2016 was an interesting year for the Milwaukee Bucks as a team and an organization. Ground was broken on the new arena, and the duo that will lead the franchise into their new home come 2018, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, both took their first real steps forward toward franchise player status with solid seasons last year. The Greek Freak was in the Slam Dunk Contest, while Khris Middleton attempted to show his skills in the 3-point contest, but both came up short. Controversy also surrounded the organization as the team’s president discussed the social tension in Milwaukee, sparking outrage among some fans. New players joined the squad, and old faces left. Overall, going into 2017, the Bucks are showing signs of a possible franchise run not seen since 2001, but some things need to happen first.
These are the 2016 revelations and 2017 resolutions for our Milwaukee Bucks.
This one really doesn’t need to even be said, as it is almost that obvious, but both the second half of 2015-16 and the first part of the current season have been absolutely stellar for the Greek Freak. After the All-Star break last season, when the Giannis “experiment” at point guard got off the ground, his stats took off across the board:
- Pre-AS Break: 34.6 MPG, 15.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 2.5 TO/G, 50.5 FG%, 23.9 3P%, 4.7 FTA/G
- Post-AS Break: 36.5 MPG, 18.8 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.9 BPG, 2.8 TO/G, 50.9 FG%, 28.6 3P%, 5.9 FTA/G
Compare those stats to those through the first 29 games of the current season, however, and they show that Giannis continues to get better.
- 2016-17 (through 34 games): 35.2 MPG, 23.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.9 SPG, 2.0 BPG, 2.9 TO/G, 53.7 FG%, 29.3 3P%, 7.7 FTA/G
In fact, I put Giannis’ stats so far this season into Basketball Reference’s Player Season Finder (http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/psl_finder.cgi) and discovered that, if he kept his current pace for the entire season, Giannis would become only the second player in NBA history with his averages of points, rebounds, assists and steals per game in a single season. The other player? None other than one Larry Bird, who posted a line of 25.8/9.8/6.8/2.0 in 1985-86. Take away the steals requirement, and the 23.9/9.1/5.8 line that remains has only happened on 12 occasions by three different men: Wilt Chamberlain (2x), former Buck Oscar Robertson (4x) and the aforementioned Larry Bird (6x). Russell Westbrook is currently producing those statistics for the Oklahoma City Thunder as well.
Being just 22 years of age and with a four year, 100 million dollar contract extension due to start next season, Bucks fans will be able to look forward to a franchise centerpiece in the Cream City for years to come.
New Faces Make(r) Their Mark
In this June’s NBA draft, the Bucks returned to the well that ended up landing them one of the NBA’s brightest young stars: taking a risk on a raw foreign prospect with seemingly unlimited potential. The Bucks used the 10th pick on Thon Maker, a native of South Sudan and selected after spending one year as a post-grad student at Orangeville Prep in Canada. With a soft touch uncharacteristic for someone his size, Maker has started the season near the end of the bench, seeing just 56 minutes of action in 14 games. However, he has already began to show promise, shooting a total of 10/18 (55.6%) overall and 4/8 (50.0%) from behind the arc this season. Bucks’ fans first glimpse of Maker came when he converted in two threes in approximately 30 seconds against the Indiana Pacers.
The team’s second round pick, Malcolm Brogdon, came in much more seasoned, and has already proven to be an integral part of Milwaukee’s second unit. Brogdon, a guard out of Virginia who won the ACC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards as well as First-Team All-American. As one of the most prolific players in Virginia history, his college number 15 will be retired this coming February. From the jump of his NBA career, Brogdon showed Milwaukee and Coach Kidd the kind of player that he can be. His eight points along with five rebounds and assists in the season opener against Charlotte began what has been a solid rookie season for the 24-year-old. Despite not starting a single game until December 30th against Minnesota, Brogdon finds himself 4th among rookies in points (8.5 PPG) as well as 1st in assists (3.8) and 5th in steals (0.9, 4 players tied for first.) In just his second start, on New Year’s Eve against the Bulls, Brogdon recorded his first career triple double with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. With that performance in only his 32nd career NBA game, Brogdon became just the 14th player in NBA history to achieve a triple double at that point in their career, joining names such as Tim Hardaway, Chris Webber and John Wall.
The biggest revelation of all, though, may be that the future looks quite bright in Milwaukee, something that Bucks fans have been waiting on for a long, long time.
Now, with all that is above having been said, the Bucks are definitely not perfect. While the team has looked as complete recently as they have in years (47.4% FG%, 3rd in the NBA), there are certainly areas where the team has shown signs of struggling and need for improvement. With that in mind, this is a list of some New Year’s resolutions/additions for the Bucks to adopt into 2017.
Resolution #1: Find Another Rebound Specialist
The Bucks’ most visible weakness when it comes to this year’s squad is the lack of solid rebounders on the roster. Milwaukee currently ranks a fairly pedestrian 19th in the NBA in total rebounds (43.3), with 33.9 defensive boards (12th) and 9.4 on the offensive glass (22nd). To put that number in perspective, the Bucks only have one player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, who averages more than seven total rebounds per game, with Greg Monroe first behind him at 6.7. If you factor in the Per 36 Minute averages of players who play over 15 minutes per game, that number is still just four players (Giannis, Monroe, Henson, Beasley.) For comparison, the Chicago Bulls lead the NBA in total rebounds at 47.6 per contest and have five regular rotation players (over 20 minutes) with seven rebounds per 36 minutes.
Moral of this statistics story is that the Bucks could definitely use a new rebound specialist in the front court. Some potential free agent targets in the next offseason could be Terrence Jones if the team decided to go after a power forward, or possibly former Buck Andrew Bogut if they go with a center.
Resolution #2: Close Out On 3-Pointers
As noted by Gus Johnson in Wednesday’s game against the Knicks, teams are sensing a significant weakness in Milwaukee’s defensive game: the left side three-point shot. Of the 13 three balls made by New York in that contest, seven of them came from that same left corner, including four in the first quarter alone. The Knicks also took 14 of their 28 attempts from the left corner. In fact, through just 34 games, the Bucks have given up 10 or more three pointers a total of 18 times, or in 53% of their games. While their average 3PM against them (10.1) ranks 8th in the NBA, they are also 4th in the league in opposing 3 point percentage at 34.6%. So, with that being said: Bucks, just try not to give up as many three pointers in 2017, and you can help save some fans from suffering from a severe case of three-pointitis.
With the first few games out of New Year in the books with plenty more to come, it is a very exciting time to be a Milwaukee Bucks fan. With Jabari and Giannis leading the way into the future and the return of Khris Middleton coming, hopefully, sooner rather than later, the Bradley Center and the entire 414 may be buzzing come late April. Happy New Year Milwaukee and Go Bucks!