The positives and negatives of the first 15 games for Milwaukee Bucks

Nov 16, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 16, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Milwaukee Bucks are almost one-fifth of the way through the regular season, and they are currently sitting second in the Eastern Conference with an 11-4 record. There have been several things to be excited about early in the season, but there are also some things that need to improve. Here are the positives and negatives about the team’s season thus far.

Brook Lopez has been a positive for the Milwaukee Bucks through 15 games

By far, the biggest thing to be happy about so far this season has been the play of Brook Lopez. In the offseason, there were questions about how effective he could continue to be and whether the Bucks should look to trade him while he has some value.

The signs were definitely there that he could start to decline. He was 34 years old with a recent back surgery. However, Brook has come out this season and played arguably the best he has ever played as a Buck on both ends of the court.

On offense, he is averaging 16.3 points per game and shooting an awesome 38.9 percent from three on over six attempts per game, his best offensive numbers since joining the Bucks. He has drained three or more threes in seven of 15 games so far this season and has been very consistent shooting the ball.

Not only that, but his post-scoring has also been awesome. Of players with at least 20 post-ups this season, Lopez is number one in efficiency at 1.42 points per post-up, according to Second Spectrum. He has been able to be used in a variety of roles offensively and is looking great on that end.

Oh, and let’s not forget the other end of the court, where Brook has been one of the best defenders in the entire league. He has dominated on that end and controlled the paint, swatting shots and protecting the rim better than anyone. His average of 2.6 blocks per game leads the NBA and is the highest total of his career, and opposing players are shooting 11.6 percent worse than their average from inside of six feet when defended by Lopez.

Lopez is a huge reason why the Bucks have the best defensive rating in the NBA right now and the fourth-best opponent field goal percentage from the restricted area. He has been incredible on both ends of the court, and if he can keep up this level of play, he could be an All-Star, and the Bucks’ title chances will go way up.

Three-point defense has been a positive for the Milwaukee Bucks through 15 games

Rumors came out before the season started that the Bucks may change their defensive philosophy, which traditionally prioritized protecting the paint so much that teams would get up a ton of threes against them.

Since Mike Budenholzer took over as head coach in 2018, the Bucks allowed the most threes of any team from 2018-2022 at 38.7 attempts per game, over 500 more attempts, and 300 more makes than any other team during that span. They were giving up a lot of attempts and a lot of makes, and their losses would often come from teams torching them from beyond the arc.

Well, the Bucks’ defensive changes have been evident this season. Instead of allowing the first or second most three-point attempts as they have the past four seasons, the Bucks are allowing the fourth-fewest at just 31.3 per game. From 2018-2022, three-pointers accounted for 38 percent of the points they were giving up. This year, that percentage has dropped to 31.5 percent.

Only twice so far this season have the Bucks allowed over 40 three-point attempts in a game, something that they did 46 times last season. Additionally, they’ve allowed fewer than ten three-point makes four times already this season, which they only did seven times last season.

The Bucks are no longer getting torched from three, and it’s exciting to see because that was the easiest recipe for beating them before.

Depth potential has been a positive for the Milwaukee Bucks through 15 games

Coming into the season, some were unsure just how deep this Bucks team really was. Everyone knows the big three is great, but there were questions about just how productive some of the other guys would be. Well, the fact that the Bucks are 11-4 despite missing all 15 games from Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton, four games from Jrue Holiday, and three games from Giannis has said a lot about how good the Bucks’ depth could be this season.

Jevon Carter has stepped into the starting role and played very well, continuing the great shooting and defense that he showed last season. He is shooting 38.1 percent from three, averaging 9.3 points and 1.6 steals per game, and has a 2.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He looks like a player that will be playing impactful minutes all season long and in the playoffs, as he should have been last season.

MarJon Beauchamp has also made an exciting impact in his first month as a rookie. He is bringing it on the defensive end, as expected, and his offense has already shown flashes of being solid. His percentages of 38.2 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from three are not the best because he has not been able to consistently play good offense, but that was never expected from him early on in his career.

What is exciting is that Beauchamp already has three games scoring 14+ points and hitting multiple threes, including a 20-point performance where he went 3-for-4 from three and a 19-point performance where he shot 5-for-8 from three. Beauchamp was not an offensive prospect coming out of the draft, and the fact that he has been able to have some games like this and show flashes of shooting and scoring ability this early is a great sign.

Grayson Allen really struggled in the Boston series last year, and he started this season just 5-for-19 from three in his first three games. Since then, he has shot 50 percent from three on almost four attempts per game and has shot the ball the way Bucks fans expect from him. He still is not a great defender and can struggle when putting the ball on the floor, but it’s good to see him shooting over 40 percent from three again, as he did last year.

Lastly, George Hill was a huge disappointment last year, especially in the playoffs, but he has been serviceable to start this season. He is never going to put up great numbers, but he has been fine defensively and isn’t killing the Bucks during his minutes. That’s a good sign if the Bucks ever need to use him more come playoff time.