Fifty-seven games, plus All-Star Weekend, have gone by for the Milwaukee Bucks, and the team, which has gone 9-3 under the guidance of interim coach Joe Prunty, still feels incomplete. Acquiring Tyler Zeller from the Nets less than a fortnight ago made sense, as center John Henson had been, and continues to be, pestered by a right hamstring injury. Still, if last week’s game against the Denver Nuggets proved anything, it’s that Milwaukee needs perimeter shooting, as well as an athletic big who can bang around in the paint but also defend mid-range shots.
Zeller, who has exerted aggressiveness in the paint, despite shooting at a low-volume, has exceeded expectations on the offensive end. His big body presents challenges for opposing guards and wings coming off picks; however, he’s not swift enough to chase around a big like Nikola Jokic, who had a triple-double (30 points, 15 rebounds, 17 assists) of legend against the new Bucks’ addition.
Flipping Rashad Vaughn, who was epitomizing the role of reserve by playing an average of eight minutes per game, appearing in only 22 games, for the former ACC Player of the Year was harmless. The team didn’t pick up their option on the third-year shooting guard, and he’s already been cast off by Brooklyn. Milwaukee also dealt a second-round pick, which, in reality, will be a second thought if the team is to keep its current core, all while developing guys like D.J. Wilson and Thon Maker. This sounds delightful, but, if the Bucks wanted a chance at taking that allured “next step,” which consists of building a deep, multi-purpose bench, they should’ve thrown more into the bucket.
This could’ve been either the likes of a guard who can catch and shoot at a respectable clip, all while logging 15-20 minutes per game, or an athletic big man who can shoot from 10-15 feet away, be relied upon to rebound and bring intensity to the floor. I’ll talk below about three players the team should’ve gone after, and they aren’t necessarily All-Star caliber.
Dewayne Dedmon, C
Now, of course, Dedmon isn’t a sharpshooter by any measure, but he has worked on expanding his range this year. The average distance of his attempted field goals has hovered around 12 feet, which is impressive considering he’s shooting at a clip of 56 percent. His respectable offensive game doesn’t demand many touches, as this is the same player whose career-high in points is 20. You may ask, How would his presence have helped the Bucks? — and that’s a fair question. Well, he exceeds Zeller in shooting ability, surrenders similar percentages to opposing shooters, and is more durable than the former North Carolina big. Yes, John Henson has held his own in the young Prunty era, but it wouldn’t have taken much to secure a more offensively skilled player, one who can roll and meet the paint with nice footwork, as well as with some bite.
Marco Belinelli, SG
Shooting a shade under 35 percent as a team from behind the arc, Milwaukee ranks 26th in the Association, unable to find any consistency outside of Tony Snell (41 percent) and Malcolm Brogdon (37.8 percent). With Brogdon expected to be out another four or so weeks with a quadriceps injury, it would’ve been deft of the Bucks to sign the marksmen specialist Belinelli, after he was waived by the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 9. Instead, the 11-year vet, who has averaged over 23 minutes for his career, latched on with the promising Philadelphia 76ers. The 31-year-old isn’t someone who’s going to forcefully blow by you off the dribble, but the Bucks don’t need that. Rather, they need someone who has shown himself as a shooter from deep, one who’s shot 37.7 percent in almost 700 games. The Italian guard can also come off screens, which would be of merit, considering the Bucks have a slew of guys approaching 7-feet.
Kyle O’Quinn, C
Another player who would’ve been one of the Bucks’ better close-range jump shooters, had he been acquired, O’Quinn, for his career, has been an efficient player, albeit playing in low doses. This season, the current New York Knick’s big has gaudy numbers per-36 minutes, which check in at 14 points, 12 boards, and 4 assists, alongside 2.3 blocks. From an all-around point, those gleefully surpass Zeller’s stats per 36. The Bucks currently rank in the basement of the NBA in average rebounds per game, corralling only 39 per game. O’Quinn, a behemoth who doesn’t waste possessions because of his ability to wipe the offensive glass, would’ve ameliorated this problem. Come playoff time, Milwaukee cannot afford to squander possessions and, more importantly, games to a team like the 76ers or Toronto Raptors, all because of a rebounding disparity.