2017-18 Preview: Milwaukee Bucks

By Bryan Crawford #26

As a head coach, Jason Kidd doesn’t always get the credit he deserves. In fact, the Hall of Fame point guard is often overlooked in any discussion about the NBAs best coaches. However, in the last three seasons, Kidd has only had one losing campaign and made the playoffs twice. He can also be credited with the maturation and development of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is well on his way to becoming the next superstar in the League. After a 2016-17 campaign that saw Milwaukee finish sixth in the Eastern Conference, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that given the overall lack of talent in the East, the Bucks will be one of those teams that will make a lot of noise in the conference this year.

Bucks 2017-18 Ballhandlers Wings Bigs
Returners Malcolm Brogdon, Matthew Dellavedova, Jason Terry Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Tony Snell, Rashad Vaughn, Mirza Teletovic, Gary Payton II Greg Monroe, John Henson, Thon Maker
Newcomers Kendall Marshall Gerald Green, James Young Joel Anthony
Gone Michael Beasley Miles Plumlee
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Offense: Everything begins and ends with Antetokounmpo. As the team’s leading scorer, rebounder and assist man, Milwaukee will go as far as he can take them. Luckily for Giannis though, he’s going to have a lot of help around him. Khris Middleton should be back into form after tearing his hamstring completely away from the bone during a Bucks pickup game just prior to the start of training camp last September. He returned to the court this past February and appeared in 29 of Milwaukee’s final 31 regular season games, as well as in the playoffs, but you could see that he was clearly working to regain his rhythm and form. But after an entire summer to rest, work on his game and rehab, this season, Middleton should be the perfect complement to Antetokounmpo that most feel he can be. Malcolm Brogdon, will once again be the Bucks de facto point guard after coming off his ROY campaign last season—the first second round pick to ever win the award. Brogdon shouldn’t be asked to do much more in his second year, but he will still be an important cog in the offense to help Milwaukee improve on its 42-40 record from a year ago. The biggest enigma for Milwaukee will be Jabari Parker. After suffering a second torn ACL in his left knee in February, those around the organization have marveled at the progress he’s made, even though he’s still some time away from being ready to take the court again. Parker could be the X-factor in determining if the Bucks can move into “elite” class in the East. Thon Maker should also move into a larger offensive role this season and help Milwaukee win the 50 games he thinks the team is capable of. As one of the most skilled big men in the NBA, Maker should catch a lot of people by surprise as he continues to be given an opportunity to show what he can do.

Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

Defense: You would think that on a team with over 90 feet of collective wingspan, the Milwaukee Bucks would be a defensive nightmare for opposing teams to face. But they ranked just 19th in defensive rating last season, despite being top 10 in points allowed. The potential is certainly there. Antetokoumnpo has Defensive Player of the Year potential, with his ability to play the passing lanes and still recover for blocks. Maker and Parker are mobile big men with length to hedge on pick-and-rolls. It’ll be on Kidd to coax it out them and develop schemes that take advantage of the length and athleticism at his disposal. All of the elite teams in the NBA, historically speaking, have made their mark on the defensive end. It’s that side of the ball which separates contenders from also rans. If Milwaukee wants to be the former and not the latter, they’ll need to transform themselves into a team that lets opponents know that getting a win won’t come easy.

Upside: The Bucks have quite a few positives working in their favor in the upside department. The core of this time has been together for some time and they’re all familiar with one another and comfortable sharing the court. Chemistry is often overlooked as being vitally important in the NBA, but no team wins without it. Secondly, Milwaukee is relatively young with respect to age, but this team has a ton of experience. They’ve gone through the ups and downs of big wins and bad losses, and now they’re a squad comprised of seasoned veterans who have an understanding of what it takes to compete and win at this level. Lastly, their best player in Antetokounmpo is only 22 years old. There isn’t a greater cause for optimism—this season and beyond—than that.

Durability: Aside from Middleton and Parker, Milwaukee has been relatively injury free over the past few seasons. Of course, you can never predict or accurately plan for unforeseen circumstances such as a player getting hurt, but the basketball gods have smiled on the Bucks in the health department. As long as none of Milwaukee’s key players go down for an extended period of time, they should be in good shape to finish as one of the best teams in the conference and position themselves for a deep playoff run. Another serious injury to Middleton or Parker would be devastating, and if Antetokounmpo gets hurt, forget it, since the success or failure of the team rests squarely on his shoulders.

Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

Synergy: At this point, Milwaukee’s personnel is all familiar with one another—from the head coach to the players. Everyone knows how the other operates and there’s a genuine amount of mutual respect that has manifested itself on the floor. The Bucks, by all accounts, like each other and play hard for one another. Everyone knows their own individual roles as well as the roles of their teammates. There’s no question around who the best player or the leader is, and each person on the roster does a good job of playing their position. Synergy should be the least of Milwaukee’s problems this season.

Experience: Under Jason Kidd, Milwaukee has made the playoffs every other year, while being bounced in the first round in each of their postseason appearances. It’s safe to say the Bucks enter the 2017-18 with a wealth of experience to draw from. The question, of course, is can they put it all together this season. The East is much weaker, meaning there’s a much higher chance that Milwaukee can not only make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in more than a decade, but they can also advance past the first round for the first time since 2001 when they made the Eastern Conference Finals

Win Frame: 48-52 wins

 

2017-18 HOOP Season Preview

Eastern Conference Western Conference
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Boston Celtics Chicago Bulls Atlanta Hawks Golden State Warriors Dallas Mavericks Denver Nuggets
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Toronto Raptors Milwaukee Bucks Washington Wizards Sacramento Kings San Antonio Spurs

 

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