What we’ve learned so far about the Milwaukee Bucks: The will to experiment is there, for better or for worse
One also has to give credit to the level of creativity we saw from Milwaukee Bucks head coach Adrian Griffin. We’ve seen glimpses of “Point Bobby Portis” taking the ball coast to coast for an easy transition bucket. Even a more determined and intentional “Point Pat Connaugton” came out to play in the preseason games.
While these things aren’t exactly the most fearsome offensive weapons in the Bucks’ arsenal, that head coach Adrian Griffin was willing to give them a try is something that makes all the difference, considering how intent former coach Mike Budenholzer was in sticking to his established system.
Still, there’s a lot to figure out. The starters obviously didn’t play together much, but it should still be noted that the Bucks registered a net rating of minus-1.5 through their five exhibition matches, according to NBA.com/stats. They’re a team with a new head coach and a new superstar, and it shows. They just didn’t look as cohesive as fans would like, and for good reason.
There’s also player aging to take into consideration. Pat Connaughton, for instance, has posted decreasing field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, and free throw percentages in recent years, and though much of this was due to injury, his preseason play still did not look up to par. He, along with Jae Crowder, shot below 32 percent from distance through five games, and the hope is that this is more systemic than it is because of their aging.
While the offensive potential is still objectively limitless, another key takeaway here is that the starting five still very clearly need to gel and figure things out. When taking the ball up the court as the point forward, Giannis often slowed the offense down quite a bit and needed to have shooters spacing the floor for him and ready to shoot. It was clear he was still used to the heliocentric offense he ran under Jason Kidd and Mike Budenholzer, which is something that is fundamentally incongruent with what Griffin has said he wants to see this year. The disconnect comes in that Lillard just has demonstrably not been that kind of player throughout his career, and it may be Antetokounmpo who will have to adjust his style of play more than anyone on the roster.
The silver lining is that the aforementioned young Bucks have been nothing short of revelations for a Bucks team in need of playable depth past their starters. Griffin’s willingness to try new things also shows in his faith in younger players — which Bucks fans didn’t see much of under Mike Budenholzer. Even Thanasis Antetokounmpo is getting some run these days, and he’s actually looking relatively serviceable in his spark plug role, all things considered.
Overall, the Milwaukee Bucks are still looking like one of the favorites to win it all this season. They have the potential to roll out a high-powered offense, a stifling defense, and a wealth of playoff experience. It will be exciting to see how they perform in the regular season and beyond.
While there are some merits to examining preseason basketball games, it is important to keep in mind that they are not as important as regular season games. Stay tuned for more analysis on the Milwaukee Bucks as the regular season rolls around.