Buck The World is a weekly piece covering important topics in Bucks world, written by yours truly Alexander Juneau. It will be split into one long-form thought followed up by a handful of shorter ones. This is its debut, enjoy.
The injury of Khris Middleton has created a weird season for the Milwaukee Bucks, the expectations have changed entirely. Khris Middleton was in many ways a fix-it-all for the Bucks, when they needed shooting he was their shooter, wing defense he was the guy, clutch shots both making and creating look no further than Khash. An injury to most players on this roster was survivable (even Giannis and Jabari would have merely hurt the outlook, but would still leave playoffs as a distinct possibility) without Khris the chances have plummeted.
As a result of this I believe the Khris injury not only lowered the best case scenario, but split it into two different scenarios both of which I will detail below.
Scenario 1: Playoffs Still Possible
Khris’s injury made the playoffs incredibly unlikely, but the last Bucks playoff team was supposed to win somewhere in the mid-20s total. It would take all-star or near all-star performances from Giannis and Jabari, so far in the preseason both have looked rusty, but preseason means nothing to 3rd and 4th year players. It would also take career years from several other guys including one of the center trio. If Monroe figured it out on defense and became a Zaza-level defender, it changes a lot for this Bucks team.
We would have to see Matthew Dellavedova take steps forward that he has not previously reached in his career, he is the only starting NBA caliber guy on this roster. Tony Snell will get a chance to prove that he is an NBA starter, Kidd has given him a vote of confidence already. Barring huge unexpected performances from one of Vaughn, Snell, and Brogdon; Dellavedova will be the best guard on the Buck’s roster this year.
So if the majority of guys play close to their top level where does that put the Bucks? I would say it would be somewhere in the 42-45 wins area. Obviously more is possible, but that still seems incredibly optimistic to me. That could be a low playoff seed, likely the 8 seed which would give this team a chance to play the Cavaliers in the playoffs, advancing is unlikely but experience is valuable without a doubt.
This team reaching that win total would be an absolute dream scenario for fans, it means that the guys on the roster have developed so much add Khris back into that mix and they could be looking at 50 wins in 2017-18 and have a really solid team when that new arena opens up.
Scenario 2: Tank Now Win Later
20 years ago The Admiral (David Robinson) missed the entire season causing the Spurs to have their only non-playoff season since 1990. This allowed them to get a 15x All-Star and 10x first team All-NBA player in Tim Duncan. The Khris Middleton injury could give the Bucks a similar type of season. This draft could be the perfect for the Bucks there are multiple elite guard prospects entering the season for the first time in years. They could finally get a guard to complement their trio of overpaid centers and their trio of amazing forwards.
Tanking is not fun, but it gives Kidd an extended chance to experiment with the youth. In a winning season Thon might get 600 minutes, in a tank that number might be closer to 1400-1600, that sounds fun right? Hopefully a tank season would allow us to finally figure out which of our centers should be our guy going forward.
The biggest obstacle to winning for these Milwaukee Bucks is shooting, with Khris who is essentially a top 15 shooter in the NBA they can skate by on offense. Without Khris they will struggle, even with the acquisition of Tony Snell they are still a poor shooting team. A season like this could allow Kidd to green light some lesser shooters (Giannis, Jabari, Thon, etc) to see how they shoot in games.
Kidd is already a very experimental coach, I would like to see any restrictions or reservations he has removed and just really try anything he thinks has a chance to work. This is truly the last chance the Bucks will have at a good draft pick, next year Giannis will be on his new deal and Jabari will be in his 4th year. Khris will be back and all the other young guys will be a year older, losing just will not be an option even if one of the three forwards is removed the other two will be too good to tank.
- Jabari Parker averaged 18.7 points per game in the preseason despite playing only 29 mpg. In general he looked way more aggressive and also averaged 6.8 rebounds. He was efficient and helped the team win their games. He could be poised for a big breakout year, I personally expect 18 points per game to be an expectation with 20 a distinct possibility.
- Giannis received a handful of top 50 player rankings in the NBA including one at 24. He will face an uphill battle with what looks to be a losing squad, but he stands a chance to be the first Bucks All-Star since 2004.
- Is Jason Terry going to be a factor this season? He only played 59 minutes this preseason scoring 12 points and dishing out 3 assists total. Initially when acquired I had expected him to play more than the 18 mpg did last year in Houston, now I am questioning whether he has that left in his 39 year old legs.
- What are the odds the Bucks on April 12th their final regular season game will still have all three of Monroe, Plumlee, and Henson? 3 months ago the odds seem slimmed with opening night around the corner and with Zach Lowe whispering that the Bucks are expecting Monroe to opt in the odds of a trade seem slimmer than ever. Philadelphia is also looking trade centers and the list of teams that need starting or good backup quality centers is virtually non-existent.
- Matthew Dellavedova has handled the ball more than I expected him to next to Giannis. He averaged 5 assists per game and looked much like his Cleveland self, solid but not spectacular. His play will be essential for the Bucks this season with their barren back court.