Last spring, I remember watching Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Afterwards, I came away with two thoughts. One, there were a lot of cool aspects that were not fully developed. And two, after all the promotion that went into the movie for the past two years, it was no better than a typical action movie. The saving grace for this superhero epic was that months after the cinematic release, an ultimate edition came out that allowed DC fans to forget how poorly constructed the movie actually was.
The Milwaukee Bucks are the NBA’s version of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. They are a story of untapped potential. It is easy to point out that Giannis Antetokounmpo is the new adaptation of the caped crusader. Fierce and revered by many NBA fans, Giannis’ alter ego, Point Giannis, was expected to wreak havoc on NBA defenses this season. Instead, we have received a much more aggressive Greek Freak hell bent on attacking the rim without measuring the collateral damage of his wild shots at the net.
The long strident Greek native is single handily the reason why the Bucks are tops in the NBA in points in the paint. However, the repercussions of his aggressiveness take effect on the defensive end. Giannis leads the league in drives to the basket where there is no backup plan if his 7-foot euro step doesn’t work. In today’s NBA, a miss in transition at the rim produces an open three-pointer on the wing for the other team.
Since Christmas, the Bucks have dipped from fourth in the NBA at defending the three-point line all the way to 18th. Their fall in defending the three has resulted in their 11-16 record since.
Giannis’s recklessness pulled the mask off of Jabari Parker, the Man of Steel in this scenario, the much safer, more controlled contributor. Before being put to death by the NBA’s version of Doomsday, season-ending ACL surgery, Parker was playing well off Giannis, averaging 20 points a game.
Parker’s knee injury could be seen as a freak accident on a drive to the basket, but ultimately could be a result of the toll Parker bore from the pressure of defending opposing 4’s on a nightly basis. Play style and health aside, the most dynamic forward combo in the NBA is not why the Bucks are disappointing.
You don’t have to look far to find the over utilized Matthew Dellavedova. If you think Rajon Rondo is a notorious assist hunter, then you have never seen the Bucks play. Delly probes in the pick and roll with full intention to pass no matter where the defender opposing the pass is. In fact, Delly ranks in the bottom tier of starting point guards in points created as the pick and roll ball handler, at 2.9 points per game.
The Bucks caught fire with rookie Malcolm Brogdon at point guard in early January but gave up on that experiment so that their $60 million dollar investment in the Aussie point guard doesn’t go to waste. On the subject of waste, the collection of Bucks vets surely classifies as unmemorable Justice League cameos.
Jason Terry is on the team in flashes, occasionally making appearances as the exasperated former hero, having more lift rising from the bench than from his jump shot. Cyborg Michael Beasley continues playing like a computer program with occasional glitches. Those glitches would include Beasley proving to be a tweener with an attitude problem, as he lights up good teams out of the blue. If only Beasley was as consistent as a Cyborg or he might have been a real star more than a decade ago. Greg Monroe’s effectiveness dwindles the farther he is from his sweet spot. There’s a reason why there aren’t many water based superheroes, just like there’s a reason there aren’t that many prodding 7-footer low post big men.
Either way, you slice it, the Bucks have been living off the hype: four to five wings that can hold hands and build a wall across the three-point line. Without that luxury, Jason Kidd has struggled to make formidable lineups with new additions Tony Snell and Mirza Teletovic struggling to fit in. Kidd has buried Rashad Vaughn on the bench long enough for this to be the first mention he’s received in an article since he was drafted.
But, there is hope for the Bucks with roughly 25 games left. There is an ultimate edition in the works if Middleton and Giannis can carry this team like they did two seasons ago on the last Bucks playoff team.
Despite the new life that Middleton gives them to end the season, a furious 25 game run won’t hide the fact that this team will end the season in the same spot they were two years ago in Kidd’s first season as head coach.
photo via llananba