After making the NBA Playoffs last year, the bar of expectations increased exponentially for the Milwaukee Bucks heading into this NBA season. But for the Bucks they were unable to live up to those expectations as six NBA seasons have now gone by without them posting a winning record. The Bucks have a wealth of young talent which includes shooting guard Giannis Antetokounmpo, point guard Michael Carter-Williams, shooting guard Khris Middleton, and small forward Jabari Parker. The Bucks are one of the youngest teams in NBA and their lack of a quality veteran in their rotation was on display since the basketball was tipped in the air last October to commemorate the start of this NBA season.
For Bucks head coach Jason Kidd, he could do no wrong last season as he took a young team that had only managed to win 15 games in the previous season to the playoffs. But Kidd could not rekindle that kind of magic this year in Milwaukee as his team spent the entire NBA season attempting to find themselves.
Milwaukee’s season never got off on the right foot as they lost their first three games of the season which was a prelude to them falling behind the eight ball with a record of 7-13. And once you factor in that the Eastern Conference improved drastically as no playoff team this year had a losing record for the first time in a full 82-game season since 2010, the Bucks were never able to overcome their slow start which is something that Kidd will look to remedy over the summer with his young roster.
In 2014, the Bucks made Parker the second overall pick of the NBA Draft as he was looked at as a building block. But 25 games into Parker’s rookie season, he suffered a torn ACL which ended his campaign. However without the presence of Parker, the Bucks surprisingly made the playoffs. This season Parker returned and he appeared in 76 games for Milwaukee as he averaged 14.1 points. The Bucks acquired Carter-Williams last year from the Philadelphia 76ers after the Sixers gave up on him in spite of being the NBA’s Rookie of the Year in 2014. At 6’5″, Carter-Williams is in the mode of his head coach in Kidd who at 6’4″ was a big point guard during his NBA playing career. And like Kidd, there are questions about Carter-Williams’ perimeter shooting which led to him being traded last year. In 79 career games with the Bucks, Carter-Williams is averaging 12.4 points and 5.3 assists while he possesses solid potential due to his overall court awareness. In three years with the Bucks, Antetonkounmpo has improved in each season. This season Antetonkounmpo averaged 16.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists as the 6’11” native of Greece has been dubbed the “Greek Freak” as his athleticism makes him one of the brightest young talents in the NBA. Like Antetonkounmpo, Middleton has seen his numbers increase in each season of his brief NBA career which was highlighted by him leading the Bucks in scoring this year at 18.2 per contest. However for the Bucks to reach their true potential, one of these players is going to have to emerge as the team’s go-to-guy.
Along with center Greg Monroe, the Bucks can field a starting five that has tremendous length along with all being solid passers at their respective position. But passing alone won’t get it done in those clutch moments. And the guy that needs to be the focal point of the Bucks offense going forward is Antetonkounmpo.
At 6’11”, Antetonkounmpo is a matchup problem for any small forward due to his length and his handle. At times this season Kidd allowed Antetonkounmpo to play point guard, and there is a possibility that you’ll see more of that next season. Antetonkounmpo is set to enter the last year of his rookie deal, but I have a feeling that he and the Bucks will reach an agreement on a long-term deal before next season begins.
As a team the Bucks were fifth in the NBA this season in field-goal percentage at nearly 47% per contest, but they were 21st in three-point percentage at 34.5% as none of the players on the team are known for their long-range shooting ability. And for all of the Bucks size on their roster, they were 27th in rebounding this season with 41.7 per game which is something that has to change.
Antetonkounmpo should be the center piece of the Bucks, but going forward this young team must gel more while also becoming more assertive and taking ownership which should come over time. The young Bucks found out this season as nothing is handed to you in the NBA, and when there are expectations that are attached to your name, it becomes more difficult as team are gunning for you. Milwaukee has the talent to do it as this was the team that handed the Golden State Warriors their first loss of the season after beginning the season with a record of 24-0. And as the talent is there in Milwaukee, it is just a matter of everybody getting on the same page to find some consistency.