I am convinced Giannis Antetokounmpo is the descendant of an ancient Greek demigod who once ruled the earth. His athleticism is such that one of the few explanation for it must be that he is a blood relative of Hercules himself, and Giannis was sent to the NBA to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to heights of dominance comparable to the likes of Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Why then did the Bucks fall from a 41-41 surprise team in the East last year to an underwhelming 33-49 record this past year? Let’s take a look.
The most staggering statistic that jumps out on paper is that Milwaukee ranked dead last in the league in both three-pointers attempted (1,277) and three-pointers made (440). They simply do not have enough outside shooting to be a threat to most teams on any given night, and the lack of spacing caused a great deal of stress on an offense whose key players (Giannis, Khris Middleton, Michael Carter-Williams, and Jabari Parker) all work best in passing lanes where they can attack the basket.
Without shooters, the court shrunk for the Bucks and the ground that was set during their 41 win season quickly caved in. Fortunately, the organization has knowledgeable leaders who recognize the holes on the team. Jason Kidd is a smart coach who knows the game of basketball, and while his sample size is small, he has shown promise in improving a team’s talent. Milwaukee’s GM John Hammond is a former Executive of the Year with Milwaukee and well respected throughout the league; he is responsible for drafting Giannis and Jabari Parker, and for orchestrating the trade that brought Khris Middleton to the Bucks. What the Bucks do have at their disposal right now is a range of players who are lengthy, tall, extremely athletic, and young. Point guard Michael Carter-Williams stands at an impressive 6’6’’; Giannis is 6’11’’ with a 7’3’’ wingspan; Middleton is 6’8’ with a 6’10.75 wingspan; and Parker is 6’9’’ with a 6’11.75’’ wingspan.
When you think of the Bucks, think about the trouble the OKC Thunder gave the Golden State Warriors in this past Western Conference Finals because of their length and athletic superiority; Milwaukee can aspire for a similar defensive front with these four core players. If Jason Kidd is truly going to commit to his Giannis point-forward experiment, the front court for Milwaukee will need to have a different look to it. Given the thin market for stretchfours in this year’s NBA free agency, I can’t see the Bucks trading for a bigname player, especially considering they would have to package several of their players to even begin such discussions.
Ryan Anderson is the first name that sticks out of paper. His health the last few years is enough to give a team pause when discussing salary cap numbers, but if the Bucks can get Anderson on a reasonable deal, especially with the rising cap hitting, snagging Anderson would be a significant improvement to the team’s shooting dilemma. Also expect Milwaukee to make in-house adjustments, starting with Jabari Parker, who should enter next season a more confident and fire friendly shooter considering Milwaukee has openly expressed their desire for him to open his offensive arsenal from beyond the three-point line. Veterans OJ Mayo and Steve Novak add potential suitors whom the Bucks will look to focus more on outside shooting. Jakob Poeltl, Henry Ellison, Marquese Chriss, and Deyonta Davis are names to keep in mind as potential lottery picks for the Bucks in the 2016 NBA Draft on June 23rd.