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Milwaukee Bucks Weekly Wednesday Wrap-up

Another frustrating week is in the books

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

We’re inching closer to the All-Star Break, and as much as the regular season often seems interminably long, it snuck up on me that we’re already some games past the halfway point. Sleepwalking isn’t exactly the term I’d use for this Milwaukee Bucks team, but if we wanted to massage that language, “selective lapses of execution” may be more apt. When they’re locked in, like the Golden State thumping, there’s a noticeable difference from some of the strugglebus sequences we’re subjected to in less prominent games. Unfortunately, the schedule won’t let up from here on out, and while I haven’t let one regular season loss really get to me, I’d still rather avoid falling too far back in the standings. Let’s wrap-up.

The Week That Was

The Bucks shellshocked the Draymond Green-less Warriors team. Most surprising to me was how the Bucks seemed to dominate them with pace, speed and decisiveness on both ends of the floor. They threw a cog into their “perfect game” and shortcircuited Curry’s engine with intense face-guarding. Solid stuff. After that, the Bucks lost against Toronto and blew it in the fourth quarter against Atlanta. Another “ugh” week I’d say.

Weekly Wondering

We all know the stat by now, Milwaukee is 16-3 with their big three of Giannis, Khris and Jrue out on the floor. In the broadest sense, that is the most important takeaway from the early part of this season. Even without their fourth best player (IMHO) in Brook Lopez for the entirety of this year, when the Bucks are nearly whole, they’ve been nearly unbeatable. That hasn’t stopped us from handwringing in the games without that trio though, and after the past two weeks, I can’t blame you if your hands are getting a teensy bit raw.

If that’s the case, I advise you find some lotion, but I also try to consider the grander scheme. I covered plenty of this team’s overall numbers in last week’s wrap-up, but I wanted to see how they’re performing in games where they don’t have their threatening triumvirate all together. The one caveat I have for everything below is that there are also other absences during many of these games you’ll need to consider for the full picture. Case in point, last week Giannis and Khris were trying to carry a team without Jrue...AND just about every other guard on the roster. So, take some of the below with a grain of salt, but hopefully it’s instructive to see how the different permutations of the superstars have done without one another.

Record by Player(s) Missing

Type of Game W L
Type of Game W L
No Giannis 3 2
No Giannis/Khris 1 1
No Jrue 3 7
No Jrue/Khris 1 2
No Khris 3 3
No Big 3 0 1
All Big 3 16 3

That’s a lot of segments to sift through, but it’s still notable to me that no Jrue has resulted in such a lopsided W-L record. Much of that has come in just this past week, so that’s skewing it considerably. Regardless, that kinda matches how I think this season has felt thus far. Let’s take a slightly deeper look into the games without each star.

Moving forward, I’m only going to focus on games where the Bucks were down just one of their stars. I’d argue that many of us would say that two of the big three intact means they should still be favored. Merely one of them makes winning far more dicey, so we’re going to leave out those datapoints. We’re also obviously going to be dealing with minuscule sample sizes here, so consider that as well. Here’s a rough outline of how their offensive and defensive ratings have stacked up though without each of their key players versus when they’re all available. I based these on the “starting lineup” data from Basketball Reference. It’s not the best barometer since it does still include games like the Boston one where Khris played barely a half before exiting with an injury, but it’s what we’ve got.

Off./Def. Ratings by Missing Player

Type of Game Games Off. Rating Def. Rating Net Rating
Type of Game Games Off. Rating Def. Rating Net Rating
Full Season 46 112 108.3 3.7
All Big 3 19 117.1 107.7 9.4
No Giannis 5 114.9 106.9 8.0
No Jrue 10 106.1 110.0 -3.9
No Khris 6 113.9 112.8 1.1

Of them all, the most important datapoint is still that they’ve wrecked teams with all three players on the court, with a +9.4 rating through 19 games. Second to that is probably the Jrue Holiday number, a -3.9 net rating in games without him. Some of that drastic figure still stems from the 137-95 drubbing they faced early in the season when Miami ostensibly won the championship. Remove that datapoint, and they’re at almost exactly even from a net rating standpoint. Still, even at a 0.0 net rating, that would mean they’ve underperformed a decent amount with a 3-7 mark when he’s out. Thankfully, we’re all rational enough here not to form a “better off without Giannis?” argument based on the above net rating either. Let’s take a look at four factors using these same groupings to see if the type of play has differed at all.

Offensive Four Factors

Type of Game Games eFG% TOV% ORB% FT/FGA
Type of Game Games eFG% TOV% ORB% FT/FGA
Full Season 46 53.40% 12.50% 23.10% 0.186
All Big 3 19 55.94% 12.38% 24.16% 0.212
No Giannis 5 51.20% 10.88% 26.80% 0.202
No Jrue 10 50.26% 12.68% 19.35% 0.219
No Khris 6 55.05% 10.43% 21.72% 0.118

Defensive Four Factors

Type of Game Games eFG% TOV% DRB% FT/FGA
Type of Game Games eFG% TOV% DRB% FT/FGA
Full Season 46 51.70% 12.30% 77.80% 0.165
All Big 3 19 52.53% 11.57% 81.89% 0.151
No Giannis 5 50.78% 12.18% 76.52% 0.178
No Jrue 10 50.66% 11.38% 75.30% 0.181
No Khris 6 53.15% 11.68% 75.15% 0.139

A couple things from these charts. First off, it’s no surprise to me that the absence of Jrue has amped up the turnover percentage for this time, far more so than when one of Khris or Giannis are out. Still, they’re middle of the pack in terms of turnover percentage as a team for the full year, and the figure without Jrue isn’t far off what they average over the full season or when all three are available. So, as much as that’s been a storyline through these losses, it hasn’t been as big of a problem in comparison to what the grand scheme numbers tell us. Additionally, the bloated OREB% without Giannis is a quirk of small samples, as the Bucks posted a bloated 38% OREB in their win over Miami without the Greek Freak.

They’ve also just flat out shot abysmally in games without Giannis and Jrue this season. In the ten games without Jrue in particular, the team’s 50.26 eFG% would rank just above New Orleans for the fifth worst mark in the league. Couple poor shooting with more turnovers, and you’ve got the ideal recipe for blowing some winnable games.

Once more, the most important stat line is the obvious one, in that in games with the Big Three intact, they’re shooting better, rebounding better on both ends, barely fouling and drawing fouls at an okay rate themselves. All the indicators of a top flight team are there, and they bear out in the W-L record.

These aren’t extended lineup data, these aren’t massive sample sizes, these are just food for thought when considering how the team has performed without one of their core three. As I said above, the numbers line up with the eye test when all three are on the court. Amid all the bumps and bruises along the way, the core mission of this season has always to get those three players healthy and into the postseason. It’s easy, and understandable, to find your frustrated eyes wandering to those other stat lines, but the team is keeping their eye on the Playoff prize, and I’m trying to do my best to as well.

That being said, please Bucks, just don’t lose to the Bulls this week...

Play of the Week

Wow, were there some beautiful, years-long worth of chemistry connections dotted throughout that stellar takedown of Steve Kerr’s Warriors. It was sorely needed for this week’s selections too, as the Raptors game resembled trench warfare more than aerial acrobatics and the Hawks game left a rotten taste on the ol’ buds. Regardless, I still found a few highlights that stood out.

Giannis - Passing Extraordinaire

This is sort of the spiritual successor to last week’s selection, when Giannis slung a pass with his right hand, from the left elbow, directly through the D to a waiting Bobby Portis in the corner. I’d argue this one is better, not just due to the nonchalance, but because he gathers the ball on the short roll and in that instant diagnoses the defense to he can make the dish the second he touches the rock. And the accuracy into Allen’s shooting pocket. Masterful.

Bobby, Donte, Grayson, Dunk

This is a fun sequence to shout out given it features some of the less heralded stars, and it all starts with Bobby Portis playing stout isolation defense against OG Anunoby along the perimeter. Anunoby has a ways to go as a primary ballhandler, but Portis shuffles his feet well and uses his active hands before tossing a lead ball to Donte who is sprinting down the floor. When Wes Matthews sees Grayson Allen flying, the vet wisely lets the young guy have this one, and Donte delivers a picture perfect one handed bounce pass to Allen in stride for the slam. Nice to see Donte form some chemistry with his replacement the new guard on campus.

Fancy Footwork from Khris

This jumper is just too slick not to highlight, with Middleton gaining an inch of separation with his off arm, heading into between the legs dribbles before a side/back step into the corner for a cold cut trio over Collins? Marvelous.

ATO A-Plus

We haven’t highlighted all that many ATO plays in this section, but this one grabbed me on Monday against the Hawks. Hill gets the ball atop the arc, while Allen sets a screen to free Giannis down low and Portis simultaneously sets George up with one to block Trae Young. That’s all fluff though, as Khris Middleton starts his sprint through the lane and Allen sets a backscreen on Okongwu (who is actually Giannis’s defender) while Deandre Hunter chases Khris to the other side of the floor. But guess what, that’s even MORE fluff to the final crescendo, which is Allen beelining his way to the top of the arc as his defender, Huerter, remains stupefied. Portis gets a body on Huerter as he belatedly tries to recover, but Allen’s already got the ball and set up for an easy triple. It doesn’t fall, but it’s a nice set. And fluffy!

That’ll do it for this week’s wrap-up. Thanks as always for reading, and vote for your favorite play in the poll below.


Jan. 19: The play of the week is...

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Giannis - Passing Extraordinaire
    (12 votes)
  • 31%
    Bobby, Donte, Grayson, Dunk
    (7 votes)
  • 13%
    Fancy Footwork from Khris
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    ATO A-Plus
    (0 votes)
22 votes total Vote Now