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Brew Hoop Mailbag: Week 1

Answering your Milwaukee Bucks questions (and beyond)

Milwaukee Bucks v Toronto Raptors Photo by Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images

When Van asked the BH staff who wanted to take on the first edition of the Brew Hoop Mailbag, I threw my hat in the ring immediately. With how much enjoyment and value I derive from reading and interacting with you guys, the readers and commenters of Brew Hoop, it is only right that I be the first one to tackle your pressing Milwaukee Bucks questions/concerns/comments.

All entries were pulled from this past week’s submission post—if you didn’t have a chance to join in this week, a new post will be up every Tuesday for the rest of the season!

Without further ado, let’s get to your questions!

JSOnline Castaway 2.0 asks: After a horrifically embarrassing 2-2 start to the season, should we merely fire Adrian Griffin, or fire Adrian Griffin into the sun? And should we trade all of our veterans to tank right now, or wait another four games?

WiscoJoe asks: How many games would the Bucks have to continue to play this poorly before you would want Griffin to be fired?

Let’s do a two-for-one!

Something tells me JSOC2.0 might’ve been a touch facetious with the questions here—a reaction to reactions. A sort of counter-reaction, if you will. The facetious answer is that it’s only right to give Griffin eight games to prove he has HOF chops; we are, after all, reasonable people.

On a serious note, picking and choosing how “long” Griffin gets before it's decided to can or keep the guy is an impossible ask. If you want to pin me down on a number, I’d start by saying you see how things are going by New Year’s Eve. Barring a complete disaster of a start (like 5-16 or something with a requisite collapse in player attitudes), that will get us to 30 games, two full months of play, and a feel for whether the system Griffin wants to implement is sticking or if his inexperience is actively detrimental to winning. The key is to evaluate momentum — if it is heading in the right direction at that time, you let it play out.

However, if they lose to the Bulls on November 13th, Griffin should be collecting unemployment benefits.

PackofBrews asks: What are the odds Bud and/or Stotts end up back in Milwaukee this year?

For Budenholzer, the answer should be 0%—I think both sides would be too principled to get back together with the way things went down at the end. Also, the team superstar publicly questioning said coach’s decisions leading up to/after he left would make for too strange a dynamic.

As far as Stotts, it is also close to 0% if only due to the power struggle he engaged in and lost by dint of the same front office theoretically begging for him back. Also, you get into the assistant coaches left over who may primarily hold allegiance to Griffin. Would Stotts just can all of them too? Does he have an assistant staff he can bring in? I doubt it, and so that leads us back to the hole they’d be in if it is decided that Griffin isn’t it and also didn’t want to promote one of the remaining assistants. Due to all of that, Griffin will likely get a good deal of time to figure things out.

To capably resist the hyperbolic is territory reserved for the sublime.

Morgan Quinn Ross asks: Can Brook Lopez fit into an Adrian Griffin defense (and offense, for that matter)? If so, how?

No and maybe, in that order for defense and offense. At least until Griffin makes calculated adjustments to the scheme. I really don’t even mind asking Brook (and everyone else) to aggressively close out open shooters if you’re the closest defender. Sure, you lose some of the boxing out and may suffer in terms of raw REB%, but if Giannis is out there he can slot into that cleanup role we’ve come so used to seeing him excel at.

The problem defensively is twofold: 1) at his age and size, can Brook excel in any scheme that doesn’t primarily park him in the paint? Probably not. 2) Is the coach willing to implement a defense that sees a traditional big in the paint as a core component? So far, no. If the philosophy doesn’t give, Brook will be catching serious time on the pine (and in the context of what Griffin values in his players, rightfully so). It would be nonsensical to keep trotting Brook out there to routinely fail to do what the coach demands, assuming, of course, that Griffin’s plan will work in the end.

Offense is a more interesting question. Frankly, the team appears to have even less of a clue about how to work together as a unit and play strong team basketball than they’ve got on defense (they’re 28th in assists). While it has worked fine enough as a slapdash freestyle to keep them afloat in two games, it isn’t nearly effective enough to carry a historically awful defense. Brook can fit into an organized offense—setting picks, popping occasionally, and even paying off having competent entry passes—but he will not shine if he’s gawking while Giannis is trying to power through four defenders. Same as it ever was.

twalk67 asks: For the last few years we have been used to the Bud’s Zone Drop defense. What defense does Adrian Griffin bring? Is it all switching? And in a perfect world, how does it work?

Warning: I’m not the Xs and Os guy. If I were to summarize what I think Griffin is aiming for, it isn’t all switching, but hyper-aggressive ball pressure. The idea being you rob ball handlers of as much space as possible, throw doubles tactically to trap them, force a bad pass, and then run your asses off to keep the pressure on and prevent the opponent from finding that last move to break your back. You are so in an opponent’s face that they lack the poise to generate consistently good looks.

Switching has a role to play here, but they’re inept at it right now and it isn’t even the primary action. Bad choices are made which result in obvious mismatches. You can tell vets used to Bud’s “conservative” approach like Brook and Pat Connaughton are struggling to bring themselves to follow marching orders — they will need to clean that up or Griffin will have to move them aside. Malik Beasley trips on himself a lot, Jae Crowder is slow, and MarJon Beauchamp can look lost. I’d argue almost all of the top 10 rotation guys on this team frankly aren’t cut out for what’s being asked right now.

G may asks: What impact does Bobby being out on the perimeter on defense have on his rebounding numbers? Should I keep him on my fantasy team?

First, let’s look at the numbers:

  • 2022–2023 (26.0 MPG): 8.0% OREB%, 26.3% DREB%, 17.2% REB%, 2.2 OREB, 7.4 DREB, 9.6 REB
  • 2023–2024 (19.6 MPG): 7.9% OREB%, 23.7% DREB%, 15.8% REB%, 1.5 OREB, 4.5 DREB, 6.5 REB

That’s a serious drop-off, made more confusing because Griffin seemingly has Bobby initiating fastbreaks or functioning as a pseudo-point forward. Interestingly enough, Bobby and Brook have played exactly zero minutes together so far this year. Compare that to 923 minutes in 67 games (~13.78 mpg) together a year ago. Not only is Bobby getting moved out of ideal rebounding position, but he has nobody out there who is focusing on bodying up opposing big men to clear the air space. If, as I implied earlier, Brook will drop out of Griffin’s favor, I’d be leery about keeping Bobby around on a fantasy roster if other options are available.

The end result? They’re dead last in raw defensive rebounding (29.5 DREB/game) and in overall rebounding so far (38.5). Yikes.

stoneAge asks: 1. What’s the best defensive lineup of the Bucks? 2. What’s the best offensive lineup? 3. Create two 5man teams which have balance at both areas. Who got left out?

Defense: Cam Payne, Andre Jackson Jr., Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez

Offense: Damian Lillard, Malik Beasley, Khris Middleton, Bobby Portis, Giannis Antetokounmpo

Team A: Damian Lillard, Andre Jackson Jr., Khris Middleton, Bobby Portis, Brook Lopez

Team B: Cam Payne, Malik Beasley, MarJon Beauchamp, Jae Crowder, Giannis Antetokounmpo

Left out: Pat Connaughton, A.J. Green, Chris Livingston, Robin Lopez, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, TyTy Washington, Marques Bolden, Lindell Wigginton

What a tough exercise that I’m sure I totally misunderstood. Note that I put the teams together based on a more logical defense and competent offense. I’m totally unsure where to land on Beasley, Crowder, and Connaughton in particular for different reasons. The first because his defense has quickly collapsed in effectiveness and his shot diet is hard to digest, the latter two because they look a step behind the pace on defense in particular. In total, I think there are currently just six guys who I’d feel safe playing in playoff minutes— Lillard, Payne, Middleton, G. Antetokounmpo, B. Lopez, and Portis.

JSOnline Castaway 2.0 asks: What do you think it’s like for a first-year head coach to replace a long-time, successful Coach Bud while still having some of his old assistants on the team? How do you navigate this?

It is probably hell, especially if the front office simultaneously picks your successor. I will say this, though: Having the previous guy’s underlings here is not necessarily a bad thing. If there was one thing the Bucks were renowned for under Bud, it was solid locker room culture. When you’re given the big clipboard for the first time ever you have to be as willing to learn/take on advice from those who have been associated with a winning setup as you are working to put your own imprint on things. Sports teams should move along something like a path of evolution where change is gradual. You refine, retain what worked, and try to find substitutes for what might need fixing. Coaches who are familiar with holdover players have a valuable role to play as intermediary between all sides. That can be useful.

PS — the holdovers are essentially Giannis’s personal coach, Vin Baker, and Sidney Dobner who was last year’s lead video assistant. Not exactly rock the boat kind of folks, I don’t think.

DonVinchi2 asks: Do you think the Bucks should trade Livingston and bring back Ingles to solidify front court and spacing depth?

I see little downside to keeping Livingston around. He has interesting physical tools but also doesn’t seem to do anything with them. Giving him a year or two to develop is a reasonable bet for the team to make unless throwing him in a deal gets a real rotation guy trade over the line.

Joe Ingles would die after one game trying to play in this defense (editor’s note: Livingston for Ingles is not a possible trade per CBA rules).

DT_Knight42 asks: Would you want the team to trade for a good perimeter defender? Like Pat + AJ Green + 2nds for Alex Caruso?

I would love that trade if they could do it. Extreme doubts about Beasley being anything other than taller Bryn Forbes will make SG a huge sore spot if Pat is closer to done than we’d hope. Caruso is one of the few guys at that position who makes the kind of salary we can realistically reach without digging into the core rotation too much. Can Alec Burks defend at all? Marcus Smart makes too much and is self-confident to the point of derangement. If Horst can thread that needle, though, that’d be a big help regardless of the defense used.

Jack The Tripper asks: Do you think Philly did well with what they got back for Harden?

If they plan on keeping the guys they acquired, then it is a largely unimpressive return for a largely unimpressive “star”. Don’t get me wrong, there is an element of addition by subtraction by ridding themselves of Harden, but let’s wait to see what Morey can flip Morris ($17 million), Batum ($11 million), and Covington ($11 million) for before we try to really evaluate the return. On paper, this is step one in a larger process and not a bad step.

G may asks: What names have been considered so far for this topic and the answer article? What were the best and worst parts of your vacation?

In no particular order, here’s the absolute mess of titles we workshopped last night (my colleague Alex did a lot of heavy lifting here):

Watering Hole, Micro-Brews, Brew-Hoopla, Home Brew, Brewing Hour, At the Brewery, Ask Brew Hoopers Anything, Inside the Writers Room, Brewed Up, Brewing It Up, Hops ‘n Hoopla, Mail Ale, Ales & Answers, Questiona-brew (Question-a-Brew?), Five-out Friday, Pick-and-Pop Quiz, Buckshot & Chaser, Stout Servings, Tart & Parcel, Bucks Brew, Warm Brew, Brewhaha, Baseline Brews, Full-Court Flavor, Brewster’s Million Questions, Stag Bag, Ale Mail, Questions & Antlers

If anything jumps out at you or you have your own suggestions, by all means throw them in the comments.

Best parts of vacation: Rome and Crete (Chania, Hora Sfakion, and Rethymno) were gorgeous in their own ways, my first Michelin star restaurant experience, the seafood, interacting with locals, meeting someone I respect immensely for the first time, being part of my wife’s first experience of Europe.

Worst parts of vacation: Way too many travel days, trying to pack too many locations in too short a time (and we spent three weeks there!), and ironically the “green star” Michelin restaurant we tried on the Italian island of Ischia.

So concludes the first edition of the Brew Hoop Mailbag. Am I wildly off the mark somewhere? Have a different take on one of the questions above? Let me know in the comments below!