Looking Back at Season Predictions
The other day, my friend told me that a friend told him that the Bucks game that night was a must-win. A must-win! It was a random game in January. I laughed and laughed. They won. These two friends were going to the game that night, and that type of attitude, with the type of cheering at the game that goes along with it, may just have helped the Bucks win that night.
One game or one week with this team is liable to swing emotions and expectations like that. Take the Christmastime run that made the Bucks look like a potential homecourt playoff team. Or the recent slump that had them just a few games clear of second-to-last in the East. Then this weekend, they went to Phoenix and dropped 137 on the Suns. And now Khris Middleton is due back on Wednesday.
Everything is confusing. So, I am looking back at where we started.
GIANNIS WILL STILL BE PLAYING POINT GUARD AT THE END OF THE SEASON.
The offense ran much, much more efficiently (almost six points per 100 possessions better) after Giannis took over at point during the second half of last season. This was not a fluke. Giannis will not guard a lot of point guards, and Dellavedova and company will bring the ball up the court from time to time. But all signs point to the Giannis point guard experiment being real and lasting and delightful.
Update: In transition (and semi-transition), Giannis runs with it. After made baskets, Dellavedova and Brogdon have brought the ball up the court more often. Giannis ran the point more during the second half of last season (when the Bucks were short on point guards) than he has so far this season. But he is still the chief playmaker and leads the team in assists.
THE BUCKS WILL FINISH WITH A TOP-16 OFFENSE.
Just once in the last nine seasons have the Bucks been an above-average offensive team, and that was the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season, when they ranked 13th (hat-tip to John Schuhmann for that stat; check out his Bucks preview on NBA.com here). Last season, they ranked 26th in offensive efficiency. And without Khris Middleton (expected to be out for six months as of late-September), they are missing not only their leading scorer from last season, but arguably their most efficient offensive player. Nevertheless, Giannis and Jabari should both take steps forward, and the additions of Mirza Teletovic, Matthew Dellavedova and Jason Terry will give the team more punch from beyond the perimeter. If Greg Monroe does not start, he should feast on second-unit defenses, potentially along with offense-first newcomer Michael Beasley and the aforementioned Teletovic; with that, the bench has offensive answers all over, unlike most of last season. The odds are against this. Please don’t expect the Bucks to pull this off.
Update: The Bucks rank 10th in offensive efficiency, way up from 26th last season. And this, without their leading scorer from last season (Middleton), who is expected to return this week.
JABARI WILL GO FOR 40+ IN A GAME.
No Bucks player has gone for 40+ in a game since Brandon Jennings dropped 55 on the Warriors as a rookie way back in 2009. Since 2000, just six Bucks players have reached 40 in a game (Jennings, Ray Allen, Sam Cassell, Glenn Robinson, Michael Redd, Ramon Sessions). Parker has only scored 30+ once in his NBA career.
Update: Forty remains elusive for Jabari (and Giannis). Jabari scored a season-high 33 in early-November against the Pelicans (while Giannis got stuck on 39 in the blowout home win against the Wizards).
GIANNIS AND JABARI WILL BOTH AVERAGE 18+ POINTS.
Middleton led the team in scoring last season at 18.2 per game, followed by Giannis at 16.9, Greg Monroe at 15.3, and then Jabari at 14.1. A full season of chief ball-handling duties and all-around progression should see Giannis reach 18. The injury to Middleton may expedite Jabari’s need to evolve from a devastating scorer off cuts and in transition into a more well-rounded offensive player.
Update: They are both averaging 20+ for now, with Giannis at 23.2 and Jabari at 20.2. The return of Middleton may spread out the scoring some, but 18+ still looks good.
THE BUCKS WILL NOT LOSE THE SEASON SERIES WITH THE BULLS.
The last time the Bucks outright won the season series with the Bulls was 2009-10. In particular, it was the night the Fear the Deer team clinched a playoff berth with a 79-74 home win against Chicago on April 6, 2010.
Update: Indeed. Three extremely satisfying blowout wins and zero losses, with just one more matchup to go (at home on March 26).
THE BUCKS WILL BEAT THE WARRIORS AGAIN.
This is a bad prediction; the Warriors will likely win 70+ games, or in other words, virtually never lose. Like last time, the Bucks will probably need to do it in Milwaukee, as the Warriors will be just about untouchable at home again. But the Bucks matched up really well in both of their games last season. Arguably, they played even better in the loss in Oakland than they did in the win in Milwaukee.
Update: Almost. Had the ball, down by two, with nine seconds to go, but Draymond stole the pass. They visit Oakland on March 18.
GIANNIS WILL MAKE THE ALL-STAR TEAM.
To become the first Bucks All-Star since Michael Redd in 2003-04. This could depend in part how Giannis is listed, in terms of position (Bucks PR, in box scores, has been resistant to listing Giannis as a point guard, to date). Fans vote on the starting five, and the bench includes seven players: two guards, three frontcourt players, and two wild cards.
Update: Yes. Starting, even.
GIANNIS WILL BE ONE OF THE 12 BEST PLAYERS IN THE EAST.
Which is more important, anyway. All-Stars are chosen loosely based on evidence from the first half of the season, which of course makes making a big deal of it rather preposterous. It also means that the torrid post-All-Star stretch Giannis delivered last season does not technically apply toward his All-Star candidacy this season. He dropped a 23.1 PER following All-Star Weekend last season, he was one of the 12 best players in the East during that same time, and the prediction here is that he will finish the season as one of the 12 best.
Update: Without doubt. LeBron is still the best player in the East, but after that, you could make a case for Giannis (or John Wall, Isaiah Thomas, Kyle Lowry, DeMar Derozan, a couple others).
BUCKSKETBALL WILL GO TO MULTIPLE BUCKS GAMES.
And not necessarily by way of coming out of so-called retirement.
Update: Jeremy attended (at least) one game (as a fan), and rumors persist that he even chanted Tel-LET-O-Vich…
THE CENTRAL WILL BE THE BEST DIVISION IN THE EAST.
Zero bad teams out of five (Cleveland, Indiana, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee). Should have the best team in the conference (Cleveland) and the best last-place finisher in the conference. Very well could have four playoff teams and all five in playoff contention.
Update: All of that is very much true.
THE BUCKS WILL MAKE A SHOT FROM BEYOND HALF COURT.
A couple years ago, I wrote a whole absurd story about the Bucks making a shot from beyond half court, filled with historical stats and league-wide trends. Then they didn’t make one.
Update: Not yet. Giannis is still tossing these though.
THE BUCKS WILL LIVE UP TO THEIR 13TH RANKING IN ZACH LOWE’S LEAGUE PASS RANKINGS.
Zach Lowe writes wonderfully about the NBA, and he recently slotted the Bucks 13th in his annual League Pass rankings. Win a lot or not, here’s to the Bucks living up to that ranking as one of the more fun teams to watch in the league.
Update: In December (particularly the middle of December), they were one of the three or four most exciting teams to watch in the NBA, maybe in sports. Even accounting for the dips since then, they still grade in the top-13.
MIRZA TELETOVIC WILL BE IN THE 3-POINT CONTEST.
Middleton put up some threes last season in Toronto during the festivities, and while he unfortunately will not be able to avenge his early exit, his new teammate might. I just got back from the Bulls/Bucks preseason game, and I think Mirza pulled up from like 30 feet at one point. His quick release (and accuracy) makes him a natural fit for the contest.
Update: Well, no. This, this would have been a good prediction: Maker, Beasley and Brogdon will be 1-2-3 in 3-point percentage on the team more than halfway through the season.
THE BUCKS WILL MAKE A TRADE.
To be fair, I started writing this one on Oct. 12.
Update: We bid you adieu, Miles Plumlee.
MICHAEL BEASLEY WILL FINISH THE SEASON ON THE BUCKS.
Beasley has sojourned from Miami to Minnesota to Phoenix back to Miami to Houston, and well, to China, and back. All by age 27. He may only be in Milwaukee for one season, but I think he will be in Milwaukee for one season.
Update: Looking like it.
THE BUCKS WILL FINISH IN THE TOP-THREE IN DUNKS AGAIN.
They finished second overall with 446, merely one dunk behind the Thunder, last season. While new guys Dellavedova and Terry dunked exactly zero times last season (and Teletovic added just 10), Giannis and Jabari should each rank in the top-seven again, and if Plumlee wins big minutes, that will be a boost. A healthy Blake Griffin (teaming with defending league leader DeAndre Jordan) may give the top spot to the Clippers, while the return of Rudy Gobert means the Jazz are also coming for it.
Update: They are third, behind only the Rockets and Warriors. And they have some distance between the fourth-place Clippers (285 to 244).
EITHER STEVE VON HORN OR I WILL GO ON A BUCKS PODCAST.
Far as I can tell, the last time Steve published on BrewHoop was this podcast on Jan. 1, 2016. Meanwhile, I vaguely recall recording something resembling a podcast with Frank Madden and Jeremy Schmidt some years ago. Hmm.
Update: This has not happened.
THE BUCKS WILL HAVE A NATIONAL TELEVISION GAME ADDED.
Added! Instead of removed, per the usual tradition. Maybe both. But the prediction here is that at least one will be added. As of now, the Bucks are scheduled to be on ESPN twice (Jan. 6 vs. New York, March 15 at L.A.) Clippers), once on TNT (Dec. 15 vs. Chicago), and six times on NBA TV. What will be more compelling on April 6: Bulls at Knicks (currently on ESPN) or Bucks at Thunder (currently not on ESPN)?
Update: ESPN picked up the Jan. 18 game against the Rockets. Hopefully, more to come.
THON MAKER WILL LOOK LIKE NEITHER A BOOM NOR A BUST.
Seems to me that he will seem more like a solid contributor in the making. Seems like some others have a more all-or-nothing view.
THE BUCKS WILL PLAY AT A FASTER PACE THAN LAST SEASON.
‘Tis the season for teams vowing to play a faster pace. “We’re going to try to run more” is a Media Day Bingo Card fixture. But in fact, 26 of 30 teams did play at a faster pace last season than they did the year before. The league on average is playing faster and faster, ever since the slowdown days of the late 1990s. The Bucks ranked 23rd in pace last season; with their personnel, they should move up that list, hopefully within the top-15.
Update: The Bucks are currently 20th in pace. Not exactly blazing, but faster than last season.
THE BUCKS WILL CRACK THE TOP-SEVEN IN FASTBREAK POINTS PER GAME.
They averaged 13.8 fastbreak points per game a year ago, 10th-most in the league. But they were closer to 19th than seventh in the league rankings, so this would be a significant jump. The Giannis-and-Jabari-centric offense is primed to do it.
Update: So far, very good. They are (tied for) fifth in the league, behind the Warriors, Suns, Thunder and Rockets.
ATTENDANCE WILL GO UP.
No insights from the ticket office here, but attendance has ticked up in each of the past three seasons (from 13,487 to 14,907 to 15,106), and with Giannis and Jabari bouncing toward their primes, it should go up in each of the next three seasons, too.
Update: Attendance is up to 15,495. And they sold out their most recent game, and it wasn’t even against the Warriors or Bulls (it was against the Celtics).
SOMEONE WILL LEAVE A BUCKS GAME EARLY AND THEN SOMETHING INTERESTING WILL HAPPEN THEREAFTER.
To beat the traffic! Don’t do that. If the Bucks are down by 13 with two minutes left, yeah, they are probably going to lose. But the whole point (or at least the main point) of going to games is the off-chance to witness something spectacular in person. By nature, unpredictable things happen when you don’t expect them. That is why you stay for the game. Or at least why you don’t specifically leave for the sake of traffic (note: alternate reasons may be valid).
Update: Lots of close home games and lots of compelling home games. This has probably happened, but I have not noticed this happening.
JOHN HENSON WILL START 23+ GAMES.
In four (pretty similar) NBA years, through four (pretty different) coaches, John Henson has never started more than 23 games in a single season. Last season, he started just once. Two other centers are making more money, and plenty have Henson third on the center depth chart, behind Miles Plumlee and Greg Monroe, in some order. The Bucks didn’t even perform particularly well when Henson shared the court with presumptive starting power forward Jabari Parker last year. Altogether, this seems like a longshot. And yet, most metrics paint Henson as the superior defender, and Kidd may come to value his rim protection early in games.
Update: Henson has already started a career-high 36 games.
THE BUCKS WILL TRY 20+ DIFFERENT STARTING LINEUPS.
Last season, they tried 19 different starting lineups. Since 2000, the Bucks have averaged more than 18 different starting lineups per season (the most during that time was 27 in 2013-14). Especially in light of the Middleton injury, the team does not have a staring-at-you starting five on paper. Giannis is a lock, Dellavedova feels like a good fit alongside, and Jabari is very probable. After that? Expect experimentation. Which is just fine for a team built for a 2018-19 Finals run.
Update: Only seven starting lineups thus far, though the addition of Middleton will add at least one more, soon.
THE BUCKS WILL NOT MAKE THE PLAYOFFS (AND THAT WILL BE OKAY).
Before the Middleton injury, I had the Bucks in play for that 6-8 range. Even without him, they could be in contention for a spot over the final couple months. That is okay. One year from now, I anticipate predicting the Bucks to finish in the top-five in the East, in 2017-18.
Update: Even after a recent slide, they are just 0.5 games out of the playoffs, though they are also just 4.0 games ahead of the 76ers for 14th in the East. Hardly closer to knowing than we were when we started.