Before the Bucks’ Feb. 9 game against the Boston Celtics, Jason Kidd announced that the Bucks would be making a change to the team’s normal starting lineup.
Greg Monroe and Michael Carter-Williams would now be coming off the bench, while Miles Plumlee and O.J. Mayo would be inserted into the starting lineup. Since that moment, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker have played the best basketball of their careers.
|Giannis 2015-16 Stats per 36 minutes||Points||Rebounds||Assists||Field Goal %||Field Goal Attempts|
|Before Feb. 9||16.5||7.4||2.9||50.8||12.3|
|After Feb. 9||17.6||9.5||4.8||49.5||14.7|
|Jabari 2015-16 Stats per 36 minutes||Points||Rebounds||Assists||Field Goal %||Field Goal Attempts|
|Before Feb. 9||14.1||5.8||1.7||48.6||12.1|
|After Feb. 9||17.7||7.9||2.5||51.1||14.5|
(Note: You are seeing the per 36 minute numbers for each player. These are important to use because it controls for an increase in minutes played and the double overtime game the Bucks played against the Hawks, which can artificially inflate per game numbers.)
It’s important to note that this is just a six-game sample (and one of the Bucks’ opponents was a D-League team), but the numbers do show a very clear uptick in shot attempts, points, rebounds, and assists for each player. This is an undoubtedly great development, but the most important development of the last five games may be the emergence of guys we’ve only seen sporadically in the last three years: Baseline Bari and Point Giannis.
Throughout his young career, Parker has made a number of impressive plays, but often he has looked best when catching the ball on the baseline with a chance to attack a defense. A baseline dunk against the Wizards, a posterization of Jahlil Okafor, and even a driving reverse dunk against the Knicks stand out in that regard. Though those plays were great highlights, they were rather infrequent. Since the All-Star Break, that has no longer been the case.
In the last six games, Parker has been feasting on short corner catches on the baseline. Many will say that his increased effectiveness in these situations is due to the space Monroe’s absence creates, but that would seemingly discredit the changes Parker has recently made.
Though subtle, Parker appears to be much more confident in his off-ball cuts and his positioning on the floor. Parker has been able to get to the baseline short corner, a spot he feels comfortable on the floor, and make a decisive move once he receives the ball in that position. He no longer questions where he should go or what he should do. He knows that is his spot and he is going to destroy the rim once he touches the ball.
As teams are forced to pay more attention to Parker, he will likely get less of those looks, but being able to score from that position is unbelievably useful when paired with an elite shot creator. (Hi, Blake Griffin!)
For years, Jason Kidd has teased Bucks fans with the idea of the 6’11” Antetokounmpo bringing the ball up the floor and making plays like Magic Johnson. The tactic was used in summer league two summers ago and again mentioned before this season, but seemed to just be a bit of fan fiction written by Bucks fans. And then, it just happened.
A triple double. With two of the most gorgeous passes (start at 2:00 in above video) you will ever see on a fastbreak: a halfcourt bounce pass beauty to Parker and an on-the-run laser to O.J. Mayo that would have made Aaron Rodgers blush.
The highlights were impressive, but the little things were much more important. Antetokounmpo wasn’t just bringing the ball up in transition. He was initiating the Bucks’ offense when the Lakers made shots. He was the guy people were looking for on outlet passes, even when he shared the court with Mayo and Michael Carter-Williams.
“We haven’t announced that he’s the point guard, but we’re letting him start the offense. On misses, we’re trying to get the ball to him as quick as possible and have everybody else run,” coach Jason Kidd said after Monday’s game. “And he’s made some incredible passes. The bounce pass to Jabari. The halfcourt pass [to Mayo], that was one of the best I’ve seen.”
As Kidd went on to mention, the ball has been moving much more consistently with Point Giannis running the show and that may continue for a while or maybe it will come to an end shortly. Even if it comes to an end, it is a testament to Antetokounmpo’s tremendous growth as a playmaker that we’ve seen it at all.
Clip of the Week
Since the All-Star Break, Parker has made a number of highlight plays, but this might have been his most impressive of the last week. It starts with Parker attacking a rebound and then showing off his court awareness with the assist to Middleton in the corner. Even though Parker doesn’t dunk, or even score, that is an undeniably a great basketball play.
What to Read
Bango, I Love You, but You’re Bringing Me Down – At Brew Hoop, J.J. Bersch combined multiple songs, Kanye West’s new album, and multiple films to write one of the most comprehensive and interesting reviews of this Bucks season.
NBA Sunday: One-on-One with Jabari Parker – Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders spent some time with Jabari Parker in Toronto and talked about the adversity the young player has faced thus far in his career.
The Woj Report: Potential problems for Jason Kidd – Admission: This is a video, but important enough to be a part of What to Read. Since Jason Kidd arrived in Milwaukee, there have been questions about the power he wields in the front office. This latest report from Adrian Wojnarowski tries to shed some light on the situation.
Week in Review
Friday – The Bucks led by eight going into the fourth quarter, but they couldn’t hold off the Hornets and eventually lost 98-95, despite a few chances to tie the game or take the lead late. Even in a loss, there were a number of happy fans because of Parker tying his career highs in points (23) and rebounds (11).
Saturday – In their first back-to-back after the All-Star Break, Milwaukee traveled to Atlanta and outlasted the Hawks 117-109 in double overtime. The win was pretty cool, but Parker achieving new career highs in points and rebounds for the second straight with 28 points and 13 rebounds in 51 minutes.
Monday – The Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour came to Milwaukee and Antetokounmpo completely stole the show. While Antetokounmpo was sure to share his respect for Bryant before and after the game, he hijacked all the attention with his first career triple double (27 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, four blocks, three steals) in the Bucks’ 108-101 victory.
Thursday – Milwaukee failed to make it three straight in Boston, falling 112-107 to the Celtics. Parker scored 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t quite enough to lead the Bucks back after trailing by 15 points to start the fourth quarter.
Next Week’s Preview
Saturday – The Bucks return to Milwaukee for the start of a five-game, nine-day homestand, which starts against the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons made two trades at the deadline, but one of them was not approved because of a failed Donatas Motiejunas physical. Their completed trade involved three former Bucks as the Pistons sent Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova to the Magic for Tobias Harris.
Monday – It has been a disappointing season for the Rockets, but they can help keep their playoff hopes alive as they find themselves just barely outside of the Western Conference’s eighth seed. Despite a late comeback, the Rockets held off the Bucks in the teams’ first meeting in Houston on January 22.
Wednesday – While some thought they would struggle this season, the Pacers just didn’t stop Vogelievin’ and have managed to stay in the Eastern Conference’s fifth spot. The Bucks split their two road games in Indiana earlier this season, but that was before the 2016 emergence of Myles Turner.
Stats of the Week
146 – The wonderful folks at Nylon Calculus added some new passing statistics this week and they now keep track of the location of assists. That new information shows that Khris Middleton has thrown 146 assists to the rim area, which is the league’s tenth highest number. Middleton is not a prolific assister though with only 233 assists on the season, which means 62.7 percent of his assists have been to the rim area, the league’s highest percentage. That is some effective passing.
103.5 – Much has been written about the Bucks’ terrible defense this season, but maybe that isn’t completely honest. After giving up 106.6 points per 100 possessions in 2015, the Bucks have given up just 103.5 points per 100 possessions in 2016. That is the difference between the league’s 28th and 12th best defense during those respective times.
58.2 – Like their defense, the Bucks’ defensive rebounding has also improved in the new year. In 2015, the Bucks were the league’s second worst defensive rebounding team grabbing just 54 percent of available defensive rebounds. In 2016, that number has increased to 58.2 percent, the league’s 18th best rate.
Quick Bucks is Milwaukee Magazine’s weekly roundup of all things Milwaukee Bucks written by Eric Nehm. You can also find his work at SBNation’s Brew Hoop or you can find him on Twitter @eric_nehm to tell him about, to take a key from J.J. Bersch in What to Read, the musical act you associate most with this year’s Bucks team.