Sunday, November 5, 2017

Giannis plays like MVP, Bucks lose 3, drop to 11th

The Bucks are in the midst of a much needed three day break after nine games after a three game losing streak dropped them to a 4-5 record. A disappointment after starting 4-2 with Giannis leading the league in scoring at 31 points and establishing himself as a legitimate MVP leader.

Not MVP hopeful.

Not MVP candidate.

MVP leader.

Leading the league in scoring.

A Milwaukee Buck.

Kareem won MVP and scoring titles for the Bucks in both 1970 & 1971. 

Giannis could win both MVP and scoring title this year.

Giannis burst out of the gates into the 2017 NBA season like a man possessed scoring 30-plus points for the first six games including a 44 point career high outburst that included a game winning defensive play and fast break dunk to seal the win vs the Blazers in what was likely the best win of the season so far.

The season opener win on the road at Boston caught the Celtics on a back to back less than 24 hours after losing Gordon Hayward in a freak accident vs the Cavs. The Bucks other two wins came in a home win vs Hornets and a road win vs Hawks.

The losses aren't just tough because they are losses. The home blowouts vs Cavs and Thunder show they aren't ready to take down the top teams yet. Those were litmus test games. The Cavs haven't even looked the part of a championship team yet though with early losses to Magic, Nets, Pelicans, Knicks and Pacers. The Thunder are off to a .500 start at 4-4.

Bucks game vs Celtics at the MECCA was a historic night that I will never forget. Walking into the arena. Seeing the Mecca floor glowing. Witnessing it played on in a regular season game was not something I think I'd ever see again. I took my Dad, a Mecca season ticket holder and he was just speechless. Bucks ownership and everyone involved in making that night happen should be proud. You could feel the warmth and happiness walking thru the cramped corridors and literally running into fellow Bucks friends and family. It was a magical night.

I would've liked to have seen some former players in attendance and honored at this game though. It's the Bucks 50th season and a one night only event. It was surprising there were none outside of Johnny Mac. Not even Marques Johnson or Sidney Moncrief, who I thought would've been for sure in attendance and honored. I knew hoping for Don Nelson and Paul Pressey might've been a longshot along with Kareem and Oscar. But, still. Surprising.

The game played was a rough game to watch as well. Questionable officiating. Out of sync Giannis. Can't miss Kyrie. Would've been really great to get a win in the Mecca. So it goes.

Back to the season at hand.

How do the Bucks get back on track?

Teams have adjusted to superstar Giannis and are packing the paint even tougher than ever. Khris Middleton exploded for a career high 43 points vs Charlotte but it wasn't enough. Brogdon is showing he's ready to take the next step averaging 15.5 points and 4.8 assists.

Snell has continued to build on last season. But, Telly and Delly aren't giving the Bucks much. Monroe is out for a couple weeks and the bench looks completely lost and unproductive.

Team wise, Bucks are ranked 24th in defensive rating. 30th in rebounding.

So much for the Top 5 defense and continuity talk from the preseason.

They are continuing the same defensive scheme Kidd has implemented since he arrived. So far this year though it's resulted in too much fouling as the Bucks are 3rd in the league in total fouls, but only 25th in steals. The fruits of that labor have been barren so far.

On the offensive side, the Bucks are 2nd in the league in FG% obviously mostly attributed to Giannis living in the paint and converting at an insane rate. The Bucks are 10th in 3pt made, 4th in 3pt%, but only 20th in 3pt attempts.

Watching the games though, it's tough to figure out "What IS the Bucks offense?" They move the ball around relatively well at times. Giannis usually initiates the offense. He wants to get into the paint for a dunk or a post up move or kick out to a shooter. Maybe a couple screens get set on the perimeter or a shooter tries to get open while Giannis draws a double team. Khris gets an iso or a post up and most of the team typically stands around.

Oftentimes Kidd says they "pass up good shots for great shots", but far too often they pass up good shots for what turns out to be bad shots. 

There isn't enough movement and there isn't anyone outside of Giannis or Khris who can create much. Brogdon has his nights and put up 10 assists vs the Pistons. But, the lack of shot creation or a more creative offensive system leaves this team stagnating for long periods during games as they struggle to score.

Sports Illustrated "The Open Floor Podcast" with Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver ask the question "Is Jason Kidd holding Giannis Back?" suggesting Giannis should stand up to the organization and demand a new coach.


This is how half serious and half born of pure frustration watching some of these Bucks games, but for Giannis Inc. and him to really take it to the next level and become that superstar player, doesn’t he need to initiate a coaching change?

It does seem a little bit like Jason Kidd’s offense is holding him back. For having the skillset that he has, I don’t understand why they play so slow and they get out in transition as infrequently as they do. 

It’s like every single one of his dunks in transition goes viral because they’re all so beautiful and they should be happening like twice as often as they do. 

And there’s sometimes you’ll notice that he’s hopping up and down with his hands up, hoping to have someone give him the outlet pass so he can take off and push and they still don’t run quite enough. Their thing is they’re terrible rebounding and yet they play bigs a lot. And it’s like, if you’re already going to be horrible at rebounding, why not get super whacky and creative? Have Giannis be what I refer to as the puberty ball center.

Bucks fans have been calling for Kidd's head since, well, his first year. But, now with superstar Giannis shining a spotlight on Milwaukee, the national writers are beginning to pick up on it.

But, Kidd is 9 games into the first year of a 3 year/$18M extension which keeps him as coach through the 2019-2020 season. So, it's unlikely Kidd is shown the door anytime soon.

Persistent rumors of Eric Bledsoe continue to seep out as Adrian Wojnarowski reiterated the Bucks interest in acquiring Eric Bledsoe. So far the offer that's been reported is Matthew Dellevadova, Greg Monroe and a first round pick, but the Suns haven't been willing to accept such a deal just yet. The Pistons denied a rumored offer of Reggie Jackson, a subpar offer to the Bucks expiring Monroe due to Jax remining 3yrs/$51M left on his contract.

I'd have no problem adding DJ Wilson to help sweeten the deal to motivate the Suns. But, not sure how much of a needle mover that really is. They'd love to attach Rashad Vaughn, who the Bucks couldn't move for cap space and recently passed on his extension, but he isn't a sweetener either.

That dives into a bigger discussion of the lack of return on draft picks and movable contracts to acquire any sort of upgrades, but I digress for the moment.

Eric Bledsoe would add a much needed dimension to this Bucks roster as they desperately need another scorer, playmaker and dynamic guard to pair with Giannis to help the Bucks offense avoid becoming stale. 

Acquiring Bledsoe with Monroe's expiring contract creates additional challenges ahead for the Bucks salary structure though as that expiring contract was basically slotted to expire to allow room for Jabari's extension. Another bigger discussion.

Any of the Bucks engagements in the trade market with other teams to make a deal though are a difficult conversation because of the Bucks limited assets. They have a strong core of talent, but pieces they do not want to move. Giannis and Middleton. Brogdon and Thon.

Delly, Telly and Henson appear to be completely unmovable. 

Henson has ticked up though forcing himself into the starting lineup after Thon's unimpressive start. Maybe there's hope for Henson yet. But, he's also been the Bucks best center so far and moving him without getting another starting center in return would create a void.

Thon looked a bit better off the bench vs the Pistons scoring 9 points on 2-3 3pt including a 4 point play. But, his rebounding and defensive awareness have been disappointing so far. He's a project, and will have ups and downs in his development. He's flashed his defensive skills and shooting abilities though, he's not the Bucks biggest problem right now.

I have a hard time seeing the Bucks scrap the scheme they run or eat $18M to let Coach Kidd go. You'd certainly hope they can evolve though to solve some of their most apparent shortcomings. There's still 73 games left in the regular season. The Bucks sit 11th in the Eastern Conference tied with Cleveland and New York.

Hopefully they have made some strides during this break and have figured it out. They'll be tested again this week with a Tuesday road game at Cleveland and Lebron  who just dropped 57 points. They visit the Spurs on Friday before facing the Lakers and Lonzo Ball on Saturday. Finding a way to go 2-1 this week would be a step in the right direction.

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