Looking Forward

Antetokounmpo, Parker have chance to carry on rich tradition
by Truman Reed
Bucks.com Writer

The bar has been set high.

But Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker have displayed the potential to one day enter a discussion of the premier forward tandems in Milwaukee Bucks history.

Antetokounmpo, selected by the Bucks with the 15th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, averaged 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.8 blocks over 70 games to earn Second Team All-NBA Rookie honors in 2013-14.

The 6-11 forward from Greece continued his emergence during four appearances with Milwaukee’s entry in the 2014 Samsung NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, averaging a team-leading 17.0 points along with 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 32.9 minutes per game.

Parker, landed by the Bucks with the 2nd overall choice in the 2014 NBA Draft, was named a consensus First Team All-American and the United States Basketball Writers Association Freshman of the Year after becoming the first freshman to lead Duke University in both scoring (19.1 ppg, a Duke freshman record) and rebounding (8.7 rpg).

Playing alongside Antetokounmpo during portions of the summer league in Vegas, Parker averaged 15.6 points and 8.2 rebounds in 28.6 minutes per game.

Antetokounmpo, who is now training with the Greek Senior National Team, has made good on a vow he made at the end of his NBA rookie campaign.

“I want to improve on everything – my shot, my dribbling, my body, learning the game,” he said. “I want to do everything I can to be the best I can be. I want to go out on the court and impress the new owners and do well for the people of the city.”

While Parker was attending the annual Rookie Photo Shoot in New York earlier this month, 38 rookies were asked which of them they considered most likely to win the 2014-15 Kia NBA Rookie of the Year Award.

Parker was the winner by a substantial margin, earning 52.8 percent of the votes. Doug McDermott and Andrew Wiggins tied for a distant second, earning 8.3 percent of the votes.

The Las Vegas stint of 2014 could prove to be the beginning of a long and successful forward march for Antetokounmpo and Parker – one that could rival or maybe even surpass some of the most productive partnerships at the position in Bucks franchise history.

The following is a retrospective of four of the best forward tandems the Milwaukee Bucks have put on the floor since they entered the NBA in 1968:

Bob Dandridge & Greg Smith

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson received the lion’s share of the credit following the Bucks’ NBA Championship conquest of 1971. Dandridge, who stood 6-6 and weighed 195 pounds, and Smith, who was generously listed at 6-5 and 200, were outsized by many of their counterparts at the forward positions, but their contributions were vital to Milwaukee’s title run.

Dandridge ranked third on the team in scoring at 18.4 points per game, Smith was fifth at 11.7 points, and they combined for better than 15 rebounds per outing. Smith and Dandridge made their shots count, too, ranking sixth and seventh in the NBA in field goal percentage at .512 and .509, respectively, and both were integral components in the team’s defensive scheme.

Abdul-Jabbar expressed his appreciation for what Dandridge and Smith brought to the Bucks’ championship frontline during one of his visits to Milwaukee years later.

“We didn't have bruiser guys,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “I certainly wasn’t a bruiser. Look at the pictures of me on these walls. I’m the skinny guy. But I was also the fastest guy at my position. We used our speed to our advantage. Our frontline was probably the fastest in the league, with myself, Bob Dandridge and Greg Smith. That created problems for the other teams.

“Greg Smith was totally underappreciated. Because he was not a prototype power forward, nobody really appreciated what he could do. But Greg ran the court like a deer, and could rebound with guys four or five inches taller than him. He was a great defensive player, and he played his heart out in every game. He was really special, especially for the camaraderie. He was just a wonderful guy to be around and play with. I thought he was vastly underappreciated.”

Dandridge became a four-time NBA All-Star and played 618 of his career games for Milwaukee over the course of nine seasons. That total ranks him third in franchise history behind Junior Bridgeman and Sidney Moncrief. Dandridge’s name is all over the Bucks’ career leaders list. He ranks fifth in points with 11,478, 10th in scoring average (18.6 ppg), second in field goals made (4,826), sixth in free throws made (1,826), second in rebounds (4,497), eighth in assists (1,956) and first in minutes played (22,094).
When Dandridge returned to Milwaukee to be honored as part of the Bucks’ 40th Anniversary Team, he expressed great pride in beginning what has become a proud tradition.

“Being here and seeing especially the forwards, like Junior Bridgeman, Marques Johnson, Terry Cummings, Vin Baker and Glenn Robinson, that adds special significance, because I was the first in a line of good forwards to play for this franchise,” Dandridge said. “Whenever I think about Milwaukee’s team, I think about the tradition of forwards that that they have had here.

“They’ve always been able to identify good forwards. I’ve always kept up with the forwards in particular, and we acknowledge each other when we cross each others’ paths.”

David Meyers & Marques Johnson

The Bucks acquired Meyers, who had been an All-American at UCLA the previous season, along with Brian Winters, Elmore Smith and Junior Bridgeman from the Los Angeles Lakers on June 16, 1975, in exchange for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Walt Wesley. Known for his willingness to sacrifice his body and do whatever it took to win, the 6-9 Meyers was a key contributor in each of his first two seasons before becoming a full-fledged starter in his third, averaging 14.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.

Meyers’ promotion to starting duty coincided with the arrival of another UCLA All-American in the 6-7 Johnson, whom Milwaukee chose with the third overall selection in the 1978 NBA Draft. Johnson provided immediate rewards, ranking second among the Bucks in scoring (19.5 ppg) and leading the team in rebounding (10.5 rpg) on his way to an NBA All-Rookie Team berth.

The two former Bruins helped lead the Bucks to the first playoff berth in Don Nelson’s tenure as head coach. Meyers missed the entire 1978-79 campaign due to injury and helped the Bucks win the Midwest Division in 1979-80 before retiring at the age of 27. Johnson spent six seasons in Milwaukee, earning four NBA All-Star selections and helping the Bucks win six division crowns.

Another member of Milwaukee’s 40th Anniversary Team, he ranks among the franchise’s all-time leaders in points (10,980, 6th), scoring average (21.0 ppg, 4th), games (524, 9th), field goal percentage (.530, 3rd), rebounds (3,923, 3rd), assists (1,934, 9th), steals (697, 6th) and blocks (439, 7th).

Paul Pressey & Terry Cummings

The Bucks selected Pressey, an All-American at Tulsa University, with the 20th overall pick in the 1982 NBA Draft. He made only 18 starts in each of his first two seasons before becoming a starter in his third year, when Don Nelson installed him as a “point forward.” The 6-5 Pressey led the Bucks in assists for five consecutive seasons and still ranks as the team’s all-time assist leader with 3,272. He played a total of nine seasons for Milwaukee, and stands among the franchise’s career best in points (6,906, 13th), games (580, 6th) and steals (894, 2nd).

Cummings was acquired by Milwaukee on Sept. 29, 1984, along with Craig Hodges and Ricky Pierce from the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Marques Johnson, Junior Bridgeman, Harvey Catchings and an undisclosed amount of cash. The 6-9 former DePaul University All-American instantly became the Bucks’ go-to guy, leading the team in scoring at 23.8 points a game and earning his first of two All-Star selections with the team in 1985. Cummings played for the Bucks through 1989 and returned for another stint in 1995-96, and wound up among the franchise leaders in points (9,290, 10th), scoring average (19.4, 7th), rebounds (3,785, 5th), and steals (607, T-9th). He was chosen to Milwaukee’s 40th Anniversary Team.

Vin Baker & Glenn Robinson

The Bucks, holding the eighth pick in the 1993 NBA Draft, tabbed Baker out of little-known Hartford University, and the 6-10 forward rewarded them by averaging 13.5 points and 7.5 rebounds and making the NBA All-Rookie First Team. Baker earned his first of three consecutive NBA All-Star selections in his second year as a pro. He spent five seasons with Milwaukee and ranks 15th in scoring (5,922 points), eighth in blocks (433) and ninth in rebounds (3,079) in Bucks history.

One year after drafting Baker, the Bucks landed college basketball’s consensus Player of the Year, Glenn Robinson out of Purdue University, with the No. 1 overall selection in the 1994 NBA Draft. The 6-7 sharpshooter averaged a team-high 21.9 points during his first season in Milwaukee to earn NBA All-Rookie First Team accolades and combined with Baker to give the Bucks one of the NBA’s most potent forward combinations. Robinson earned NBA All-Star berths in 2000 and 2001, when he helped lead Milwaukee to the Eastern Conference Finals. “The Big Dog” played a total of eight seasons for the Bucks and ranks among their all-time greats in scoring (12,010 points, 2nd), scoring average (21.12 ppg, 3rd), games (568, 8th), minutes (21,262, 3rd), rebounds (3,519, 6th) and steals (639, 7th).

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