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Milwaukee Bucks Weekly Wednesday Wrap-up

Another wonky week in Bucksland!

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at New York Knicks Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Woe is me, this Milwaukee Bucks team says. Playing with the energy of a deflated balloon leads to near collapses like the Raptors game, and the buttkicking at the hands of the Charlotte Hornets last week certainly sent us abuzz during a dismal sports weekend for Wisconsin sports fans. Thankfully, our lord and savior remained as cheery as ever.

For when I see Giannis this upbeat, it’s hard to get all that down, even with a team that’s maybe underachieving, but also kinda not given the injuries they’ve faced? And then they go ahead and cap this week with one of the more fun victories in recent memory against the Knicks... it’s been a weird year folks, and we’re only halfway done. Hold onto your butts, let’s wrap-up.

The Week that Was

Winning over Toronto is almost a sure way to boost Bucks spirits, and yet somehow this team found a way to make it almost as painful as possible. Up 21 with four minutes to go, the choke job would’ve been immaculate, but Giannis saved us all from 48 hours of ear-splitting discourse. Charlotte, well, it led Bud to say the word “concerning.” For someone whose press conference word choices typically follow coachspeak mad libs, that’s quasi-notable. That’s why it was so encouraging to see the win against the Knicks, coming back from 17 down when they looked lifeless in the third. Ingles took over the ballhandling and Jrue did his Jrue thing where he suddenly starts nailing clutch jumpers.

Weekly Wondering

Maybe it’s because I’ve been heating up too many of my daughter’s leftover meals this week, but amidst the frequent nuking, I started wondering about how and whether a “microwave scorer” would work under Budenholzer. For a team whose offense is so highly predicated on players outside of its Big Three fulcrum lying in wait for their chance to shoot, it seems like a jolt of energy player may not work as well within the ecosystem Bud has built. I started by going back through all of Bud’s rosters in Milwaukee to see who would potentially qualify as a “microwave scorer.” Here’s where I landed

  • 2018-19: Nobody; Nikola Mirotic may have come closest.
  • 2019-20: Kyle Korver? Donte is probably the closest fit but even that’s questionable.
  • 2020-21: Bobby Portis, Bryn Forbes, Jordan Nwora
  • 2021-22: Bobby Portis, Jordan Nwora, DeMarcus Cousins
  • 2022-23: Bobby Portis, Jordan Nwora

For context, my definition of microwave scorer is pretty simplistic: someone who can score in bunches, primarily through their own means of shot creation. Bryn Forbes probably skirts that line a bit, but I think of him as more of a microwave scorer than Grayson. Allen can be tentative at times and more often looks to probe defenses or pass than Bryn, who was a genuinely outstanding non-assist man while in Milwaukee.

One reason I’m pondering this is some of the Jordan Clarkson trade chatter I’ve seen among Bucks fans. It’s also seemed like something fans have clamored for, a reasonable assertion given the offense-starved Bucks postseasons of the past. The flipside of the microwave scorer conversation is that they typically bring defensive question marks to the floor. Flipping through the options Bud’s had during his time here, to me it seems clear the Bucks have had a microwave scorer all along, he’s just 6’9” and finds his shots inside the arc or at the basket.

Bobby Portis is as close to a “get a bucket” guy this team has among its role players. The obvious downside to him as your primary scorer is that unlike a Clarkson, or maybe a Kuzma, he’s not going to barrage the other team with three-pointers. When Bobby is cooking, it’s either midrange jumpers or backing a guy into the post for a lay-in. When Milwaukee’s offense is as anemic as it’s been in the Playoffs, even those two points can feel like nirvana. But I’d also contend they’re not nearly as demoralizing (or potent, frankly) as a parade of deep triples falling through the hoop. And for all his improvement, Portis still can’t really get off his own stroke from deep.

All that being said, I’m dubious that another microwave scorer makes sense on this team, or that the front office/coaching staff would be interested in acquiring one. Defense is already the calling card of Bud’s teams, and scorers of Clarkson’s ilk bring many of the same deficiencies as Grayson Allen. Could they offset with enough offensive explosion? Perhaps, but the usage rate well dries up really quickly in the postseason when Giannis, Khris and Jrue get moved into the 40-minute range.

Maybe having someone who could nail jumpers in a 2-3 minute span while two stars rest could turn a Playoff series? Or they could go cold and get sufficiently punished on the other end by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

(An aside: At this point, is it possible Beauchamp is the best “shot in the arm” offensive option for this team? He’s looked his age defensively this season, but at the very least he offers length and versatility that someone like Portis or a smaller scatback guard wouldn’t. On top of that, he’s started scoring in ways that often elude the likes of Connaughton or Allen at points.)

What I really wonder is whether this player type has any chance of success under Budenholzer. Given the defensive question marks inherent in the player type, and the usage dictated by their three core players, I’d be curious to see how a guard in this archetype actually functions. Would Buddy Hield, Malik Monk or their ilk scratch out a role? Or would the blue squares and standing around relegate them back to the even middle we often see out of role players around this Big Three. I’m doubtful the Bucks would make a move for a player of this archetype at the deadline, but at this point, anyone who can score points would be a welcome addition.

Plays of the Week

Inexplicably, I found some golden nuggets from the choke job that was the Raptors game, but I’ve opted to skip highlights from that Hornets game entirely. Good vibes only, which is why there are plays aplenty from the Knicks win.

Beauchamp Beauty

This is the best pass of MarJon’s career, and I don’t think it’s close.

Passing Through Five Defenders

Again, this is more of the highlight variety, but when an entire team surrounds a player and he still finds a way to land a wraparound pitch-perfect pass, it’s gotta make the cut.

Patience Pays Off

Yes, it’s partially the whirling one-handed backwards pass by Giannis, but for me, this is much more about the deliberate patience of Joe Ingles. He’s got a decent enough shot available, but he’s well aware that Pat is scrambling to the corner with no defender in sight. He waits as long as possible, rifles up the pump fake and a tranquil pass lets Pat nail the triple in the corner.

Brook Block King

We’ve lauded his defense all season long, but with good reason given the nonchalant nature of a play like this. Brook is stapled to Mitchell Robinson’s side, steely eye gaze stuck on Jalen Brunson as he runs around the floor and gets Randle’s man, Portis, to commit in the midst of the lane. From there, it doesn’t take long for Lopez to leap across the lane as soon as the oop is in the air, and he violently thrusts the ball from Randle’s hand. An outstanding read and recovery from a 34-year-old.

Spam the Joe-Giannis Side PnR

The Milwaukee Bucks ran this exact play around two minutes before this instance. In that scenario, Bobby Portis took the Connaughton role in the above clip, and Ingles gets a free lane to the basket as Hartenstein tries to stick close to Bobby to contest the three, freeing up the lane for Joe to hit a runner. Here, Bud goes back to basics and Giannis flips the ball to Joe coming up from the corner.

This time, with Ingles man still caught behind the screen, Robinson has to stay in front of Joe while also somehow preventing Antetokounmpo from getting a free release to the basket for a dunk. Grimes, Pat’s defender, has already blitzed Giannis to try and disrupt the rhythm of the DHO, but he tries to stay in the play and stop Ingles from getting a direct linen to the rim for an oop pass or lay-in. That commitment leads to an easy read from Ingles though, who finds a wide open Pat for a clutch three. Folks, I love watching Joe Ingles.


Jan 11: The play of the week is...

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Beauchamp Beauty
    (10 votes)
  • 38%
    Passing Through Five Defenders
    (21 votes)
  • 22%
    Patience Pays Off
    (12 votes)
  • 11%
    Brook Block King
    (6 votes)
  • 9%
    Spam the Joe-Giannis Side PnR
    (5 votes)
54 votes total Vote Now

That’ll do it for another wrap-up! Vote for your preferred play above and let me know your microwave scorer thoughts in the comments.