Just four months after winning the NBA Finals, the Milwaukee Bucks suddenly find themselves 4-6 through the team’s first 10 games. Is it fair to ask if they’re in trouble?
Well, when you consider that they blew a 21-point lead at home to the New York Knicks on Friday, this does seem like a team in trouble. They didn’t necessarily squash those concerns during Sunday’s loss to the Washington Wizards.
The Milwaukee Bucks Are Near the Bottom in Defensive Rating
Touted as one of the league’s best defensive teams in recent years, the Bucks are all of a sudden ranked 18th in defensive rating in the league.
They lost a key defender in P.J. Tucker, but still have a Defensive Player of the Year in Giannis Antetokounmpo and plus defenders in Jrue Holiday, Brook Lopez, and Khris Middleton.
However, Lopez’s defense is limited to protecting the rim. Otherwise, if you got him on an island outside the paint, there’s a very good shot he could get beat.
Middleton is currently out due to health and safety protocols and has already missed a great deal of time.
Lopez and Holiday have also been sidelined as well due to injuries.
In addition to their defensive woes, the Bucks are having trouble rebounding the ball, as they’re also currently 18th in the league in that category.
Lopez isn’t exactly known for his rebounding prowess despite being 7-feet tall, but his ability to boxout has allowed others, especially Antetokounmpo, to swoop in and grab some boards.
With players being in and out of the lineup, it can be hard for a team to gel as a collective unit, but what’s shocking is how the Bucks still can’t put it together with a two-time MVP on its roster and the continuity following a championship season.
What Needs to Go Right?
Right now, it seems apparent that Lopez is a more important piece to the puzzle than he’s been given credit for during this dynastic run for the Bucks.
Lopez serves perfectly as a last line of defense with his ability to block shots and protect the rim, use his size to box other bigs out which opens up rebounding opportunities for his teammates, and stretch the floor out as a shooter which allows Antetokounmpo to go to work in the post.
Additionally, Lopez can provide a nice scoring punch inside if the Bucks run enough plays for him down there.
The Bucks don’t have another 7-footer they can rely on to do all the little things, so health will be key for Lopez.
Whenever Middleton returns to action, they’re going to need him to shoot the three better, as he’s only averaging 25.7 percent shooting from there thus far. His mid-range shooting and playmaking are still there for him right now though, which is a great sign.
Holiday needs to get healthy and focus on hounding opposing guards on a nightly basis, much like he did during the Bucks’ playoff run last season.
If the Bucks get healthy, they should be able to figure this out, as they’re the defending champs after all, but they’re really going to need to adjust to life without Tucker anchoring their defense as the season progresses.
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