It takes a lot of guts to take a player like DJ Augustin, an extremely recent free agent acquisition who you signed to a (technically) three-year deal, and ship them to the current equivalent of NBA Siberia. Unless there was a major culture clash and both sides agreed the tie-up was a mistake, you’ve essentially taken a public step in the direction of a truly mercenary team in pursuit of your goals.
And yet, I’m sure the Bucks don’t really care about those kinds of optics. They’re perpetually on the clock to find ways to maximize their chances of winning a title while Giannis Antetokounmpo is a Buck, and sometimes your new bench guard is going to be used as cannon fodder to get there. The short-term result of that pursuit is the arrival of PJ Tucker; big guy, switch guy, loud guy.
The unfortunate part about any trade is that we can’t really decide whether it was good or bad in the moment. Instead, for the ultimate evaluation, we have to wait until all these draft picks get made and then see how those players’ careers work out. However, for Milwaukee’s immediate goals, it feels like the correct move right now.
My criteria for grading this comes down to one key test: does this player give us tactical flexibility we lacked before they arrived? For Tucker, if things go right (an open question right now), the answer should be yes. Torrey Craig may have been a good wing defender, but envisioning him finding a slot in a playoff series rotation is difficult. DJ Augustin provided ball handling and traditional PG skills we’ve missed for a few years, but he was undersized and, until the last few weeks, underperforming; while not ideal, guys like Jrue and Khris can do enough playmaking with bench units to cover the gap (not to mention whatever buyout guys we may get). DJ Wilson has been on the outs since the second he arrived in Milwaukee.
While Tucker may no longer be an ace corner three shooter, his particular combination of size, strength, and physicality means he’s a unique player who can unlock Giannis-at-center lineups. If he can hit the occasional three and give 110% of his remaining energy on defense, it widens the horizon of possibilities of where this team can go. While I’m not sure he’s a shoo-in for a closing lineup at this point, we’re bound to see him thrown alongside Giannis late on occasion to see whether they can compliment each other. Torrey Craig was never doing that. DJ Augustin was never doing that. DJ Wilson was never doing that. Maybe PJ will, and that’s what you make the trade for.
A Serene and Centered Star Brings Fun Back to the Bucks (New York Times)
We don’t talk nearly enough about how meaningful it is that Giannis is able to have fun as a basketball player in Milwaukee. We’re all aware that these guys work very hard, play 82+ times a season, and it is essentially their job, but at the end of it all it’s fun for us to see these players having fun. So if he pisses off a few Sixers fans by celebrating an unlikely win, so be it. Consider that the price paid for being unable to stop Giannis from having a bit of fun.
This evaluation of the Bucks is essentially everything I wrote in this MMMR intro, except more negative and just a hint disparaging. It’s fine, though. Makes it that much sweeter when we’re finding a groove and utterly crushing opponents.
Bucks’ P.J. Tucker makes clear impact in Milwaukee debut: “He’s amazing to play with.” (The Athletic - Subscription required)
Sorry, I know it is paid, but just know there are some excellent quotes in here about how PJ Tucker arrived in Milwaukee and instantly became the loudest guy on the roster. I know oldresorter posted this in the piece on the trade itself, but it’s worth reemphasizing:
Ever wonder why PJ Tucker has a 32 million dollar contract and is playing for Team USA? Here you go. Want to instantly be a better player/team? Just TALK pic.twitter.com/H84fPXiV8t— Nate Launius (@NateLaunius) August 16, 2019
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s MVP case is hiding in plain sight (BasketballNews.com)
You and I don’t need further convincing that Giannis is extremely deserving of yet another MVP award this season. He’s taken another step forward in his development and has found a way to be the fulcrum around which the team operates while taking his foot off the aggression gas. But for those who don’t want their eyes slammed wide open, Nekias Duncan has done an excellent job compiling a compelling series of stats, clips, and arguments for why a back-to-back-to-back campaign isn’t ridiculous.
Giannis Antetokounmpo Movie for Disney Plus Finds Its Lead, Adds Yetide Badaki and Dayo Okeniyi (Variety)
Kind of fitting that the actor who will play Giannis got the role from an open audition. Good luck to him in his first lead role, and here’s to hoping the film turns out!
Fan Post of the Week
Thirty Point Buck’s “What kind of fan are you?” in which we should all come together and try and describe how we approach this nebulous thing known as fandom. If I were to describe myself? A nice blend of casual fan and ignorant fan. But you all knew that already.
Know Your Enemy
- Indiana Pacers - Indy Cornrows - The Pacers need to start controlling what they can control
As ever, excellent break downs about the various tactical mistakes that have been hampering Indiana this season. Trying to balance what are essentially two centers and a bunch of combo guards is a pretty difficult task all its own, but poor execution makes it a climb up a sheer cliff.
Lol. Just, lol.
- New York Knicks - Posting & Toasting - NYK101 with The Professor: The Knicks are better. What’s next?
Strange as it is to say, the Knicks are in playoff position and aren’t a travesty. Problem is they now need to find their way to bridge upstart success into something more sustainable. Many teams have faced the test and fail to execute; can the Knicks find the right steps?
The Social Media Section
He will seriously injure someone sooner rather than later
We’re having fun and winning a title at the same time
BREAKING: UNLV is expected to hire Kevin Kruger as its next head coach, sources told ESPN.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 22, 2021
Before my time, but I respect the past
For any Milwaukeean of a certain age, this is it. pic.twitter.com/PCwn82eIie— Jim Kogutkiewicz (@jimmyfk) March 19, 2021
This is what we in the biz call “all natty”
I’m unironically extremely jealous of Thanasis’s look here
We got a new Social Media entrant
Bon voyage, Torrey
Riley’s 2020-2021 Prediction Record: 26-15
retired janitor’s 2020-2021 Prediction Record: 27-14
The Bucks seem to be hitting a different rhythm right now, best exemplified by their gutting out a come-from-behind win against the Sixers and keeping their noses ahead of the Spurs. That and the 10 wins out of their last 11 games. Not bad!
And now they’re running into three decent-ish East teams. We’ve got four games in Milwaukee, starting tonight against the Pacers, pushing on to hosting the Celtics on Wednesday and Friday, and finally hosting the Knicks on Saturday.
Put my money down on a perfect week as the Bucks continue their evolution forward into a truly next-level force. Great teams wallop the OK teams, and it’s time the Bucks prove they’re definitively part of the great team tier.