The Milwaukee Bucks have played four preseason games. They’ve won once and lost three times. Reserves have played steady minutes. Rookies and guys who won’t be on the roster in two weeks have closed games. They’ve played the Cavs without LeBron and the Wizards without Wall.
Gauging anything from preseason basketball is hard.
But content is needed. The team has two games left this preseason, so now seems like a good time to assess what we’ve seen thus far.
Things Don’t Seem That Different On Offense Yet
At Saturday night’s home game, I sat next to Eric Nehm from Brew Hoop and Milwaukee Magazine. Three or four times Eric or I would lean over to comment on a play to the other, and we’d have very different reactions to the play. He’d be unsure of a player, and I’d be sky high about him. He’d love something about the team, and I’d be questioning it. It was fun. But we both agreed that the Bucks looked a lot like last season’s Bucks on offense.
Sure, the Bucks have posted up Greg Monroe a bit more than they did Zaza Pachulia, but he still catches a lot of passes at the elbow, as Pachulia once did. Michael Carter-Williams is still attacking smaller point guards in the post. And the Bucks are still running a lot of similar looking sets that are having a lot of mixed results.
Admittedly, it’s tough to get too much of a gauge on what’s going on, as the team is playing with a lot of experimental lineups and guys have been in and out quite a bit. We still haven’t seen Jabari Parker, and we’ve only seen one game from Chris Copeland. But in general, it looks like the Bucks are going to be doing similar stuff to what they did last season while counting on improvement from individual players for better execution leading to a better offense.
Make no mistake, the Bucks will need improvement on offense if the team is hoping to make the small leap many expect them to make. The 2014-15 Bucks were the 26th rated offense in the league and were bad at both getting to the free throw line and shooting threes. If the team can’t improve in those areas, they’ll need to be something special as a 2-point shooting team. Better execution of existing sets, better finishing at the rim and Monroe’s post-up dimension could be the key to improvement there.
Continue To Pin All Your Hopes and Dreams On Giannis
I’m writing this seconds after watching Giannis draw a foul. He didn’t dunk on someone or chase down a player who thought he had a layup. He got the ball at the top of the key – where so many of his finest plays start – drove into the paint and rose as if he were going to dunk all over Marcin Gortat. Gortat wasn’t feeling the dunk, so he fouled Giannis, who realized while he was in the air that he wasn’t going to be able to get all the way to the rim over Gortat.
After the foul, but while in the air, Giannis pulled the ball back down with one hand and almost got up a shot attempt. It was incredible. The ball looked like an orange in his hand. It was about as Julius Erving looking as a player can get. Giannis has physical gifts unlike anyone other than Kareem Abdul-Jabar in Bucks history.
That ability is what separates him from everyone else on the Bucks as far as I’m concerned. He’s been pedestrian from a stats perspective this October, but in preseason I’m not going to react to his numbers. I’m going to assume he makes a leap this season and is more consistently dominating and showing us those OH MY GOD athletic feats with even more frequency.
Rashad Vaughn Good, Johnny O’Bryant Bad
Vaughn has been the star of Milwaukee’s preseason. Milwaukee’s loss to Washington Saturday night was the first game in which he didn’t score more than 10 points. He went 1-5 from three, bringing him to 8-21 on threes through four games. He’s probably not going to be a double-figure scorer off the bench. He probably isn’t going to be a huge difference maker consistently either, but if he gives the Bucks a semi-reliable reserve shooting option for 12-15 minutes per game for 60 or so games (35% from three or so), that’ll be a huge win for them. I would have thought that was an unreasonable expectation at the start of camp, but it seems more than reasonable now.
O’Bryant doesn’t seem like he’s done much developing at all. He’ll likely make the roster, and he’ll have another whole season to show improvement, but the most notable thing about him seems to be his general lack of balance and coordination. He rarely looks smooth or in control of himself. His arms flail as he tries to keep rebounds alive. He struggles to finish around the hoop. He always seems like he’s playing catch-up. As a second-year player, by no means is he a lost cause, but if the Bucks had passionate feelings about one of their non-guaranteed free agents I don’t think eating his salary would be a disastrous move by any means.