With the NBA preseason beginning, the Milwaukee Bucks starting lineup could look drastically different from a year ago. Both Michael Carter-Williams and Greg Monroe could be coming off the bench to start the season. To add to these revisions, Khris Middleton’s injury will force the Bucks to incorporate shooting into their starting lineup.
After having one of the best free agent acquisitions in franchise history last summer by signing Greg Monroe, the Bucks planned on going back to the playoffs for the second consecutive season. However, Monroe’s inability to defend and the Bucks lack of three point shooting kept them out of the playoffs for the seventh time in the last ten years.
The Bucks defense diminished with Monroe as center, as they gave up an astounding 103.2 points per game as compared to 97.6 the year before. There was speculation this offseason that Monroe could be traded, the top choice being to the New Orleans Pelicans for Omir Asik. Monroe, a Louisiana native, could fit in well with Pelicans’ star Anthony Davis, but for the time being is simply working to get better and play for whichever team will take him.
Monroe’s agent David Falk expressed the center’s commitment to the Bucks.
“Greg expects to be in training camp with the Bucks,” Falk told The Journal Times. “He’s looking to have a great season for the Bucks. If anything changes, we’ll deal with it at that time.”
Whether Monroe will stay with the Bucks this season remains a mystery, but head coach Jason Kidd has made it apparent that Miles Plumlee will start at center to begin the season. Plumlee, who came off the bench the majority of the time last year, started for a short stretch at the end of the season, and helped propel the Bucks to a few extra wins, despite not being in playoff contention.
“I think we liked the way that it ended last year with Miles (Plumlee) starting,” said Kidd. “It gave us some firepower off the bench and made us deeper.”
To add to the defensive inefficiency, the Bucks ranked 21st in the league in three point shooting, making just 34.5% of shots from beyond the arc.
The Bucks two future superstars, Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo, both shot just 25% from the three point line last season. However, these players are irreplaceable in the starting lineup, so heads turn to the other lengthy and incapable shooter, Michael Carter-Williams. The Bucks starting point guard shot just 27% from three, meaning that only one player in their starting lineup shot over 30% from three.
While Carter-Williams defensive and passing abilities are substantial, the inability for the team to spread the floor limits his potential.
With the addition of defensive star Matthew Dellavedova and Antetokounmpo’s developing skills, the Bucks plan on moving Carter-Williams to the bench. To add to the competition at the point guard position, second-round draft pick Malcolm Brogdon will get some reps, as he will start in the Bucks first preseason game.
Despite this, Carter-Williams seems content with his new role, even if it means being taken out of the spotlight.
“(Last season) we had some tough injuries and our bench wasn’t as effective,” Carter-Williams said. “I think Moose (Monroe) and I we kind of knew that and we were trying to gel even before camp — him and I and some of the other guys who we think are going to play with the second group in. We felt really good as a team, we’re definitely doing really well. I think if that was the case I think we would have one of the best benches in the league.”
These adjustments to the lineup seemed promising, especially because they opened up the three point line for sharpshooter Khris Middleton. However, Middleton will miss a good portion of the season with a hamstring injury, so the Bucks are forced to turn to a new option for reliable shooting.
The two most viable alternatives on the team are young shooter Rashad Vaughn, and newly acquired veteran Jason Terry. While Terry has been a consistent role player his entire career, he is now 39, and giving him big minutes is not an option.
Vaughn has played very limited minutes, and has not proven himself to be an efficient three point shooter. Despite this, Kidd plans on giving him a chance as a starter, hoping that his increased minutes could help him improve.
While this new lineup with Vaughn, Plumlee, and Dellavedova may not be filled with star players, it has potential to help the Bucks’ defense flourish. It also opens up the bench scoring options for the Bucks, who ranked 27th in the league in bench points last year.
It’s easy for players to claim they will accept their new role off the bench before the season starts, but there are many questions surrounding these changes, and how long they will actually last.
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