• Wash Out the Champagne, Now Repeat

    The Milwaukee Bucks stand on top of the NBA, but can Fear the Deer stay on top, or will it become a one-hit championship wonder?

    If we are ready to sink back into our small market inferiority complex, the four-letter network and the national hype is already getting ready for a Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets Finals. While the Lake Show has added Russell Westbrook and about every superstar from 2013 and the Nets got some future Hall of Famers sitting on the bench, I think folks are forgetting the Bucks still bring back a core that won the whole thing…in six games…and beat the Nets in the Conference Semifinals.

    It is still fair to wonder is this going to be the only time Giannis and Co. hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy? At the same, it is equitable to fantasize about the Bucks becoming a dynasty, or at the very least repeat.

    It is going to be tough sledding for your Milwaukee Bucks as it will be a full 82-game regular season. Getting through Nets in the playoffs, especially with the possibility of a healthy Kyrie Irving and James Harden (with those two you never know if they will be healthy), will not be a cakewalk either. Also, Miami, New York and Chicago could be some annoying first round opponents. Don’t forget, the Atlanta Hawks still have that rising superstar in Trae Young.

    The path is narrow, but it can be followed again (although the path will be slightly different) to another parade and another championship banner.

    Giannis' Game Keeps Going to Another Level

    We need to let the ship sail on Giannis ever being a decent three-point shooter. The one area he could improve his game and take it to even higher levels is hitting that 15-18 footer. I know analytics is taking the mid-range game out of the NBA but as we saw with the Phoenix Suns, you can get points in bunches hitting shots from the top of the key. If Giannis can start hitting those shots, especially when teams still try to use that wall to stop his penetration, that can make him nearly un-guardable.

    Load Limit Jrue and Khris

    Khris Middleton played 91 games (68 regular season and 23 playoff games) last season and then hopped a flight to Tokyo to play a couple more games in the Olympics. Before the 2020-21 campaign, he already logged 253 games in the three seasons prior if you combine the regular season and playoffs. Jrue Holiday logged 82 games (59 regular season and 23 playoff games) last season before his Olympic trip to Tokyo. That is a lot of games played by both and not a lot of offseason to rest up for another grind. Plus, Khris is 30 and Jrue is 31 heading into this campaign. As much as I am not a fan of load limits, these two should be given a few nights off against the lower tier teams of the NBA. While it may sacrifice a few wins, as we have learned the goal is to finish in the East’s top three to have a chance at successful playoff run. By going the load limit route, you have a better chance of accomplishing both.

    Getting Better Three-Point Shooting & Even Better Playoff Series Against the Nets from Brook Lopez

    The Bucks are going to need the Brook Lopez who hit 37% from three in his first Milwaukee season, and not the mix bag shooter who was 31% from three in 2019-20 and 34% last season. They are also going to need him to shoot better from beyond the arc in the playoffs than he did during the championship run. Also, Lopez is going to need fight off father time as he is 33 this season and will be 34 come playoff time along with staying healthy as the Bucks have height but not a lot of bulk behind Lopez. His size is going to be needed most is in a likely series against the Nets (and even the Hawks) as the Nets struggle to defend old-school post scoring (He came up big in Game Seven with 19 points). Assuming a Brooklyn playoff rematch includes a healthy Kryie and Harden, getting some more threes out of Splash Mountain will also help keep up in the points race the Nets like to create.

    The New Additions Make Impacts

    Grayson Allen, Semi Ojeleye and Rodney Hood were added this offseason. Allen is replacing Bryn Forbes in the rotation and while Allen averaged 10.6 points per game over Forbes’ 10, Forbes was the better shooter: Forbes shot 45% from three and had a 62% eFG% while Allen shot 39% from three and had a 55% eFG%. Allen will need to boost his outside shooting a bit to effectively replace Forbes and come playoff time, not fade like Forbes did. At least Allen provides more athleticism. Semi is going to need to somehow fill the P.J. Tucker defensive stopper role. God bless Tucker for the defensive work he did on Durant and Devin Booker. It allowed the Bucks not having to use Middleton or Giannis a ton on Durant and Jrue on Booker. That made sure those guys were not completely worn out when it came time to provide offense. Ojeleye will have to provide that type of impact, or come as close as he can, in a very likely playoff rematch against the Nets and a possible Lakers or Suns Finals showdown if the Bucks want to repeat. Hood has battled injuries but if he can stay healthy, he can be a useful scorer off the bench. George Hill’s return will certainly help the shooting especially come playoff time where winning the title was much harder as Milwaukee only hit 32.1%. Hill is a career 45% three-pointer shooting in the playoffs.

    Healthy Donte Come Playoff Time

    Donte DiVincenzo keeps showing promise, but he has seen two of his three seasons end injury (granted last season’s injury was a cheap shot by Goran Dragic). Having a healthy Donte down the stretch not only keeps an effective starter in the lineup, but it allows Coach Bud to have another defensive starter to chase say Kyrie. DiVincenzo is showing to be a pretty good defensive player. Donte’s career defensive rating is 106.8 and he was pretty good locking down the three-point line by holding opponents to 36%.

    Jordan Nwora Develops

    The second-year player had a decent Olympics, but the Bucks are going to need him to develop into a reliable player to fill some minutes especially during games Middleton is sitting for load level purposes. I know the now retired Bucks play-by-play voice Ted Davis is high on Nwora getting better to be a contributor. If Nwora can work himself into a contributing NBA player, it provides another set of younger legs to help the Bucks get through the grind. Also, DiVincenzo and Allen are set to be restricted free agents after the season. With the Bucks already in luxury tax land, they probably cannot afford to keep either after this season. Having Nwora continue to develop keeps a balance of youth the Bucks need especially with the Bucks having limited draft capital until 2028. If the Bucks want to say screw youth, we need another reliable veteran via trade, a developing Nwora could be an attractive trade piece if he is showing progress.