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Milwaukee Bucks 2016-2017 Season Preview: Time to Fear The Deer?

Oct. 25, 2016
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After making the playoffs just two seasons ago in Jason Kidd’s first year as head coach, the Milwaukee Bucks took a major step back last season, with a 33-49 record that left them 12th in a much-improved Eastern Conference. Despite higher expectations and bringing in prized free agent Greg Monroe, the season didn’t work out the way they had envisioned. As productive as Monroe was on the offensive end, it was clear that he caused problems on the defensive end and wasn’t the kind of up-tempo big man the Bucks were hoping for. Instead, the Bucks had to adjust and take a different approach as they continue to build towards the future.

While coach Kidd missed 17 games in the first half of last season due to hip surgery, the Deer faced some uphill battles and didn't get into a rhythm until late in the season. After point guard Michael Carter-Williams had season-ending surgery after the All-Star break, Kidd turned to the 6’11” Giannis Antetokounmpo, who took over as the full-time point guard. MCW’s injury turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the Greek Freak averaged 18.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 7.2 assists over the final 28 games of the season. Not to mention, he finished with a franchise record five triple-doubles during that span. With Jabari Parker, who went from 11.3 points and 4.7 rebounds pre All-Star break to 18.9 points and 6.1 rebounds post All-Star break, also coming into his own in his first full season, the Bucks showcased plenty of promise for the future.

Offseason Roster Moves

Draft:

Thon Maker (PF, pick No. 10)

Malcolm Brogdon (SG, pick No. 36)

Free Agency:

Matthew Dellavedova (PG, four years, $38 million)

Mirza Teletovic (PF, three years, $30 million)

Jason Terry (PG, one year, $1.5 million)

Miles Plumlee (C, re-signed, four years, $52 million)

Steve Novak (SF, re-signed, one year, $1.5 million) 

Trades:

Michael Beasley (PF, from the Houston Rockets)

Tony Snell (SG, from the Chicago Bulls)

Players Departed:

Greivis Vasquez (PG, signed with Brooklyn Nets)

Jerryd Bayless (PG, signed with Philadelphia 76ers)

O.J. Mayo (SG, unsigned)

Damien Inglis (SF, signed with the New York Knicks)

Johnny O’Bryant (PF, signed with the Washington Wizards)

Tyler Ennis (PG, traded to the Houston Rockets)

Michael Carter-Williams (PG, traded to the Chicago Bulls) 

Perhaps the biggest offseason move was the four-year, $100 million dollar extension to the most important player on the Bucks roster, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Getting this deal done now is a smart move for Milwaukee. Not only does it lock up one of the NBA’s best young stars for four more years, but he willingly took less than the max offer, about six million dollars less to be exact, in order to make sure the Bucks would be in a position to keep their young core intact for the foreseeable future. Clearly Giannis, along with Jabari Parker, is the future of this organization and it’s the Bucks’ top priority to ensure they don’t lose either. Jabari is up for an extension next summer and he’ll be sure to receive a nice payday thanks to his teammate. 

Coping Without Khash

It’s no secret that the Bucks were looking to add some three-point shooting this offseason after finishing dead last in makes (5.4 per game) and attempts (15.6 per game). Khris Middleton has been their only reliable threat night in and night out, and was responsible for nearly one third of the Bucks 440 made threes last season. Despite finishing tops in the league in two point makes, Milwaukee made it a point during the offseason to add pieces that could help spread the floor. That’s where guys like second round pick Malcolm Brogdon, Matthew Dellavedova (career 39.8% from three), Mirza Teletovic (37.5%), and 39-year-old vet Jason Terry (37.9%) come into play.

What the Bucks didn’t plan for was that Middleton, who signed a five-year, $70 million dollar extension last season, could possibly miss the entire year after suffering a torn hamstring just days before training camp. As devastating as that news was for all parties involved, the Bucks knew they had to act fast and get some extra help on the wing. With a surplus of point guards on the roster, they did just that and dealt Tyler Ennis to the Houston Rockets for 6’10” forward Michael Beasley. The former second overall pick in 2008 isn’t exactly Middleton, but is a great scorer and has begun to turn his career around as of late. Beasley averaged 31.9 points and 13.4 rebounds in 40 games for the Shandong Golden Stars of Chinese Basketball Association last year and earned the leagues MVP award. He then joined the Rockets late last season and averaged 12.8 points per game in 20 appearances as a consistent scoring threat off the bench.

In another move to help shore up their wing depth in Khris’ absence, Milwaukee was finally able to unload disgruntled point guard Michael Carter-Williams to the Bulls in exchange for 6’8” shooting guard Tony Snell. The move makes sense because it seemed both players needed a change of scenery. Carter-Williams, 24, never really lived up to his potential with the Bucks and clearly wasn’t fitting in with their future plans. With his lack of outside shooting and the emergence of Point Giannis, MCW became expendable to say the least. Snell, also 24, gives the Bucks a true ‘3-and-D’ wing player that could be the perfect fill-in starter until Middleton is set to return. The former first round pick in 2013 has had his ups and downs through three seasons with the Bulls, but has plenty of athleticism with a career 35.1 three-point percentage including 37.1 percent last season.

Obviously it hurts not to have Middleton, but the Bucks will need to adopt the next man up philosophy. Whether its second year pro Rashad Vaughn, rookie Malcolm Brogdon, Tony Snell or Michael Beasley, the Deer are hoping that they can still find ways to get plenty of production at the shooting guard spot.

Limb City

The Bucks’ length will definitely be one of their biggest strengths once again this season. Over half of Milwaukee’s roster is 6’9” or taller, headlined by the 7’1” rookie Thon Maker, who offers a unique skill set for a player of his size with the ability to play like a guard on offense and a forward on defense.

Here’s what the 2016-2017 roster looks like from tallest to shortest:

NO.

NAME

POS

AGE

HT

WT

COLLEGE/COUNTRY

7

Thon Maker

PF

19

7-1

223

 Sudan/Australia/Canada

34

Giannis Antetokounmpo

SF

21

6-11

222

 Greece

31

John Henson

PF

25

6-11

229

 North Carolina

15

Greg Monroe

C

26

6-11

265

 Georgetown

18

Miles Plumlee

C

28

6-11

249

 Duke

9

Michael Beasley

SF

27

6-10

235

 Kansas State

6

Steve Novak

SF

33

6-10

225

 Marquette

35

Mirza Teletovic

PF

31

6-9

245

 Bosnia

22

Khris Middleton

SG

25

6-8

234

 Texas A&M

12

Jabari Parker

PF

21

6-8

250

 Duke

21

Tony Snell

SF

24

6-7

217

 New Mexico

20

Rashad Vaughn

SG

20

6-6

202

 UNLV

13

Malcolm Brogdon

SG

23

6-5

215

 Virginia

8

Matthew Dellavedova

PG

26

6-4

198

 Saint Mary's

3

Jason Terry

SG

39

6-2

185

 Arizona

Rotation Breakdown

Giannis has been given the keys to the ship as the team’s primary ball handler, but they still need someone to play along side him who can defend a traditional point guard. Enter Matthew Dellavedova, who comes to the Bucks after winning a championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Fans are going to love what Delly brings to the table. He has relentless energy, great vision and can knock down the open shot. Despite limited minutes down the stretch for the Cavs during the playoffs, the 26-year-old has the exact skill set the Bucks are looking for.

The deepest part of the roster is clearly the frontcourt, but it will be interesting to see how Kidd balances the minutes. Parker is a lock to start at power forward while Miles Plumlee looks to get the nod at center. Mirza Teletovic will definitely see plenty of minutes behind Jabari, while Beasley should get his share behind Giannis. It remains to be seen how Greg Monroe, John Henson and even first round pick Thon Maker fit into the rotation. We’ve seen Kidd throw out many lineups in the preseason so its unknown how it all translates into the regular season. 

One option could be to trade one of their three centers. The most-likely culprit seems to be Greg Monroe, who has a $17 million dollar player option for next season, but the Bucks have been looking for trade partners for months now to no avail. 

Season Outlook

Milwaukee continues to shuffle and revamp their roster in hopes to find the right pieces that best fit around their young core. They added more length along with defense and three-point shooting, which were crucial needs heading into the summer. Before the Khris Middleton injury, there was a lot of anticipation that this Bucks team could contend for a playoff spot. I’m not going to pretend that it doesn’t hurt to lose Middleton because it obviously does, however if they had Khris to start the season, then there would be a lot of pressure on this team to get back to the playoffs. Now they can focus on the bigger picture. 

The Bucks still have two rising stars in Giannis and Jabari ready to pick up where they left off last season. No matter what happens, whether they are fighting for a playoff spot or not, the focus is all about the continued development of these two young studs. Judging by the way they both played in the latter part of the season, there’s a tremendous amount of excitement to look forward to. Oh and by the way, let’s not forget that they are each just 21 years old! We haven’t even seen either of them sniff their prime years yet, which is scary to think about. The more these two are healthy and get experience playing alongside each other, the more their chemistry with one another continues to grow. 

Championship teams are not built over night. It takes time and patience to develop a winning culture. Just ask the Golden State Warriors, who know what it feels like to start at the bottom. With Milwaukee being one of the smallest markets in the NBA, it makes it that much harder for the Bucks, who are slowly but surely on their way to greener pastures. Don’t expect the Deer to be world-beaters this season. For now, lets watch this young team continue to grow and own the future.

Prediction

With all that being said, I still believe there’s plenty of talent and potential for this team to do well, while surpassing last year’s win total of 33 games.

Final Record: 40-42

Central Division: Fourth (Cavs 1, Pacers 2, Bulls 3)

Eastern Conference: Anywhere from seventh to 11th

The Milwaukee Bucks will open the regular season at home for the second year in a row as they welcome the Charlotte Hornets to the BMO Harris Bradley Center Wednesday night. Tip is set for 7 p.m.

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