There is a lot to like about Milwaukee Bucks these days in the NBA. Long departed from the back water franchise going nowhere, the Bucks have a lot of good things going on.
The team’s future is in safe hands as plans for the construction of a new arena are well laid out and have been approved while on the court, the team’s young studs give fans reason to believe success will continue in new surroundings a few years away.
In Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee has a future MVP winner in the 6 foot 11 inch do it all player ably assisted by Rookie of the Year winner Malcom Brogdon and Kris Middleton.
While the jury is still out there on his coaching skills, Jason Kidd’s ability to mold Giannis into a mini but physically bigger version of Magic Johnson should be good enough to keep him around for a while. However, the Bucks have struggled to make good on its promise as a dark horse candidate to make the Eastern Conference Finals and it goes beyond coaching and player development.
Team Management has missed out on putting together a rounded supportive cast alongside the talented young core. Aside drafting well, Bucks management is yet to really hit when it comes to player transactions.
For instance, in the midst of a fine year, Brandon Knight was traded to Phoenix Suns in a deal that got them Michael Carter-Williams. At a time Knight finally showed glimpses of becoming a sure fire starting NBA Point Guard, he was flipped for a Guard who doesn’t shoot well and is turnover prone.
Fitting a non shooter like Carter-Williams alongside Antetokounmpo is great on defense but bad for the offense as teams get the chance to double up attention on Giannis and limit his impact. A year and a half later, the former Philadelphia Sixers man is on Charlotte Hornets bench after Milwaukee did not offer him a new contract. Under Kidd, Milwaukee has been knocked out of the playoffs in the first round twice in three years; the team failed to make the playoffs in 2015-2016. That is likely to change this season as the team is in line to finish in the top five places. This is not entirely due it to its performance but Bucks rise is intertwined with the hastily arranged rebuilding projects in the conference.
Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks have started from scratch after blowing up their rosters to reflect the respective directions. While the prospects are higher this year of making it past the first hurdle, Milwaukee’s chances of a deep postseason run are dampened by the loss of key bench players Michael Beasley and Greg Monroe. The former NBA lottery picks duo played vital roles from the bench and kept the team up through tough times- notably Jabari Parker’s second cruciate ligament tear.
Conversely, neither survived before this season’s midpoint as Beasley was released and signed for New York Knicks. Monroe on the other hand, was a steady veteran who backed up Giannis and played more in matchups against other team’s big men. Neither had difficulty putting the ball in the hoops and their numbers showed why they need to be retained on the roster. Beasley averaged 9.4 points in just 16 minutes in Milwaukee while Monroe averaged 15.3 points and 11.7 points in under 30 minutes in two seasons. Their absence has affected the team’s bench unit’s ability to take leads and holds on them before starters check in.
For the record, Bucks bench is ranked 28th in the league at the time of writing scoring just 23.8 points in 16 minutes. To be able to challenge for a title, Milwaukee’s stars will need as much help as they can but wont be getting such help soon as Beasley single handedly beat Boston Celtics and Kyrie Irving in the fourth quarter and is averaging 11.1 points in 17.4 minutes for New York Knicks. Despite being on the trade block immediately after getting dealt to Phoenix Suns due to the latter’s time line as a rebuilding side, Monroe has been a consistent threat from one of the league’s bottom dwellers. In 13 games, Monroe has averaged 11 points and 8.3 rebounds in 23 minutes for Phoenix.
Their production has affected Knicks and Suns positively as Phoenix is ranked 12th while New York is ranked 15th in bench production. Losing two veteran players who know their around the basket, is vital to the success of a contending team. After messing up on a couple of misses, nabbing a veteran bucket getter like Monta Ellis wouldn’t be a bad option for a second unit that needs a big scoring punch.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter