On Wednesday, Memphis will play in Milwaukee against the Bucks and their face paced squad who is currently ranked 2nd in both offense and defense. On their squad is a potential MVP candidate surrounded by a bevy of three point shooters.
What underrated role players have had a big impact on this team?
Brook Lopez has really transformed the way the Bucks play with his efficient and high volume shooting from the center spot, but really three of the Bucks’ free agent signings have already made their impact felt. Along with Lopez, Ersan Ilyasova and Pat Connaughton have been really impactful with their shooting, rebounding, intelligence and versatility. There are plenty of obvious areas where the Bucks have improved this year, but somewhat under-discussed is the fact that they’re just much deeper overall.
Milwaukee has one of the best defenses in the NBA, what has been the key to that?
Mike Budenholzer’s scheme is essentially built around inviting and baiting opponents in to taking low value shots. The center, particularly when Lopez is on the floor, drops off considerably in pick and roll coverage, leaving plenty of room for mid-range shots. The Bucks have been really stingy when it comes to giving up points in the paint, but generally defend the three-point line well. They are vulnerable to dynamic guards and forwards who can attack in that range and pull-up from three, but a big setting strong screens is paramount to that too, so look to Marc Gasol to be incredibly important.
How does Brook Lopez shooting career numbers from three open up this offense?
Although there have been notable changes to the Bucks’ strategy, Lopez’s ability to space the floor is key to the night and day difference between last year’s offense and this year’s. It goes without saying that Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the strongest drivers in the NBA, but Eric Bledsoe is also notable for his abilities in that department. With the floor spaced out, that duo has a much clearer path to the rim, while defenses are also less equipped to double up on strong shooters like Khris Middleton. In short, there’s no easy way out for Milwaukee’s opponents any more.
Does Memphis pose as a matchup problem due to their slow pace of play?
The Grizzlies will certainly pose a different look to most teams the Bucks have faced so far, but I wouldn’t say it’s anything that they’ll struggle in solving. The Bucks have already got wins to their name against the similarly paced Nuggets and Pacers, and if anything, the best way to test Milwaukee’s reshaped defense could be to drag them out of position, take them out of their comfort zone, and see how they react if they’re forced to recover. The difference in pace is more likely to challenge the Grizzlies as the Bucks’ offense will leave them feeling behind the 8-ball if Milwaukee can get firing early on.
Could this finally be the Giannis for MVP year?
It definitely could be. MVP is so dependent on team results that the start of the season is definitely encouraging in that department, but there’s a lot of basketball still to be played. Although you won’t find it discussed outside of the more concentrated Bucks sphere, Giannis has actually struggled a bit by his incredibly high standards. He’s had issues with turnovers and foul trouble, and there’s still a clear sense of him adjusting to the team’s new scheme. That in itself acts as a testament to his greatness as he’s still right on track to average something in the 25-15-5 range. I’m not sure if that dip in scoring year on year would hurt his case if it persists over the course of the season, or if he’d be praised even more for potentially sacrificing some scoring to aid the team overall. Either way, he’ll be right there when the final ballots come in.
Does Donte still go by his nickname: “The Big Ragu”?
Donte is still The Big Ragu, just as he’s still the Michael Jordan of Delaware! He’s actually played a surprisingly large and consistent role in the early season, and it’s safe to say Coach Bud clearly has a lot of trust in the rookie.
Feature Image: [NBA.com]