The Greek Freak Has the Playoffs On His Mind

Last season, the Milwaukee Bucks finished in twelfth place in the Eastern Conference with a 33-49 record. They were absent from the playoffs and haven’t made it past the first round since 2001. Despite that, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the talented Bucks lineup have a good chance at making the playoffs in 2016-17.

Consider last year’s highlight: they were the heroes who ended the Golden State Warriors 28 game winning streak. Perhaps Klay Thompson’s luckless shots had something to do with his team’s defeat. But it was also because the Bucks had just the right strategy to counteract one of the greatest runs in NBA history. They outworked the Warriors because they could.

Athleticism is the Bucks identity and it’s a quality that will remain effective and important against any team they play. They will outmatch the youth and energy of most other teams with their players hustling at every opportunity. Having the strength to drive into the paint makes executing plays much easier.

Admittedly, being athletic doesn’t carry a team on its own; there are still many skills the team needs to work on, such as defense. With the enormous height and wingspan of its players, the Bucks do have a major advantage on defense. They can tower over smaller teams who will only struggle to get past their size and speed.

The Bucks are almost reliable when they are focused on stopping offense(s).  However, Greg Monroe is the weak spot. His Defensive Real Plus-Minus was 0.18, and it was the glaring flaw in Milwaukee’s scheme. He was undependable in isolation – his teammates often having to come to his aid- and that trade off led to lost offensive opportunities.

His three-year contract for $50 million has been a waste; he hasn’t lived up to its value. Performing significantly worse this season than in the past, Milwaukee simply overestimated Monroe’s impact on their team. Monroe is the wrong fit for the Bucks, and vice versa, because he’s a slow player among a fast team. Milwaukee is desperately trying to trade him, but the chances of any team wanting him for such a steep price is very slim.

On the bright side,  Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker are the Bucks future.  The magical duo is every defender’s nightmare. They pass to each other at the most unexpected times, which throws off their opponents and leaves openings on defense. A pair of players in absolute sync on the court is a huge threat to every team trying to defend them.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, otherwise known as “The Greek Freak”, has been on an upward trend ever since he came to the NBA in 2013. He finished off this past season with improvements across the board (excluding his 3-point shooting). He averaged 16.9 points, 4.3 assists, 1.4 blocks, and 1.2 steals per game. At 6-foot-11, Antetokounmpo is one of the most versatile forwards in the NBA and certainly takes advantage of it in the backcourt and the frontcourt. He can physically drive through opponents and finish with a layup or dunk almost every time, regardless of the situation (or bodies) near the net. His passes are smooth, and he does a substantial amount of assisting from the paint.

The Bucks’ most talented scorer is 21-year-old Jabari Parker, who just finished his second season in the NBA, averaging 14.1 points. Fundamentally, he is solid with ball-handling and various moves. But like Antetokounmpo, his impressive abilities do not cover the vacant shooter role on the team.

In terms of skillset, the Bucks are lacking elite shooting. No matter how efficient a team is at making points through layups, long shots will always be essential to practical game play. To alleviate this issue, the Bucks signed Mirza Teletovic and Matthew Dellavedova. Last season, Teletovic and Dellavedova had 3-point shooting percentages of 39.3 and 41.0, respectively. This will help the Bucks tremendously, especially after the loss of Jerryd Bayless and OJ Mayo. The return of Miles Plumlee, makes the Milwaukee bench a lot more dependable.

The Bucks players have a unique team chemistry. Their matching energy makes the court seem like a playground where they’re almost humorously playing the game. That’s not saying that this team is the perfect combination, though; they’ll still need time to develop or trade players.

Always taking advantage of scoring opportunities, the Bucks are swift in transition sets. The players hustle whenever its needed to finish plays. What Jason Kidd needs to work on is having his team start more plays. Their offense is usually quite disorganized, and they have a difficult time against teams with strong defenses.

Next season will be very different from this past year for the Bucks and the Eastern Conference. Competition will change drastically for Milwaukee, so they have a good chance of making the playoffs. The Heat will crumble at the loss of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The Bulls will be lucky if Wade and Rajon Rondo can share the ball when they’re both on the court.

There’s a ton of potential for the Bucks, as their biggest weakness is lack of experience. It’s a gradual process, but the Bucks will undoubtedly impress fans this coming season. No one expects a non-playoff team to make a comeback with the same key players, so the Bucks will definitely turn some heads.

 

photo via llananba