New, meet old.
On last week’s inaugural edition of Questions & Antlers — specifically the Antlers pieces — I had noted that sports organizations need to constantly be moving along a line of evolution. It isn’t so much about, “working hard every day,” “competing,” “being better than yesterday,” really. That has a role to play, but only when done with a destination in mind.
For the Bucks through the first four games of the season, coach Adrian Griffin that destination was in a completely new defensive direction while integrating a scoring PG on the fly. Instead of gradual changes, Griffin tried to get the team to leap onto a whole new path. The result: Awful defensive metrics and serious questions on whether the starting center had any business being on the court in this new scheme.
And so evolutionary gravity pulled the Bucks (and Griffin) back down. Last Friday night, Griffin made a change to the base defense that is familiar to us, but radical in the context of his ideal scheme. By parking Brook Lopez in the paint more often, his defense improved its shot contesting in the paint in a statistically significant way. Ball pressure and traps weren’t gone, but were dialed back in harmony with what we’d expect a fusion of old and new to look like.
It is encouraging that such a change came this quickly. Rather than keep hammering away at something ill-suited for his players Griffin has, for now, accepted the need to retain some roots of what came before. We were never going to go from conservative to all-out aggressive in one training camp and do so capably. The test now is to identify the forward steps that take the whole in the direction Griffin prefers without undercutting the chances of winning on a nightly basis. A long year benefits the Bucks.
Milwaukee Bucks Links
Bucks players convinced Adrian Griffin to change the team’s defensive approach in win over Knicks (CBS Sports)
Already discussed quite a bit around the Bucks corner of the internet, I’m going to stake out my position on Griffin heeding the requests of his players as a good thing. I’d much rather your head coach be willing to take feedback from players who are themselves professionals than hammer away with something that won’t fit. There is something of a balance between competitive results, leaving your own imprint, and keeping everyone happy that needs to be found, and Griffin took a step in the right direction v. the Knicks.
Damian Lillard is playing the worst defense of his career, and it might cost more than just the Bucks (CBS Sports)
An interesting piece, and the author, Brad Botkin, should get credit for going through some bad Bucks defensive film to spot Lillard being an anchor in particular. Is he coasting more so than usual? Is this the normal Damian Lillard defensive experience?
Assuming we’d get, at best, some more effort out of Dame, I think it is upon this point in particular that Malik Beasley’s starting role hinges. You’re hard-pressed to cover for one ineffectual defender, but not two, and not if both are going to let opposing guards run wild.
Here’s the 2023-24 Bucks City Edition uniform, complete with an “abstract speckle pattern” of Deer District fans (Milwaukee Record)
Can you guys spot yourself in the speckle pattern? I think I’m the spot 3/4ths of an inch above the Motorola logo.
It honestly wouldn’t even be that bad if they didn’t pick that green in particular. The wavy “MILWAUKEE” hat the model is wearing in the final picture is actually kind of cool, but that searing green under the bill is too much. At least our NBA Cup court is the least bad of the entire league’s.
Flavor Flav singing the national anthem at a Bucks game, plus 3 random social media reactions for some reason (Milwaukee Record)
Two CBS Sports pieces in a row and now two Milwaukee Record pieces in a row. The Forum has played host to some iconic music moments between the Flav anthem and the Ja Rule halftime bonanza. It will never top Fergie at the NBA All-Star Game, though:
The Ringer’s Guide to the NBA In-Season Tournament (The Ringer)
We’re through the first round of group stage Cup games, and while I’m still not fully invested in the project I believe the NBA has the right idea with the unique courts and mini-tourney. Early regular season play means players still fresh enough to go toe-to-toe even on bad teams which helps avoid inevitability in who advances from each group. I expect the semi-finals and Final held in Las Vegas to do really well relative to the NBA’s usual mid-December offerings.
Some intriguing data in here about why trades are becoming larger in terms of number of participants. It comes in part due to increasing connectivity between front offices around the NBA, and the large split between haves and have-nots when it comes to assets/cap space/draft capital. Constraints that would once have made a mooted two-team trade impossible can be forgone by involving a third or fourth team to smooth the edges. Makes sense to me.
FanPost/Comment of the Week
My thanks go out to dgroll1 for getting a FanPost in over the weekend to take home the hardware. “2 early season questions” goes back to the Middleton-Sixth-Man watering hole alongside some thoughts on how to best utilize Bobby Portis. Given how much lineup mixing we’ve seen from Griffin, don’t be surprised if we see more Khris/subs lineups even if Middleton never starts on the bench.
Our first Comment of the Week award goes to Chud Butterbacon who did the research for this beauty on the Knicks full post-game piece:
Early season stats of note (sorry in advance for long, possibly pointless, post)
Shooting allowed at the rim
vs NY: 57.1%
1st 4 games: 80.1%
Changes to how Brook is being used are obviously paying off as he’s actually allowed to be a rim protector, which he excels at. Knicks don’t play 5 out, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Bucks handle teams with their bigs on the perimeter going forward.
Much (MUCH) more to read on the comment over on the piece linked above.
Know Your NBA Enemy
If there is one area where the Bucks have looked gifted thus far, it is in having one of the few individuals of carrying the team over the finish line in close games. Against the Knicks and the Sixers, Damian Lillard ignited late to nab the victory. For Brooklyn, it is still a matter of developing that skill in one of its revamped core’s players.
Detroit Pistons - Detroit Bad Boys - Prospect Stock Watch Vol. 1: Cade-Duren pick-and-rolls
Pick and rolls? What the hell is that all about?
Indian Pacers - Indy Cornrows - Haliburton, Pacers looking for help in crunch time
Another team, another ongoing search for a holistic solution to close endgame situations. Just the other night in their first group stage game against the Charlotte Hornets, Tyrese Haliburton got knocked around by LaMelo Ball and ultimately lost his team the game with a bad turnover. These Cup games with artificial stakes can be a learning environment, too.
Orlando Magic - Rest in Peace Orlando Pinstriped Post
The Social Media Section
Important reporting from the front lines
OUR FIRST JACKPOT SHOT WINNER OF THE YEAR— Gabe Stoltz (@Stoltzy3) November 4, 2023
HE HAS LEFT THE BUILDING pic.twitter.com/r2RD8VOaWj
The lane of the Heat’s new culture court. pic.twitter.com/qVrG5PAqPV— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) November 5, 2023
Proof that our court could always be worse:
Just starting to dig through Marques’s backlog
The God Emperor Goof Dynasty in action
Giannis content on the TV in the background. It’s about brotherhood.
I’m ready, coach
Riley’s 2023-2024 Regular Season Prediction Record: 2-3
Milwaukee Bucks 2023-2024 Actual Regular Season Record: 3-2
For the first time this season the Bucks will spend a majority of their coming week on the road:
- @ Brooklyn Nets, Monday - 6:30 PM CT
- v. Detroit Pistons, Wednesday - 7:00 PM CT
- @ Indiana Pacers, Thursday - 6:00 PM CT
- @ Orlando Magic, Saturday - 5:00 PM CT
I’ll go for wins over the Nets, Pacers, and Magic and a loss to the Magic. Indiana’s defense is one of the few that are worse than our own, and we’ve got a Brook Lopez adjustment to ride our way out of the bottom third of the league on that mark. Meanwhile, the Magic have the second-best defense in the entire league with a middling offense to boot; can the Bucks break through and keep the lid on the other end? Should be some interesting matchups!