Bucks

Bucks Have Blueprint to Win While Shorthanded

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With Khris Middleton sidelined, the Milwaukee Bucks are missing a pivotal piece to begin this season.

Add to that Pat Connaughton‘s calf strain and missing the first weeks of the regular season. Offseason signee Joe Ingles won’t be ready to return from his ACL tear until the midway point either.

The Bucks’ wing depth will be tested, but as always, they know how to win shorthanded. The Deer have laid the blueprint in the win at Philadelphia and backing it up with a rout of Houston in the first two games.

Having Giannis makes anything seem possible. This is still a roster that pushed Boston to seven games in last year’s playoffs without Middleton.

What are some of the keys in replacing two important pieces in the same position group?

Nwora Time

The Bucks showed faith in Jordan Nwora this summer, re-signing their 2020 second-round selection to a two-year, $6.2 million pact.

Nwora has had his issues defensively. He will need to be better on that end. With Middleton in particular out, however, the Bucks are going to need Nwora’s scoring. Nwora only shot 40.3% from the floor and below 35% from three last year. If he doesn’t press as he seemed to last year, takes good shots and lets the game come to him, expect Nwora’s numbers to jump up. He is a very good shooter but has often taken difficult shots early in the shot clock.

It’s only two games, but he hasn’t taken bad shots thus far. He has hit 6-of-11, including 3-of-5 three-pointers. Nwora is averaging 7.5 points and three rebounds in 17 minutes per game.

If Nwora averages double figures in Middleton’s absence and connects on 40% of 3s, the Bucks’ low-cost investment may quickly pay for itself.

Big Bucks

The Bucks have a plethora of size. Quality bigs at that.

Giannis will garner most of the time at PF while Bobby Portis, Brook Lopez and Serge Ibaka can play next to him at center. The Bucks should be able to punish a lot of teams in the paint. Giannis can do this single-handedly, now go big with a center there all 48 minutes with Middleton out and the Bucks could hammer opposing teams inside.

Reliable Wings Back Bucks’ Core Despite Last Year

Fans really jumped off the Grayson Allen bandwagon quickly after his disappointing performance against Boston in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

I don’t get it. Everyone was subpar including Jrue Holiday. Allen shot over 40% from three last year in the regular season. He looked very good in the season opener. If he plays like that including making some plays for others, Allen will be extremely valuable— more than last year. He set up another reliable wing Wesley Matthews for the game-winning triple in the season opener.

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Matthews is another guy who can in short spurts like these three weeks to see an uptick in playing time. He is a veteran who hits timely 3s and makes the man he’s defending work hard for their points.

MarJon Minutes?

The Bucks drafted MarJon Beauchamp to give the team a long, young wing.

He didn’t play at all in the season-opener win, but could take some minutes to lessen the load on Matthews. He got garbage time and scored his first bucket of his career in a dismantling of Houston on Saturday.

Small-Ball Bucks?

This was hard to anticipate before the season, but the Bucks do go small— a starting lineup of Jevon Carter in the backcourt with Jrue Holiday and Grayson Allen. It would have been more predictable for the Bucks to use Matthews or Nwora rather than Carter. Carter and George Hill can serve as point guard or basically a combo guard when Jrue is on the court at the same time.

Bucks’ Bottom Line

The Bucks are a versatile team.

Even with Middleton, Connaughton and Ingles not ready for a bit yet, the Bucks can win in a variety of ways. Giannis can single-handedly carry. They can shut teams out defensively as displayed against Philly in the opener. They can go big or small.

Versatility and some early-season adversity likely does the Bucks good. It is already seeing they can win not at full strength, with different lineups and role players stepping up from the opening tap of the 2022-23 season.

About Mitchell Skurzewski

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