He’s made a jump from his rookie into his sophomore season, so now the question is just how far he can push his game from here.
- Detroit Pistons - Detroit Bad Boys - Jerami Grant was supposed to take the next step, but the film shows the same good and bad as last year
Jerami Grant has been an interesting player for years, made even more interesting when he opted to head into what looked like an iffy situation with Detroit. He’s gotten plenty of usage, but are his marginal shortcomings beginning to show more as the team attempts to find not merely its next step, but the next five, ten, fifteen steps forward from rock bottom?
- Denver Nuggets - Denver Stiffs - Aaron Gordon has revived his career and might be Denver’s key piece to a championship run
Another player profile here, this time of Aaron Gordon. Having hit the eject button on Orlando, Gordon has worked his way into being a key cog in Denver’s ever-fluid rotations. I’m not sure if he’ll be the kind of guy capable of pushing the team’s endgame championship aspirations over the edge, but you always need plus players.
If it’s the Pacers, it’s Caitlin Cooper breaking down film or specific playsets. Excellent content as ever.
The Social Media Section
Good news for Bucks center Brook Lopez, who's been out since opening night Oct. 19: He is progressing toward a comeback for the reigning champions and says he has a target return in mind. More: pic.twitter.com/un4sf0XVW2— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 19, 2021
Bobby retiring to start a sitcom is the next logical step in his progression
Georgios brought it in last night's WIN:— Wisconsin Herd (@WisconsinHerd) November 20, 2021
15 PTS | 8 REB | 4 AST pic.twitter.com/liHWVPWBVI
The AntetokounBros Academy gets off the ground
retired janitor’s 2021-2022 prediction record: 9-8
Riley’s 2021-2022 prediction record: 8-9
The Bucks have finally gotten momentum back on their side, and in theory the most logical direction from here is up as Giannis/Jrue/Khris gel again, so picking wins should come more naturally to this column.
We’ve got four games this week: Tonight hosting the Magic, Wednesday against visiting Detroit, Friday at Denver, and Sunday at the Pacers. It takes zero courage to predict a 3-1 week with wins against the bad Magic, bad Pistons, and whatever the Pacers are mixed against a loss on the road (post-Thanksgiving) against the Nuggets. Still, if that all comes to pass, the Bucks will end this week having gone 7-3 over their last 10 games. That’d be more like it.