It’s fair to say that people did not have high expectations for the Milwaukee Bucks this year. After a campaign in the 2015-2016 season that found them missing the playoffs with a record of 33-49, as well as losing key scorer Khris Middleton, Bucks fans were not extremely optimistic.
But with the production from a few promising young players in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, and number of experienced veterans and impactful role players, the Milwaukee Bucks may be trending upward a lot sooner than expected.
Last Saturday’s game against the Golden State Warriors is a strong indication of the potential this young Bucks team has. In a tight game, the Bucks ultimately lost 124-121 to an absolute juggernaut, a team that is almost guaranteed to be the top seed in the Western Conference. Antetokounmpo put up a stat line of 30 points, four rebounds and six assists, while Parker had 28 points, five rebounds and six assists. It was a terrific performance by the two young studs, and they showed that they could really hold their own against possibly the toughest opponent in the NBA. With a little bit more solid play, there’s a chance that the Bucks could’ve come away from this game with a win.
Games like this have sort of come out of the blue from the Bucks in the past. But this team is young, and seems to be turning a corner. There’s no doubt that the future is bright in Milwaukee.
Let’s start with 21-year old Giannis Antetokounmpo. The basketball world predicted that the youngster would make quite the leap this year, and they weren’t wrong. Through the first 13 games of the 2016-2017 NBA season, he is averaging 21.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks a game. According to Dan Devine of Ball Don’t Lie, the only players in NBA history to average these kinds of numbers for a season are Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Scottie Pippen. Pretty impressive company, there. Teams simply do not know how to stop the 6’11 guard, and Antetokounmpo is arguably one of the most complete players in the league. It’s clear at this point that he is a budding star.
Jabari Parker has been strong as well. He is scoring 19.7 points per game, up from 14.1 points per game last year, and he’s already shot four more 3-pointers than he did last year (at a much higher clip to boot). Shooting more threes this season has allowed Parker to grow his game immensely, while simultaneously opening up more space for his teammates to score. The way that Parker has opened up his game bodes well for the Bucks going forward, truly giving them a solid 1-2 punch with Antetokounmpo.
Although Matthew Dellavedova doesn’t offer much upside for the Bucks, he does provide a great deal of value and experience for this young Bucks team. Becoming a better passer as the season progresses, Dellavedova is providing players like Antetokounmpo and Parker many opportunities to move and score. His defense is tenacious and strong, and he is always aggressive on the court.
As much as veterans like Michael Beasley and Jason Terry are capable of providing some consistent offense for the Bucks, youngsters like Rashad Vaughn and Malcolm Brogden are stepping up as well. Vaughn has proven that he has what it takes to get hot from three, and Brogden has been stable and consistent thus far as a backup for Dellavedova. The bench is looking deep, and this is very helpful for the young Bucks.
One game below .500 at 6-7, the Bucks do find themselves in the 8th seed for the playoffs. And yes, it’s early, but an underwhelming Eastern Conference poses the postseason as a possibility. With teams like the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons underperforming, as well as the inability of a number of other teams to separate themselves from the rest of the competition, the Bucks have a chance to potentially gain some postseason experience for these young players.