Mike Miller (Of Double Clutch – not the ex-NBA 3PT shooter) was both right and wrong in the 2017/18 season guide for the Milwaukee Bucks. He predicted they would win around 45 games (they ended up winning 44 games) but he also expected them to push further than last season. Mike expected them to be nipping at the heels of the 4th seed. That part hasn’t happened, mainly due to the fact that the Eastern Conference has been surprisingly strong. It’s worth considering that their record this year, which gets them a 7th seed, would have given them the 5th seed last year. Considering their removal of head coach Jason Kidd mid-season and the instability that brings, that’s not a bad record.
They have also been subject to a number of injuries. Jabari Parker has played 31 games, Malcolm Brogdon 48 and at other points Thon Maker, Giannis, Tony Snell and John Henson have all missed a handful of games too. With those guys at full health, the Bucks could be a force. Parker, who has averaged 19.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2 assists in April, seems to be finding some form and if he can combine this play with consistent health, he could finally turn into the player a lot of people envisioned when he was at Duke. Meanwhile, Giannis has dragged this team with near MVP-level numbers on a team that, without him, would probably be in the running for a high draft pick this June.
With full health this team could cause some upsets this postseason. Don’t forget last season’s game 1 when they knocked off the Toronto Raptors on the road. Tony Snell is shooting 40% on threes, Brogdon 38.5, Jabari Parker 38.2 and Khris Middleton has put up 35.9. They can stretch the floor around Giannis, whose ability to get to the rack can cause defensive nightmares. Lots of teams allow Giannis to shoot from the perimeter and sit in help defense ready for the drive. But at full strength and with their shooters on the floor, it’s difficult to help because Giannis is a good enough passer to find the open man.
Does this team have the bench depth required to make a deep run in the playoffs? The return of Brogdon helps but their normal starting 5 of Middleton, Giannis, Henson, Snell and Bledsoe leaves only Jabari Parker, Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdon as the Bucks bench contributors. This means they are running 8 deep, 9 if you include Delly (but he’s been straight awful this season so I’m not even going to go there). Going into the playoffs and relying on multiple guys that have had severe injuries over the last 2 seasons may be just a little too much to ask. Across bench stats they have the 4th worst scoring bench in the league, they are bad rebounders (both offensively and defensively), they don’t pass the ball as a team particularly well, they have the 4th worst defensive efficiency across all second units… Let’s hope these guys can stay healthy, otherwise it’s going to be a quick exit in the first round.
Next season is going to be a whole different story for the Bucks. After getting rid of Jason Kidd they employed Joe Prunty as the interim head coach, and in all honesty it’s pretty unlikely that he is going to step up and take the role on officially next season. This means a new Head Coach, which in turn brings new responsibility and although they said at points this year that they need to stop blaming their “youth” for their losses… next season is where that is really going to happen. The return of a healthy Parker and Brogdon, and with Giannis being, well, Giannis… This team could be a true problem (in a good way) next season.
THE MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER?
Could this be any more obvious? Giannis has carried this team. Looking like a true contender for MVP he started the season on fire, which died down a little, but where the Bucks go now and how well they do revolves around The Greek Freak. Not many other players make as much of an impact as he does across any team in the entire league. He’s put up 26.9 points, 10 rebounds and 4.8 assists on a 31.6 percent usage, good for 7th in the league. The Bucks want you to Fear the Deer… In reality, people right now only fear Antetokounmpo.
THE ONE TO WATCH?
Jabari Parker and his return from injury makes this team different. He rebounds, scores well, can shoot from distance and put the ball on the floor. Him missing over half of this season is part of the reason why their record wasn’t as good as it could have been. In a first round match up with the Celtics, the return of Parker is significant and could lead to a first round upset thanks to some significant injuries in Boston.
Written by Sam Chadwick – Copyright © 2018 Double Clutch. Double Clutch is not affiliated with the NBA and does not claim ownership over any NBA audio or images used. All rights are those of the NBA/NBA UK and respected parties e.g. Getty images.