Tonight, the Grizzlies look to get back into the win column after a disastrous performance against the Rockets on Monday night. Things don't get too much easier, though, as Memphis rolls into Milwaukee to face potential MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and salon hater/former Sun Eric Bledsoe.
To get the lowdown on the Bucks, Greg Licht of Brew Hoop, SB Nation's Bucks affiliate, was kind enough to take part in our Five Questions series. Check out what Greg had to say below!
1. So far this season, Giannis looks like a legitimate MVP candidate. What has he improved the most since last season? Where can he still improve?
His physicality and overall physical fitness is probably the one improvement you see first, mainly due to him growing into his frame. A quote that sticks out about how Giannis has grown comes from The Wire's Marlo Stanfield about season 4 Michael, "big paws on a puppy." That was an accurate descriptor of Giannis his first four years in the league. He looks to back down defenders at the elbow and do a "power fade" shot or dish it out to the perimeter.
His passing is another improvement, especially when driving to the lane. He has no reservations about sling shot-ing a pass to the corner for an open look as the defense crashes on him. As far as improvements that still need to be made, his outside shot is the obvious choice, but that will come with time and as his confidence in the shot grows. I'll say he needs to work on minimizing turnovers, but that comes with him still learning the point forward position and understanding which aggressive passes or drives need to be made or passed up on.
2. How do you think Eric Bledsoe fits with this team? Who goes to the bench to make room for him, and how will the team miss Greg Monroe?
I think Bledsoe fits very well with the current unit. His 6' 7" wingspan on his 6' 1" body is like a Buck front office wet dream. He is not a perfect complimentary player to Giannis, but he fills a lot of holes that were previously exposed at the point guard position. Reigning Rookie of the Year, Malcolm Brogdon, gets relegated to the bench. Brogdon has been fantastic and has not shown signs of a sophomore slump so far, and him being able to fill-in at the one and two provides great bench flexibility and means less Matthew Dellavedova bench minutes, which is always a net-positive.
Moose will be missed the most as an enforcer and muscle for the team. The few games he missed with an injury exposed how not physical the Bucks' bigs are compared to Monroe. By all accounts he was a great guy to have in the locker room and in the community - that will also be missed. The dream small-ball lineup we want to see is Bledsoe-Brogdon-Snell-Middleton-Giannis; the spacing would be incredible.
3. The Bucks are currently next to last in the NBA in defense. What do you think the underlying cause of this is? Is it schematic or personnel related?
It's all schematic. The personnel is there - long, young, long, athletic players populate the roster, but the knowledge to effectively utilize that length is missing. The principle of the defense is "no fastballs." So basically just stick your arm up and disrupt the passing lane to hopefully create confusion and rush the opposing team's offensive set. It is beyond frustrating to watch and that is putting it lightly.
4. Outside of Giannis, who do you think the most important player to the Bucks success is?
Khris Middleton. Last season when he came back from his hamstring injury, the Bucks rattled off a series of wins that pushed them to the six seed in the East. He has gotten off to slow start, but had an encouraging career-high 43 point performance in a loss to Charlotte. Khash is a shooter and needs to keep shooting. When Giannis is off the floor, Middleton has shown he has trouble creating his own shot. The addition of Bledsoe will help alleviate those offensive woes when The Greek Freak grabs some bench time.
5. Where do you think the Grizzlies have an advantage against the Bucks? What do you think the Bucks need to do to beat the Grizzlies?
Marc Gasol is the advantage that the Grizzlies have against the Bucks. Steven Adams and Dwight Howard feasted on the Thon Maker and John Henson match-up. Gasol will continue the feast on the skinny-as-a-rail Buck centers. I expect the Grizzlies to dominate the boards and for Gasol to get the foul happy Thon into foul trouble.
Speaking of which, the Bucks have found themselves well behind the 8-ball in terms of free throw discrepancies. Getting to the line more and reducing Memphis FT attempts will help big time. The aforementioned Maker, as well as Antetokounmpo, have had problems collecting fouls early in games. More fouls on Giannis means a less aggressive defensive Giannis, and that is something we do not want to see.
Thanks again to Greg Licht and the folks over at Brew Hoop! Be sure to check out Brew Hoop for the other part of our series, where I talked Grizzlies and Memphis barbecue.