An interesting thing happened last week: Mike Budenholzer flipped the script.
Fresh off the recent addition of Brook Lopez to the starting lineup — and subsequent demotion of Bobby Portis to his previous bench role — Bud did himself one better and swapped out Grayson Allen in favor of Wes Matthews. Not content with just those moves, he’s also come pretty close to what we can assume his is option A rotation:
Jrue Holiday/George Hill
Wes Matthews/Grayson Allen
Khris Middleton/Pat Connaughton
Brook Lopez/Bobby Portis
That’s nine guys, and would see the likes of Serge Ibaka and Jevon Carter drop into DNP-CD territory unless there’s some disaster afoot.
I... am not sure how I feel about that being our final group. Conceptually, you get what Bud is trying to do with Wes: Replicate some of the point-of-attack physical defense PJ Tucker brought a year ago with some more offensive upside. Matthews did an admirable job guarding James Harden and Kevin Durant, and if the rest of the defense around him can properly cohere, it might just work. If Bud was going to make that switch, it’s better late than never as both Wes and Lopez will need minutes with their new lineup to find a rhythm.
To me, if Grayson isn’t good enough to hold onto a starter spot, I wonder if he’s much for a playoff rotation either. Pat Connaughton is already there for the using, and Lord knows I’d rather Bud not go further than seven or eight players in a series when it matters most. We wondered for awhile who was going to make the cut when the bench got whittled down; I guess I just hadn’t anticipated a starter being one of those who would fall furthest.
Hell, maybe I’m just getting antsy because I remember watching this team spin its wheels in bewildering fashion the last time Wes and George Hill were playing big minutes in Bucks unis. I’m superstitious like that.
Ultimately, moving the deck chairs around will matter very little if Khris Middleton continues to play poorly, or the Big Three in general don’t take it upon themselves to do the heavy lifting on both ends. But, it’s still an interesting last-minute change for Bud to make. He’s always loved tinkering, and he’s certainly living up to that reputation down the stretch here.
Jrue Holiday Talks UCLA, NBA Championship, Gold Medal & More | Choppin’ It Up With Olskool (Bucks YouTube)
Haven’t had a chance to watch this all the way through, but I’m very happy the team is giving a go of having Marques sit down with guys for 30 or more minutes to talk about life, basketball, the intersection between the two, etc. Just such an easy rapport between the two.
This has to be wonderful content from the league’s perspective (putting aside the fact that they are unable to flex national TV games to get MVP contenders in front of maximum eyeballs 3-4 times a week down the stretch). Not only do they have heavily contested seeding battles in both conferences, but an MVP race that has been throw back into the air with Giannis’s brilliant flashes last week. Down to the wire indeed!
All of a Sudden, the Bucks Are Looking Like the Bucks (Sports Illustrated)
Article titles like these are always very funny to post on MMMR’s immediately following annoying losses, but when it posted it wasn’t tongue in cheek!
Now the Bucks are finding themselves in the weird double bind of having a ton of guys worth playing, being fully-healthy for the first time all year, and needing to figure out a pecking order ASAP. Will moving Wes Matthews into a starting role smooth out quickly? Did Jevon Carter and Serge Ibaka simply fall off the face of the Earth? Can Bobby Portis find a new rhythm in a different place in the rotation? All big questions that I hope Budenhozler is working at answering.
From Unemployed to a Champion, Perhaps (New York Times)
It’ll always be mildly funny to me that Wes bounced after the Bubble fiasco to the Lakers, they fell short while we won a title, and now he’s back. Second time’s the charm and all that. All signs point to his having secured a starting role heading into our title defense, so here’s hoping he can make good on the chance.
How Bucks’ top-class culture gives them advantage over drama-filled Nets, NBA’s other flawed title contenders (CBS Sports)
One thing that was driven home playing against the Sixers and Nets: They’re teams that fall into very narrow vision when it matters. A lot of my turn, your turn, our turn, with a shot for a teammate once every six possessions. Milwaukee’s core group has its issues generating at times, but there is an understanding about needing to get others involved to make it easier on yourself. And don’t forget that our best player is happy to defer to the team concept when we need a bucket, even if it means he’s not the one taking the shot every time.
Fan Post of the Week
Tough one to make a pick for since we went from having no posts to more than four. I hope good friend of the FPOTW Committee and 30-time champion stoneAge can forgive me for forgoing April’s book review (which you should read!) and announce that burt snipes has won this week with “MVP Race: Giannis isn’t in it, and that’s okay”. First, because we engaged a classic reverse jinx by posting this and seeing Giannis climb right back into the race. Second, because it helps put into perspective that the MVP is not the end-all, be-all award. It’s obviously critical, and it’s great to win it for both legacy purposes and simply as an acknowledgement of your stature as a player, but missing out on it does not diminish your horizon of possibility.
Know Your Enemy
Schadenfreude has a place in this Bucks fan’s heart, and the Bulls are providing it to me in shovel loads. When they inevitably pay LaVine a max contract, their one true trade chip will be a quickly-aging Nikola Vucevic. Good luck to them with that.
- Boston Celtics - Celtics Blog - Robert Williams on road to recovery and possible return
Williams was a big deal for how well Boston had played in the back half of the season, and now they’re thinking he’ll be back a month or so after getting his meniscus removed? Seems wildly optimistic, but modern sports science had come a long way. I figured Brook Lopez was never going to play again, so goes to show how much this Doctor’s Certificate I bought off Amazon is worth.
- Detroit Pistons - Detroit Bad Boys - Film Don’t Lie: Isaiah Stewarts’ Defense is……REALLY good
Isaiah Stewart has a very particular build: Big, jacked, but with what looks like (to me) a compact torso so the dimensions are all wrong. And yet! That combination comes together so nicely as a do-it-all defensive big man. Detroit didn’t do a lot of winning this year, and that’s okay because they’ve some promising young talent to build around, Stewart included.
Like the Bulls, except less frustrating because they’re a young team with upside, the Cavaliers have dropped off from their furious early season pace. Injuries have plagued them, and the heater Darius Garland was on has cooled just a bit. Might be the kind of team that simply shifts the roster a little and sees if a year of good health can put them over the top.
The Social Media Section
Tag yourself. I’m Perk’s tie clip.
After winning his first NBA championship, Giannis Antetokounmpo hasn't slowed down, which should scare the rest of the league— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) April 3, 2022
If Greek Freak maintains this level, he could become one of the GOATs as Kendrick Perkins foresees pic.twitter.com/k35PWSaac0
Enjoy the much deserved time away, Gabe!
Feel like crap, just want him fighting mascots in Bucks green and cream
Oppenheimer saved the franchise
Brook shaking Josh Oppenheimer’s hand after the Giannis three is just incredible pic.twitter.com/D4ujbYm3Wc— Rohan Katti (@RKattiJr) April 1, 2022
Outfit here is literally insane
This is a good mindset for a pro athlete
Wonder who that could be...
Report: Some Philadelphia 76ers players are ‘not feeling’ head coach Doc Rivers https://t.co/WNGf4QoGCR— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) April 1, 2022
Paul Pierce knows ball... I think?
The Greek is the MVP and Defence of player of the year speak on it Best player in the NBA— Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34) April 1, 2022
Nets defense is solely optional
According to https://t.co/ElSYPqQVMN’s matchup data from last night, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 15 points when Paul Millsap was his primary defender.— Austin Krell (@NBAKrell) March 30, 2022
Millsap registered just under 2 minutes as Giannis’ primary defender.
Jaylen Brown on his ability to play in Toronto: "Last year I missed the playoffs. This year, from a competitive standpoint, I'm excited and ready to play against anybody. As a VP of the Players Association, it's part of my job to respect privacy. You won't hear me comment."— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) April 3, 2022
retired janitor’s 2021-2022 prediction record: 48-30
Riley’s 2021-2022 prediction record: 45-33
And so it all comes down to one final week. Hopefully, win or lose, RJ will come back to shake hands on another good season’s worth of predicting.
The Bucks will be off on the road tomorrow against the Chicago Bulls, come back to play their final home game of the regular season against the Boston Celtics on Thursday, and then finish the year with road games in Detroit and Cleveland on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
All I can do is play the math and say we’re going to lose all four games. Of course, if this really happened, we’d be here a week from now doing everything we can to not descend into internecine warfare as we await the start of the playoffs. Let’s hope for a happier future Monday than that.