(Writer’s note: All the below was compiled prior to Sunday’s game against the Suns. Of course, Serge had his best game as a Buck right after I wrote all this. Reverse jinx remains undefeated.)
Serge Ibaka has been a Buck for about three weeks now. Too early to say anything definitive, enough of a sample to start evaluating what he’s brought to the table. Given the stakes (see: repeating as title-winners) and situation (see: Brook Lopez is still more idea than reality right now), I’d say expectations were above average for the 12 year veteran big man. Ideally, he’d be the stocky defensive anchor DeMarcus Cousins/Greg Monroe couldn’t be while giving just a little bit of production on offense. Has he lived up as hoped?
Offensively, he’s shooting below expectations from three at 23.1% since arriving (he had shot 38.7% with the Clippers this year); all of his attempts from distance have been “open” or “wide open” per NBA.com, and he’s actually shooting even worse when completely unguarded (14.3%). Given that threes are a bigger part of his shot diet now than ever before in his career, it’s an issue worth wondering about. When close to the basket he’s been good, shooting 71.4% within 10 feet of the basket, though Milwaukee’s offense is designed to keep the non-Giannis big man out on the perimeter. If his jumper course-corrects, things should be just fine on that end, especially as Mike Budenholzer may be loathe to use up some of Ibaka’s stamina with designed offensive sets for him in the paint.
Defensively, it’s been a mixed bag. Part of the issue stems from getting him integrated into the flow of the defense; communicating, directing, and positioning within the team concept has been hit or miss. This is clearest when the team tries to switch on the perimeter or corral a pick & roll set. In time, this too should hopefully iron itself out. On the occasions where Ibaka has a chance to isolate or be in decent position in the paint, he’s actually been relatively effective: opponents are shooting ~19.2% worse on shots within six feet of the basket when Ibaka is the main defender (45.5% v. 64.7%). The bigger issue is that he hasn't been capable of replicating a zone drop scheme a la Brook Lopez, or Milwaukee just isn’t trying it all that much. As such, he’s a defender without an effective role at the minute, accounting for the fact that his 116.0 on-court DRTG has only been better than Luke Kornet, Georgios Kalaitzakis, Jeff Downtin, Sandro Mamukelashvili, and Lindell Wigginton. Milwaukee’s DREB% has has been good with him the floor, at least, so not all is lost.
It’s just hard to pick out how effective Ibaka will end up being when it matters most. He’s strong, but is carrying a beat up back and isn’t as mobile as he once was. He can normally hit jumpers, but hasn’t. He may become more effective with time, but we don’t have that much time until things get really serious.
So the Ibaka Experience has been a work in progress. Ultimately, if Brook Lopez returns and hasn’t missed too many steps, Ibaka becomes largely superfluous outside of particular matchups. That’s fine, but perhaps a little disappointing. Here’s hoping he can rise to the occasion!
Jrue Holiday Is Indispensable (Defector)
With Jrue and Khris Middleton this year, it’s been one long series of nights where they each flip a coin to decide whether they’ll play like bonafide all-stars, or gin up 20 turnovers between the two of them. When both players are on, though, they make Milwaukee an extremely tough out. One could also argue that Holiday at his best is a more impactful player than Khris, simply between the defense and the ball-handling duties, thus the thrust of this article.
I really really liked this read, and highly suggest you pull it up as well if only for the quick clips of some of our defensive weaknesses. Our issues have been relatively obvious on the defensive end, though how much to attribute to Brook’s absence v. a dialed back level of intensity isn’t clear. There have been times in our defending pick & rolls that it seems the primary defender just dies on the first screen, leaving the ball handler free to survey the floor and take advantage of our undersized lineups.
If only we had a truly effective starting seven-footer...
...and we may indeed regain that kind of player in the near future! Budenhozler has continued to avoid giving us a timeline for if/when Brook will be back, and Bud did mention that contact five-on-five practices are rare occurrences for a team this late in the year.
I’ll be a little nervous about how rusty Lopez will be on both ends and just how many games he’ll need to get back into a rhythm. Yet if it’s a rusty Brook or watching Pat Connaughton man-guard Joel Embiid at the elbow for 40+ minutes, I know which option I’m taking.
Plus, his outside shot is looking crispy in unguarded warmups:
This quote makes no sense at all, and I’m truly not sure why Bulls beat reporters are asking Tristan Thompson about getting “revenge” on Grayson Allen. Aren’t there like 10+ other dudes on the roster who... were on the roster at the time who you could ask? Truly mystifying stuff here.
He promptly posted a -25 in 20 minutes of play in a 112-118 loss to the Bucks after this quote.
Kendrick Perkins says Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t marketable like Ja Morant, Luka Doncic, Trae Young and Jayson Tatum (AFD)
We’ve now reached three consecutive weeks where retired player/commenters/”analysts” have come after Giannis for reasons that remain unclear. First it was Tracy McGrady saying Giannis would struggle to play without a jumpshot, then it was Charles Oakley saying Giannis would simply die in the big bad 90s, and now it’s Kendrick Perkins saying he isn’t as marketable as... *checks notes* Trae Young or Jayson Tatum or Luka Doncic? Ja Morant is a highlight reel all his own, so maybe there’s something to be said about him, but otherwise the parade of stupid continues apace.
At least one guy is willing to admit Giannis might not be a bum:
Fan Post of the Week
Let’s check in on the Fan Post page!
Tumbleweed is now a back-to-back champion. Is a new dynasty afoot?
Know Your Enemy
- Oklahoma City Thunder - Welcome to Loud City - Josh Giddey joins Oscar Robertson in the history books, as the Thunder lose 114-106 to the Spurs
Racking up a billion second-round picks and letting Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander each have a USG% of 50+. That’s Oklahoma City Thunder basketball, ladies and gentlemen.
- Atlanta Hawks - Peachtree Hoops - Hawks outlast Wizards behind big game from De’Andre Hunter
Too early to say the Hawks can be reliably pegged to make the 10th and final playoff spot in the East, but they’ve weather a tremendous health storm and sit 2.5 games above the Wizards in the 11th slot. Seems unlikely that they’ll replicated last season’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals, but they’ve the tools to get Milwaukee if the Bucks mess about.
- Golden State Warriors - Golden State of Mind - Is it worth worrying about the Warriors while Draymond Green is out?
A bit hard to get a read on where the Warriors fit in the league’s pecking order. In theory the trio of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green can be the nucleus of a title-winner once more, but Thompson is still working his way back from nearly two years away, and Draymond hasn’t played since January with a nebulous back issue. We all know how those things go...
The Social Media Section
He’s a DJ Wilson/Bobby Portis social media hybrid #TreadmillMentality
Bryn Forbes would never
Jimmy Butler: 0 points in the final 36:19 of tonight's game.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) March 3, 2022
I like how Brandon Jennings has carte blanche to be in and around team events whenever he pleases
He’s by far the most entertaining showman in the sport by a country mile this year
Ja Morant oh my goodness. Don’t exit the video after the dunk. There’s more. pic.twitter.com/K8d8dsunYq— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 1, 2022
Good work from Robert here
And people say Bud is weak on the Xs and Os
Budenholzer career was on the line and he whipped up the recipe for Jimbo https://t.co/IsH0rdjpYB— (@OGxJEEZY) March 1, 2022
Man of the people?
I wonder what it all means
Bulls fans are more a figment of imagination than reality
Grayson Allen asked about the crowd im post-game interview: “That was weak, I’ve had way worse in college.”#FearTheDeer— Brandon Sneide (@Brandon_Sneide) March 5, 2022
retired janitor’s 2021-2022 prediction record: 40-25
Riley’s 2021-2022 prediction record: 37-28
This week will see the Bucks take a quick trip to Middle America before returning home, and then immediately turning around again to kick off a four-game Western Conference road trip. The team will head to OKC to play the Thunder on Tuesday, come back to Milwaukee and play the Hawks on Wednesday, and then get out west to play the Warriors on Saturday.
I’m optimistic that the good vibes from a just-concluded perfect week continue as the Bucks keep up their Jekyll/Hyde season. From the lows of falling on their faces against the Sixers and Nets to the highs of winning seven straight. For the Bucks, anything is possible.