The gang’s back together again ((again) again) sort of, and with 32 regular season games left, they’ve given themselves a decent runway to gel before the real games begin. Early returns look promising — four wins in a row with an offensive rating averaging into 122.8 — and we’ve already seen small samples of evidence that lineups featuring both Khris Middleton and Joe Ingles have potential to rip up opposing defenses.
Now, those wins came against lowly competition: Detroit, a Jokic-less Nuggets, whatever the Pacers are without Tyrese Haliburton, and a Pelicans team that has now lost eight straight. Besides the upcoming game against Boston on February 14th, we’ve a friendly schedule between now and the All-Star Break. And for where the team is, that’s perfect. Above all else, they need time to figure out how to play together. Time for Mike Budenholzer to tinker with which guys come off the bench into which lineups. Time to get even healthier as Khris Middleton plays himself into better shape and Bobby Portis recovers from a knee injury.
32 games is not a ton of time, but if the Milwaukee Bucks play things right, it should be enough. There plenty of potential for this Bucks team to copy the Boston Celtics playbook of a season ago and suddenly go on a run seemingly out of nowhere. The fans deserve to see them do just that.
Khris Middleton is back, and so are realistic NBA championship expectations for the Bucks (Yahoo)
Step 1) Get Khris Middleton back from injury
Step 2) Never lose a game again
Step 3) Profit
2023 All-Star Draft & All-Star Game: Format, explainer and FAQ’s (NBA.com)
It is unclear if the league will be doing its All-Star player draft from some remote location in the Jazz’s arena or if they’ll lean fully into their pro wrestling DNA and give us the treasured opportunity to watch James Harden get picked last in front of hundreds of thousands of spectators. Adam Silver, you know what the righteous choice is here.
How NBA Teams Are Bringing The Post-Up Back To Life (FiveThirtyEight)
Some interesting numbers here about the drop in relative numbers of post-ups and increases in their scoring effectiveness when actually run. Good news for teams with guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez, Khris Middleton, and (sometimes) Jrue Holiday, all of whom are comfortable backing down a defender. The key lies in the balance of how often to run them, how efficient you are in finding mismatches, and what the rest of the team is doing to set up a post-up opportunity while providing outlets.
The NBA’s Best, at Their Worst (The Ringer)
Giannis sporting the league’s largest scoring drop-off between his “best” games and “worst” games feels about right. Normally, even a bad Giannis game can see him get to at least 24 or 25 points which is still solid. That it looks bad because on his better nights he can average nearly 40 points is a luxury I gladly accept.
Nikola Jokic sitting out vs. Bucks and Giannis is latest example of why NBA should shorten the schedule (CBS Sports)
I think we are far beyond the point at which reducing the overall number of games will solve stars taking nights off. Unless the schedule is dramatically slashed to, say, 50 games (which will never, ever, ever, ever happen) the fractional unimportance of any individual game will always trump a desire for nightly entertainment. This is a problem that has no practical solution since nobody in the NBA is incentivized to fix it in the near- or medium-term.
Broadcaster of Bucks, Brewers games in Wisconsin may file for bankruptcy (WTMJ)
We might be moving closer to the league stepping in to take over game broadcast production themselves or having to outsource it to one of the big streaming companies. Barring another firm coming in and offering to produce an even cheaper setup than what Bally Sports trots out, I’m not sure regional sports networks have much of a future left. See: Major League Soccer and their broadcast deal with Apple.
Fan Post of the Week
Know Your Enemy (Until SBNation ceases to exist)
Charlotte Hornets - At The Hive - Hornets are expected to be sellers at the trade deadline
- Charlotte has always been in a bit of a weird spot in terms of roster timeline. LaMelo Ball will be under team control for a long time yet and so can be the tool to build around, but they’ve also vets who should be winning now (Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier) and mid-career guys who can fill specific roles (Kelly Oubre, PJ Washington). The Hornets should be tanking their rears off, so it isn’t surprising they may move some guys to rationalize that internal timeline.
Los Angeles Clippers - Clips Nation - Was the Paul George-Shai Gilegous-Alexander trade worth it for Clippers?
- This was one of the “super team” constructions that never really struck the fear of God in me. Having both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard healthy for a very specific 1.5 month span a year is more an exercise in gambling than reliable team building. However, the Clips remain in the contender mix in theory and that’s the whole point of the game.
Miami Heat - Hot Hot Hoops - Kyle Lowry has sat the last two fourth quarters. What does it mean?
- Somehow lived long enough to witness the downfall of Miami’s continually confusing team construction practices over the last six seasons or so.
The Social Media Section
I frankly doubt Giannis impressions get better than Pat Bev’s here
Things that make you go, “Hmmm”
More NBA players cast All-Star ballots for Grayson Allen (4) than they did Marcus Smart (3).— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) January 27, 2023
Possible future Buck draftee?
Mamu already moonlighting as a realtor
Pat is back
You’re welcome, Jordan
The Legendary Sixth Antetokounmpo Brother MarJon Beauchamp
Another of Kareem’s records falls to Giannis
Riley’s 2022-2023 Weekly Prediction Record: 24-26
Milwaukee’s Actual 2022-2023 Record: 33-17
Milwaukee has a relaxed week ahead getting a chance to play all three upcoming games at home. They’ll host the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday, the LA Clippers on Thursday, and the Miami Heat on Saturday. That Thursday game has a 9 PM tip-off as a national TV game, so be prepared.
I think they’ll keep it rolling. Charlotte shouldn’t 50 ball us again, Kawhi Leonard/Paul George are coin flips on whether they’ll play on a daily basis, and I’m hopeful Mike Budenholzer will have some stuff drawn up to answer the Heat after we dropped two straight to them a few weeks ago.