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Monday Morning Media Roundup: The Pace Puzzle

Milwaukee Bucks links for your perusal on January 22nd, 2024

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

I began writing this week’s intro with a conclusion in mind before going in search of the data. My idea was that the Bucks must surely suffer in terms of Ws and Ls in high-pace affairs — forgetting completely that they’re one of the highest pace teams in the league and having my mind infected by those four losses to the Pacers. When I did the research on team record in games above/below their season pace average, I got the following:

  • 14-5 (.737) in games w/pace >101.7
  • 15-8 (.652) in games w/pace <101.7

In fact, you take out those four losses to Indiana and the Bucks have lost just one game where the pace was above 101.7 (to the Atlanta Hawks back in October). The simple conclusion there then is that a fast game is one that strongly plays into Milwaukee’s hands; give individually great offensive players more shots and good things mostly happen.

What I’m curious about is when the pace drops in the playoffs. In the 12 games the Bucks have played at or below the league-average pace of 99.2, they’ve gone 7-5. What happens when games tend to become ever slower once the playoffs hit? Last year the league’s postseason featured an average pace of just 96.1; the Bucks have hit that mark in just two games so far and are 1-1 there. There are two knock-on effects I can envision for Milwaukee in slow environments:

1) The great offense will have fewer bites at the apple, but should also have a larger percentage of those reduced attempts running through Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard

2) A team defense that gives up the most transition opportunities to opponents in the league may be less prone to constantly bleeding for 48 minutes

Pace drops in the playoffs for any number of reasons: Coaches value every possession more, running and gunning in the open court can be wasteful/dangerous if not executed well, defenses are allowed to be more physical, etc. Could all of that end up benefitting Milwaukee? Can an organic reduction in the speed of games provide just enough cover for the defense to hold steady while the offense keeps grinding out results?

You’d rather the team create its own luck (i.e. be better defensively on their own merits), but we’re starting to slide past the point where that seems feasible. If godawful transition opportunities aren’t as much of an issue, though, maybe, just maybe, it could go according to plan.

Or maybe I’m full of it.

Let’s roundup!


Milwaukee Bucks Links

Giannis Antetokounmpo has a vision for his new production company that goes beyond the borders of both typical athlete content and the U.S. (Sports Business Journal)

Interesting stuff insofar as the miasma of production companies, distributors, and athletes-turned-media-moguls is interesting to any of us. What I’m curious about is what Giannis would star in post-upcoming documentary. There is obviously a lot of value in being able to directly tell that story with your own emphases and recollections. Then what? Besides the Thanasis Show Podcast, of course. Stay tuned.

UGO: A Homecoming Story Ft. Giannis Antetokounmpo (WhatsApp Documentary on YouTube)

WhatsApp had been teasing this a few months back and now it is live. At around 30 minutes in length, I enjoyed it quite a bit. The journey to find and understand your roots can be challenging for any number of reasons, but equally clarifying. I’m happy for Giannis that he has gotten and is taking the opportunity to seek a part of himself no matter the distance.

Bobby Marks’ Milwaukee Bucks Trade Guide (ESPN)

Good overview of the situation by Marks, especially the upcoming constraints that will kick in this summer when the new CBA’s restrictions go live. As far as buyouts are concerned, the thing to keep in mind is the Bucks can only sign a guy who was bought out and made no more than $12.5 million — PJ Tucker would fall into this range, but some of the highly paid guys who are on the outs on losing teams would not (i.e. Gordon Hayward).

Dejounte Murray’s Trade Value (The Ringer)

If you were like me and hadn’t been keeping close tabs on the progress of Dejounte Murray and the Atlanta Hawks, The Ringer’s Zach Kram has us covered. Thought this offered a clear-eyed assessment of Murray’s regression as a defender from his Spurs heyday. He has a promising physical profile, but I wonder at the fit if he isn’t able to find his form again should he suddenly become a Milwaukee Buck. On offense, the risk is that of duplicated efforts or inefficiency due to a lack of strong organization/principles. Fun to think about what ifs, though.

Bold predictions for 2nd half of 2023-24 (NBA.com)

Throwing this in here just to give a shoutout to the prediction that the Bucks would finish the season outside the East’s top four seeds. Having to go through the playoffs almost completely on the road? What a nightmare that would be. (Not to mention the quality of the discourse that would inevitably follow such an outcome)

Know Your NBA Enemy

Detroit Pistons - Detroit Bad Boys - Jaden Ivey is cooking, but will Monty Williams let it continue?

Idk, sounds to me like a classic case of pouncing on the opportunity to “sell high” on one of your offense-first young guys to start moving things in a semblance of a direction. Use the rest of the season to evaluate what you have and be ready to hit the trade market in the summer.

Cleveland Cavaliers - Fear the Sword - Cavaliers are becoming the East’s ultimate wildcard

I deeply appreciate the urge to use the absolute pantsing of the Bucks as an inference point about the changes Cleveland’s offense is undergoing, but our defense is awful. What matters for Milwaukee is the fact that a number of teams are starting to follow a blueprint to heighten the odds of victory: Run. A lot. The Bucks won’t be running in turn.

New Orleans Pelicans - The Bird Writes - Has Zion Williamson Reached A Turning Point As A Defender?

Some of the weak side defense clips give me Giannis vibes when Mike Budenholzer’s scheme had him ready to pounce in support of his teammates. The downside for Zion long-term is that he is even more reliant upon outlier athleticism than Giannis is, but if Williamson is locked in now, it’ll help get the job done for New Orleans this season.

Comment of the Week

Friend of the site rcon14 was back to rile folks up again with the second piece in a season-long Adrian Griffin evaluation series. There were good comments (stoneAge the optimist, ClutchRhino! the doomer, etc.), but I liked this bit of play type data from Tornado13:

Giannis has taken a shot as the PnR Roll man 7.4% of his possessions this season for 1.22 points per possession (PPP). Of players who get at least 2 shot attempts per game as the roll man, Giannis would rank in the top 15. Noteworthy, it’s also nearly as efficient a play as Giannis is in transition this season (1.24PPP), and it’s more efficient than when Giannis shoots as the PnR handler (1.16PPP) and Giannis gets nearly double the attempts there. Why in the world would Giannis get more shots as the handler than the roller? I know it’s more nuanced than that (if the defense collapses on the Giannis roll, someone else gets the shot credit), but Giannis’s PnR roller shots attempts have not increased by much with the acquisition of Damian Lillard. Dame’s PnR handler attempts have gone down since coming to Milwaukee. This is all just bland data, but the eye test says that lot’s more attempts in the high PnR with Giannis and Dame, especially with hitting Giannis on the short roll when appropriate, will open things up for everyone else. Their offense should be better, and they need a defensive scheme that fits their personnel.

As was noted on that article and elsewhere around the site, it feels like a great offense is still just scratching the surface of its potential. There is plenty of time left to get there in the regular season.

The Social Media Section

Giannis said a dub is a dub

I think this is an Africa Cup of Nations post, but mostly a post to show off Serge’s physique?

MarJon make a case for taking all of Pat’s minutes Challenge

Bobby doing his best to make trading him away from the community as painful as possible

Lowkey love the fit here

Thankful that Robin has the self-awareness that no amount of shoe customization will return him to the fountain of youth. Keep posting through it, brother.

Seems like an important secondary goal for this Bucks squad is moving merch?

Ain’t no way Cam Payne squared up to Dame. And the media isn’t covering this???


Riley’s 2023-2024 Regular Season Prediction Record: 22-20

Milwaukee Bucks 2023-2024 Actual Regular Season Record: 29-13

I think I read somewhere that a lot of NBA teams are playing divisional foes this week in something artificially christened Rivalry Week. Sure, I guess.

  • @ Detroit Pistons, Monday — 6:00 PM CT
  • v. Cleveland Cavaliers, Wednesday — 7:00 PM CT
  • v. Cleveland Cavaliers, Friday — 7:00 PM CT
  • v. New Orleans Pelicans, Saturday — 7:00 PM CT

Detroit has played Milwaukee close, but haven’t prevailed just yet, so I feel decent about a win there. Does Giannis returning to the lineup against Cleveland do enough to erase last week’s result? Probably, although I think someone(s) will sit on Friday night and so a 1-1 mark against Cleveland awaits there. Finally, the Pelicans are top-10 in both offense and defense and should be a fun challenge. Put me down as a win as they’ll be traveling right after a home game against the Thunder on Friday.

Happy Monday!