With Opening Night approaching this Wednesday, Milwaukee has transitioned into a city that is itching for basketball once again. The leaves have changed colors and the baseball season is wrapping up, which can only mean one thing: Bucks basketball is right around the corner.
Following a 2014 season that left a sour taste in the mouth of many Bucks fans, hopes were set high for a bounce back year in 2015. Multiple problems arose, simmering out what was a hopeful year after a powerful off season, both on and off the court.
However, optimism reigns supreme again this fall. Changes were made to the roster and development occurred for key players. Granted, there are some setbacks to begin the year, but know this – it should be an exciting and intriguing 2016 season for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Last year, Milwaukee was in dire need of three-point shooting. The Bucks’ tally of 34.5 percent from beyond the arc registered as the 21st in the league, indicating major improvement. A lack of spacing on the floor, due in large part to not boasting enough weapons from the outside, was reason to blame for this.
To accommodate and improve on those disappointing numbers, three-point shooters were one of the main targets on the Bucks’ radar heading into the offseason. It was something that needed to be addressed. The first move they made was bringing in point guard Matthew Dellavedova from the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Dellavedova was acquired by Milwaukee in a sign-and-trade deal in which Cleveland received a $4.8 million trade exception and the rights to Albert Miralles. The Bucks also received cash considerations.
Not only does Dellavedova bring in an option from deep (he shot 41 percent from three-point land last season), he also brings an above average passing aggression. His assists total has grown exponentially in his career, as it is now over 4.4 assists a game. It seems as if he is already establishing connections with his new teammates, as every preseason game has featured a lob on an alley-oop to either Jabari Parker or Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Just two days later, the Bucks signed forward Mirza Teletovic to a multiyear contract. Teletovicplayed in Brooklyn when Jason Kidd managed operations as head coach, so it is clear that the Bucks coach likes what he sees in Teletovic’s game. Last year with Phoenix, Teletovicattempted a tick beneath six threes a game (5.8) and connected on 39.3 percent of them.
Like Dellavedova, we have already seen foreshadowing of how Teletovic’s game will impact the flow of the Milwaukee offense. With Giannis Antetokounmpo at point guard, the offense seems to be kicking into high gear when they steal the ball in the half court, allowing Teletovic to set up as the trailer option and snipe in a three-pointer while the defense searches for their man. Expect big things to come from Teletovic in his debut season with the Bucks.
However, the three-point shooting cannot be discussed without mentioning Khris Middleton’s devastating injury. The shooting guard slipped on a wet spot in practice a few weeks ago, tearing his hamstring and sidelining him for at least six months. The Bucks will be looking for reinforcements to advance despite the devastating blow, but some fans remain optimistic.
“I think the Bucks are a playoff team for sure, despite the Middleton news,” said DeVanteColeman, who considers himself to be a Bucks fan. “Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and Jabari [Parker] have shown their development and I think they will step up.”
That leaves us with Antetokounmpo himself – or, as many find easier to say, the Greek Freak.Last season, Jason Kidd allowed Giannis to run things at the point guard position. It worked out better than anyone could have ever hoped. Antetokounmpo racked up five triple doubles in the campaign and all of them came in the latter part of the season. This year, Kidd has handed Antetokounmpo the reigns on offense once again, leaving many to believe that this could be the year he becomes an All-Star.
“I do anticipate Giannis becoming an All-Star,” said Bucks fan Jake Covey. “He’s so athletically gifted and in a league with rising talent, it seems likely that he will break the Bucks’ drought of not being represented at the All-Star Game.”
For those counting at home, it has been 12 years since Milwaukee had a player in the All Star Game (Michael Redd in 2004). Antetokounmpo has spent his offseason honing in his point guard skills to develop himself even further. The scary thing is that he is only 21 years old and is arguably Milwaukee’s best player at every position on the floor.
If it is not Antetokounmpo making his All-Star debut, it could very well be Jabari Parker. Despite only playing a single full season in the league, Parker’s athleticism and freak nature has shined significantly in his time back. Many believe it has to do in large part to him restructuring his legs following the ACL injury that ended his season in 2014.
Nobody saw this explosiveness from Parker when he came into the NBA following his freshman year with the Duke Blue Devils. He was always viewed as athletic, but a stocky-type of build that would not offer much dynamic down in the paint. However, Parker has rebounded and rebranded his style by turning what was a negative aspect of his game into a positive one. Mix in the developing game down low in the post (including beautiful maneuvering down the baseline) and one can see how he might be playing in this year’s All-Star Game.
Is it going to be a tough season for the Bucks? Possibly. Will they make the playoffs? It remains to be seen. The Khris Middleton injury has the chance of killing them, as Tony Snell is arguably the team’s best remaining active shooting guard. However, the youth and flair of this team is what makes it so interesting. There are so many moving parts that if those parts can align themselves, Milwaukee might have a team that sneaks into the playoffs or even higher.