Three games. Casually. That was my Milwaukee Bucks attendance record this season. After seven seasons of attending nearly every Bucks game, recapping the vast majority of them, previewing a great deal of them and thinking too much about all of them, I attended three Bucks games this season. Each game I went with friends, and we watched the game just like any other fan. I got up and got nachos. I ate hot dogs during play. I didn’t check Twitter much. I paid little attention. Gordon Hayward dunked a bunch.
The Bucks were not part of my life for the past seven months.
Given my removal, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel when I got to the bar Saturday afternoon and prepped to watch Milwaukee’s playoff opener.
It turns out an extended absence was just what I needed. I’d grown increasingly tired of covering the Bucks every night by the end of last season, to the point that I felt like I just didn’t love watching basketball anymore. But as we were approaching the tipoff on Saturday, I started to get excited. Awaiting me was a chance to watch Giannis stake his claim to playoff immortality. This was my opportunity to watch Lew Alcindor approaching his prime. This is a once in a generation Bucks player. I knew I had to watch this. I couldn’t wait.
And he delivered.
But before we get to Giannis, I have to admit that I was watching the game with a lot of pre-conceived notions. It’s hard to have watched the team for that long, then step away and not have a few dated ideas about the players.
My Perceived Notions:
Matthew Dellevedova is not helpful or a player who makes significant positive contributions.
When I’d occasionally pop my head into a Bucks game, I rarely saw Dellevedova do anything useful. His sub 10 PER and sub-40% shooting makes me think he wasn’t doing much useful stuff when I wasn’t looking either. But, he did do one thing very well on Saturday: He got out of the way. Too often over the past two years were we forced to watch Brandon Knight or Michael Carter-Williams control the ball for far too long while Giannis stood by.
Dellevedova will never be one of those guys. He gets out of the way and doesn’t do much that causes you to wish he was out of the game. Blending in isn’t a trait that will be listed as a strength for a guy when they list strengths on draft night, but every team needs some guys who take up space and don’t actively harm the team by doing more than they should be doing. There were a few times, primarily in the fourth quarter, when Dellevedova tossed up a floater that made me cringe, but he limited his usage overall. Everyone seems to think he’s a good screener too, so bully for that.
Ultimately, he’s not making much of a contribution, but as long as he isn’t wrecking everything, that’s fine.
Malcolm Brogdon is super overrated by Bucks fans.
This is my biggest bias. I fought the same thing for years with Khris Middleton. I’m blinded by the second round pick thing and his lack of overt abilities. I texted a friend during the game that Brogdon is heady, but not clever, which makes me think he doesn’t have another level in him, but means he can be a super useful player. He doesn’t seem like a guy who sees one or two plays ahead, but he’s definitely not lagging behind, which is very impressive for a rookie. His ability to be present was on display repeatedly, as he never hesitated when a good look emerged and he consistently stayed in the right positions.
When Giannis picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter, there were four and a half minutes to play in a tie game. Brogdon had a no hesitation assist to Dellevedova for a huge three that bought the Bucks some time. He closed the quarter by blocking a P.J. Tucker three. He was super present.
He’s not overrated. He’s a good player. Even if he doesn’t have two more levels to him, he’s going to be a productive player for years to come. And maybe I’m missing something in him, the same way I did with Middleton. Maybe his levels are hidden and will be the product of intense personal development.
I remember Scott Skiles once saying that Luc Mbah a Moute would get the best out of himself. He didn’t know how good Mbah a Moute would become, but he knew that Mbah a Moute would hit his ceiling. Brogdon seems like one of those guys, based on his effort in college and all of the buzz surrounding him as a person on the pro level. Mbah a Moute is in a playoff rotation in his ninth year in the league. Brogdon is already a more refined offensive player. There’s no reason to expect he won’t carve out an admirable 10-year career.
Greg Monroe Will Be A Net Negative
Wrong. Monroe was taking charges, grabbing boards and working incredibly hard all game. I had no idea he had turned into a non-terrible defensive player. He was 10th in the league in charges taken! He took two or three in this game alone! 14 points I expected, but the 15 rebounds and the handful of charges drawn were a pleasant surprise for a 2015-16 Greg Monroe observer.
Thon Maker is Giannis During His First Playoff Experience
Giannis did not thrill against the Bulls in 2014-15. He averaged 11.5 points, but outside of one 25 point game, didn’t make a huge impact overall. He wasn’t ready yet. That doesn’t mean the playoffs were too big of a stage for him; he just wasn’t a good enough player to take his game to another level at that stage.
Maker’s in a similar situation. Expecting breakout games from him is unrealistic. He’s not in a position to break out. There are areas where he can excel though, and he excelled against Toronto in game one. Defensively, he was Milwaukee’s only hope against Demar DeRozan in the first half. His challenges at the rim stopped a couple of early drives from Toronto’s star. During the third quarter, Maker blocked two shots and grabbed a steal in just under seven minutes. He was Milwaukee’s defensive backbone for the first half of the period.
He’s being asked to be a member of the team on offense and little else, but he gave the Bucks everything they could have hoped from him on the other end.
John Henson Will Be The Bucks Best Center
This was so laughably wrong. I was still tantalized by the blips that Henson displayed fairly consistently throughout his career. I must be the last one who was tantalized. Okay, I get it. Henson doesn’t have it. He’s talented, he’s athletic, and he’s got a handful of varying skills, but every coach that’s coached Henson in the NBA has moved on from him. He’s a lifetime backup, and he’ll never crack 25 minutes per game. He’s behind Maker, Monroe and Spencer Hawes. That’s a steep fall for the longtime Buck.
Whatever he’s doing on a day-to-day basis around his coaches is the wrong thing to be doing if you want to be an NBA impact player.
Demar Derozan Won’t Be Toronto’s Best Player
This is what happens when you take a season off from watching basketball. I missed the Derozan blowup. He had a fantastic season, which I assume will be the best he ever has. He’s an excellent player and may make four or five all-star games when it’s all said and done. I figured Kyle Lowry, who has a bit more variety to his game, would step up in the playoffs finally and that DeRozan’s mid-range centric game would cease to be as efficient against a keyed in, athletic Bucks defense. Well, Milwaukee could barely contain DeRozan in the first half and Lowry never got going.
Derozan is probably going to be a problem all series for Milwaukee. He’s got a great first step, he’s obviously worked very hard on his craft, and he seems determined as hell to make the most of every possession. He’s a bit too smart for Brogdon and way too quick for the still recovering and never all that quick to begin with, Khris Middleton. These playoffs are DeRozan’s big chance.
Giannis Will Average 30 Because This Is When His Time Starts
But DeRozan, for everything he is, is no Giannis. He doesn’t have the well-rounded game. He isn’t on a different plane than everyone else from a physical perspective. He doesn’t see the floor like Giannis does. He doesn’t approach the game with the same, nearly perfect approach. Giannis finds and gets teammates involved when it’s time to do that and makes the most of his opportunities when they arise – which is almost whenever he wants them to. His performance in game one seemed both easy and impossible. It felt like he dunked over half the roster. Aren’t the playoffs supposed to be more physical?
He dunked on Serge Ibaka, a near legend as a shot-blocker. He kicked the Bucks off on offense with a dunk and emphatically finished the Raptors off with a block of Derozan. He only finished with 28 points, but I still believe he’ll finish this series off a bit north of 30 points per game. Isn’t that crazy?
For years, every Bucks played fought to beat the odds. Even Milwaukee’s last all-star, Michael Redd, seemed like a guy who hit his ceiling every year. Yeah, Redd was an all-star, but it wasn’t like anyone really thought he was a problem for the rest of the league or someone who had better days in front of him. The odds were against him, just like they were against T.J. Ford, Brandon Jennings, Andrew Bogut, Monta Ellis and every other half decent player that’s rolled through Milwaukee since Ray Allen left town.
But on nearly every single possession, almost every time he has the ball, the odds favor Giannis. He’s not only the more talented one, but he’s the one who has worked harder and prepared more. He’s the house. The Bucks have this guy on their team. It was fun two seasons ago when he was starting to figure it out, and it seemed fun during the regular season the few times I checked out the team. Now it’s like a drug. I can’t wait to watch Giannis again. I’m addicted to Giannis Confidence.
I can’t wait for Tuesday night.