50 Best Bucks Player Seasons Of All-Time: Honorable Mentions
This is a story (arriving in three parts) about the 50 best seasons by Bucks players out of 818 seasons by anyone who (has thus far) played a minute in franchise history. That means Jerald Honeycutt and Roko Ukic were considered.
For the purposes of these rankings, this is the 50 best seasons. So, regular seasons and postseasons are combined. Why look at these things separately?
This is a list of the best individual seasons, so players are not penalized for a barren supporting cast. That said, the best players in their best seasons typically carry their team to wins. So team performance, like everything else, is a reflection, a factor.
We have the benefit now of looking at advanced stats that did not exist during most of these 50 years. We have the difficulty of comparing across eras, especially tough when you consider that the 3-point line did not debut until 1979, and that steals and blocks were not tracked until 1973. Having never watched anyone play live before 1990 adds another challenge (for me). Was it easier to become an All-Star and make the playoffs when there were fewer teams and players in the league (and fewer people playing basketball in the world)?
Injuries and partial seasons befell some of the most promising campaigns, such as Glenn Robinson averaging a career-high 23.4 points in 56 games in 1997–98, and Michael Redd averaging a career-high 26.7 points in 53 games in 2006–07. There is no hard rule for how many games a player needs to play to make the list, but when you are up against the best seasons ever, it is hard to do enough (short of something extraordinary) to stack up in fewer than 60 games.
The goal is to rank the 50 best seasons with as much context (era, rules, teammates, and so on) as possible. To rank based on how much value each player provided the Bucks during that season.
Fifteen of the toughest of cuts from the Top 50 list are (alphabetically) below.
Here’s to Giannis Antetokounmpo (and Khris Middleton and?) making this list outdated in a hurry.
Ray Allen (1997–98)
The year before, as a rookie, Allen was good, but you can’t always tell exactly how good a player will be based on a rookie season. To wit: Joining him on the All-Rookie 2nd Team were Kobe Bryant, Kerry Kittles, Travis Knight, and Matt Maloney. A bit of variance! Here, in his second season, Allen bid adieu to the Realm of Matt Maloney and became the most productive player on the Bucks (averaging 19.5/4.9/4.3) and an emerging star while starting all 82 games and averaging more than 40 minutes per night. As a sophomore, you could tell where things where going: On the final night of the season, he went for 40 points (on 15–27 from the field and 6–10 on threes) along with 10 rebounds, four assists, and three steals against Kevin Garnett, Stephon Marbury (and their leading scorer on the night… DeJuan Wheat?) and the Timberwolves.
Ray Allen (1998–99)
The weird lockout season only lasted 50 regular season games, and that makes it a tough one to judge. Allen played all 50 of those games though, the Bucks went 28–22, and he spent much of it solidifying himself as the biggest of the emerging Big 3.
Vin Baker (1994–95)
How’s this for production: Career-bests (or tied as career-bests) in rebounds (10.3), offensive rebounds (3.5), assists, (3.6), and blocks (1.4) while playing all 82 games and leading the league in minutes (41.0 per game). Made the All-Star Game as part of an… interesting reserve squad for the East that included Tyrone Hill (Tyrone Hill!) and Dana Barros (who averaged 20 points a night that season and never averaged even 14 in any of his other 11 seasons).
Vin Baker (1995–96)
More Vin! Career-high in points (21.1 per game) while playing every game (for the third straight season), taking over the offense more than ever (highest usage of career), and playing under control (posted the second lowest turnover percentage of his career). Honored as an All-Star (and thus the opportunity to wear a historically garish All-Star uniform) for the second year in a row. The 25 wins don’t help, but they aren’t a deal-breaker either; the team had very little in the way of offense other than Baker and Glenn Robinson, and even less defensive help. What’s a guy to do (with Randolph Keys)?
Junior Bridgeman (1980–81)
The second-leading scorer (16.8 per game) on a 60-win team, The Torch (nickname: good) shot well (particularly from the line), almost never turned the ball over, and defended. Bridgeman edges teammate Bob Lanier for a mention here (though in truth Lanier is getting a mention here); Lanier was not the superstar that he was throughout the 1970s for the Pistons, but he remained a big and big plus (as advanced stats back up) on both sides of the ball.
Sam Cassell (2001–02)
The Bucks missed the playoffs after nearly making the Finals the year prior (look forward to this being brought up more), but Cassell posted very similar numbers across the board, once again orchestrating a top-10 offense while finishing in the top-15 in the league in assists, PER, and Offensive Box Plus/Minus. Pretty good.
Terry Cummings (1987–88)
After leading the Bucks as a top-20 scorer in the league in the regular season, Cummings delivered in the playoffs, too, bringing the Buck from down 2–0 against Dominique Wilkens (and Spud Webb) and the Hawks to tie the series at 2–2 before falling in the deciding game in Atlanta (despite 28 points on 11–16 shooting from the field from Cummings). Averaged better than 21 per game in the regular season and then averaged better than 25 per game in his excellent first round series.
Bob Dandridge (1974–75)
A top-20 scorer in the league, and the Bucks went 12–5 when he scored 25 or more points. Also a feisty defender who ranked in the top-20 in steals and tied for the league lead in personal fouls with a future coach named Phil Jackson (Dandridge went on to make an All-Defensive 1st Team a few years later with the Bullets). Team was a little better than their record shows, as they outscored their opponents in aggregate, but not close to a championship contender like most Kareem teams.
Jon McGlocklin (1970–71)
This is not a mere shoutout. Jonny Mac hooped. In helping the Bucks go a franchise-best 66–16 (en route to the championship), McGlocklin finished fourth in the NBA in True Shooting Percentage (at .563, just ahead of Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain) while playing all 82 games. And keep in mind, this was from a shooting guard (/small forward) who didn’t have the luxury of the 3-point line to push up that True Shooting Percentage. He simply hit everything: a career-best 53.5 percent from the field as well as 86.2 percent at the line. Finished fourth on the team (on the team) in points per game (15.8) and third in assists (3.7).
Khris Middleton (2015–16)
Some rational people considered Middleton the most impactful player on the Bucks during this season, all things considered, rather than Giannis Antetokounmpo. I was not one of those people. Regardless, it was a discussion because Middleton blasted through his reputation as a 3-and-D player, evolving into an efficient two-way force, setting (at the time) per-game career-bests in points (18.2), assists (4.2), steals (1.7) as well as PER (16.8).
Ricky Pierce (1988–89)
Gave fire to Milwaukee’s playoff run, averaging better than 22 per game off the bench on a silly 54.6 field goal percentage (this is a shooting guard we are talking about) on the way to a 24.7 postseason PER in nine games. The regular season per-game numbers may look more modest (17.6 points per game), but he managed that in just 27.7 minutes per game while making most of his shots from the field, getting to (and converting at) the line, and rarely turning the ball over for the the 49-win Bucks.
Ricky Pierce (1989–90)
You know how I mentioned that injuries and abbreviated seasons got in the way? Well, Pierce averaged an absurd 23.0 points in just 29.0 minutes in 59 games in 1989–90. That ranked third in the league in points per minute behind Michael Jordan and Karl Malone. That was good enough to get here. Hooper.
Michael Redd (2004–05)
Redd was a scorer (11th in points per game at 23.0 per night) who hit threes, rather than a three-point shooter who could score. He made fewer threes per game in this season (1.4) than Eric Bledsoe did this past season (1.7), for context. Unlike Bledsoe though, he wasn’t a high-level athlete; instead, he knew how to get defenders off balance in isolation, and once he did that, he didn’t need much room to make a tough shot or lean in for a foul (5.8 free throw attempts per game). The team struggled; Desmond Mason was the number two option, and then it was Joe Smith and a second-year Mo Williams.
Glenn Robinson (1999–00)
A 20-point per game scorer on the second-best offensive team in basketball (just ahead of the Trail Blazers and Lakers, who famously battled through seven games in the Western Conference Finals that year), Robinson made the first of two consecutive All-Star appearances while shooting the best percentage from the field of his career (.472).
Brian Winters (1975–76)
In his second year in the league, became an All-Star for the first time. Due to a divisional quirk, the Bucks scooped up the two seed in the West despite a 38–44 record (the East used to be better!), and though they went down in the first round, Winters led the playoffs in field goal percentage in an excellent postseason showing.