The Milwaukee Bucks of 2014 were something special. It was the first year in the tenure of Jason Kidd as head coach, Giannis Antetokounmpo was coming into his own, and the veteran presence of Zaza Pachulia and Jared Dudley was something to behold.
After the almost-comeback series win during the playoffs, the Bucks headed into the offseason with as much optimism for the future as the franchise has seen since the days of Oscar Robertson.
In signing Greg Monroe, a player many projected to be an All-Star level player moving forward, the Bucks kept making gains. But to the dismay of literally everyone (ok, maybe just some) the Bucks parted ways with both Dudley and Pachulia.
Dudley, the veteran who could relate to the young Bucks and shot a warm 38% from the three-point line, was now a Washington Wizard. Pachulia, the do-it-all hustle man, racking up double-doubles – and the guy who was the enforcer protecting his herd of young Bucks – was now a Dallas Maverick.
It was the end to a glorious, short-lived era of Bucks basketball.
Last season, fans noticed the gaping hole left in the team when the those two players left. Milwaukee struggled and vastly under-performed expectations. This season, though, it seems the Bucks have found a new pair of players that serve the same purpose and actually play the roles slightly better.
Let’s start with Greg Monroe. When he signed with Milwaukee in 2015, it was supposed to be a watershed moment, but after struggling all year, Jason Kidd moved him to a bench role and he disappeared from the stat sheet. But this year, Monroe has flourished as the sixth man. His hustle is leaps and bounds better. Defensively, he has also improved, pushing his steals per game up to 1.3 and his defensive rating to 104.
Compared to Pachulia in 2014 who had a 1.1 steals a game and a rating of 100, Monroe is slightly under-performing him on defense, but for the most part they are basically the same. Both have similar board numbers as well, hovering around seven a game.
Offensively, Monroe is also improving the ball movement. This was a hallmark of the Pachulia-Dudley era. While his assists per game totals are low, Monroe is assisting his teammates at a clip of 15.9 percent while he is on the floor. That is remarkably similar to 2014 Pachulia, who posted a 16.2 assist percentage. It’s also a steady improvement from Monroe’s 13.2 percent last season.
Monroe is also a better scorer than Pachulia was in 2014. Monroe is scoring 11 points per game off the bench while Pachulia only scored about eight a game. The offense is just plain better with Monroe than it was with Pachulia in 2014. Posting a 113 offensive rating so far proves Monroe the better scorer and facilitator.
But how do you replace Dudley? The three-point connoisseur and leader of the team? His name is Jason Terry.
Before we compare the two and their per-game totals, know that Dudley averaged almost 25 minutes a game in 2014 while Terry is averaging about 17.
Per game, Dudley did outshoot Terry, with 7.2 PPG compared to Terry’s current 3.2 PPG. Their offensive ratings, though, are exactly the same at 112. This is because, per 100 possessions, they are almost identical players.
Terry’s almost-40% three-point percentage is a full point higher than 2014 Dudley, who posted almost 39 percent. Per 100 possessions, both accumulate about four assists. Offensively, the only real difference per 100 possessions is the fact Terry is a more consistent free throw shooter.
Defensively, the 39-year old Terry is actually better than 2014 Dudley, posting a 112 defensive rating compared to Dudley’s 104 rating.
One thing no one does better than Terry, though, is being the active voice on the bench. No other player is jumping on tables and pumping up the crowd during a timeout. He is providing the veteran leadership Dudley did in 2014, but also adding in the hype of a younger player. Terry is 39, but acts and plays like he is ten years younger.
He also makes those around him better. No one else on the team is passing up an easy lay-up to pass it to a teammate. No one else is actively trying to get Thon Maker shots. That’s all Jason Terry. He is the dad of the team when he is proud of his teammates’ play, the child of the team when he brings the excitement back to the fans, the pre-teen of the team when he brings out his inner diva with his go-to jet move.
Like most Bucks fans, I was emotionally broken when the Bucks traded away Pachulia and Dudley. I didn’t know how they were going to move forward without key role players. If there was a Hall of Fame for role players, Dudley and Pachulia would undoubtedly be first ballot HOFers.
But by the grace of ghosts of Bucks past, they have found even better role players who do what Pachulia and Dudley did, and then some. Greg Monroe and Jason Terry.