Reviewing Milwaukee’s start to the season
Eugene Choursoutoglou reviews the positives and negatives after a strong start to the Bucks 2022-23 season.
Editor’s note: the following article was written by Gyro Step assistant producer Eugene Choursoutoglou. Follow him on Twitter for more of his Bucks thoughts!
The Milwaukee Bucks have started the season 11-3, with their last win coming against a strong Cavaliers team. Despite the injuries, the Bucks hold the second best record in the Eastern Conference.
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Milwaukee had a historic start to the season, going 9-0 before losing their first game in Atlanta. They’ve been 2-2 since, which is not that bad considering the fact that they’ve been dealing with so many injuries. Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton haven’t made their debuts so far this season, Joe Ingles is still recovering from a knee injury and we might not see him take the court for a couple of months. Jrue Holiday has also missed four games, while Giannis Antetokounmpo has missed three games and Grayson Allen two.
Let’s be more specific and dive into some of the positives and negatives of the Bucks’ best start in a season since 2019.
There are not enough words to describe Brook’s contribution this season. He has achieved an amazing comeback after his back surgery last season and he looks better than ever. He’s averaging 16.4 points this season (the most since he became a Buck), but that’s not even his most impressive accomplishment. He’s averaging 38.9% from three point range, but most importantly, he leads the league in blocks, with 2.5 per game.
His amazing, all-around performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers was one of his best in a Bucks uniform, shooting an incredible 7-9 beyond the arc.
A healthy Brook Lopez is clearly the difference maker this season for the Bucks. He has always been the defensive anchor of the team, and he should absolutely be a part of DPOY conversations as he has played a huge part in Milwaukee’s number one defense in the NBA, something that leads us to the second positive.
The Bucks have always been a defensive-minded team but last season this didn’t really translate on the court, especially in the regular season. Brook’s absence played a huge part in that. Milwaukee has the best defensive rating in the NBA so far, conceding 104.9 points per game, almost 7 points less than last season, when they had the 14th defensive rating in the NBA with 111.1 points allowed per possession.
Coach Budenholzer’s decision to pay more attention to opponents’ shooters this season has also paid off so far, with Bucks conceding 11.07 three-pointers per game compared to 14.46 last season. They conceded the most opponent three-pointers per game last season, while this season, only four teams give up less three-pointers than the Bucks. Milwaukee also leads the NBA in rebounds while being third in blocks per game.
Overall, Milwaukee’s defense has been better in many different levels this season.
Jevon Carter has been one of the protagonists of the Bucks season so far and one of the main reasons for the good defensive start by Milwaukee. Having taken advantage of Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday’s absences, he has performed at a completely different level this season, playing like a true starter for this Milwaukee team.
He is having a career season, averaging a career-high 9.5 points per game, 3.6 assists and shooting almost 40% from three while playing some incredible defense. Coming into the season, not many people thought he could be an effective offensive threat, but he has been great in that aspect of his game.
His performances have earned him a place in the starting lineup, which he might be able to keep even when the team is fully healthy. One thing is for sure though, he has won the hearts of Bucks fans and he’s here to stay.
Another player who is here to stay is MarJon Beauchamp. The rookie has been impressive lately, having started in 5 games this season and averaging 10.2 points in these games.
It looks like the Bucks have finally drafted an exciting prospect. MarJon’s burst and explosiveness has been very intriguing, offering something that the Bucks lacked in previous years.
He is still a little inconsistent offensively, something that’s normal for a rookie, but he has been very good in his defensive role which is probably the most important thing for coach Budenholzer. His ability to be an on-ball defender, moving through screens with ease, is surely a very remarkable part of his game.
He still has a lot to improve, but you can tell he has a great mentality and work ethic. The fact that he’s asked to guard some of the top players already shows the trust that the coaching staff has on him.
Seeing the veterans of the team such as Wesley Matthews and Jrue Holiday taking him under their wing is going to be very important for his growth, as he’s learning from some of the best. MarJon is slowly but steadily establishing himself in the rotation and if he keeps improving, he could have a role in the playoffs.
Despite the great start by Milwaukee though, there are not only positives to talk about. Here are some of the things that they could improve in the rest of the season:
The first on this list is pretty obvious. The Bucks haven’t been lucky with injuries the past two seasons. Last season the Bucks used a staggering 943 (!) different lineups. This season they’ve already used 168.
We knew Khris Middleton and Joe Ingles wouldn’t be ready to start the season but unfortunately, instead of getting players back, the absences have increased. Pat Connaughton suffered a right calf strain right before the season, which has kept him out for the first 14 games.
Jrue Holiday suffered an ankle sprain, making him miss four games, while Giannis’ knee is still bothering him. Add AJ Green’s broken nose and Grayson Allen’s ankle sprain and you can see why the Bucks have used so many different lineups this season. Wesley Matthews is the newest member of the injury report with a hamstring strain.
Free throw struggles
Milwaukee ranks 27th in free-throw percentage this season at 73.5%. Giannis Antetokounmpo has a lot to do with that, since he is the player who attempts the most free throws across the league.
His form from the charity stripe is very concerning. He’s shooting 62.1%, on pace to have his worst free-throw shooting season. What is interesting is the fact that he shot an impressive 79% from the stripe in EuroBasket this summer. One notable difference in his shooting form compared to the summer is the fact that he’s taking a lot more time to take his free throws which means he’s thinking about it too much.
Free throws are very important come playoff time when every point matters, and it’s something that the Bucks will have to figure out sooner or later. Thankfully, Giannis has proved again and again that he can overcome every setback.
George Hill and Wesley Matthews woes
Both of these players have very specific roles in the team.
George Hill is here to share some of the ball-handling duties while playing some decent defense. Wesley Matthews is supposed to be a reliable 3-and-D wing.
They are both good enough on defense but we can’t say the same about their offense. Hill is shooting 23.3% and Matthews is shooting 29.7% from 3. For them to be reliable playoffs pieces they should drastically improve their offensive contributions.
To take this a step further, Milwaukee’s reported interest in Jae Crowder might be more about their concern regarding Wesley Matthews’ ability to perform on a high level again on both ends of the floor, rather than the fact they don’t like Grayson Allen.
Including Bobby Portis in the “negatives” list might be a little harsh after his slow start, but that’s because he set very high standards in the previous seasons. His main weakness so far has been three-point shooting. Shooting just below 31% from the three-point line is not characteristic of Bobby. His shooting form has looked different as well, as he’s not giving a lot of arc in his shots, while his shot selection has been questionable at times.
You’d think he would take advantage of Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday’s absences to thrive offensively but this hasn’t been the case.
To be fair though, he is currently leading the NBA in double-doubles this season.
To sum up, Milwaukee has managed to achieve a very impressive start, especially when you take the injuries that they had to face under consideration. Not everything is perfect though and that’s why there are a lot of things that can be improved in the next games.
Overall though, Bucks fans should be very satisfied with what they’ve seen from the team so far. This team feels significantly deep and very capable of achieving great things this year.
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