30 Teams in 30 Days: Milwaukee Bucks continue growth plan centered on Giannis Antetokounmpo
With Khris Middleton and reigning KIA Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, franchise allows young team to develop chemistry
Since the Warriors downed the Cavs to take the 2017 NBA title back on June 12, NBA teams have undergone a number of changes over the long summer offseason.
NBA.com’s Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise — from the team with the worst regular-season record in 2016-17 to the team with the best regular-season record — as we look at 30 teams in 30 days.
Today’s team: Milwaukee Bucks
2016-17 Record: 42-40
Major additions: DJ Wilson (Draft), Sterling Brown (Draft)
Major subtractions: Michael Beasley, Spencer Hawes
The lowdown: Rather than tinker with the chemistry of a team that went from the lottery to the playoffs, the Bucks decided to stick with the status quo this summer and ride with their reasonable assumption that growth will continue to come from within.
They kept free agent Tony Snell with a four-year, $44 million deal, which seems a bit rich for a role player; otherwise, the Bucks kept all moves to a minimum.
Surely you can understand. A team that centers around the worldly talents of Giannis Antetokounmpo figures the best is yet to come.
At 22 years old, Giannis became the youngest player to lead his team in scoring, assists, rebounds, blocked shots and steals, and only the fifth in NBA history to do so. The offense ran through him, as it should. If anything, the real buzz around the Bucks this summer dealt with Giannis’ MVP candidacy; he’ll go into the season as one of the top favorites for the prized individual award.
Another reason for the Bucks’ reluctance to make changes had to do with Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker. For the most part, the Bucks were without two of their three best players and still won 42 games. Basically, both will be “new additions” because of their injury-shortened seasons.
Middleton was Milwaukee’s best player at the end of 2015-16, a big guard who was rewarded with a rich extension right before salaries soared, making his average salary ($14 million) very team-friendly. After undergoing surgery to repair his torn hamstring last September, Middleton showed flashes of his old self in just 29 games with averages of 14.7 points and 3.4 assists on 43.3 percent from 3-point. A full training camp and months of rest this summer should help Middleton re-gain his full form.
Parker had his second knee surgery in February and his return (speculated to occur near the All-Star break) will be closely watched for a few reasons. Obviously, the injury could have lingering effects; if not, then Parker will be a major help to Milwaukee. He’s a smart player and gifted around the rim. Before his injury he had great chemistry with Giannis, averaging 20.1 points on 49.0 percent shooting from the field and 36.5 from 3-point in 51 games. He’s only 22, which is in his favor, although the Bucks must make a financial decision on him soon.
With their first-round pick the Bucks took D.J. Wilson out of Michigan, perhaps as insurance against Parker. Wilson is a 6-8 power forward who moves well, although he’ll be at a logjam in the frontcourt with Thon Maker and John Henson. It’ll be a surprise if Wilson cracks the regular rotation in his rookie season.
With Middleton and rookie of the year Malcolm Brodgan at big guard and a solid front line featuring Giannis, the Bucks have depth at every position except point guard. They’ve decided to revisit that issue next summer, or maybe at the trade deadline if a good option becomes available, but again, even though he’s not a natural point guard, Giannis will cover for them until then.
Greg Monroe will return, which means once again the player who unofficially was mentioned in the most trade rumors over the last few years proved bullet proof. He’s in his walk year, and even if he performs well, the Bucks might be inclined to use his money on point guard help next summer, since they have enough height already on the roster to replace Monroe. Plus, they’ll need to address Parker’s future.
Growing teams like Milwaukee rarely make wholesale changes at this stage of their development. It’s in their best interest to allow chemistry and talent to develop and then act down the road. This is the approach the Bucks took this summer, and besides, ownership wasn’t willing to creep into luxury tax territory anyway.
But check back this time next year if the Bucks experience a setback or two this season. New GM Jon Horst could use a completely different approach.
Coming Next: Indiana Pacers
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