With the first week of the NBA season wrapping up, we’ve learned a little bit more about the Bucks from their first three games.
The Bucks have played two reigning Eastern Conference playoff qualifiers in the Hornets and Pistons and a bottom feeder in the Nets, who many people thought coming into the year would be the worst team in the league.
Early on, we can already see where the Bucks are at compared to playoff teams and lottery teams. Double digit losses to both of last year’s playoff teams and a last second win…at home…against the miserable Nets (who lost by 30 last night to the Bulls)…without their best player, Brook Lopez.
The Bucks’ goal is to Own the Future, and that very well may happen someday, but that day is not going to be this year.
Even the most irrational of Bucks fans couldn’t have expected that much success this year. Nobody was anticipating playoff series wins or anything like that, but being one of the best eight teams in the East and making the playoffs was definitely a goal.
Young NBA teams don’t win NBA games. That’s just usually the way the NBA is. The Bucks’ two best players are only 21 years of age. Patience is going to be very necessary. Khris Middleton’s absence is killing the Bucks right now, without him their spacing is disoriented. Everyone is trying to score in the same areas resulting in clunky offense, culminating in a lackluster 83-point effort against the Pistons on Friday night.
Luckily, and most importantly, the Bucks’ 100 million dollar investment has given them nothing to worry about. Giannis leads the Bucks in points, rebounds, and blocks, and is second in assists. The Bucks’ being underwhelming would feel a lot more dire if Giannis looked like he regressed.
Jabari Parker, on the other hand, is slightly concerning. Not anywhere near the panic button, not even close, as it has only been three games, but the lack of aggression is not what you draft a player at the second overall pick for. Jabari is second on the team in scoring behind Giannis, which is right where you would figure he would be; however, the 13 points per game is not what Bucks fans are hoping for. In the first two games against the Hornets and Nets, Jabari only had nine and 11 field goal attempts respectively, and then the third game he shot an unimpressive 6-of-16 from the field.
Rashad Vaughn showed signs of life against the Nets on Saturday night with a career-high 22 points. Vaughn was very disappointing as a rookie, but he was one of the youngest players in the league last year. He just turned 20 right before the summer ended, and still has plenty of time to grow. If Vaughn can continue to explode every now and then for some decent scoring outputs, that may change how the Bucks approach the next offseason concerning the off guard position.
We could talk about Thon Maker, but there’s nothing to really talk about. His NBA debut came in the third game of the season against the Pistons, and he played approximately 90 seconds. Maker is really intriguing, but perhaps Jason Kidd wants to wait until he’s ready to play rather than let him make a ton of mistakes, and it’s hard to argue with that.
Even the mighty Lebron James didn’t win a NBA championship until he was 28 years old. Putting that on Jabari and Giannis’s timeline, that wouldn’t be for another seven years…seven years! That’s the kind of patience that Bucks fans are more than likely going to need.
Perhaps the first three games of the year have been a fluke or maybe (hopefully) even the Bucks will figure it out on the fly. At this point, however, that looks extremely unlikely.
There are only two ways that the Bucks could exceed the expectations of their current situation. First, they would need Giannis to impact the game in an all-around superstar manner, scoring from inside and out, and improving as a playmaker. Giannis may make the superstar jump in the relatively near future, but it won’t be this year. Secondly, the Bucks would need Jabari Parker to break out into a consistent offensive weapon. Even though there remains a lot of hope that this will happen, it’s questionable that it would make much of a difference in the result of the wins and loss column. If Jabari averages 20 a night, an increase of a little less than seven points per game, the Bucks play no defense anyway. A team full of length, youth, and athleticism that can’t stop anyone from scoring. It’s honestly kind of amazing.
The Bucks are probably more of a lock for a top-8 pick rather than a playoff seed in the East. With Middleton’s injury, they’ve plummeted hard. Depending on their record at the time he is fully healthy which may not be until March, the Bucks could already be so far out of the playoff picture that they could just keep him out until next year.
Maybe it is a blessing in disguise and the Bucks land a top pick and draft a playmaking, game-changing point guard. An argument could easily be made that, even though it would be sacrificing another year making it another long winter for Bucks fans, drafting a point guard for the future could accelerate the Bucks whole process.
That’s a glass half full outlook on what could be another frustrating season. If Giannis and Jabari continue to develop and become better NBA players, just imagine what they would look like if they drafted, for example, Markelle Fultz next summer and then brought back Middleton?
In the NBA, you have to get really bad before you can get good, especially in a city that doesn’t offer much to free agents. The Bucks have been really bad for a while, and losing this season doesn’t sound optimal, but they may not have a choice.