Milwaukee Bucks Quarterly Report: The First Leg of the Journey
If the entire NBA season was a single NBA game, we would have just finished the first quarter. The first 12 minutes. The intro. The appetizer before the four-course meal.
It’s strange to think that the season is already 25% done, but it’s the truth – and that means it’s time for the Brew Hoops Quarterly Report. Let’s take a look at how the first 22 games have gone for the Bucks, why they’ve gone that way, and who’s emerged as the winner.
SUMMARY FOR THE FIRST QUARTER
22 games in, the Bucks are an impressive 16-6, and we’ve made it without Khris Middleton and offseason acquisition Joe Ingles (Khris made his debut against the Lakers on Friday, and he looked good… too bad we couldn’t get the W). Bucks fans should be pleasantly surprised that things have gone so well, given that we’ve been without our consensus second-best player in 21 of the 22 games.
Sure, there’s an argument to be made that this was the easiest stretch of our games, if only because we’ll never see that many home games again a quarter of the way through the season. Let’s take a quick look at the four quarters:
Quarter 1: 14 home games, 8 away games (including a 6-game home stand)
Quarter 2: 7 home games, 13 away games (including a 5-game road trip)
Quarter 3: 11 home games, 9 away games
Quarter 4: 9 home games, 11 away games (including a road trip with 4 games)
The schedule actually gets tougher as time goes on, but we should appreciate the blessing of a slightly easier schedule to open things up while some lingering injuries heal. In fact, we saw the effect of what would happen if we lost more of our starters right after our 9-0 start, when we played several games without Giannis and Jrue in the lineup. It got ugly, and it got ugly fast.
Fortunately, neither Giannis nor Jrue sat out for long, and both Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton have returned from injury. Let’s take a moment to look at three categories that tell the story of Milwaukee’s early success – The “GQ” Report, The X Factors, and The Standouts.
THE “GQ” REPORT
Giannis’ quarterly report is a thing because it feels silly to include Giannis in the Standouts section. Let’s be honest with ourselves – the guy is not only one of the best basketball players playing today, but he’s possibly one of the best ever. So it’s a given that he’s going to be a standout. It is a given that he, all by himself, is an X-factor. So Giannis will have his own section in our quarterly reports – because when he goes, so do the Bucks.
In 32.9 minutes/game, the Greek freak averages the following:
31.8 points, 11.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 54.2 FG%, 61.4 FT%, 1.0 blocks, 3.7 TO’s
- He rested for 4 games during this quarter
- He finished the quarter on a 6-game streak of 30+ point games
- In 12 of the 18 games he played, he scored 30 or more points (3 games of 40+)
Mr. Consistency is once again putting up very similar numbers to what he averaged at the end of last season. The only major difference is the number of charity stripes. While he’s been solid at the line in recent games, 61.4% is a career-worst mark and over 10% less than he averaged last season. He’s refined his FT routine, but still continues to spend far too much time centering himself — he was even hit with a 10-second line break on Friday vs. Lakers. Free throws will likely be an “area of focus” for Giannis for the rest of his career, but if he can shoot above 70% at the line consistently enough, it will help prevent teams from Hack-a-Freak’ing.
In addition to his dip in free throw efficiency, Giannis is doing what Giannis does. A perennial MVP candidate who will make you pay if you don’t respect him enough to double or triple him in the paint, Antetokounmpo is sooooo stinking good and we should count our lucky stars that he’s playing with us, instead of against us. I mean, who in their right mind would want to guard this?
Oh, and he did his best Lebron impression… on the king himself!
THE X FACTORS
Defense! Defense! Defense!
We can’t even begin to talk about the team’s success in Milwaukee before discussing their defense. Since the jump, the Bucks have boasted the league’s best defense, with a rating of 107.47. Want to score against Milwaukee? You better get right, because these players are locked in. In addition to having a center who currently leads the league in blocks/plays, we have two-time DPOY Giannis Antetokounmpo swarming the paint, and should-have-been-in-contestation-for-the-DPOY-award long ago Jrue Holiday chasing guards on the perimeter. Add in Jevon Carter and his #treadmill and you’ve got yourself a wall of trouble…if you’re the opposing team.
The Bucks also have the second best mark in the league for opponent floor shooting %, allowing only 44.8% of the other team’s shot to find the bottom of the net. I know it’s still early in the season and maintaining a solid defensive mindset all season is no easy feat, but if we can somehow manage to do that, we’ll set ourselves up for success when the time comes to cling to the playoff table.
Cleaning the glass is our specialty
The Milwaukee Bucks are second in the league in rebounds/game, with only the Memphis Grizzlies ahead of them (what good is Steven Adams?). The Bucks also lead the league in defensive rebounds/plays, which means we prioritize the one-and-done rule, not allowing opponents a second chance to score. We can afford to do that because we have one of the most terrifying transition tanks in the game, which can take 2.5 steps and is already pounding on you. We also sit 9th in offensive rebounds/game, with much of that work being done by Bobby Portis, who hunts them down like he has a disease, and the only cure is offensive boards.
The Budenholzer effect
We have to acknowledge the adjustment that Mike Budenholzer made before the start of the season here as well. Living and dying by allowing the opposition to have open 3-pointers so the paint can be protected was never going to last, at least not with how prevalent the deep shot has become in today’s game, and Coach Bud realized that and planned accordingly. We finished last season dead last “Opponent 3P try/game” column (40.5 attempts) and so far this season we are in 5th place, on 31.5 attempts/match.
It is a deliberate, collective team effort that comes from the top down. This should come as no surprise to anyone. You don’t win an NBA championship while being a “meh” head coach. Budenholzer knows what he’s doing, even if he doesn’t always seem like it (ie continuing to play Grayson Allen in the Boston playoff series last season was a real head scratcher imo) Regardless, we should trust Bud, because he’s shifted some of the tectonic the plates in Milwaukee and has them starting the season as the most ferocious defensive squad in the league. Props to Coach Bud for making the adjustment, which forces teams to choose between taking a contested hail marie and driving into the paint where we have two defensive toughs who want you to try something…
Splash Mountain. The giant eraser. the 86er.
Brooke Lopez has to headline our standout so far this season because he’s playing off his feet. At 34, he’s averaging career-best marks in both blocks/game (3.0!) and 3P% (41.7). I mean, just take a look.
The Giant Eraser strikes again!
Talk about an unexpected and VERY welcome surprise. This is a man who missed all of last season after undergoing back surgery. Imagine having back surgery at the ripe old age of 33 and then not only getting back into shape, but surpassing it. He gives “f*ck out of here with that” energy on the defensive end of the field, while spraying bombs from a distance on the other end.
Bobby Buckets. Bobby Boards. Mr. Milwaukee.
The heart and soul of the Bench Mob, Bobby Portis provides a shot in the arm for the Bucks coming off the bench, averaging a double-double for the first time in his career. In 26.9 minutes/game, Bobby averages 13.7 points and 10.4 rebounds. Yes, we’re only a quarter of the way through the season and keeping up those kinds of numbers is no easy task – but if he can, he’ll easily be in the Sixth Man of the Year. He’s currently tied for 4th in double-doubles on the season, and remember – he’s doing all of this off the bench, which means he’s getting it done in fewer minutes than the others in that category. Fun fact: he has 1 double double more than Giannis! May chants of “BOBBY! BOBBY! BOBBY!” eternal echo in the halls of the forum.
Jevon “Bulldog” Carter. The treadmill. The pest.
What a relief it has been to have Jevon play for the Bucks! With the injuries we’ve been dealing with, the question for everyone before the season started was: “Who’s going to go up?” Well, look no further my friends – Jevon Carter has answered that call. He has doubled his minutes/game this season, and as a result he has doubled his points/game (8.9) and is averaging 3.4 assists/game, another career high. Carter also shoots extremely well, with one 43.7 / 41.0 / 84.2 share. As cool as that is, it’s not the stats that really matter to his game. It’s about his energy, his stress. Jevon must be incredibly annoying to play against, especially if you’re a point guard who brings the ball up the court. As soon as that ball comes in to you, Plague is buzzing in your ear. He brings players on full court for the entire game and has done so in 22 games so far this season, at the intense clip of 27.1 minutes/game. He probably won’t continue to start now that Khris is back, but if anyone has made a case for why they should be in the rotation so far this season, it’s Bulldog.
Jrueth. Jrue That. Doc Holiday.
Jrue didn’t make the Standouts because he’s not quite in mid-season form yet, and he had a minor injury, missing 5 games during that stretch. He’s better than he lets on, and he’ll probably be the first to admit it. However, he lit up the Lakers for a cool 28 points, and looked more himself.
Although he is averaging a respectable 18.4 points/game and 7.4 assists/game, his shooting percentages are down from previous seasons. That said, he continues to be a lock down defender, leading the team in steals/game (1.6). I’m sure as the season goes on we will see The Jrueth come out at full strength.
A 16-6 start to the season is nothing to turn your nose up at. Stay locked up, Milwaukee. The season is long and the road ahead is full of challengers, but when we reach a full bill of health as a team, we can see the Bucks transform into their final form. If we keep winning at this clip, we’re looking at a 60-win season. Don’t get me wrong, it would be exciting, but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that the Bucks build good habits, making it extremely difficult for opponents to score, and protecting the perimeter against a tangle of threes. As long as they continue to do these things, their offenses will eventually show up.
The first quarter of the season is in the books. Three more to go.
Stay steady, be ready, and above all else…let it fly, Milwaukee!