The Milwaukee Bucks certainly aren’t getting off to any torrid undefeated starts this season.
Through four games, the Bucks are a modest 2-2, with both of their losses coming as a result of blown leads. On Oct. 26, they blew a 21-point edge in an overtime loss to the Miami Heat. On Wednesday night, they surrendered a 19-point advantage in what ended up being an 11-point defeat at the hands of the Boston Celtics.
While it’s definitely way too early to break the emergency glass, there are some thin about Milwaukee that are concerning.
First and foremost, the Bucks lost Malcolm Brogdon over the summer, and it’s showing.
Yes, Giannis Antetokounmpo garners most of the attention (and rightfully so) and Khris Middleton made an All-Star appearance last season (one he probably didn’t deserve), but Brogdon was an integral piece in everything Milwaukee did last year and was arguably the team’s second-best player.
The Bucks lost him to the Indiana Pacers in free agency and never really replaced him, signing guys like Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver to try and patch up that hole.
Which brings me to my next point: Milwaukee is old.
The Bucks are relying an awful lot on aging, slow players, and it is affecting their defense, which currently ranks 14th in the NBA (incredibly small sample size, I know, but hear me out).
Milwaukee has both Lopez brothers, a 33-year-old Matthews who has a torn Achilles in his rearview mirror, a 38-year-old Korver, a 33-year-old George Hill and a 32-year-old Ersan Ilyasova as major cogs in its rotation.
In addition to all of those players being on the wrong side of 30, none of them have ever been known for their athletic ability, which has resulted in the Bucks having a rather slow-footed defense, even with Antetokounmpo on the floor (he can’t do everything).
The Celtics blitzed the Bucks for 74 second-half points on Wednesday largely by beating them down the floor in transition with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and a rejuvenated Gordon Hayward, all of whom looked a heck of a lot more spry than Milwaukee’s guys.
That’s a problem, especially considering that Milwaukee may see Boston in the playoffs. And no; I’m not just going by the result of that one individual game. I’m basing this off of the Bucks’ roster construction, which could actually be a bit flawed.
In today’s game, speed and athletic versatility reign king, and while the Celtics (not to mention the Pacers and even the 76ers to an extent) possess that, the Bucks don’t outside of Antetokounmpo and Middleton.
A solution could be playing Sterling Brown more, but there has to be a reason why Mike Budenholzer has barely given the 2-guard any floor time over the first four games.
And of course, there is still plenty of time between now and the February trade deadline for the Bucks to add more pieces to their roster.
But right now, what we have seen is somewhat worrying, even if it is just November.
In Milwaukee’s defense, I will say that its offense seems a bit out of whack right now, and my friend and ClutchPoints colleague Jason Patt showed me this article by Eric Nehm of The Athletic that details the imbalance of the Bucks’ shooting over the first few games.
Milwaukee is taking a heck of a lot more three-pointers, which is not incredibly surprising given the state of the modern NBA. However, the Bucks have all but abandoned attacking the rim, with only 29.7 percent of their shots coming at the rack thus far.
But here’s the thing: Milwaukee is making a lot of threes, hitting 16 per game at a league average clip of 35 percent.
So I don’t think that’s the problem, even if it’s something that probably needs to be adjusted going forward.
The most pressing issues for the Bucks seem to be their lack of a No. 3 scorer behind Antetokounmpo and Middleton and that their defense is very slow and plodding, which Boston exploited the other night.
Just about everything went right for Milwaukee in its 60-win campaign a year ago, from Antetokounmpo winning MVP right down to key midseason acquisitions like Hill and Nikola Mirotic, the latter of whom is now playing overseas.
Expecting the Bucks to repeat that success—especially after losing Brogdon—was probably always a bit unrealistic, but I’m also not sure anyone expected these types of concerns to surface so early.
To be clear, the sky is certainly not falling. The 2019-20 season has barely even begun, so there is plenty of time for the Bucks to right the ship. But sometimes, a flawed roster is a flawed roster, and no amount of time will save it.
It remains to be seen if that is what is going on with Milwaukee, the club that was the odds-on favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in the finals coming into this season.