Checking In: Milwaukee Bucks

After making the playoffs two years ago, the Milwaukee Bucks disappointed many last year by struggling all season long and missing the postseason. This year, the team seems to have somewhat righted the ship, and is playing .500 basketball so far, at a record of 13-14.

The Bucks are led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has continued his development into becoming one of the league’s best young players, and a potential superstar in the making. It’s hard to understate Antetokounmpo’s impact on the team. He leads the Bucks in nearly every box score and advanced statistic, including points, rebounds, assists, steals, block, offensive rating, and defensive rating. While Antetokounmpo has struggled to find his jump shot, he continues to help the Bucks in a myriad of ways.

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The other big success story on the Bucks this season is Jabari Parker, who has quietly become a more effective player than the only man drafted ahead of him in 2014, Andrew Wiggins. After Parker missed almost the entirety of his rookie season, he has become a versatile scorer while improving his defense. Parker’s individual rebound numbers aren’t great, the Bucks rebound at a top five rate while he’s on the floor, compared to what would 29th while on the bench.

Though less of a contributor than Antetokounmpo and Parker, Malcolm Brogdon has begun to make a name for himself. The 24 year-old rookie has surprised many with his contributions, averaging 7.7 points and 3.1 assists while shooting 41.7% from three. While recently making headlines for dunking on both Kyrie Irving and LeBron James in the same game, Brogdon has been contributing on both ends of the floor.

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Shortcomings

The pre-season injury to Khris Middleton has put a dent in the Bucks’ plans, as Middleton is their most reliable shooter, but what it really exposes is Milwaukee’s lack of depth. Besides Antetokounmpo and Matthew Dellavedova, who are both in the starting lineup, the only other primary ball handler on the team is the 39 year old Jason Terry. The dearth of real scorers is an issue too, as Parker and Antetokounmpo are the only players averaging over 10 points per game. Greg Monroe is the next highest at 9.2 ppg.

The Bucks also seem to have no understanding of their center position, struggling to find strong minutes between John Henson, Greg Monroe, and Mason Plumlee. The Bucks consistently allow open inside looks for easy baskets.

Conversely, the Bucks offense is predicated on taking shots close to the rim and the roster is filled players skilled at doing so. The offense is augmented by players who are comfortable making interior passes, like Monroe and Parker. The Bucks are deadly in transition, and being in the top 11 in both steals and blocks, leads to easy buckets.

The Bucks are a well coached team, and Jason Kidd is doing a good job developing the young talent. They should hopefully continue to improve as they hope to return to the playoffs, and could be primed for a major run next season when Middleton returns, but will still need an addition at the center position.

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