The Milwaukee Bucks improved last season, going from 12th in the Eastern Conference in the 2015-16 season to sixth last year with a 42-40 record. Milwaukee’s many key contributors included 22-year-old sensations Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker. Both young stars had a breakout season, as each scored 20+ points per game to lead the team. The Bucks didn’t lose any major players during the off-season, so they can only go up from where they were. Here is the 2017-18 Milwaukee Bucks season preview.
Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Milwaukee Bucks Season Preview
What Worked Last Season
If there was one word to describe the Bucks’ previous season, it would be teamwork. The young, developing team knew how to space the floor and when to feed the rock to a particular player. Everyone knew when dish it out to forward Michael Beasley for an open three, as he shot 41.9 percent from distance, or when to send an alley-oop to Antetokounmpo for a jam.
Looking at this team more closely, it’s obvious that Antetokounmpo lived up to his “Greek Freak” nickname, as he averaged 22.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 5.4 assists last season. He also shot 56.3 percent in the paint, making his presence felt at the rim. Finally, Antetokounmpo became the first player to finish in the league’s top 20 in all five major statistical categories, as well as just the fifth player to lead his team in all five. He showcased his unique all-around abilities and proved to be one of the best in the game at both ends.
Parker trailed directly behind the Greek Freak with averages of 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. If Antetokounmpo wasn’t open, Parker was Milwaukee’s next go-to guy. He shot a solid 52.5 percent from the field, benefiting from a polished mid-range and interior game. Unfortunately, the Illinois native is still recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee, but he is expected to return around the All-Star break.
Forwards Greg Monroe and Khris Middleton also played significant roles in Milwaukee’s success. Monroe contributed 11.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per contest while Middleton racked up 14.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. Both shot above 45 percent in the paint and Middleton’s long-range prowess (43.3 percent) was crucial for a team that lacked much outside shooting.
The Bucks were in the top half of the league offensively, finishing 13th with a 106.9 offensive rating. They also finished near the top in field goal percentage (fourth), three-point percentage (10th), and assists (fifth).
Defensively, they were pretty ruthless, following Antetokounmpo’s lead. Milwaukee ranked sixth in blocks, 10th in steals, and fourth in opponent turnover percentage. Surely, the Bucks’ many long wingspans helped them cause deflections and create havoc on the defensive end.
What Needs Improvement
Despite Milwaukee’s well-developing offensive game, it wouldn’t hurt if some of the role players scored more in the upcoming season. After all, the Bucks did rank just 20th in points per game last season (103.6).
Swingman Tony Snell was pretty reliable, shooting 40.6 percent from long distance, but he only averaged 8.5 points. He also only had 3.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists. If Snell took more shots and kept up his efficiency, he could definitely be a key offensive contributor.
Other notable players include Beasley, big man John Henson, and guard Malcolm Brogdon. Beasley and Brogdon already have a solid foundation and have proven themselves reliable offensively. However, if they could boost their scoring by a few points every night, that would be a big difference maker. Additionally, if Henson increased his 6.8 points average to a double-digit number, he’d be crucial for the Bucks.
The area where Milwaukee seemed to struggle most would be rebounding. No Bucks player averaged more than 8.8 boards last season. Even worse, the team hardly crashed the offensive glass at all. The Bucks ranked 25th in offensive rebounds, 28th in defensive rebounds, and 29th in total rebounds last season. With all the length on this team, there’s no reason that Milwaukee should fair so poorly on the boards. If the Bucks can improve their rebounding, the extra possessions will work wonders for them next season.
Milwaukee added a couple of new players during the off-season.
The Bucks signed guards JeQuan Lewis and Bronson Koenig in July. Lewis improved in each of his four years at VCU and played for Milwaukee in the Las Vegas Summer League. Similarly, Koenig starred at Wisconsin in college but went undrafted, finding a Summer League roster spot as well.
Guard Sterling Brown was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for cash. The Sixers selected the 22-year-old in the second round of this year’s draft. He averaged 8.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in the Summer League.
Finally, the Bucks selected 6″10 forward D.J. Wilson with the 17th overall pick in the draft. Wilson averaged 11.8 points and 5.4 rebounds in Summer League. Last season, which was Wilson’s third at the University of Michigan, he racked up 11.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game.
Milwaukee is still a work in progress. The Bucks jumped from 12th in the East with 33 wins in the 2015-16 season, to sixth with 42 wins last year, showing that they mean business.
It’s going to be a little more difficult offensively without Parker on the court to start the season, but as long as the core players and new additions work together, they’ll be able to make up for the loss of Parker. This team has nowhere to go but up.
Don’t be surprised to see the Bucks rack up 46 to 48 wins in the upcoming season.
GREENBURGH, NY – AUGUST 06: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks poses for a portrait during the 2013 NBA rookie photo shoot at the MSG Training Center on August 6, 2013 in Greenburgh, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)