Hi Milwaukee Bucks fans! It’s time for another extended forecast.
Julie’s Prediction: 4-3 (23-10)
Bucks’ Record: 3-4 (22-11)
To start the forecast, the Bucks blew-out the Warriors at home, and then journeyed eight hours south to Memphis to suffer the worst loss ever with Giannis playing under Mike Budenholzer. No big deal though, since we have had more than our share on the other side of the coin, and Memphis is probably the best team in the West. In other words, if you’re going to lose by 41, Memphis is the best team to do it to. And more proof that it is no big deal is that we beat a pretty decent Utah team at home without Giannis following that. We then began the road trip in New Orleans with a nice win being able to survive (Zion Williamson) Jonas Valanciunas and the Pelicans. From there it was LLL and a bah humbug all around.
I remember saying that the Bucks wouldn’t have an easy portion of the schedule again, but after some of the teams that we will mentioned kind of took a nose-dive in the standings, things do seem to be quite a bit lighter on this side of Christmas Day. Now, these teams weren’t the apparent tank-fests that we expected prior to the season (Houston, Orlando, Detroit for example) but many of them are not having a great season so far.
This group did have the potential to look challenging a few weeks ago. The Bulls did beat us at home, but we know that we are still a much better team and the Bulls have continued to fall in the standings. Minnesota was expected to be good, but depth was an issue I saw here, and without Karl-Anthony Towns this team doesn’t have great star power either. Washington had a SEVEN PLUS game losing streak, but were hovering around .500 prior. Toronto I think is better than their record shows still, and Charlotte’s big three for most of the season has been Terry Rozier, Kelly Oubre and PJ Washington, whereas last year they were arguably 4, 5 and 6 in the pecking order. It hasn’t gone well. So, the Bucks caught a break at the right time here after a very tough portion of the schedule.
Wednesday, December 28th
7PM on Bally Sports WI
The loss to the Bulls is probably the worst loss we’ve had so far this season in Fiserv Forum, but with all due respect to both squads, the Bulls have talented players. The big three of Nikola Vucevic, Zach LaVine, and DeMar DeRozan were never going to be a championship caliber trio, but they could be a fringe playoff team. As the season wears on, we’re starting to see the Bulls kind of fade out of the playoff picture, but since the bottom of the East is so bad and Indiana hasn’t fallen off yet, so the Bulls have a chance to still make the postseason.
The main thing that has always stuck out at me when discussing the Bulls is that they don’t have any rim protection, and are just a terrible matchup with the size of the Bucks. Patrick Williams gets a block a game, but he’s the only player in Chicago that is above the decimal rate in that category. Another stat that shows the lack of size in Chicago is that backup center Andre Drummond is second in rebounding, but 10th in minutes played. The other big issue with the Bulls is that scoring can be a challenge if one (or especially two) of those three stars are having an off night.
If the Bucks are fully healthy, or even without Giannis or Khris or Jrue, this shouldn’t be a problem for the Bucks. If two of those three are resting or injured, then this game might be contentious, but I just don’t see us having any issues and might welcome this Chicago game after a long road trip.
Friday, December 30th
7PM on Bally Sports WI
The Bucks get to return home to kick off a three game set in another border battle, this time with our northwestern neighbors, the MInnesota Vikings (Iowa, not Minnesota, is directly west from Milwaukee if you didn’t realize). The Timberwolves are the best team in this forecast in my opinion, but they may be without their best player in Karl-Anthony Towns as he recovers from a calf injury and that will really affect how they can play. Having both Towns and Rudy Gobert allows them to have an offense/defense presence up front, and allows a more dynamic offense when Gobert is off the court. But without Towns stretching the floor, the paint is a lot more jumbled with Gobert’s limited offensive skillset.
That is the gist of what is going on with the Wolves, and why they haven’t come out as hot as many thought they would. This team still has time to turn things around, but in a crowded West they may need to do so quickly. The twin towers along with star wing Anthony Edwards and All-Star point guard D’Angelo Russell are leading this team, and as I suggested before the season the depth here really drops off. They have nice pieces, sure, but they don’t have anyone on the bench that strikes fear into a defense.
The Bucks beat Minnesota in game one on the road, with Towns and without Middleton, so I think we have no reason to believe that the Bucks won’t return home for the first time in two weeks with a bang. Even with Towns, the Bucks are the better team.
Washington Wizards (Back-to-Back at home)
Sunday, January 1st & Tuesday, January 3rd
7PM on Bally Sports WI
Ah, another back-to-back against a bottom-feeder in the conference. I will give the Wizards credit, they do know how to score the basketball, but defense is not their strong suit. When they were at 11-10 earlier this season, I was actually starting to wonder if maybe this franchise had finally turned back around at least where they were in the mid 2010’s. Nope, not this franchise. Honestly, this franchise now represents the Bucks of the 2000’s, specifically the years between Ray Allen and Giannis.
I actually looked into it, and you can check out these sites below to compare, but if you look at the Bucks’ years from 2002-2014 (ending seasons) and the Wizards from 2009-2022, there was a disastrous year with wins in the teens, there were five short playoff appearance apiece, and five head coaches with one interim coach apiece (interim that didn’t become hired as head coach later). The Wizards of the present are now the Bucks of old. Really weird, but the NBA always has a few of those teams lying around.
Now that I’ve made that comparison, how well do you think the 2009 Bucks led by Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson and Andrew Bogut would do against the current Bucks in 2023? I wouldn’t expect that team to get a game in a seven game series against what we have now. And since the Wizards have become the reincarnation of that era of Bucks basketball, the Wizards should lose these games. Since it’s back-to-back, I wouldn’t put it past this team sneaking a win in here, but count on both being wins.
Wednesday, January 4th
630 PM on ESPN & Bally Sports WI
I remember last season when I said that the Raptors had a minimal chance of making the postseason, and they were the team that I was most wrong about heading into 2021-22. This year, however, they are starting to look like that team after a rough stretch in December. Sure, many players have spent a lot of time on the injured list, and a lot of tough teams are in this division, but I don’t think anybody saw them being this bad at this point. Did they?
Pascal Siakam has missed 10 games and the trio Precious Achiuwa, Otto Porter and Malachi Flynn have missed a much larger portion of the season, but surely one of the league’s best five-man units led by Siakam, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes and Gary Trent should be fine without Siakam for a while, right? Apparently not. The bench also has not made the impact it was supposed to, and the addition of Porter has mostly seen him on the injury report. Backup point guard was always a flaw, and in the 11 minutes per game that FVV is not in the game, the Raptors struggle, especially without Siakam as well.
Unlike the Bulls and Wizards though, I do expect this team to get things straightened out barring any temporary teardowns. This team may decide to quickly rebuild through Barnes, Siakam and VanVleet and trade the other starters while their values are high (maybe not a terrible idea if this trend continues) but until that happens expect this team to at least make the play-in. Partially due to it being a road game, as well as the team’s talent and history of doing well against Milwaukee, I’m nervous about this game the most in this forecast. Not worried, I think we can and should win, but this is the one that I would circle here.
Friday, January 6th
7PM on Bally Sports WI
Prior to playing the Bucks in December, Charlotte won three out of four games and maybe things were…..no, they lost eight in a row even with LaMelo Ball returning. Losing to the second unit of the Bucks really took the wind out of the insects of the NBA, and the Hornets have fully and unofficially begun their chase in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, and just on time for them to get back to full strength.
To be fair to Charlotte, Mason Plumlee is the only player to start in every game for them this season, and Kelly Oubre is the other to play in every game. Looking at the 2021-22 season, Ball, Gordon Hayward and Miles Bridges were in there alongside Plumlee and PJ Washington, with Oubre relegated to the bench with Terry Rozier. This season, Rozier has missed 10 games, and the trio of Hayward, Ball and Bridges have a combined one less game played than Rozier. By the time the Bucks play the Hornets, barring injuries, that should change, but that’s a huge dropoff to have your four best scorers miss over 60 games in a 30 game stretch.
I have no further analysis for this game, Ball and Wembanyama sound like a fun duo that could be dangerous for the Bucks around 2030. Not this day, though.
Julie’s Prediction: 5-1
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