Bucks’ improved D, Jrue Holiday struggles, other predictions for 2022-23 season

Oct 1, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Bobby Portis (9) puts up a shot against Memphis Grizzlies guard David Roddy (27) in the second half at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 1, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Bobby Portis (9) puts up a shot against Memphis Grizzlies guard David Roddy (27) in the second half at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports /

When Mike Budenholzer arrived as the head coach for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2018, the first thing he did was fix the defense.

Milwaukee was previously a team that relied on length and athleticism to trap opposing offenses and wreak havoc with a chaotic scheme. It had its moments under Jason Kidd, but had largely run its course as an effective strategy in the modern NBA game.

Budenhozler took the team in the complete opposite direction and implemented a passive blueprint that walled off the paint while allowing teams to bomb away from the outside. It was much more nuanced than that, but that was the basic premise for our sake.

The design worked, as the Bucks had one of the NBA’s top defenses during Budenholzer’s first two years. Since then, they’ve plummeted to 10th in 2020-21 and 14th in points allowed per 100 possessions last year. However, the Bucks are at it again with a couple of major scheme adjustments (they’re sticking to shooters off the ball instead of sending oodles of help) and will catapult back into the top five in points allowed per 100 possessions this season. Or so I predict.

Here are four more bold predictions for what lies ahead for the Bucks this season.

The Milwaukee Bucks will have a much-improved defense in the 2022-23 NBA season, Jrue Holiday will struggle, and three other bold predictions.

MarJon Beauchamp plays in fewer than 15 games

The Bucks drafted Beauchamp with the 24th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, hoping he can fill a void in the future. That future isn’t this season.

Beauchamp looked wild and out of his depths throughout Summer League and the preseason. He was often lost on offense and let the speed of the game throw him out of sorts. His 3-for-16 three-point shooting performance and 11-for-32 overall shooting are evidence of how difficult the game is for him right now. And that’s with defenses only half-trying.

Defense is supposed to be his calling card and he could be okay on that end of the court. That will take time as he needs his mind to catch up to his physical gifts.

Pat Connaughton is out for three weeks and it was just announced Khris Middleton will also miss several more weeks. Even without two key wing players, Beauchamp will be hard-pressed to see the court. Expect Budenolzer to use Jevon Carter, Bobby Portis and Jordan Nwora more until Connaughton and Middleton can return.

Bobby Portis averages 16 points a game

Milwaukee needs someone to step up in Middleton’s void. Let me re-introduce you to the new and improved Bobby Portis.

Bobby wouldn’t even let The Athletic’s Eric Nehm finish his question at media day about what the veteran worked on during the offseason. He jumped feet first into explaining what he learned and how he grew from the postseason experience against the Boston Celtics. And I believe him.

He scored a career-high 14.6 points per game in 28.2 minutes last year. That number will continue to rise this year, as he fills the void left by Middleton and the dip in efficiency by the following player.

Jrue Holiday’s three-point percentage plummets

Holiday has experienced the two most efficient seasons in his NBA career since arriving in Milwaukee two years ago (at least in the regular season). His identical 57.0 percent effective field goal percentage in both 2020-21 and 2021-22 are career-highs.

Much of that has to do with his shooting from behind the arc. Before the Bucks, he never shot better than 39 percent from the three-point line. However, since his arrival, he’s shot 39.2 percent and 41.1 percent, respectively. That’s been a great boon for the Bucks’ offense, but it’s likely unsustainable for a third straight season. Playing alongside Antetokounmpo creates a lot of open shots, but don’t be surprised to see Holiday’s three-point percentage drop by five points this season–back down to the 36 percent that is his career average.

Bucks win a combined 71 regular season and playoff games

I predict the Bucks will win their second NBA Finals in three years. So if you do the math, that means they’ll win 55 regular season games to go along with the 16 victories it takes to hoist the Larry O’B.

Next. Bucks' ultimate NBA season preview. dark

Milwaukee is down Middleton and Connaughton for the first several weeks of the season, but that shouldn’t slow them down. Antetokounmpo played like a madman in Eurobasket and will bring that same intensity to the regular season. Milwaukee also has enough hungry players after a disappointing finish last year. Expect Portis, Holiday, Carter and even Nwora to step up until their wings can return. Then, barring full healthy, it should be easy sailing from there.