New Faces: Micheal Beasley, Matthew Dellavedova, Steve Novak, Jason Terry, Thon Maker (R), Malcolm Brogdon (R)
2015-16 Regular Season Record: 33-49
2015-16 Regular Season Achievements: 5th: Field Goal Percentage. 7th: Blocks. 9th: Assists.
Leading Scorer: Khris Middleton, 18.2
Leading Rebounder: Greg Monroe, 8.8
The Milwaukee Bucks lost rookie sensation Jabari Parker to ACL injury in December 2014 and didn’t blink. Credit Khris Middleton and his continued development as an efficient shooter (46% field goals, 40% on threes) and a solid perimeter defender. Giannis Antetokounmpo in his second year added more hyper athletic oh-my-God moments. He was efficient on two point shots, 51%. The Bucks surprised everyone and made the playoffs.
Twenty one months later, the Bucks lost their best scorer Khris Middelton for six months. Once again, they have to scramble. Where is the consistent offense going to come from? To put a band-aid on the bleeding wound, the Bucks signed failed lottery pick but still able to score Michael Beasley. Beasley’s scoring talent has never been questioned. It is his maturity that has kept him from reaching his NBA potential. But make no mistake, Beasley can still put the ball in the hole. He isn’t a three point shooter but he can drain the ball everywhere else, midrange, long two’s, drives to the rim. He should, if he can keep his head on straight, give the Bucks some scoring relief.
The Bucks inked Giannis Antetokounmpo to a $100 million dollar deal which raised eyebrows. He has never had a 20 point season, though his athleticism and length and defensive intensity marks him as one of the games bright stars. If the Bucks didn’t pay him, someone else would. The Bucks are thinking about starting him at point which isn’t a simple thing, despite your coach being one of the greatest point guards of all time. You have to have point guard talent, meaning you have to be a playmaker and know how to get the ball to players exactly where they want it. Your offense has to come last.
That the Bucks are even thinking this way is proof of what Michael Carter-Williams means to them: trade bait. The signing of Matthew Dellavedova, a good playmaker and heady defensive player with a NBA ring, adds continuity and skill to the Bucks. They were already a good passing team, ranking 9th in assists, and that number should go up even higher with Beasley and Jason Terry skill at shotmaking.
The Milwaukee weakness is that they were a terrible rebounding team, next to last grabbing defensive boards last year. The problem is the tandem of Greg Monroe and John Henson. Monroe is a skilled big man who lacks explosiveness and will never be a great player. John Henson is an explosive big man who lacks skill and will never be a great player. The Bucks needed to add a nose for the ball rebounder this off season, someone who is a workhorse, like Bismack Biyombo.
Another problem for the Bucks is three point shooting. This is a three point era, one the Bucks have yet to adapt to. They took the fewest three point shots in the league a year ago. They need more perimeter scorers to keep defenses from packing in the paint.
Jason Kidd’s offense is problematic. I’m not sold on Kidd as a coach. If Rick Carlisle coached this team, they would be the best defensive team in the NBA. Offensive teams would fear them. They’d hold opponents to 90 points a game. Strategically, Kidd still has a long way to go with this young team that is hyper-athletic with so much length.
The divisional matchups with Andre Drummond, Tristan Thompson and Al Jefferson will determine how effective the Bucks will be this year. Can they win the battle down low? Can they out work and out hustle their opponents for rebounds and second chance points?
And what about Jabari Parker? Add him to this athletic lineup that is based on ball movement, shot efficiency and defense and the Bucks are one of the brightest young teams with loads of potential. All they need is experience. That’s in a perfect world. Parker is finally ready to make his NBA ascendancy. Last year, he showed flashes of brilliance. The book is still out on how effective he will be post knee surgery on a consistent basis. If Derrick Rose’s athleticism wasn’t quite the same after surgery, then neither will Parker’s, who is nowhere near the athlete of a Rose.
The Bucks first eleven games are manageable, no contenders. And then they play the Warriors who will be out for revenge for what the Bucks did to them last year, ending their streak. Two games later, they play the Raptors. They end the month at home against LeBron. The first month isn’t holy hell. 10 home games. 6 road games.
But in December and January. This is one stretch: Spurs (H), Blazers(H), Hawks(H), Wizards(R), Raptors (R), Bulls in a home-away set, Cavs in a home-away set, Wizards in an away-home set, Pistons (R), Bulls (R), Thunder (H), Knicks in an away-home set, Wizards (H) and Spurs (R).
The Bucks surprised everyone last year with how awful they were shooting the ball from behind the arc, and how easy it was to beat them. It’s always tougher the second year when everyone is ready and waiting to dismantle you. The Bucks didn’t necessarily improve their team outside of the Dellavedova signing, but they have to get the chemistry right with this group. They have to make the playoffs. They are one 20 point scorer away from being a contender.
photo via llananba