The Milwaukee Bucks came into the 2015-2016 season with high hopes after overachieving in the 2014-2015 season. The acquisition of Greg Monroe had many people believing Milwaukee was capable of being a top five seed in the Eastern Conference, but his offensive production was not covering his liability on the defensive side of the ball. Khris Middleton has been on a roller coaster ride of production all season, and Buck’s fans have been waiting for Jabari Parker to emerge into his All-Star potential. Although Milwaukee has not lived up to its expectations for the season, the young core has shown drastic improvements, and that is where we will start the discussion.
Jabari Parker was held to less than 30 games in his rookie season, due to a devastating knee injury, so many expected this to be his real rookie season. Before the All-Star break, Jabari Parker was showing signs of his great potential every once in awhile, but in the past few weeks since the All-Star break, Parker has been on a tear. In the past ten games, Parker is averaging 19.8 points per game, 7.0 rebounds per game, 2.8 assists per game, while shooting a staggering 51.9% from the field. The biggest reason for this rise in production from Parker is his chemistry with young, star Giannis Antetokounmpo. Aron Yohannes asked Antetokounmpo about his newfound chemistry with Parker, and this was his response, “Jabari is my guy. He’s doing a great job finding me, and I’m doing a great job finding me.” This just continues to show the connection between the two continues to strengthen game by game, and will evolve into one of the deadliest two man attacks in the league.
Going into his third NBA season, Giannis Antetokounmpo was starting to have some expectations put on him, as he had defied all previous notions of what he was suppose to do. For the season, Antetokounmpo is averaging 16.3 points per game, 7.6 rebounds per game, 3.4 assists per game, while shooting 50.3% from the field. Eric Nehm was able to quote Giannis Antetokounmpo after his nearly triple-double against the Minnesota Timberwolves on 3/04/2016. “Doing what I’m doing now, bring the ball up the floor, no one can give me pressure. Because if they pressure me, I’m just going to go by them. If it is a bigger guy, he’s not going to pressure me. If it is a smaller guy, I’m just going to throw the ball ahead and go to the post. So, right now, I’m not going to lie, I do not feel no pressure. I know guys are changing and different guys are guarding me every game, but right now I feel no pressure, I’m just out there playing my game.” Antetokounmpo has already had two triple-doubles this season, and nearly had his third on Friday night. He still has some work to do on the consistency of his jumper, but his ability to attack the rim is becoming one of the better in the league. Antetokounmpo has vowed to take at least 1,000 jumpers a day this summer to improve his shot, and knowing his intense workout regime, and desire to be successful, Antetokounmpo could be one of the most dangerous players in the league, if the jumper becomes an asset instead of a liability.
As stated before, Khris Middleton has been all over the place this season. Middleton is still putting up averages of 18.5 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, 4.1 assists per game, while shooting 43.4 from the field, and 41.6 from three. In no case are these bad stats, but many were expecting Middleton to be in the mid-twenties for his scoring average. Dealing with a young, potential filled team is not always easy, and only being 24, Middleton has not developed the leadership tactics to lead this team quite yet. Middleton has also not been the stout defender that we all loved last season. Middleton is still the best defensive player on the team, but the overall team methodology of defense has slipped, and that is quite evident with their defensive leader in Middleton. This season has been filled with a lot of close games, and the player getting the last shot has varied month to month. Middleton had the opportunity in January, Antetokounmpo in February, and it is likely to be one of these two for March when it is all said and done.
Milwaukee has three young stars, and although fans were disappointing how the season went, they just need to remember they have the best future in the central division. Milwaukee is currently slated for the tenth overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, and would be able to add another ball handler to improve off Michael Carter-Williams, or target a defensive center. The best move would be to continue losing games to increase their chances of landing Kris Dunn or Jakob Poeltl. The young stars have put the rest of the league on notice, and the fans need to continue trusting the process of, #OwnTheFuture.
By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17