A little less than a month removed from the Buck’s season we can more accurately grade how it went. The Buck’s had their second winning season in the last decade, winning 42 games and getting the sixth seed. A lot of players had career years and some of the young Bucks showed great development and promise. We saw Milwaukee’s first all-star since 2004 when Giannis showed out for us in the Big Easy, Giannis became a superstar right before our own eyes. The other players on the roster had much more up and down seasons by comparison, grading them can reveal some of the things that went well and what went wrong.
Players will be graded in order according to height with 6’9” being the dividing line between pieces. Only players on the roster at season’s end will be covered, not much use discussing Axel Toupane or Steve Novak, in my opinion.
Hawes was acquired midseason in exchange for Miles Plumlee, for a guy that mainly just salary dump Hawes played a fair amount. After not appearing until long after he was initially acquired Hawes supplanted John Henson in the third string center role and turned in a handful of middling performances. He had some good games mixed in with a handful of bad ones, he struggled immensely on the defensive end. Hawes is likely nearing the end of his NBA career at 28 his once mediocre athleticism is approaching unplayable territory. He is not accurate enough from distance to warrant playing time as a stretch big, and his defense makes him questionable even for a third string big man. If Hawes does opt in with the Bucks he will likely be one of the first choices to sport a suit assuming everyone else is healthy. (Which Jabari will not be until close to the All-star break.
Thon exceeded just about every expectation that was placed on him this season. Not only did he break into the rotation, but he played in the playoffs and he played well. Thon showed this season that his shot is ready, from the NBA 3-point line and over NBA defenders. His defense got miles better from last June, he was the Bucks defensive anchor when he played in the playoffs he was tied with Giannis for the best defensive rating on the team. Physically he improved as well in terms of strength and muscle, he is on another level from the preseason.
Henson started off the season third on the depth chart behind Monroe and Plumlee, he finished the season fourth behind Maker, Hawes, and Monroe. If that doesn’t sum up how poorly Henson performed in game and in practice this season I am not sure what will. He had a stretch where he was the starter and the team performed well, but even the most ardent Henson supporters would acknowledge he played little role in the team performing well. It was almost as if despite stringing together poor performances the team was succeeding despite him. John Henson had just 13 games this year where he recorded double digits in points and only 2 games where he hit double digit rebounds. It was just a blah year for him when he had several opportunities to really grab the starting center spot. Henson was in the first year of his 4 year 44 million dollar extension, which now looks like a bad deal for a center who does a few things well, but with little consistency.
Giannis is the reason the Bucks vastly over achieved the preseason expectations most analysts had for them. He was the second best player in the Eastern Conference this season, behind only the King himself. He basically had career highs in every statistical category, making a large leap in who he was as a player. There really isn’t much to be said that hasn’t been written about extensively by myself and other writers, without delving deep into film and taking the analysis too deep for this exercise.
Moose had a nice bounce back season, after his first season in Milwaukee in which he did not live up to Bucks fans’ expectations. In my eyes most of Moose’s success was due to a combination of adjusted expectations and playing a role that suited his strengths much better. Playing against second unit centers allowed Moose to play against smaller centers for the most part that enabled him to feast in the post. His numbers were nearly identical on a per minute basis to last season, but in smaller minutes he was slightly more efficient. The real story of the season was the other end of the court though where Monroe went from total liability on defense to about league average. This development allowed him to close games and play well in more units. Moose will never be an elite defender, but being league average allows him to be a major contributor on a good team.
Acquired in a preseason trade for Tyler Ennis, Beasley was able to provide a really nice scoring punch off the bench for the Bucks. He had games that his presence was a clear positive and helped end scoring droughts. Beasley is not a player without flaws, but he had one of his best seasons in the NBA with a career high in efficiency by most metrics. He was able to play a little less selfishly than he has throughout his career, while still staying true to his game and strengths. I doubt Beasley returns next season, but his one season here was helpful if nothing beyond that.
Signed a three year thirty million dollar deal with the Bucks after a career year in Phoenix, the sharp shooting big man was signed to bring shooting to a Bucks squad that desperately needed it. Teletovic ended up having a disappointing season, he struggled to break the rotation and despite making nearly ten times what Beasley did, failed to beat him out for playing time frequently. His three point percentage dipped that even his gravity as a shooter was not enough to get him onto the court. A shooter who does not shoot well, and has few if any other above average NBA skills is a tough sell. Telly did have some positive moments and had decent advanced stats, but his shot selection is brutal when it is not falling.
Stay tuned for part II for the rest of the roster.