The more things change, the more they stay the same. As in life, so in Milwaukee’s ideal eight-man rotation.
Continuity was the name of the game last offseason, and now that the team is more closely back to full health, we will begin to see emerging trends for who Mike Budenholzer is willing to run most in tight games. Those guys are as follows:
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Jrue Holiday
- Khris Middleton
- Brook Lopez
- Grayson Allen
- Bobby Portis
- Pat Connaughton
- George Hill (sometimes Jevon)
Hill has been somewhat interchangeable with Jevon Carter depending on the opponent matchup (Hill got the nod against a Mavs team with taller guards, Carter the nod against the Rockets), and it is to-be-determined if Joe Ingles has enough in the tank to make a case for cracking the top eight. Will that group be enough to win it all?
The big three are more than solid, but 2/3rds of them can be inconsistent at the best of times offensively in the playoffs. I’ve been encouraged with Khris becoming more of a strength-based matchup when defending, but that’ll drain energy if he continues to get called to guard larger wings/forwards inside the perimeter. If he or Jrue slip efficiency-wise, it becomes incumbent on whichever three bench guys Bud picks to contribute. Bobby, Pat, and George are shooting .309, .259, and .314 from three respectively, with dips in attempts across the board. Jevon Carter is shooting above 40% from three, but you can’t help wondering at its sustainability and whether Bud will even play him when the rotation shortens.
We’ve been used to Milwaukee’s ranged shooting crashing violently through the floor in the post-season before, but that usually came after guys had excellent regular seasons. Think George Hill shooting .460 in 2019-2020’s season and dropping to a league-average .357 in the playoffs. Bobby dropped 13% and 10% in 2020-2021 and 2021-2022. Pat, to his credit, has been more consistent on this point.
Scoring from three will not be the only way these tertiary guys contribute, of course, but it will be a crucial component of keeping Milwaukee staggering forward. There is plenty of time for their averages to tick upwards, but through 26 games it's still shaky enough to take note of in spite of the winning.
This exercise done at the league’s site is about as arbitrary as things get, but if they’re going to provide me with an opportunity to use the word “ladder”, I will of course use it. I believe someone commented here that MVP awards seem to have lately become a way to acknowledge the “arrival” of new young stars with the LeBrons and KDs of the league aging out of contention. If that is the case and the Celtics/Bucks are sitting at about the same record at the end of the year, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jayson Tatum gets his first MVP should his stats end at more or less the numbers he’s sitting on now — 30.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 4.0 assists compared to Giannis’s 31.1 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 5.4 assists.
Collision course: Celtics’ loss in the Finals created a monster, and the Bucks are just getting started (CBS Sports)
I like this bit of comparing and contrasting of the Bucks and Celtics. Boston has the most efficient offense in all of NBA history right now with a top-12 defense, while Milwaukee has a top-2 defense and a mediocre 18th-rated offense so far. Khris Middleton hasn’t lit anyone aflame just yet, but I’ve been encouraged by how smoothly the offense appears to run with him on the floor over Jevon Carter as third ball-handler. I expect the offense to still be meh at the best of times because we’re featuring largely the same personnel that has struggled to score in the playoffs numerous times in the past, yet the defense kicks into such a high gear in the playoffs that we remain in striking distance regardless.
Giannis, Bucks in familiar spot (NBA.com)
Deeply appreciative that Giannis saw Luka Doncic going all out to stack stats in an attempt to make the case for his first MVP nod, and deciding to just match him stride for stride with a significantly more coherent team concept and, helpfully, far more wins. Can a guy play for the 10th seeded team out West and be deserving of a MVP award? No. The Kidd Tax is rough.
Interesting that the Celtics have the easiest remaining schedule in the league both when taking into account opponent point differential and their records. The Bucks have had the fourth easiest stretch to start the year by opponent differential, and the 12th hardest remaining schedule per opponent record.
The Cavaliers Bet Big On Donovan Mitchell. Here’s Why It’s Working. (FiveThirtyEight)
Cleveland has been a fun story so far this year, and they’ve all the hallmarks of a young team who have swung for the fences to contend. Unlike some teams in that position, Donovan Mitchell’s arrival came without Cleveland losing other core players in Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen, or Evan Mobley. That is a strong group of four to build around. Even if the Cavs don’t quite have it to be a legit contender come playoff time, there is ever reason to believe they’ll be at that status in the short-term so long as their front office can keep the bench relatively well-stocked.
- Despite numerous Jae Crowder rumors to the contrary, the league hasn’t quite entered that magical time of year known as “trade season”. Every front office is feeling out how good/mediocre/bad the team they spent thousands of hours putting together is, and so definitive decisions points on players haven’t yet been met. BUT, it’s also as good a time as any for us to evaluate right alongside those front offices in order to help pick out some trade possibilities. Enter lightning-rod-man and “Upgrading the Frontcourt: How Feasible Is It?” a team-by-team analysis of trade acquisition candidates picked with a few restraints on GM rod-man. Do we get anyone good? Click and read to find out!
Know Your Enemy
- Golden State Warriors - Golden State of Mind - Jonathan Kuminga may be the answer to the Warriors’ defensive versatility problem
Some interesting film here, mostly drawn from that recent Warriors-Jazz game where the Warriors just kind of banana peeled their way to a loss. Kuminga has taken a slight step back on offense in his second year in the league, but some of the defensive highlights are quite impressive for a guy his size. Looking forward to seeing what he can bring to test Milwaukee’s perimeter play.
- Memphis Grizzlies - Grizzly Bear Blues - Can Dillon Brooks remain consistent with subtle successes?
More words on a defense-first guy who has a more outsized role within his team’s concept than Kuminga has with the Warriors. That Brooks expends as much energy as he does on the defensive end and still hoists nearly 17 shots a game on the other end is, in a word, something. He’s shooting under 40% overall from the floor, so I assume these attempts go up because there’s nobody else to really take them besides Ja Morant.
One of the most interesting teams this season so far. Jordan Clarkson has sort of stayed a scoring machine even as a starter, and most of the new pieces Utah brought in via trade aren’t out-and-out bums. Still, Utah has now dropped to 9th in the West and have lost valuable ground to other tanking teams. Will the key contributors stay or will they go by the trade deadline? TBD.
The Social Media Section
Deeply confusing Midwesterner is given an international platform
Giannis on his birthday plans tomorrow. He’d like a watch and … well, just watch this. pic.twitter.com/PZvKaUl4YI— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) December 6, 2022
In fact, with the gather step, you can take a good number of steps indeed
The Return has been delayed but remains inevitable
Dame force a trade to Milwaukee Challenge
I assume this ad was supposed to go out months ago when Grayson actually got married
Lol, MarJon sticking it out on the deep bench talking with Sandro about needing to be given a chance to dominate will be great for his development
Young Budenholzer pulling the “write your number on the receipt” move and it actually working
Edited slightly for clarity. He's a great storyteller. pic.twitter.com/5INldsGOi6— Chris Herring (@Herring_NBA) December 8, 2022
False: Thanasis is perfect.
You know it absolutely killed Brook to give money to Universal Studios
Riley’s 2022-2023 Weekly Prediction Record: 13-13
Milwaukee’s Actual 2022-2023 Record: 19-7
This will probably be one of the more entertaining (potentially) slate of games we’ve played in a bit. All three opponents are in the Western Conference playoff mix and should each be a decent test for Milwaukee.
It starts Tuesday at home against the Warriors, goes on the road Tuesday in Memphis to play the Grizzlies, and finishes back in Milwaukee against the Jazz. I’ll predict 2-1 this week with wins over Golden State and Memphis and a loss to the Jazz because there is a high possibility of my actually being in attendance for that game. Would be happy to be wrong, though!