With 40 games in the books, the Milwaukee Bucks are currently 22-18 which places them in a tie for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. Although the Bucks currently possess a playoff spot, the team has underachieved this season and has not looked like a serious contender in the Eastern Conference. If the Bucks plan on making a serious run in the playoffs, there are a couple of improvements that need to occur.
There are two reasons as to why the Bucks have underachieved so far this season:
1. Inability to Rebound on a Consistent Basis
As this point in the season, the Bucks rank last in the NBA in total rebounds. To make matters worse, the team is about 60 rebounds behind the Memphis Grizzlies who have the second-fewest rebounds in the league this season. Leading the Bucks in the rebounding department is star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. This season, Antetokounmpo is averaging 10.0 rebounds per game. However, no one else on the team’s roster is averaging seven or more rebounds per game.
The team’s inability to rebound the basketball was even more magnified when the Bucks decided to trade Greg Monroe earlier in the season for Eric Bledsoe. Although Bledsoe has played extremely well with the Bucks, Monroe is still 6’11 and weighs over 260 pounds. This makes him a force in the paint where he has the ability to grab a lot of rebounds which can potentially lead to more second-chance points. In Monroe’s absence, centers John Henson and Thon Maker were expected to contribute more on the boards and have failed to do so. Henson is averaging 6.6 rebounds per game while Maker is only averaging 3.7 rebounds per game. If Milwaukee plans on improving its rebounding numbers, both Monroe and Maker will need to focus more on rebounding moving forward.
It is important to note that the Bucks’ inability to rebound could be helped once forward Jabari Parker returns from his knee injury. Last season, Parker averaged over six rebounds per game and would be a huge addition to Milwaukee’s horrid rebounding core. When Parker is ready to return, expect him to have an immediate impact on the boards. Until then, the Bucks might have to trade for a quality rebounder before it is too late.
2. Inability to Shoot From the Outside
Currently, the Bucks are tied for sixth-lowest three point percentage in the NBA. Although the Bucks do have several sharpshooters like Khris Middleton, Mirza Teletovic and Tony Snell, the rest of their roster is basically useless from the three point line. Since Milwaukee’s offense is mostly run through Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe, both of their inabilities to shoot threes at an efficient rate have led to severe spacing issues on offense.
This season, Giannis Antetokounmpo is shooting a pedestrian 27.4% from the three point line which has allowed defenders to sag off into the paint instead of guarding him on the perimeter. Similarly, Eric Bledsoe is shooting an underwhelming 32.2% from the three point line and is often left open from behind the arc as opponents simply dare him to take the open look.
Similarly to the rebounding issue, it could potentially be resolved with the return of Jabari Parker who has the ability to make a large portion of his three point shot attempts. Last season, Parker shot 36.5 percent from behind the arc and was also able to create his own shot on the perimeter. Last season, Parker’s presence led to improved spacing because defenses were forced to collapse on him when he drove from the post and his defenders also had to respect his jumpshot. Now, Parker’s return could be the potential resolution to Milwaukee’s shooting woes once again.