The Milwaukee Bucks’ 15-man opening night roster was finalized on Monday. The team looks very similar to last year; only Michael Beasley and Spencer Hawes were cut loose in the offseason. Gary Payton II was also released, then later signed to a two-way contract. In fact, they didn’t make any major free agent signings or trades, so their only newcomers are rookies.
This is the perfect time to take a look at the current players on the roster and predict how they will contribute this season. The Bucks have made it clear they expect to be competing in the playoffs this season. Let’s see what each player brings to the table, and what we can roughly expect their stats to look like.
Predictions: 25.5 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 5.8 APG, 32.2% 3PT
Giannis has improved in all five major stat categories in each season he’s been in the league, and last year’s progress was enough to earn honors for Most Improved Player. This year he’ll be expected to lead the team to the playoffs once again.
Giannis has improved in all five major categories each season. (Image: StatMuse)
Many are projecting him to be right in the thick of the MVP race, and with good reason. If the Bucks finish high in the standings he’ll definitely be in the conversation. Whether he can actually win it over heavy favorites like Lebron James or Kawhi Leonard is another question, but stranger things have happened over the course of a long NBA season.
While Khris Middleton is arguably the Bucks’ second best overall player, Jabari Parker was the second most potent scoring weapon in the Bucks’ arsenal before he went down. Middleton and Antetokounmpo will both have to pick up the slack in his absence. It’s not unreasonable to think Giannis could pop off and average more than 27 points this season.
However, putting that much of the scoring responsibility in Giannis’s large hands could be problematic for the offensive scheme as a whole. As we saw in the playoffs against Toronto, teams can opt to wait inside on Giannis and block driving lanes to the basket.
Of course, all that can change if he develops a formidable jump shot. Last season he improved his 3-point percentage by a slight margin to 27.2%, while increasing his volume of outside shots. Giannis has an impeccable work ethic and you can expect him to show yet another marked improvement for 2017-18.
Predictions: 19.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 41.5% 3PT, 89.0% FT
Bucks fans weren’t sure what to expect from Khris Middleton after learning of his devastating hamstring injury before last season. Some reports indicated that he would miss the entire season, which effectively would have quashed any chances the Bucks had at reaching the playoffs.
However, Middleton return earlier than scheduled, and his solid play ignited Milwaukee’s late season comeback. Prior to his return, the Bucks had lost 10 of 12 and were headed towards another dismal finish. Following his return, they caught fire. The hot streak included an unprecedented 14-4 month of March and secured them a sixth seed in the playoffs.
(Image: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)
Middleton can make a huge impact this season. In his last full season with the Bucks in 2015-16, he put up borderline All-Star numbers, averaging a team-high 18.2 points while shooting just under 40% from deep. He will be the second scoring option on a team with an MVP candidate, and his clutch tendencies and defensive ability will be important in closing out games.
Predictions: 7.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 48.0% FG
The Bucks shocked the world when they selected Thon Maker 10th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft. After seeing how last season panned out, snagging Maker at 10th overall doesn’t seem so egregious. The 7-foot-1 forward rounded out his rookie season nicely, securing a starting job throughout the playoffs.
Moving forward, the key for Maker will be to bulk up and add some bodyweight to his long, “Inspector Gadget” frame. According to a recent report from the Journal Sentinel he had a productive summer with a workout and nutrition plan designed to add muscle mass.
If Maker can get stronger and maintain his new body mass he’ll be better equipped to compete with NBA centers for position under the basket. His on-ball skills and range are impressive for someone of his size, so a stronger frame could be the final element that he needs to become a future star. This year Maker can continue to develop his outside shot and improve on the defensive end. He showed some potential as a skilled shot-blocker in the playoffs last year.
Predictions: 12.0 PPG, 4.8 APG, 1.5 SPG
The 2017 Rookie of the Year hardly looked like a rookie at all. After being drafted 36th overall (the lowest ever to win the award), Brogdon outplayed front-runners Joel Embiid and Dario Saric to win top honors. The 24-year-old won the award with superb offensive efficiency while playing a key role on a playoff team. He shot 45.7% from the field, including a reliable 40.4% from beyond the arc and 86.5% on free throws.
The rookie also demonstrated superior knowledge of the game and his confidence was both contagious and unwavering. Over the course of the season, Brodgon managed to dunk over Lebron James, Kyrie Irving and Dwyane Wade. He also showed his guts when he iced an important game down the stretch in Boston.
Brogdon doesn’t need to make leaps and bounds to have a successful sophomore season. After all, he’s already given the Bucks more than a team could ever hope for from a second-round pick. The Bucks can enter the year knowing they have their starting point guard for the foreseeable future.
Predictions: 8.2 PPG, 0.8 SPG, 39.1% 3PT
Snell was a pleasant surprise after coming over from Chicago in the Michael Carter-Williams trade. He set a career high from beyond the arc, shooting 40.7% on the season, including a scorching 52.0% in the month of January. He even found himself a permanent starting job after Middleton went down with an injury.
This offseason Snell was rewarded for his solid play with a 4-year extension worth $46 million. Today’s NBA values players like Snell at a premium, and another team would have gladly swept him up if not for the Bucks locking him up.
Snell looks be a fixture in the starting lineup again this year, at least until Parker comes back. Consistent 3-point shooting is always extremely important in lineups that feature Giannis. Snell is the perfect role player to compliment scorers like Giannis and Khris Middleton, as they can look for him to be open on the perimeter.
Predictions: 13.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 38.5% 3PT
Just when everything was going right for Jabari Parker, the unthinkable happened (again). On a routine drive to the basket against the Heat in February he re-tore his ACL. The injury was especially disappointing in light of the outstanding year he was having. The third-year forward was averaging career highs of 20.1 points and 6.2 rebounds. He also became a dependable three-point shooter seemingly overnight, bumping his accuracy to 36.5% on the year.
It remains to be seen how cautious the Bucks will be with Parker’s second return. They have every reason to play it safe. He’s certainly not a lost cause, and with some persistence and good fortune he can still have a successful career. Getting Parker back midseason, provided that he returns in good condition, could be a huge boost for the Bucks as they make a push for a higher seed in the East. The Bucks failed to reach an extension agreement with him before Monday’s deadline, so he’ll test the waters in restricted free agency next summer.
Predictions: 11.3 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.2 SPG
Monroe looked noticeably more effective in a bench role last season. After his first season in Milwaukee he looked like an experiment that wasn’t working out. However, something seemed to click with him when he transitioned to the sixth-man role. He looked more comfortable and seemed to understand the system a lot better. Whereas previously he was seen as a defensive liability, his hands looked a lot more active and disruptive. He bumped his steals-per-36 minutes from 1.1 to 1.8.
(Image: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)
Monroe also developed some nice on-court chemistry with Brogdon. Coach Kidd will have to make sure Brogdon and Monroe have adequate playing time together, as they work well in a pick-and-roll combo. With Thon Maker stepping into a more prominent role in the Bucks’ starting rotation Monroe may have to fight harder for his minutes. Kidd could opt to platoon him with Maker and Henson, as he often did last year.
Predictions: 8.5 PPG, 4.7 APG, 41.0% 3PT, 1.5 TPG
In his first year with Milwaukee Dellavedova looked flustered, for lack of a better word. After being a key player off the bench for Cleveland, he was expected to take over the starting point guard role. However, Brogdon filled in for him during an injury, and what was once a temporary replacement became permanent. There wasn’t a lot of improvement in his fourth year in the league, as his three-point percentage saw a significant dip and his turnovers increased (1.8 per game).
This could be a redemption year for Delly. As he settles in and better understands the Bucks’ system he could start to add some of the value the Bucks signed him for. He was a plus-40 percent 3-point shooter in his previous two seasons in Cleveland, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t return to that level again soon. His range can provide space for Giannis to work, and he’s an incredibly gritty defender. If he improves his three-point accuracy and limits the turnovers Delly will be an indispensable asset for the Bucks to have off the bench.
Predictions: 7.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 37.8% 3PT
Teletovic’s presence was a bit frustrating for Bucks fans last season. At times it seemed like he was chucking, and he would often fire long threes early in the shot clock. His 3-point percentage was uncharacteristically low at 34.1%; he had topped 39% twice before in his career.
However, he can still contribute valuable minutes to the Bucks’ rotation. The key for Teletovic is consistency, something he struggled to find last year. He was signed almost exclusively to shoot threes, so if he can knock them down consistently he will fulfill his role on the team. He also has more opportunities for minutes at the power forward slot, with Parker injured and Beasley having departed in the offseason.
Predictions: 5.9 PPG, 0.7 SPG, 35.2% 3PT
Rashad Vaughn will have to do one thing to keep his job in the NBA: make shots. That’s something he simply hasn’t done at a respectable rate to this point in his career. Over 111 total games, Vaughn has shot 32.7% overall and 30.3% from beyond the arc. On paper those numbers are atrocious, but they’re somewhat passable for a guy who hasn’t really earned himself a regular place in the rotation. Vaughn’s minutes last season were sporadic and limited which made it tough for the outside shooter to get in a decent rhythm.
(Image: Associated Press)
If Vaughn develops the jump shot he was drafted for he could prove to be a valuable asset for the Bucks in the long run. However, time is running out on the Bucks’ patience. The front office is unlikely to give him another chance if this season is more of the same.
Nevertheless, the increasing urgency presents a breakout opportunity for Vaughn. Of course, by breakout season I don’t mean 20 points a night and the star of the team. If he can provide a solid scoring threat off the bench, it might be enough for the Bucks to retain him for future years. He also showed some intriguing flashes of defensive potential last season.
Predictions: 4.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.0 BPG
John Henson’s role on the Bucks couldn’t be more hazy at this point. Early last season he took over starting center duties after Miles Plumlee flopped miserably in that role. By the end of the season, Henson was losing minutes to a rookie (Maker) and mysteriously racking up Did Not Play’s.
It’s a sharp contrast to how his career trajectory was looking just a few years ago. In a 2015 playoff series with the Bulls, Henson posted solid averages of 8.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks. He also had an absurd 4.0 blocks per 36 minutes during the regular season that year.
What’s it going to take for Henson to get his career back on track, and live up to the expectations of his now bloated contract? It might take some trust and confidence from his coach and teammates. He’s shown some bright spots in his young career, and we can only hope last year was a just an off year for him. Henson, now the longest tenured Buck on the roster, will have to prove himself worthy of significant minutes off the bench.
Predictions: 3.5 PPG, 0.5 SPG, 38.7% 3PT
At the ripe age of 40, only Vince Carter and Manu Ginobili will enter this season older than Jason Terry. The 18-year veteran is coming back for his second season with the Bucks, after having a surprisingly large impact last year. While his stats weren’t exactly eye-popping (averaged 4.1 points over 18.4 minutes), Terry consistently brought energy and a strong veteran presence to a young team.
(Image: Journal Sentinel)
You can expect much of the same from Terry this season. If he’s lasted this long without completely tiring out, we’re unlikely to see it happen anytime soon. He showed impressive defensive ability and quickness for his age, and knocked down threes at a fiery 42.7% rate. Terry will continue to serve as a great connector between his former teammate Jason Kidd and the younger players. Bringing him back for a second year was also a very popular decision for the fans, and his unhinged energy will help fill seats in the BMO Harris Bradley Center’s final year as the home of the Bucks.
Predictions: 4.3 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 36.7% 3PT
The Bucks went with more of a safe option in this year’s draft (as opposed to total projects like Giannis and Thon Maker), selecting D.J. Wilson out of Michigan. He fills a temporary need at power forward with Jabari Parker out until around February.
Nevertheless, the Bucks might have trouble carving out minutes for him. Wilson is a below-average rebounder for his size at 6-10, and he could be a defensive liability. He’s also a lottery pick on a team that is dead set on returning to the playoffs. It will be interesting to see what Wilson does with the opportunities he gets.
Predictions: 2.5 PPG, 35.0% 3PT
The 6-5 rookie Brown was acquired on a draft day trade, late in the second round. In his senior year at Southern Methodist University, he averaged 13.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists, while shooting 44.9% on threes. His range might be enough to earn him some minutes outside of the typical garbage time allotted to low-profile rookies. Second round picks are never guaranteed playing time in this league; Brogdon last year was clearly the exception, not the rule. However, Brown comes in with four years of experience in college, so he’ll be ready to contribute when the Bucks call on him.
Predictions: 1.5 PPG, 40.0% FG
Milwaukee just claimed Liggins off waivers on Monday, so right now it’s unclear how he fits into their plans this season. Either way, it’s worth noting that he played 61 games for Cleveland last year despite missing the previous two seasons. He then bounced around to five different NBA rosters before finally landing with the Bucks.
It seemed a bit random that Liggins claimed the 15th spot after it appeared Gerald Green had survived the final cut. Coach Kidd said at a recent practice, “he’s been a guy we’ve been looking at since last year.” Perhaps the acquisition wasn’t so random after all.