Hi Milwaukee Bucks fans! So I know that some of us are freaking out over chemistry concerns, injury delays, and so on, but I think that is unwarranted. The Bucks are 29-17 and they are still sitting high in the East’s rankings. As I posted on Tuesday about what seed we need, the three-seed is what we need at minimum. This is a five-team race, and avoiding the 4-5 line is essential, because that would mean we would have to play against three of the five best teams in the conference to make the Finals. I also reported that we would need a healthy and productive Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday to go alongside Giannis, which I think we will get at least the latter half of both equations. Middleton will be healthy, but will he be productive to his former standard? We’ll see!
It’s easy to forget how much Khris has gone through over the last few months, and I’m not talking about just injuries. As someone who is around 30 and lost a parent, that can be devastating to the point where you don’t want to do anything. It can even get to the point where you honestly feel like you have the flu. As for me, I’m writing on here and going to college, whereas Khris has the pressure of the NBA schedule and competition, as well as from the fanbase.
Previously, I was uninformed about his loss, and was stating things such as “we don’t need 2017 Khris Middleton” prior to hearing the news about his father’s passing. For that, I apologize. Now, I’m going to lead the charge and want all of us to lay off him for this season. Grief is serious. It causes confusion, indecision, struggle with daily tasks, and can take longer than expected to be resolved. Maybe this is an overreaction, but the treatment amidst his grief might make Khris feel like maybe he should consider leaving Milwaukee after this season, as has been (stupidly) reported. He’s not left yet, so let’s not push him into doing so, not on this site. This is just the same as the Bucks haven’t lost to Boston or Philadelphia in the 2023 playoffs yet, so let’s just chill. We are still okay. Could the record be better? Sure, they could be 36-10, or 50-0. But for now, let’s just chill, we are still okay.
Last forecast the Bucks started off well against the Knicks by defeating them again, at full strength on both sides. We then went down to Atlanta to get a win, although Giannis got injured in that one to miss the next slate. That was a pair of losses in South Beach to a “somewhat-but-not-as-bad-as-the-Bucks” depleted roster, but then we had a pair of bounce-back wins at home over Indiana (minus Tyrese Haliburton) and Toronto. And finally, following an unusual three days off, the Bucks went in to Cleveland shorthanded and lost to the Cavaliers without Donovan Mitchell.
Julie’s Prediction: 4-3 (32-14)
Bucks’ Record: 4-3 (29-17)
By the time I started drafting this on Wednesday, with having school and a job and all, the Bucks were sitting at 4-2, and a win-win scenario for me. If they lost, I would get the perfect record for the forecast, and if they won, they would creep back up one game closer to where I have them overall. So, that game against Cleveland is one that I paid extra attention to, and unfortunately it didn’t go the Bucks or my way. But, I at least get to say I was correct with 4-3.
Upcoming, the Bucks finish the quick two-gamer at the Pistons, which should be a clear victory. We then face off in Fiserv Forum against the best of the West in Denver, and somehow that game isn’t nationally televised. Following that is a quick trip down to Indianapolis to take on the Tyrese-less Pacers (most likely) again, before a four game homestand that leads into a Western road trip next forecast. Those four games are against New Orleans, Charlotte, Los Angeles Clippers, and Miami. In other words, probably the most randomly assorted homestand I’ve ever seen. You have a good team, bad team, two mild teams, three different divisions (if it was four it would feel less random for some reason), and just the order is mixed up. I don’t know, I find little schedule quirks like that interesting.
As for injuries, both Giannis and Khris are banged up and likely won’t play the whole forecast, because they need to ramp back up. Count Joe Ingles in that boat as well, as him sitting out the road game against Indiana makes the most sense to me for load management. Serge Ibaka also will not play as he awaits a trade out of Milwaukee.
As for the rest of the teams, Detroit will for sure miss Cade Cunningham and Marvin Bagley, and have five other players dealing with nagging injuries. Denver has been without Bucks’ killer Jeff Green for a while, but other than that they have been healthy. Indiana will likely not have Haliburton, as well as Daniel Theis who has yet to play this season. New Orleans won’t have Zion Williamson this time, and they are still battling injuries with other star forward Brandon Ingram. And now Herb Jones might be out a while, so we are playing them at a lucky time. Charlotte is to NOT BE UNDERESTIMATED (as we saw last time), but won’t have Kelly Oubre at least. LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward and Cody Martin have fought injuries all season and are on the report at this moment. The Clippers have had the load management stuff with Kawhi Leonard, and to a lesser extent Paul George. John Wall will also miss this game. Finally, Miami does a lot of load management too, but we know for sure there will be no Duncan Robinson, Omer Yurtseven or Nikola Jovic.
That’s a lot to keep track of, that will likely change before anyways. So, let’s take a deeper dive into the game-by-game.
At Detroit Pistons
Monday, January 23rd
6PM on Bally Sports WI
Detroit is not having a good season. Let me focus on what has gone right for the Pistons as an exercise so that I don’t overly jinx them like I did for the Spurs, Rockets and Hornets when we couldn’t beat those teams. The Pistons have a chance at having a better record than they did last year. Detroit is in the top half of the league in 3-point percentage. They are 12th in offensive rebounds and steals. Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks have become very sought-after trade chips to help with their rebuild. And, they have a real chance at getting the highest odds in the Draft Lottery.
I think I have been very nice to the Pistons. They kind of feel like that annoying little brother you have, but you are too nice to be mean so you give them backhanded compliments and they don’t realize it. That’s how I feel about what I’ve said so far. Do I think this team should beat the Bucks? If it’s the Nwora-Mamu-Thanasis show, then yes, I think the Pistons have a real chance. If not, I think Victor Wembanyama is the best prospect since LeBron, so a victory here would actually be the consolation prize for Detroit.
Wednesday, January 25th
7PM on Bally Sports WI
On the opposite end of the standings while being right next to each other alphabetically (which makes checking injuries easier), the Denver Nuggets have had a great season. This is a team that I misjudged, saying that I thought the Timberwolves were likely the team to beat in the division, but I would give the edge to Denver because I didn’t trust the Nuggets. Still, I had Memphis, Golden State and probably the Clippers and Suns ahead of them too, so it just didn’t go well. Regardless, everything seemingly has gone well for Denver.
I’m not sure if you remember me saying in the last forecast about how “everything, including Aaron Nesmith, has gone right for the Pacers this season”. The same is true for Denver, but Denver had/has a higher ceiling. Aside from missing Jeff Green, Denver hasn’t had a ton of injury issues. Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray have been doing load management, but that’s to be expected. Adding those two back to Aaron Gordon and back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic has made Denver very dangerous, and they have a nice complement of players around that big four. Denver’s top seven averages over 11 points per game, and Jokic is nearly at a triple-double. Even DeAndre Jordan, Vlatko Cancar and Davon Reed are playing quality basketball here.
Look, Denver is among the top three of the West with Memphis and Sacramento(!) at around the halfway point. Memphis has talent, but Denver has the altitude and the best player. So at this point, the road to the Finals in the West may go through Denver, because the the teams I mentioned just don’t seem like Finals teams, if you know what I mean. All I’m saying is, this is an exciting test for the Bucks.
At Indiana Pacers
Friday, January 27th
6PM on Bally Sports WI
The MLK Day matinee was exactly what we hoped for, aside from not having Giannis play that game. That was the Bucks getting a relatively easy win to get back on the winning side of things after a rough trip to Miami. We had some luck on our side as well on the injury front, as NBA assists leader Tyrese Haliburton (who is also the scoring leader for the Pacers and a possible All-Star) was out, and likely will be out again. That forced a team that I believe is a facade to show that, when going up against a team with our composure and experience, they don’t have much of a chance.
In this game, you would expect Giannis to be back by now, so being able to beat the Pacers again isn’t an insane thought. I have been reading preseason articles on the Pacers, and one of them says “Indy may not be shield your eyes brutal” and quotes GM Kevin Pritchard saying “This is the path we want to go down” when referring to tanking. This team is supposed to be tanking, and I believe they will fall out of the play-in eventually (assuming Chicago, Toronto and Atlanta play like they can).
Without Haliburton, the Pacers turn to the likes of Buddy Hield, Myles Turner and rookie Benedict Mathurin for offensive output. All of these players are relatively strong on that end of the court, but being 0-4 to start without Haliburton shows that those players are not enough. I don’t think they will be enough in a rematch either.
New Orleans Pelicans
Sunday, January 29th
7PM on NBA TV & Bally Sports WI
New Orleans has had a pretty good run this season, even without Zion Williamson for stretches and Brandon Ingram for a long stretch. At this point, they are right among the aforementioned Nuggets, Kings and Grizzlies as one of the best in a kind of barren Western Conference. But how has head coach Willie Green got New Orleans to be one of the best in the West, without the two best players on the team?
Four players have stepped up and become quality role players, and even taken some of the load off of the two stars as well as CJ McCollum and Jonas Valanciunas. Trey Murphy III, Naji Marshall and Herb Jones have been playing quality basketball, with all three averaging around or over 10 points per game and playing some quality defense. Jose Alvarado, the famous Chris Paul botherer, has been continuing his great defense, and has been leading a strong second unit. The combination of these four have kept the Pelicans afloat, and even excelled beyond many predictions.
The Bucks clearly beat this team with Williamson back in December, and overall I would still say the Bucks have the edge here. If both Ingram and Williamson remain out, or even just one and Jonas Valanciunas doesn’t play unstoppable basketball, then the Bucks should win at home.
Tuesday, January 31st
7PM on Bally Sports WI
This has been a weird season for the Bucks playing against the Hornets. The first game, we went to Charlotte and beat them with the Wisconsin Herd, but the second game we got obliterated mostly with full strength. So, call it even?
Charlotte has dealt with a lot of injuries and has never been fully healthy for lengthy stretches, and the trio of LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward and Cody Martin have all missed more than half of the season. Center has also been a major issue, with Mason Plumlee holding down as arguably the worst starting center in basketball, and the young duo of Nick Richards and Mark Williams just aren’t playing well enough to supplant him. So, this team has been run for most of the season by the trio of Terry Rozier, Kelly Oubre and PJ Washington, which are all nice role players, but don’t belong as the main options on a team.
For these reasons, and the fact that Charlotte has already defeated us at home, I will be going with the Bucks in this one.
Thursday, February 2nd
9PM on TNT & Bally Sports WI
This is our first matchup with the Clippers, who have been disappointing so far to start the season. Kawhi Leonard has missed half of the season, which isn’t unexpected, and Paul George has played ¾ of the season, which isn’t unexpected, so I’m not sure how this team is this bad. They have good role players surrounding those two, and some even have the capability to lead playoff teams without superstars, such as Reggie Jackson displayed last season.
Now, that look ultimately doesn’t do well once the postseason arrives, but there is no reason that a team as balanced and deep as the Clippers should be struggling this much, especially without unexpected injuries for the most part. They have been discussed as a team looking to acquire help from the outside, such as Myles Turner from the Pacers, but I’m not sure who they can really give up in exchange. It is a need, as Ivica Zubac is the only player taller than 6’9” that plays consistently for the Clippers.
That’s why I think the Bucks have the edge, with or without Kawhi and George, and that is the size difference. Giannis, Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis are all better than Zubac, and should have no trouble getting all the points they want in the paint. Point guard is also the edge with Jrue Holiday, but the Clippers do have a better bench and starting wings, especially if Khris Middleton is unavailable or taking a load management day. My point is, don’t let the record fool you into thinking this team isn’t dangerous, but also don’t expect them to beat the Bucks either.
Saturday, February 4th
7PM on Bally Sports WI
Miami accounted for back-to-back losses for the Bucks, and as Gabe Vincent had himself a good week, the Bucks didn’t have Giannis or Khris in either game (and I believe Joe Ingles in one of them). Overall, it was a rough trip to Florida for Milwaukee, but being without two of the three players who make us better than the 2000’s Bucks, this is not a big deal that we lost those games. What is more concerning is Giannis and Khris being on the sidelines.
The Heat have become the replacement of the Cavaliers, who replaced the Hawks as the team we are getting tired of seeing every forecast (multiple times possibly), so we should already be familiar with this team. Led by Jimmy Butler, the Heat have been treading water around the play-in range, and honestly that’s mostly just because the East is so bad outside of the top five. This team is exposing what last year’s fluke covered up, lack of depth, age and injuries, and the only reason we lost both in Miami is because we were without our two best players. If we have one back, we win this game to close out the forecast.
Julie’s Prediction: 4-3
I’m going to do it again. With home games with Detroit and Charlotte, and playing Indiana without Tyrese Haliburton, getting four games here with or without Giannis almost seems like a lock to me. The Clippers, Heat, Nuggets and Pelicans are all talented teams, but they are also four of our five home games, and I just don’t see us going 0-4 in that stretch, even if Giannis is out. I actually am thinking 5-2 again, but this is me sort of cheating and hoping they get back to even overall.
What Record Do You Think The Bucks Will Have This Forecast?
6-1 or 7-0 (We’re Great)
5-2 (Julie’s Hopeful Prediction)
4-3 (Julie’s Official Prediction)
3-4 (Lots of Injuries)
2-5 or worse (Time to Think About Being Concerned)