The first month of the Milwaukee Bucks season has passed. There have been some highs and minor bumps in the road, but the Bucks opened the season winning their first nine games and having the second-best record in the NBA. I wanted to take a deeper look at trends and other notable things, so here’s what we have learned about the Milwaukee Bucks in the first month of the season?
Injuries are Pushing the Bucks’ Limit
After a few seasons of being a bit lucky on the injury front, Milwaukee have had the injury bug-biting them in 2022. Khris Middleton injured his knee during the playoffs and then had surgery on his wrist over the summer which has not allowed him to play so far this season. Pat Connaughton hasn’t played this season either due to a calf injury he suffered during the preseason. Summer signing Joe Ingles continues to rehab his knee after ACL surgery and is expected back sometime in January. Even coach Mike Budenholzer needed to have surgery on his right ankle replacement.
That didn’t affect Milwaukee too much to start, but with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, Wes Matthews, and Grayson Allen also making appearances on the injury report; the Bucks have needed to go deeper and deeper into their bench. There have been some positives, including Bobby Portis coming off the bench as a walking double-double, Jevon Carer knowing his game since he woke up, and flashes from rookie MarJon Beauchamp, but we will talk about him more later. The Bucks have weathered this storm pretty well but nobody will complain if Middleton and Connaughton return sometime soon.
Brook Lopez: Defensive Player of the Year?
I will be the first to admit, I was very skeptical of how Brook Lopez would play. It’s hard to convince me that someone in their 30s who had back surgery less than a year ago was going to get back to the level we saw from him the previous three years. But Brook was solid defensively in the playoffs last year and this season, not only is he the rim protector we know and love, but he has also taken his game to another level. Brook has been top ten in the NBA for defensive rating among players who average more than 20 minutes per game, third in blocks per game, and the in 95th percentile of blocking percentage playing over two hundred minutes more than those ahead of him. While Giannis has been the frontrunner in the NBA.com DPOY ranking, they also mentioned Brook’s impact as well.
But that doesn’t negate Brook Lopez as the squad’s most valuable defender. The veteran center has adapted well to some tweaks in coach Mike Budenholzer’s strategy this season, asking for less pure drop coverage and more mobility.
Brook is at a pace where we might have to seriously consider what he’s doing especially if he is going to be THIS good in the drop scheme.
Brook Lopez is nasty in a drop, man. pic.twitter.com/6zMkQA5x0E— Nekias (Nuh-KY-us) Duncan (@NekiasNBA) November 17, 2022
MarJon Beauchamp can Play at this Level
MarJon getting it done on both ends tonight.— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) November 15, 2022
20 PTS | 8 REB | 78% FG% | 3-4 3PM pic.twitter.com/tEDg2YdrHG
Since Giannis was drafted, Milwaukee’s history of first-round picks has been poor. Jabari had unfortunate injuries, Rashad Vaughn and DJ Wilson were flops, while Thon Maker and Donte DiVincenzo had moments but ultimately got traded before getting their second contract with the Bucks. So when the Bucks drafted MarJon Beauchamp with the 24th pick, there were eyebrows raised, and some were intrigued at the prospect. The bar was low, but MarJon has taken advantage of the opportunities presented to him to at least give fans a glimpse of what he can bring.
Defense is still his biggest strength; his lateral quickness allows him to stay in front of his man and with some more muscle, he can be an elite perimeter defender. The question was Beauchamp’s offense during his collegiate and G-League career, there wasn’t any indication of him being a plus on the offensive side. His shooting still needs some work, but his open-court runs are what stand out to me and get him in the best position on fast breaks. He also is quick in his decision making, highlighting he knows holding the ball is not what the Bucks ask him to do and to defer to players like Giannis, Jrue, and Bobby. It is still early but Beauchamp has at least shown that he can be trusted with legit minutes in the regular season.
Jordan Nwora is an Enigma
Jordan Nwora was given a qualifying offer by Milwaukee and went a whole offseason just floating in a non-existent space. There were no rumors of him being courted by other teams, and not even the Bucks seemed to prioritize him. Then shortly before training camp, we suddenly get the news that Nwora is coming back to Milwaukee on a multi-million dollar deal. That all was very weird and so far we’ve gotten little to nothing positive on Nwora’s season. He still can’t defend and might be surpassed on the pecking order by Beauchamp. But then he had a week like the previous one where he was a key contributor to the Bucks’ victory against the Cavs and was needed to give Milwaukee a spark against the Sixers. At this point, it feels like Nwora is trade filler at best and will have moments where we realize “yes, having a chucker can be good.”
The only Thing Stopping Giannis, is Giannis Himself.....and maybe a Ladder
Aaaaaaand Giannis goes 0/6 outside the RA in the second half and 2/10 from the foul line. Bucks lose, and Giannis looks…a bit lost. He’s shot sub-50% from the field in 6 straight games, the first time that’s happened since February 2015. https://t.co/lMemSZ9krk— Frank Madden (@fmaddenNBA) November 19, 2022
Giannis started the season on an absolute tear. Scoring, rebounding, playmaking, defending, he was doing all of it. Then he got hurt and his return hasn’t been great. Giannis is currently, as of November 19, in a slump. The stats are still somewhat there, but he has not been efficient and his free-throw shooting has hit a career low. Thankfully, the issue of the slump is not because of some scheme opponents are doing, but most of it is simply Giannis trying to do too much and win the games on sheer will. Most of the time, it works and has bailed the Bucks out, but that hasn’t been the case lately.
Every player has a rough patch and luckily for Giannis, it’s better to have it in November than in May. I have no clue how to fix the free throw remedy issue because I am not going to act like I am this shot doctor that knows what’s wrong, but Giannis going back to a liability at the line is hurting Milwaukee. Who knows, maybe this absolute nonsense that is Laddergate snaps Giannis out of it. Not sure why the media and Montrezl Harrell have to act like a toddler who can’t eat chocolate 24/7, but Philly is also the fanbase that openly cheered for being terrible all to end up achieving a slightly better version of Herb Kohl’s 8th seed or bust.
So those are the things we learned. Honorable mention goes to Jevon Carter, dark horse MIP bid, but let me know in the comments what you think we learned about the Bucks this past month.