What is most impressive about Giannis Antetokounmpo as he saunters through his prime athletic years is just how sustainable his game is becoming. When reaching the heights he has reached, it would’ve been easy to rest on smash-and-grab tactics as the overwhelming thrust of his play. If it works, don’t fix it and all that. He remains an overpowering physical force while crucially added layer upon layer of control and instinctual understanding of the physics of basketball. The result? A perfect 9-0 start to this Bucks season without Khris Middleton, Pat Connaughton, or AJ Green available.
This year, he has upped his scoring output to a career-high, is taking more shots within three feet of the hoop than he has since 2019-2020 (48.2%), and continues to convert at plus-80% rates of those shots. The thing that stands out most in all of that is the simple acts of his positioning on offense; the small stuff that separates up-and-coming pros from seasoned vets who almost subconsciously know how to find the weak spots in opposing defenses. Watch how often the Bucks run P&R actions with him and the PGs (especially Jrue) and the way he maintains just the right amount of distance to drag the tagging big his way to clear a runway. Or how regularly Giannis chooses to drive, pull himself to a stop, and then effortlessly pass out to a waiting teammate who can either take an open shot or pass on to the next guy who will do the honors. All of this without exposing himself to a taxing physical beating for each basket.
These are all things he has done before, but he’s executing them in the kinds of physical margins we’re used to seeing Brook Lopez thrive in on defense. The inherent understanding Lopez has of how far up to contest a ball-handler to shut off the uncontested floater and the pass to an open big-man grounds our top-rated defense. Giannis’s version of that on offense has gone a long way to bringing Milwaukee over the top in all 8 games he’s played in so far.
It’s the reason why he’s good for 2-3 wins in a playoff series all by himself. When the offense hits the muck (as it often does), he can create something out of nothing. That we’re seeing it at another level is reassuring not only for our chances this season, but how impactful Giannis can remain deeper into his prime. Extending your competitive window often comes down to how well you do in the margins; Giannis seems to be doing just fine there with plenty of time to still grow.
More of a generic writeup about the Timberwolves game than a breakdown of Giannis’s MVP-caliber start to the year, but it drives home how these wins have been a product of the whole unit rather than just Giannis. Bobby Portis elicits chants wherever he goes across the Midwest, Jrue Holiday has picked him game up significantly after a stinky first four games on offense, and MarJon Beauchamp sunk some threes while also showing off all the confusion and weaknesses to his game that makes evaluating his future so difficult at the moment! Everyone has something to give!
MVP Ladder: Giannis in the Top Spot (NBA.com)
With the Sixers sputtering into the gutter, Joel Embiid’s MVP case this season may have closed before it even started. That leaves Luka Doncic as the other clear favorite besides Giannis in the MVP race for this year out of the current crop (assuming Donovan Mitchell’s production drops while regularly playing almost 40 minutes a night). Giannis will come up against Doncic’s formidable “he hasn’t won it yet” ace in the hole this year, but I feel pretty confident that what Giannis is doing is more sustainable with the end result of a better team record to cap it off.
Anyways, Giannis will absolutely be in the mix at the end of the year as he always is. It’s sustained greatness at this point.
Khris Middleton got dissed on this ‘NBA Jam’ T-shirt (Milwaukee Record)
The real question is, though: Did he get dissed? Our author did the math, crunched the numbers, and followed the research to determine that Khris was granted the NBA Jam equivalent of a 71 speed and 73 overall defense ratings in NBA2K. Don’t get me wrong: Khris could outrun me in any event he wanted on one leg, but is he particularly quick for an NBA player? And I’m not sure where we sit when it comes to the consensus on whether he is a consistently plus defender or more of a just-a-guy these days.
At least the t-shirt reflected his three-point shooting.
The Self-Inflicted Demise of Kyrie Irving (The Ringer)
Not directly Bucks-related, but it is notable that one of the league’s star players holds and shares views that are frankly strange and carry the potentiality of harm. Michael Pina’s article here is about as clear-cut a piece I’ve read so far on Kyrie Irving, and it drives home (to me, at least) the feeble and shrinking actions of basketball’s supposed leaders — at NBA HQ, the NBPA, and the Nets themselves — in the week after Irving first posted a link to the film. If you have a Washington Post subscription, I’d also recommend Candace Buckner’s piece on the same “Kyrie Irving lit a flame. The NBA, top to bottom, watched the fire spread.”
RJ tried to get in at the buzzer for consideration for this award which I commend and recommend every single one of you do every week so we can further outsource the “work” staff has to handle. However, because I am a connoisseur of made-up statistical units of measure, we will be giving JSOnline Castaway 2.0 this weeks FPOTW award for “Trick....or Treat? Why Halloween makes my list” and the lovely Stupid Holiday Score. To me, New Years Day is too high on this list because half the globe wakes up having completed another hurtle around the Sun with a champagne hangover, and the productivity losses would be too great to be worth trotting us into the workplace.
However, rj’s comment on that post was commendable, as is the submission “Corner 3’s”. Check them out!
Know Your Enemy
For a team with a pair of gunner guards, the Hawks really do not get up a ton of three-point attempts. Their 30.0 a game is sixth-lowest in the entire league and the 34.4% conversion rate is nearly bottom-third. A testament, then, to the stupid shotmaking and speed they have elsewhere to help hoist them to the 11th-best offensive rating in the NBA. If you can survive the Trae Young and Dejounte Murray storm, you should be on solid ground.
- OKC Thunder - Welcome to Loud City - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander named Western Conference Player of the Week
To split the award with Giannis speaks to the nature of complete offensive control OKC has put in SGA’s hands. Could this be the year he gets in the All-Star mix? The Bucks were the first team all year to hold him to under 20 points scored in a game, so if we can re-do that trick this coming week, we’ll probably prevent a second POTW award.
- San Antonio Spurs - Pounding the Rock - Former Spurs doctor has filed a lawsuit against Josh Primo and the Spurs
The Spurs saw what the Brooklyn Nets were doing out East — wearing black and white uniforms, having a seemingly random implosion, losing a ton of games — and organizationally decided to get in on the action. Key difference being that the Spurs may be in actual legal trouble. The tank job beckons.
The Social Media Section
The greatest individual athlete I will ever have the pleasure of rooting for who also moonlights as God Emperor Dork
Real gamesmanship would see Giannis “accidentally” dumping a bucket of popcorn on the court to stop an opponent fast break. Let’s see if he’s ready for the next step in his evolution.
Does MarJon refer to himself as... Rook? Whatever it takes to inspire, I guess.
I wonder what Stupid Holiday Score Pat would give Arbor Day
C’mon man, you lived in Toronto. It isn’t even that cold yet! Get better ad managers.
Giannis is doing everything he can to make sure you have the proper footwear
Courtesy of the Brooklyn Nets subreddit
Riley’s 2022-2023 Weekly Prediction Record: 7-2
Milwaukee’s Actual 2022-2023 Record: 9-0
I was musing to the staff whether we’d get the “24-1” t-shirt treatment down the road depending on how long this start to the season keeps going. That game is up there in the annals of random Bucks basketball highlights for me, as was the follow-up game played in Golden State shortly thereafter. Whenever we do get taken down, I hope the lossless record is taken from us after a good fight.
Atlanta looks to be the most likely of the three opponents this week to drop us given their guard play, and we’ll be facing them tonight in Atlanta. After that, it’s off to Oklahoma to play the Thunder on Wednesday, and down to San Antonio to face the Spurs on Friday.
Put me down for another perfect week. I’ve said “uncle” on guessing when our first loss is coming and will resume picking Ws and Ls mostly at random when the ice is broken.