Milwaukee Bucks Weekly Wednesday Wrap-up

We’re getting closer to the All-Star Break, and while the regular season often seems endless, it dawned on me that we were already halfway through a few games. Sleepwalking isn’t exactly the term I’d use for this Milwaukee Bucks team, but if we’re going to massage that language, “selective execution errors” might be more appropriate. When they’re locked in, like the thump of Golden State, there’s a noticeable difference from some of the fightbus sequences we’re subjected to in less prominent games. Unfortunately, the schedule won’t hold up from now on, and while I haven’t really let one season loss get me down, I’d rather avoid falling too far back in the standings. Let’s wrap up.

The week that was

The Bucks shocked the Draymond Green-less Warriors team. Most surprising to me was how the Bucks seemed to dominate them with pace, speed and determination on both sides of the floor. They threw a cog in their “perfect game” and shorted Curry’s motor with… intense facial protection. Solid stuff. Then the Bucks lost to Toronto and blew it up against Atlanta in the fourth quarter. Another “ugh” week I’d say.

Weekly question

We all know the stat by now, Milwaukee is 16-3 with their big three of Giannis, Khris and Jrue on the floor. In a broad sense, this is the most important takeaway from the start of this season. Even without their fourth best player (IMHO) in Brook Lopez all year, when the Bucks almost very, they have been almost invincible. That hasn’t stopped us from wringing our hands in the games without that trio, though, and after the past two weeks, I can’t blame you if your hands are a teenager bit raw.

If that’s the case, I suggest you look for some lotion, but I’m also trying to consider the bigger schedule. I covered a lot of this team’s overall numbers in last week’s recap, but I wanted to see how they perform in games where they don’t have their menacing triumvirate all together. The only caveat I have on everything below is that there are also other omissions during many of these games that you should be aware of for the full picture. Example: Last week Giannis and Khris tried to carry a team without Jrue…AND just about every other guard on the roster. So take some of the things below with a grain of salt, but hopefully it’s instructive to see how the different permutations of the superstars have fared without each other.

Recording on player(s) Missing

Type of game W l
Type of game W l
No Giannis 3 2
No Giannis / Khris 1 1
No Jrue 3 7
No Jrue/Khris 1 2
No Khris 3 3
Not a big 3 0 1
All big 3 16 3

That’s a lot of segments to sift through, but it still strikes me that no Jrue has resulted in such a skewed WL record. A lot of that came in in the past week, so that’s really distorting it. Anyway, that’s kind of in line with how I think this season has felt so far. Let’s take a closer look at the games without every star.

Going forward, I’m only going to focus on games where the Bucks left just one of their stars. I’d say many of us would say two out of the big three intact means they should still be preferred. Only one of them makes winning much more dangerous, so we’re going to omit those data points. We’re also dealing with minuscule sample sizes here, of course, so keep that in mind as well. Here’s a rough sketch of how their Offensive and Defensive ratings stacked up without each of their key players versus when they’re all available. I based this one on Basketball Reference’s “starting grid” data. It’s not the best barometer as it still has games like the one in Boston where Khris barely played a half before leaving with an injury, but it’s what we have.

Off./Final Missing Player Ratings

Type of game Spell Out. Rating sure Review Net valuation
Type of game Spell Out. Rating sure Review Net valuation
Full season 46 112 108.3 3.7
All big 3 19 117.1 107.7 9.4
No Giannis 5 114.9 106.9 8.0
No Jrue 10 106.1 110.0 -3.9
No Khris 6 113.9 112.8 1.1

Out of all of them, the key data point is still that they destroyed teams with all three players on the field, rated +9.4 in 19 matches. Second, that’s probably the Jrue Holiday number, a net score of -3.9 in games without him. Some of that drastic figure still stems from the 137-95 thrashing they faced early in the season when Miami ostensibly won the championship. Remove that data point and they are almost exactly the same from a net classification standpoint. But even at a net rating of 0.0 that would mean they’ve underperformed quite a bit with a score of 3-7 if he’s out. Luckily we’re all rational enough here not to be “better off without Giannis?” argument based on the above net rating. Let’s look at four factors using the same groupings to see if the type of game differed at all.

Offensive Four Factors

Type of game Spell eFG% TOV% ORB% FT / FGA
Type of game Spell eFG% TOV% ORB% FT / FGA
Full season 46 53.40% 12.50% 23.10% 0.186
All big 3 19 55.94% 12.38% 24.16% 0.212
No Giannis 5 51.20% 10.88% 26.80% 0.202
No Jrue 10 50.26% 12.68% 19.35% 0.219
No Khris 6 55.05% 10.43% 21.72% 0.118

Defensive Four Factors

Type of game Spell eFG% TOV% DRB% FT / FGA
Type of game Spell eFG% TOV% DRB% FT / FGA
Full season 46 51.70% 12.30% 77.80% 0.165
All big 3 19 52.53% 11.57% 81.89% 0.151
No Giannis 5 50.78% 12.18% 76.52% 0.178
No Jrue 10 50.66% 11.38% 75.30% 0.181
No Khris 6 53.15% 11.68% 75.15% 0.139

A few things from these charts. First off, it’s no surprise to me that Jrue’s absence has increased the turnover rate for this time, much more than if either of Khris or Giannis are out. Still, they’re right in the middle of the pack in terms of turnover percentage as a team for the full year, and the figure without Jrue is not far from what they average over the full season or when all three are available. So, as much as that has been a storyline through these losses, it hasn’t been if a big problem compared to what the big scheme numbers tell us. Additionally, the bloated OREB% without Giannis is a small sample quirk as the Bucks posted a bloated 38% OREB in their win over Miami without the Greek Freak.

They have also just shot hard this season in games without Giannis and Jrue. In the ten games without Jrue in particular, the team’s 50.26 eFG% would be just above New Orleans for fifth-worst grade in the league. Combine bad shooting with more sales, and you have the ideal recipe for ruining some winning games.

Again, the key stat is obvious, in that in games with the Big Three intact, they shoot better, bounce better on both sides, barely make mistakes, and make mistakes themselves at a reasonable pace. All the indicators of a top flying team are there, and they confirm the WL record.

This isn’t extensive lineup data, this isn’t a huge sample size, this is just food for thought when you consider how the team has performed without one of their core three. As I mentioned above, the numbers match the eye test when all three are on the field. Amid all the bumps and bruises along the way, this season’s core mission is always to get those three players healthy and into the post-season. It’s easy and understandable to see your frustrated eyes drifting to those other stats, but the team is keeping an eye on the Playoff prize and I’m trying to do my best for that too.

That being said, Here you go Bucks, don’t lose to the Bulls this week…

Play of the week

Wow, there were some nice, longstanding chemistry connections scattered throughout that awesome Steve Kerr’s Warriors takedown. It was also much needed for this week’s rosters, as the Raptors game was more like trench warfare than aerial acrobatics and the Hawks game left a rock mark on the old peaks. Anyway, I still found a few highlights that stood out.

Giannis – Extraordinary Fit

This is sort of a spiritual successor to last week’s roster, when Giannis hurled a right-hand pass from the left elbow straight through the D to a waiting Bobby Portis in the corner. I’d say this one is better not just because of the casualness, but because it collects the ball on the short throw and diagnoses the defense at that point so he can make the saucer as soon as he touches the rock. And the accuracy in Allen’s shooting bag. masterly.

Bobby, Donte, Grayson, Dunk

This is a fun sequence to shout out as it features some of the lesser heralded stars, and it all starts with Bobby Portis playing a solid isolation defense against OG Anunoby around the perimeter. Anunoby still has a long way to go as primary ballhandler, but Portis shuffles his feet well and uses his active hands before tossing a lead ball to Donte, who sprints across the floor. When Wes Matthews sees Grayson Allen flying, the vet wisely lets the young man have this one, and Donte gives Allen a perfect one-handed bounce pass to do the trick. Nice to see that Donte forms some chemistry with his replacement the new security guard on campus.

Fancy Footwork by Khris

This jersey is just too slick not to highlight, with Middleton gaining an inch with his arm, dribbling between the legs before a side/back step into the corner for a cold-cut trio over Collins? Awesome.

ATO A-Plus

We haven’t mentioned that many ATO plays in this section, but this one got me against the Hawks on Monday. Hill gets the ball on top of the arch while Allen places a screen to free Giannis below and Portis simultaneously places George with one to block Trae Young. That’s all bullshit though, as Khris Middleton starts his sprint through the lane and Allen puts a backscreen on Okongwu (who’s actually Giannis’ defender) while Deandre Hunter chases Khris to the other side of the floor. But guess what, that’s even MORE fluff to the final crescendo, which is Allen making his way to the top of the arch while his defender, Huerter, remains stunned. Portis gets a body on Huerter while trying to recover late, but Allen already has the ball and is gearing up for an easy triple. It doesn’t fall, but it’s a nice set. And fluffy!

That’s enough to wrap up this week. As always, thanks for reading and vote for your favorite piece in the poll below.

opinion poll

January 19: The play of the week is…

  • 62%

    Giannis – Extraordinary Fit

    (5 votes)

  • 12%

    Bobby, Donte, Grayson, Dunk

    (1 vote)

  • 25%

    Fancy Footwork by Khris

    (2 votes)


8 votes in total

Vote now

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