Last year, the Bucks crashed amid high expectations. Maybe it’ll be better for them to grow slowly this year.
Paul Flannery and Tom Ziller are previewing all 30 teams via conversation. Next up: the Milwaukee Bucks. Find all of the Flanns and Zillz previews here.
ZILLER: The most notable offseason news in Milwaukee actually hit in the middle of last season, when Jason Kidd declared that he was turning Giannis Antetokounmpo into the Bucks’ full-time point guard. It worked beautifully. I mean, the Bucks didn’t make the playoffs. They didn’t even come close, really. But Giannis looked great in that role, like a modern-day Penny Hardaway. So this is the plan.
Is it sustainable? Is it the best use of the Greek Freak?
Offensively, yes, although it still feels like an incomplete solution to the issue of having a position-less 6’11 dude who can’t shoot and needs the ball on his hands to be effective. Defensively, not really. That’s why they signed Matthew Dellavedova, who is automatically now one of their best defenders. Look, the Bucks stay weird as hell and there’s no greater avatar of their nonconformity than having Giannis run the point.
Don’t take that to mean that I am down on the guy or this team’s prospects. I’m just not sure what to make of them. Still.
You have a better feel for them?
ZILLER: Certainly not, but I remain intrigued. If Point Giannis really works, there’s enough talent in hand for Milwaukee to be in that third tier in the East, which makes for a low playoff seed. With Khris Middleton out, it’ll depend on Jabari Parker becoming a reliable 20-point scorer and the front line figuring something out. No one was inspired by Greg Monroe last season, but he’s still in place as the team’s best big man. What a weird position for the Bucks to be in.
Where are you with Jabari? He certainly hasn’t trumped Andrew Wiggins, but I think there’s something here. Hopefully more Melo and less Rudy Gay.
FLANNERY: That sounds about right and that’s kind of where I am with this entire Bucks team. There’s a wide range of outcomes and even the best case scenarios are a little flawed. Parker is clearly skilled, but he’s not yet a winning player. Giannis is a freak, but he’s not yet a franchise player. Maybe in time all of this works out, but I think it’s fair to be skeptical about how the pieces fit.
In a way, this is a better place for them to be than last year, when people were expecting big things and a sizable leap in the standings. Now we can get a truer picture of who these guys are as players.
So, what do you with Monroe?
ZILLER: Good question. What’s so weird is that on paper Monroe should be a good fit for this team. (That’s part of why I think so many were so excited about the Bucks’ immediate fortunes a year ago.) He’s a post scorer, rebounder, and good passer. The Bucks need all of that!
It’s the style conflicts that pose the problem. Kidd wants to play free and fast, and that makes sense with Giannis and Jabari. It does not make sense with Monroe. So you either need to bring him off the bench behind John Henson or Miles Plumlee, or you need to trade him. I feel like plenty of teams would give up an asset for Monroe — it’s not an issue of whether he’s a quality player, it’s just a fit problem. Do you agree?
FLANNERY: Yes, but I think Monroe’s issue is that he doesn’t fit in with a lot of other bigs and that limits his trade market. He’s an offensive center, but not a rim protector. I think he’d be great in, say, New Orleans playing next to Anthony Davis. I remain high on Monroe’s ability to contribute to a good team in a different city, but I just don’t see it happening in Milwaukee. I’d love to be wrong about that, by the way. I think he’s been unfairly maligned these last few years.
So, let me add a dose of optimism to my otherwise pessimistic responses. I think this a playoff team with talent and potential to grow into something more. But we have to see progress across the board before I get too excited.
ZILLER: In the meantime, no matter how good they become, at least we can get excited about some more Giannis.