Simple problems require simple solutions. Case-in-point:
Problem: We need to win basketball games
Solution: Score more than the other team
For the first time all season, the Bucks did just that four times in a row. That already great offensive rating has only gone up as games go by, with the team now knocking on the top-five offenses in the league. Sure, only Toronto has a top-10 defense, but Chicago is around average (on paper) and the Mavs invite track meets where they try to overwhelm you by scoring, not locking you down.
Milwaukee overcame each challenge, and even got in a drag race to 130 and won that, too. That is in large part thanks to the coming together of one Damian Lillard. Over the last four games, the team is playing with an offensive rating of 119.5 with him on the court (that’d put the Bucks in fifth) and has actually seen the defensive rating drop to 112.5 — not amazing, but just about right in the middle of NBA defenses as a whole.
Within those numbers lies Milwaukee’s best formula to consistently beat any opponent: Figure out some sort of defensive philosophy that avoids giving up easy transition/paint baskets, and trust that you have the firepower to overawe whoever is in front of you.
And it makes sense! Lillard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Malik Beasley, Khris Middleton, Bobby Portis, even Jae Crowder (pre-injury) and Cam Payne, all can supercharge team scoring. Young guys like Andre Jackson Jr. and MarJon Beauchamp can slot in to lineups to stiffen the defensive backbone for stretches to maintain that blissfully average defensive rating and allow the Bucks to angle for wins via dead sprints. The loss of Jae Crowder hurts the formula, but AJJ or MarJon may just have the chops to tide things over in the meantime.
It is a total reversal of the way we have come to expect the Bucks to play under Mike Budenholzer, but the beauty of sport is that there is more than one way to win. Can obliterating teams remain viable deep into the playoffs? Perhaps not. But for the stretch from now until next May/June, it’ll get the job done.
Milwaukee Bucks Links
Note: This was written and posted prior to the Dallas Mavericks win in which the Lillard/Antetokounmpo lineups began to really pour it on offensively. I think there is something to the Raptors game being the chance to force Dame into shifting fully towards a score-first mentality, followed by a Hornets game that saw Giannis work really hard to orchestrate for others rather than score himself, and the Mavs game being the opportunity for it all to come together. Just another feather in the cap of a great week for Milwaukee.
Further to the previous article, I think the couple of quick clips that the NBA TV studio showed here offer a glimpse of how the two man flow is coming along. Some good suggestions as well on how the offense can continue to invert previous assumptions/play patterns to benefit everyone involved.
Kram Session: The Bucks’ Porous Perimeter Defense (The Ringer)
Meanwhile, the defense has crawled out of the cellar and is now... about halfway up the staircase that connects the cellar from the main floor. We’re all aware that the greatest weaknesses for the Bucks defense right now are perimeter contests and rebounding. Per Zach Kram’s numbers, the scoring output from opposing guards reflects the former issue quite clearly, and the second issue is tied up to the fact that subpar perimeter defense + an aggressive scheme = big men way out of position to nab opponent misses.
Like the offense, though, I’m hopeful more tweaks can get that side of the ball to at least a smidge beneath league-average in time.
Hard to believe that Malik Beasley has seen his usage rate drop since a season ago, but the numbers (as of November 16th) say just that. He must’ve been an absolute headache around a guy like LeBron James with a 20+% usage rate. Both Beasley and Cam Payne have seen big drops in usage, but have also benefitted from gigantic leaps in shooting efficiency. A function of playing as a role guy alongside players with undeniable gravitational pull like Dame and Giannis.
Uh... right. Guess we won’t be in that sweepstakes, then.
Andre Jackson Jr. and MarJon Beauchamp believers: Your time is now.
Fan Post/Comment of the Week
Team Tumbleweed takes home FPOTW hardware for the second week in a row.
For Comment of the Week, let’s put on our Chernobyl radiation suits and dive back in to, It’s time for the Bucks to admit defeat on Adrian Griffin.
Yes, the article that generated the most heat this site has seen in years is back for one last swan song. I’m bringing us back largely because it only right to highlight the myriad informed pieces of pushback it generated among you, the commentariat. The trophy goes to JSOnline Castaway 2.0 for opening with, “a sewage dump of an article”, then going on to list (valid) setbacks Griffin has had to navigate:
Also (again, my nose was plugged while reading, so I could have missed this as well), was there any attempt to contextualize what Griffin has had to navigate as a head coach? You know, things like:
- Starting with 40% of a new starting five (50-60% if you consider Khris isn’t fully back yet)?
- 60% of the starting five was either still recovering from off-season surgery or wasn’t even playing 5-on-5 basketball until just before the regular season started?
- 40% of the starting five has a long and storied history of slow starts to seasons in Dame and Khris?
- It’s common knowledge that the impact of any NBA head coach (regardless of scheme, strategy, or general know-how) is minimal compared to the actual roster’s availability and ability? I.e., all the things I just listed?
My issue isn’t the article, per se. It’s the timing. Get back to me in two months. If we’re still in the same place, I can see there being a legit problem with Griffin.
All that, plus contributions from my former boss Mitchell Maurer, KyngJimbo (love the username), Jman2926, Miggity, and many more besides! Consider this strong encouragement to read the comments as much as the article they’re responding to.
Know Your NBA Enemy
Washington Wizards - Bullets Forever - The Numbers Crunch: Knicks too much for the Wizards to handle
- I could’ve picked any number of “Jordan Poole sucks” articles off Bullets Forever, but figured it would be more instructive to nab an article breaking down a recent Wizards performance. The through line: They suck. A lot.
- “Jrue Holiday is Ray Allen” has me messed up in all sorts of ways. Obviously, I’ll be praying fervently for this team’s downfall to be as comical and incomprehensible as possible. Hackneyed player parallel exercises only make my requests for failure more heartfelt.
- An interesting analysis of some statistical marks for the Blazers done by our friends out west. The conclusion that the promising numbers are really tied to just a player or two rather than a holistic success story makes sense given the team record. Still, if they’re gunning for offensive rebounds, that should make for something to watch when they play the Bucks this week.
The Social Media Section
Shoutout Bucks legend Michael Redd
Our franchise cornerstone — a man who will go down as the greatest athlete to don a uniform for the city of Milwaukee
At least Robin is using his abundant free time productively
But... he didn’t do the Macarena?
MarJon continues to be for the people
Happy belated birthday wishes to Damian’s mom
Only just learning now that Lillard calls Bobby, “Big Bob.”
Dude ranch style looking different these days
Riley’s 2023-2024 Regular Season Prediction Record: 5-8
Milwaukee Bucks 2023-2024 Actual Regular Season Record: 9-4
This should be a fun week:
- @ Washington Wizards, Monday - 6:00 PM CT
- @ Boston Celtics, Wednesday - 6:30 PM CT
- v. Washington Wizards, Friday - 7:00 PM CT (NBA In-Season Tourney)
- v. Portland Trail Blazers, Sunday - 2:30 PM CT
I suppose I wouldn’t be shocked if the Bucks drop a “gimme” game to the Wiz or Blazers through dint of nabbing guys rest, but I’ll remain confident that they’ll win all three. Then, it’s the Celtics — perhaps the most important game of the year in terms of early narrative-setting. Everything about it will be high theater, and I’m going to push all the chips in and say the Bucks win it by the skin of their teeth. How’s that for an exclamation point to start the season?