Last season’s record: 41-41
6th seed in the Eastern Conference
Loss to the Chicago Bulls in the First Round
Points per game: 97.8 (22nd)
Rebounds per game: 42.1 (24th)
Assists per game 23.6 (7th)
Points allowed: 97.4 (8th)
Key additions: Greg Monroe (DET), Greivis Vasquez (TOR), Chris Copeland (IND),
Rashad Vaughn (Draft)
Key losses: Ersan Ilyasova (DET), Jared Dudley (WAS), Zaza Pachulia (DAL)
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG – Michael Carter-Williams
SG – Khris Middleton
SF – Giannis Antetokounmpo
PF – Jabari Parker
C – Greg Monroe
Head Coach: Jason Kidd
At long last, the time is finally here. The air is getting crisper, the leaves are changing color, and the homework is piling up. That can only mean one thing: It’s almost time for Bucks season.
For the first time in a while, there seems to be an energetic buzz floating around the city regarding the Bucks. The team has re-branded itself with a thrilling rebranding including new logos and uniforms, made perhaps the biggest free agent signing in the team’s history by bringing over Greg Monroe and the team is staying in Milwaukee after the arena plan was approved by both state and local legislatures. These aren’t the Bucks of recent years any more. Anticipation for a Bucks season hasn’t been this high since arguably 2002, the year following a run to the Eastern Conference Finals with The Big Three. Excitement around the Bucks has been something that has been missing in recent years not only in Milwaukee, but also around the rest of the state. Something special is brewing in Milwaukee.
What moves were made in the offseason?
For the first time in a vast amount of years, the Bucks actually made shockwaves around the NBA this year in free agency. Former Detroit Piston big man Greg Monroe stunned fans and experts this summer when he announced he was signing a maximum contract with the Bucks over traditional powerhouses New York, Los Angeles and Boston. Monroe labeled the move to Milwaukee as strictly a basketball decision, as he saw himself being the missing piece in Milwaukee to be able to contend for a championship. This was arguably the biggest free agent signing in franchise history and has definitely spiked interest in the team, as Greg Monroe is a huge upgrade from Zaza Pachulia. The Bucks also drafted 19 year-old Rashad Vaughn out of UNLV. Vaughn provides the Bucks with another perimeter scorer that they desperately need to go hand in hand with Khris Middleton, especially given the fact that Jared Dudley was traded to Washington during the offseason. The Bucks also traded a lottery-protected first round pick in the 2017 draft and the No. 46 pick in this past draft to Toronto for Vasquez. The trade was a head-scratcher to some, but Vasquez can provide a spark off the bench with his three-point ability, as well as a solid backup point guard to Carter-Williams. If need be, he can also move down to shooting guard if Middleton’s talents are needed at the 3 or the 4 for a game or two. Chris Copeland was also brought in from Indiana on a one-year, $1.1 million contract.
What are the team’s biggest strengths?
Perhaps the biggest change in the Bucks under the Jason Kidd era besides the change in victories was their stellar defense. Kidd and his staff, lead by Sean Sweeney, devised a lockdown system that utilized the Bucks’ length to the maximum extent. In the 2013-14 season, the Bucks were dead last in the league when it came to defensive rating at 1.079. Flash-forward a year and they skyrocketed to second in the league, just behind the champion Golden State Warriors with a rating of 0.990. One of the reasons behind this drastic change is the turnover rate. The Bucks were tied with Philadelphia for total steals with 789. They were also second in the league in total turnovers with 1,373. This can be attributed by the hustle that the Young Bucks expressed. Gone are the games where O.J. Mayo spends a possession tying his shoe. In are the games where Giannis flies in on a fast break being executed by the Nets and gets a hand in the face of Mirza Teletovic as he launches a three. Also, just watch the defensive length disrupt this possession by the Warriors. Combine the quality of hustle and it turns into an and-1 for the Bucks.
What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Sadly, when there are strengths on a team, weaknesses also exist. One of the biggest weaknesses that can immediately be noticed is a lack of spacing on the court. The projected lineup is as follows:
– Michael Carter-Williams, PG
– Khris Middleton, SG
– Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF
– Jabari Parker, PF
– Greg Monroe, C
When you look at that lineup, only one solidified option on the perimeter stands out: Khris Middleton. Middleton led the Bucks in scoring last year and he has a great chance of doing so again. However, if they want to succeed, the Bucks are going to need to develop spacing out on the floor that can transpire into other three-point threats developing. In the scrimmage this past weekend at Fan Fest, Jabari knocked down a three. Prior to his injury last year, Parker went 4-16 from deep. If he adds in the weapon of the three point shot and combines that to his strong midrange game, he could be very potent on offense. The same goes for Giannis. Last year, Kidd told Giannis to hold the ball if he ever found himself open for three and drive to the hoop and attempt to make a two-point shot. However, Giannis has dedicated a lot of his time this offseason in honing in and developing a three-point shot, something that has been vacant from his game. In an interview at Media Day a few weeks ago, the Greek Freak joked that he thinks Kidd will give him the green light on three-point shots now. From what he showed during the Euros this summer with his Greece National team, his three-point game has definitely improved. If he develops a jump shot in addition to his menacing ability to drive and score, he will become an offensive star in this league.
What are the team’s goals this season?
The Bucks put up a valiant fight last year in the playoffs against the Bulls. They came back from a 3-0 deficit and were able to scrape away two consecutive games to force a Game 6 back home in Milwaukee. That Game 6 was a disaster, but the spirited effort was a good sign for this upcoming season. The Bucks came into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 41-41 record. This year with the addition of Greg Monroe and getting a healthy Jabari back, the Bucks have a good chance to host a playoff series. When asked about the season goals at Media Day, Giannis told reporters the same. The talent is definitely there. It just involves the Bucks being able to culminate it together on the court.
Who is the catalyst to the Bucks’ success?
Arguably the most essential piece to the Bucks offense and perhaps the deciding factor in whether or not they will reach their potential, Michael Carter-Williams brings up many different opinions amongst fans. Some fans defend the decision of trading Brandon Knight in a three-team deal that brought MCW to Milwaukee, while others will refute it to day’s end. However, keep in mind that the Bucks have a Hall of Fame point guard as head coach. Casual fans seem to lack the competence of looking past the scoring quality of Knight. Sure, he was a terrific scorer, but what about the passing ability? Isn’t that what a point guard should be about? That’s what Jason Kidd thought as well when he made the move for Michael Carter-Williams – a facilitator. Say the Bucks kept Knight. That would have made it even tougher to sign Khris Middleton, one of the Bucks’ essential cornerstones. Here are a few other things to consider. First off, how would Giannis and Jabari ever get their shots in a game if Knight were still on the team? They would not be able to develop as fully as they should to become superstars. Second, the Bucks would not have been able to sign Greg Monroe, and we all know the importance of that signing. The team now has MCW under contract for a few more years and he is a player who Kidd sees as a prototype of himself. If there’s any coach that suits Michael Carter-Williams, it is, without a doubt, Jason Kidd. Also, just be happy that this wasn’t the old Bucks ownership. If we were still under that cloud, we would have not even received Michael Carter-Williams in the trade. Instead, the team would have sent Brandon Knight to Phoenix for half a year of another decent player. Anybody remember the J.J. Redick for Tobias Harris trade?
Is this the year the Bucks finally have an All-Star?
The Bucks came close to having an All-Star last year, but the drought ultimately continued when Kyle Korver was selected over Brandon Knight. The Bucks most recent All-Star was when Michael Redd landed the accolade back in 2004. However, with the team on the rise, there’s a chance that the hiatus may be broken. Khris Middleton poses the chance of a break out year. He lead the team with 15.8 points per game last season and that could rise, depending how Giannis performs and how Jabari’s comeback attempt goes. Another possibility is Greg Monroe. He will be used heavily in the Bucks offense, as they didn’t have too great of a presence down low last season. If fed the ball constantly and he takes advantages of defenses, Monroe has a chance of becoming a backup on the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
As mentioned in the beginning of this preview, this season is the most hyped Bucks season in recent memory. That being said, this is the year in which the Bucks take a big step forward and Giannis’ goals of hosting a playoff series and advancing out of the first round are going to come true. This team is simply too talented not to make a big splash. Sure, the Bucks may not have been the greatest following the MCW trade last year, but now that he has a full training camp under his belt and the coaching of Jason Kidd, he should thrive and give the Bucks the point guard they need to lead the offense. The Bucks should take that next step with the addition of Greg Monroe and Parker coming back.
46-36, 4th seed in Eastern Conference
These aren’t your old Bucks any more, Milwaukee. Get out and Fear the Deer!