Welcome back to yet another year of the Brew Hoop Round Table, where we ask that everybody use coasters and please don’t feed the aging pugs from the table, thanks. Once again, the staff convenes for the annual roundtable ahead of Opening Night, where we take our stabs at various outcomes for the Bucks’ approaching season. We usually get most of our answers wrong, but as they say: can’t predict ball. Plus, it’s fun. Anyway, onto the questions...
Bucks 2023–24 Record, Seed, and Playoff Performance
Kyle: 55-27, 1st Seed, NBA Champs
Van: 55-27 feels right to me, as does the 2nd Seed. Despite my usual hemming and hawing, I was cornered on the radio into saying this publicly on Monday: even with a rookie head coach who currently looks like a question mark, they’ll be the NBA champs.
Alex: 52-30, good enough for the 2nd seed en route to the franchise’s third NBA championship.
Morgan: 53-31 for the prime numbers, 2nd seed, and ECF. I expect growing pains with a new head coach and a new superstar in town. Also, Boston is good.
Gabe: 54-28 and the second seed. Before the Lillard trade, I would’ve said they’d lose in the Eastern playoffs but with him, I have them going all the way.
Michael: 53-31 record, the second seed, and a Finals loss. I think the Eastern Conference Finals will come down to a dramatic Game 7 victory in TD Garden (this time, Derrick White misses the layup at the buzzer), but the squad will ultimately have trouble stopping a 60+ win Nuggets squad in the Finals.
Riley: 56-26 and the top seed in the East. Might take the team a bit of time to get underway, but I have too much faith in the level of talent in our core to not go on a couple of tears. I think they’ll get to the Finals and lose there, but it’ll lay the groundwork for a stronger near future.
Will Giannis win his third MVP?
Kyle: Giannis couldn’t win MVP the last two years where he was a strong contender for the award. I don’t think he will win an MVP ever again, especially with the addition of Damian Lillard.
Van: Like last year, I think I’m more optimistic than my colleagues about another MVP for Giannis. I thought last season he was very deserving, as did a lot of voices around the NBA, so I do think he’ll get another in his career. This year, though, I’m taking the field. I think he’s going to eclipse 30 PPG again even with Lillard in town, but my gut is telling me that it will once again be Jokic’s.
Alex: Yes. While having two bona fide superstars on the roster could split or dilute votes for either individual, Damian Lillard is of the age where title contention should be the only thing on his mind, and his public comments since joining the Bucks reflect that. On the court, his play should amplify Giannis’ offensive skill set while Jrue Holiday’s absence will require Antetokounmpo to be even stauncher on defense, which his stats will reflect. Despite Giannis’ insistence that another championship is the only hardware that matters to him, Lillard publicly advocates for him to win a third MVP trophy. Paired with a slight voter’s fatigue for Nikola Jokic (I also think the losses of Jeff Green and Bruce Brown will be more noticeable than most people seem to), the stage is set for Giannis to add more individual hardware to his collection.
Morgan: Jokic would be deserving. In line with my above prediction, though I see The Narrative giving it to Tatum. So, no.
Gabe: Given the scoring output that Lillard brings, I think it’ll be difficult for Giannis to make a case. Jokic is going to keep doing Joker things out in Denver and Tatum has shown his offensive power, which could sway some voters. However, Giannis has proven me wrong before, so I wouldn’t be shocked if he puts together an incredible campaign for his third piece of MVP hardware.
Michael: Eh, I wouldn’t bet the house on it. With Lillard in the mix, I don’t think Giannis will quite have the individual impact to sway the MVP voters, similar to Stephen Curry’s MVP drought after the Warriors added Kevin Durant. How cool would it be if Dame was somehow able to take home his first MVP, though?
Riley: I actually believe there is a legit possibility he can get it done. With the right amount of buy-in on a new offensive role his numbers could continue to tick upward, and people would probably find it noteworthy that he could adjust his approach alongside a player like Lillard and still succeed. Also, I have a feeling Griffin will turn him loose defensively to go hunting. Those two factors make him a real favorite in the MVP race.
MVBNNG (Most Valuable Buck Not Named Giannis)
Kyle: Damian Lillard will unlock a side of Milwaukee we haven’t seen in a long time.
Van: Maybe we should have also added “Or Damian” to the prompt, because it seems clear. Outside of those two, I’m going with Brook Lopez. Preseason indications are that Griffin’s defense will be so aggressive—dare I say Kidd-like—that drivers will get swarmed and help will be coming often. That, plus the lack of perimeter stoppers, could open up a lot of holes that Brook and Giannis will be counted on to cover up. I think their regular season defense will be fine, and a large part of that will be because they will continue to excel at protecting the rim.
Alex: Dame, clearly. Outside of the top two, I’m inclined to agree with Van and say it has to be Brook Lopez. His paint protection will be more evident and important than ever, and he should the number of open corner threes in his diet of shots should increase as opponents hedge against Giannis-Lillard pick-and-roll threats.
Morgan: I’ll go outside of the box and say Khris. The addition of Dame should reduce his workload, both in terms of minutes and tickets to the Tough Shot Express, with the upshot of having enough juice to not get cooked on defense and staying healthy. But I’ll be curious to watch how his shot diet shifts with the addition of Dame, particularly in the postseason. With both Giannis and Dame hungry for shots, will he continue to go on hot streaks that win the Bucks a game per series?
Gabe: It has to be Dame. The Bucks are banking on his offensive skillset to take them to the next level. If it falters come the postseason, they may be in some trouble. Additionally, they’ll need him to make some contributions on the defensive side of the ball. He won’t be expected to contribute at the level of Jrue Holiday, but there’s definitely pressure on Lillard.
Michael: It has to be Dame D.O.L.L.A., but I think a healthy Khris Middleton could have a quiet career renaissance in his new role as an elite third scoring option.
Riley: Too crazy to say Brook Lopez? As goes Brook, so go the Bucks, especially as he’ll be the only starter whose main focus will be pulling the defense together. There had long been clamoring for Mike Budenholzer to open things up and let Brook do more offensively to breathe a little life into things. Will Griffin do just that AND ask Brook to totally change his aggressiveness on defense? If so, how does Brook hold up to it? That’s key.
MIB (Most Improved Buck)
Kyle: AJ Green will have games where we argue he should get consistent rotation minutes. His shooting will be good but it will be the defensive side that will surprise us.
Van: I’m going with the people’s choice: MarJon Beauchamp. While I haven’t been the biggest fan of his and was skeptical of his NBA future as recently as a few weeks ago, I’m changing my tune. Call me a wide-eyed optimist, but I am starting to see his fit with the core group. He had a pretty good preseason overall, but what will stick with me more than his fourth-quarter heroics in the two home games was how he gelled with a Payne/Connaughton/Portis/Robin Lopez lineup in LA. I think he deserves some minutes out of the gate, jockeying with Connaughton and Beasley for time at the 2, and those two plus Crowder for time at the 3. I’ll stop short of saying he’ll be a rotation player in the postseason, though. That still seems like a pie-in-the-sky.
Alex: Based solely on improvement from last season to this season... Jae Crowder. At best in 2022–2023, Crowder was a net-neutral; at worst, well, we were all dialed in to the Adelaide 36ers watch before he re-upped with the Bucks. Crowder and his six available fouls experience a bit of a reversion to the mean that established him as a defensive pest and willing (if not always efficient) three-point shooter, making him the serviceable role player the front office initially intended him to be.
Morgan: Pat Connaughton didn’t dazzle in his injury-shortened regular season. A healthy Pat will leverage his experience with Dame to the tune of marginal improvement. Honorable mention to Malik Beasley, solely due to better fit. I don’t expect leaps from other Bucks, but I hope to be proven wrong!
Gabe: I’m going to go with MarJon. It seems like he’ll really be getting a chance to show his worth this season, as Griffin will provide the opportunity. Seeing how his teammates have hyped him up throughout the preseason makes it seem as if they have belief in him being able to take the next step as well.
Michael: Off-the-wall pick, but give me Malik Beasley. He might not make an All-Defensive team any time soon, but he can shoot the hell out of the three ball. With the defensive gravity that Giannis, Dame, and Khris will demand, I could see a catch-and-shoot guy like Malik feasting off of some reallyyyyy wide-open looks.
Riley: Khris Middleton. Very hopeful that they can get to a point where the nagging injuries of various severities are behind him and that he can suit up for at least the NBA award minimum 65 games. If he even has a defensive possession or two to be proud of along the way? Watch out.
Offensive/Defensive League Ranking
Kyle: 4th in offense, 11th in defense.
Van: Though my concerns about how the defensive scheme will perform in the playoffs will probably not be assuaged during the regular season, I think that Brook and Giannis will still be enough for a top-eight or so defensive unit. Look at Cleveland last year; the twin towers of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley were enough to make up for a very undersized and shaky backcourt, leading them to the league’s best defensive rating. Milwaukee’s frontcourt duo is the better big-man pairing in my opinion. I’ll go with seventh in defensive rating and second in offense thanks to Lillard.
Alex: Fourth in offense, 13th in defense. Fittingly, this would represent an uptick in scoring and a dip of several spots in defense when compared to the 2020–2021 title run.
Morgan: 5th in offense, 10th in defense. The growing pains can’t mask the quality of the personnel on both sides of the ball, albeit slanted toward offense with the addition of Dame.
Gabe: Third in offense, 9th in defense. Scoring won’t be an issue with Antetokounmpo, Lillard, and Middleton. I also doubt that Giannis is going to let them slack on defense.
Michael: Third in offense, 12th in defense. I think the defensive side of the ball will take some adjusting to perfect, and they’ll give up around 120 points in a few stinkers.
Riley: Fifth in offense, eighth in defense? They’re going to score boatloads, of that I’m totally certain. The defense is the impossible one to predict. It’ll have stifling moments and also nights where they’re getting cut up because guys just can’t maintain the frenetic pace.
Kyle: People will want MarJon to be good so badly and he will have chances and games to repay that faith.
Van: It’s true, given the lack of first-round picks this franchise has had in recent years, Bucks fans are very invested in the young guys. At least the ones online. Portis will probably still get louder cheers and of course the chants inside Fiserv Forum, but I’ll agree with Kyle. I don’t think Beauchamp will be putting up 20+ points regularly if he’s in the rotation, but I think he’ll make enough of the little plays that don’t jump out on the stat sheet to endear himself widely across the fanbase.
Alex: Cam Payne. He’ll have nights when he goes for upward of 20 points off the bench, he’ll set the table well as a starter on nights when Dame sits, and he’ll have a handful of “how did THAT go in!?” drives to the basket throughout the season. No one will be calling Cam the mayor, but I anticipate he’ll be embraced in a Bobby-esque manner once fans get a feel for his presence on the court.
Morgan: Speaking of the youths, there is a low bar for Andre Jackson Jr. this season. I expect him to surpass it and with aplomb. Who doesn’t love an energy guy?
Gabe: It’s still going to be Bobby. Lillard is going to get Fiserv Forum screaming — there’s no doubt. But there’s something special about the energy BP brings with the simple flexing of his muscles in a high-tension situation.
Michael: I’m going to go with Cam Payne here. This is a guy who is just six months removed from putting up 31 points in a playoff game. I think Bucks fans will be pleasantly surprised by the value he’ll bring in a limited role.
Riley: People love guys who are insane energy defenders. Andre Jackson Jr. is the heir to Thanasis Antetokounmpo’s role as “guy thrown onto the court simply to mix things up while bringing a completely different sort of energy to the affair.” It’ll be beautiful.
MCB (Most Cooked Buck)/Fan Not-So-Favorite
Kyle: Jae Crowder is one all-caps tweet away from playing for Fenerbache.
Van: The usual naysayers online have been critical of Robin Lopez this preseason, and I understand it to an extent. I thought he looked better in the final home game, but he looked washed otherwise. That said, he’s functionally the fourth center on this team behind his brother, Portis, and a touch of Giannis, so I don’t think it’s worth getting up in arms about. Maybe he’ll have enough fun mascot hijinx and brotherly bickering to make up for it because he’s arguably the funniest guy on the team. Still, he’ll have his haters among the negative nellies who need an outlet now that Bud’s gone and Griffin is too new.
Alex: Malik Beasley. He won’t provide the defense Crowder does, he won’t be the comic relief that Robin is, and he won’t meet a shot that he doesn’t like. A handful of poor shooting nights combined with homegrown support for A.J. Green and interest in the toolsy capabilities of Andre Jackson Jr. will make for a hot seat at shooting guard.
Morgan: Jae Jae Jae Jae Jae. Jae Jae Jae Jae Jae Jae Jae. Jae Jae Jae Jae Jae.
Gabe: Yup, Jae Crowder is sitting on some very thin ice. He’s getting close to Jesse Winker territory (editor’s note: OUCH) and the season hasn’t even started.
Michael: Robin Lopez. As much as I like him personally, he has serious cement feet out there. There’s something to be said for the relationship with Brook and the veteran presence he provides, but I might start hyperventilating if he’s on the floor in a playoff game and the Bucks aren’t up by 40.
Now let’s hear what you have to say. Copy and paste this list in a comment and explain your answers!
- Bucks 2023–24 Record, Seed, and Playoff Performance
- Will Giannis win his third MVP?
- MVBNNG (Most Valuable Buck Not Named Giannis)
- MIB (Most Improved Buck)
- Offensive/Defensive League Ranking
- Fan Favorite
- MCB (Most Cooked Buck)/Fan Not-So-Favorite