What level of concern should Milwaukee Bucks fans have right now?

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - NOVEMBER 22 (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - NOVEMBER 22 (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images) /
Milwaukee Bucks: Khris Middleton
Dec 25, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

The Milwaukee Bucks have come back down to earth after their hot 9-0 start, going just 13-11 since. They are 3-5 in their last eight games while going through a difficult stretch of road matchups, and some Bucks fans are starting to feel a bit concerned about whether this is still one of the top contending teams in the league.

There are several common areas of concern, so let’s analyze them.

Status and performance of injured players has plagued the Milwaukee Bucks

We’ll start with the most obvious one – the Bucks are still yet to be fully healthy. Khris Middleton came back for seven games, did not look like himself, and now has been out again for the last two weeks. Mike Budenholzer recently came out and said that he is “not making progress at the rate the Bucks had hoped.” This is disappointing and understandably a little concerning, but it is still only December. There is a long way to go before we need to really be freaking out about Khris Middleton and believing he won’t return to normal by the playoffs in late April.

The players who have come back from injury recently have not impressed much, either. Joe Ingles has been disappointing in his first four games, shooting just 4-for-19 from the floor with four assists and eight turnovers. Pat Connaughton also struggled to find his rhythm right away, shooting 25.8 percent from three in his first 12 games of the season.

However, Ingles deserves some patience, given that he is on a new team, and it’s his first week back after a torn ACL. If he still isn’t looking good by the trade deadline, then it should be a more serious discussion, but it’s still so early. Plus, Connaughton has begun to catch fire lately, shooting 52.2 percent from three over his last five games and being one of Milwaukee’s only reliable shooting threats recently. It was a poor start to his season, but he looks like he is getting back to form.

Role player performance and three-point shooting has plagued the Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks have not gotten much offensively from anyone outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, and Brook Lopez lately. Bobby Portis, Grayson Allen, Jevon Carter, Joe Ingles, and Wesley Matthews just have not given them enough to keep up with some good opponents. Too many times, the offense is stagnant, and the main guys are the only ones who can get some buckets. Open threes aren’t being knocked down, and role players just have not been able to step up their game with Khris Middleton out.

Over the last five games, Bobby Portis is shooting 16.7 percent from three, Jevon Carter is shooting 21.1 percent, Joe Ingles is at 17.6 percent, and Grayson Allen is shooting 30.8 percent. Combined, they have shot just 13-for-61 from three during that stretch (21.3 percent). That is simply not good enough and will need to improve for the Bucks to beat good teams.

This is certainly disappointing to see lately from the role players, but it is important to remember that Khris Middleton should help things. Every role player will be asked to do a little bit less and have some pressure taken off them, and hopefully, they will start to thrive in the roles they were meant to play. The Bucks have still been a fine 3-point shooting team this season overall, as they are 16th in 3-point percentage, and that is without arguably their best shooter playing.

Three-point defense has plagued the Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee talked about wanting to change up their defense a bit coming into the season so that they allow fewer threes. This was on display early in the year, as they were top 10 in the fewest three-point attempts allowed per game, but in the month of December, that ranking has fallen down to 20th. In the last four games, opponents are shooting a whopping 41.2 percent from three against the Bucks and making over 15 threes per game, and they seem to have fallen back into some old habits from years past.

Hopefully, the Bucks can clean this up a bit, but some of it is also due to teams just being hot.  According to ShotQuality, over those last four games, Bucks opponents were expected to shoot 35.5 percent from three based on the quality of shots taken (factors include the player that was taking the shot, how open it was, etc.). Instead, they shot 41.2 percent and scored about 28 more total points on threes than expected. Sometimes the other team just gets hot, and as hard as it is to swallow, you just have to live with it.

Overall, the Bucks should be okay in the long run, and it’s important to remember that it’s only December. Khris Middleton and Joe Ingles should help their offensive struggles once they return to form, and the three-point defense is still much better than it was last year, and opponents will cool off. The role player struggles could result in some moves being made, perhaps a trade involving Grayson Allen, George Hill, and Jordan Nwora, but there is nothing to be freaking out about yet.

The Bucks have weaknesses and go through rough stretches like any other team. The bottom line is that they still have the second best record in the NBA, even without their second best player.

Next. Grading each Milwaukee Bucks player so far this season. dark

Stay patient and trust in the core that won them a title.