Do you guys think Damian Lillard reads the MMMR? I didn’t think so either until I compared his impact on Milwaukee’s offense to lowly Jrue Holiday, only for Lillard to rip off a three game stretch averaging 25.7 points, 6.3 assists, and 4.7 rebounds while seeming to have once again found his outside shot. That, plus game-winners. Sorry, Dame. My bad.
For this week’s intro, I want to go to Jon Horst rather than return to Dame. What better time than now to shift our gaze back to the GM after a 1-4 start to 2024 was mended by a 3-0 run against decent competition? We’ve come to expect that sort of up and down rollercoaster ride feel with this team as constructed — we can lament concerning losses because that is what this team is while expecting signature victories a few days later because that is also what this team is. In a phrase, consistently inconsistent (yet still talented enough to be in the title picture).
Given that reality, there is one guy who has the ability to exchange pieces on the board to push the team’s balance a step further towards consistent winning. What is interesting about Horst is how far-ranging he can be in the offseason and how tightly focused he is once the season begins. See: the Holiday and Lillard trades followed by trade deadlines where we all more or less knew the kind of player he was seeking on the market.
So it was with PJ Tucker, so it was with Jae Crowder, and so it probably will be with unnamed defensive wing XYZ the Bucks currently seek. If there is one thing you can rely upon Horst for, it is pulling out all the stops to get whomever his guy of the moment is. While the asset cupboard is grim, I fully expect Horst to make something happen if only because he’s the kind of executive who wants to make every adjustment possible to help win. The end result is usually a successful deal at the deadline, a boost to team fortunes for the following six months, and a murkier future.
But we’re in too deep now to start worrying about tomorrow. Horst knows that, Horst is telling us he knows that, and Horst will do what he thinks is needed to keep digging. There is no turning back.
Milwaukee Bucks Links
This unfortunately means a lot less since Adam Silver opted to rob us of the Captains Picking Teams format of recent vintage. I’ll always be grateful that the NBA’s experiment coincided perfectly with Giannis’s captaincy so we could get, “Isn’t that tampering?” on national television.
Bucks respond ‘like champions’ in lopsided, bounce-back win over league-leading Celtics (CBS Sports) & Celtics lose 135-102 scheduled loss against Bucks in hilarious fashion (Celtics Blog)
There is no such thing as a make-or-break game when there are 82 of them, especially when they fall in January. But a loss (close or otherwise) to the Celtics last Thursday would’ve been another tough body blow to a team on its heels. While our compatriots over at Celtics Blog can laugh and joke at their team’s intentional ineptitude, we will take a needed win to stabilize the boat — assuming, of course, that finding the shortest path to firing Adrian Griffin is not your primary goal.
Bucks shaking off recent slump behind star trio (NBA.com/NBATV)
Within Isiah Thomas’s observation that a coach can rest easy knowing he’ll get close to 100 points from Giannis, Damian Lillard, and Khris Middleton so long as they have solid games is the double-edge of the hope for ~20-30 points from the bench. Those guys will burn up a lot of usage to get themselves to those 100 collective points and it then behooves everyone else to be efficient in the remaining margins. That is doable, but asks for a certain balance or intentionality to make a recurring reality.
It is very funny that the league paid a trio of medical experts to put together a 57 page report, and for this to be the parting shot on NBA.com:
Now, armed with information and data gathered by the league, those performance staffs can make decisions that may or may not deviate from what has become the norm.
I appreciate efforts to try and paint load management as having gone overboard, but it is all just grasping for a happy medium where one can never exist. You’ve got to try, I suppose, even without many enforcement mechanisms.
Clutch Game numbers from Zach Kram (The Ringer)
You’ll have to scroll about halfway down Kram’s article to get the full context here, it being the fact that the Warriors have played a huge % of clutch games this year. I bring this up only because the Bucks have had to finish more clutch games this season than in awhile — although not to the extent Golden State has — and that a high number of regular season games going down to the wire typically point to weaker post-season prospects. Just thought it was an interesting way to gauge overall team strength.
Know Your NBA Enemy
Cleveland Cavaliers - Fear the Sword - Cavs have ‘zero interest’ in trading Donovan Mitchell
Barring Mitchell telling the Cavs behind the scenes that he plans on bouncing in the near-future, there is no incentive for Cleveland to bail just yet. A great scorer who isn’t even 28 yet with strength to boot is a cornerstone. The question is what pieces you move around him to build a viable contender with him in the mix. Figure this team has one more run with their core to see what’s what and then make moves from there.
Detroit Pistons - Detroit Bad Boys - Tom Gores promised ‘change’ in Detroit, but there are 29 reasons it hasn’t happened
Another bleak assessment of a bleak year for the Pistons. Seems like Monty Williams can’t or is uninterested in getting to grips with variations to stoke the possibility of positive change, few of the young guys have been impressive, and those some players’ trade market is tepid at best. As of writing, they’ve won three games. Three.
Update: That Marvin Bagley trade. Lol.
Comment of the Week
Having done the lazy thing in literally looking at base stat lines and hinting that Jrue v. Dame hasn’t resulted in a big change in the Bucks fortunes, Dirk_Tan is here post-Celtics to affirm that Jrue v. Dame is, indeed, a consequential change:
Frank Madden’s tweet is a salient counterpoint to anyone who keeps touting the “Bucks should have never traded Jrue for Dame” line.
Every time Jrue kept forcing three’s off the dribble last night, it took me back to games when he was in a doing it in a Bucks jersey (in big games, no less) and seeing the results translate in roughly the same manner just reaffirms that trading Jrue away was a necessity for this team to contend at a higher level. None of this is meant to diminish what Jrue did for this team, but it was time to roll the dice and see what other paths to a championship could be explored.
The Social Media Section
He was able to cut the runtime down a whole hour from episode 1 to episode 2. Thank you, MarJon
Trust me when I say you should seriously be contemplating every three-point jumper you take, Giannis
Khris has a sense of humor about himself which is good
I assume the unwritten part of Dame’s post is “Our God (Emperor Goof) is an awesome God (Emperor Goof)”
Malik has to advise his photographer in the stands to lower the frame just a tish
Money was paid to numerous people for this to make it into the public sphere. Wtf.
Bossmann back... with new merch!
Jeezy hasn’t missed in years
Slide three is where you want to be
Checking in on Mafuzzy
Riley’s 2023-2024 Regular Season Prediction Record: 21-19
Milwaukee Bucks 2023-2024 Actual Regular Season Record: 28-12
Thanks to a bunched up schedule to finish last week, the Bucks get something of a breather over the next seven days:
- @ Cleveland Cavaliers, Wednesday — 6:30 PM CT
- @ Detroit Pistons, Saturday — 2:00 PM CT
I feel pretty good about two wins here. Cleveland is carrying on without Darius Garland (broken jaw) and Evan Mobley (knee surgery) and should be a subdued threat accordingly, and the Pistons are the Pistons. Rack up another two wins against division foes, grab a smidge more breathing room at the two seed, and keep the heat on the Celtics. Its all within reach.