Breaking down the many different ways the Bucks' young players are developing. Plus: Giannis highlights, Khris Middleton in the three-point contest, stats of the week and more.
Development. That is the major concern of every Bucks fan this season. Wins and losses are secondary — well, at least, they were supposed to be; people sure do seem to freak out when they lose. But the question remains: are the Bucks’ young players getting better? To me, the answer is undoubtedly yes, but let’s take a closer look.
Development is fascinating because there is no set criterion for growth. It is completely different for every player. There isn’t a checklist that lets you know “Player X is on Step 5 of 17 in becoming a role player” or “Player Y just advanced to the third of five levels to superstardom.” The diversity of development on this Bucks team alone is staggering.
For some players, development is about taking more shots. Rookie Rashad Vaughn was touted as a scorer. Yet, after shooting the ball regularly in the first month of the season, Vaughn appeared to lack confidence and stopped taking threes despite regularly being open throughout December and much of January. In the last week though, Vaughn has developed into the swagger-filled young player that the Bucks thought he could be — knocking down threes, including some big ones against the Heat.
Sometimes, however, development is about taking fewer shots. For much of his young career, Michael Carter-Williams has been asked to take a majority of the responsibility for his team’s offense, but less is more for him on this Bucks team. In January, Carter-Williams was able to take fewer shots (9.7 per game) and still impact the game with one of the best months of his career, according to Net Rating.
Development is making passes that you’ve never made before. People will likely focus on Jabari Parker’s attempts to become a better, more efficient scorer this season, but passes he’s made in the last few weeks have been eye-opening. While neither ended as assists, but Parker snapped a one-handed crosscourt pass and tossed another over his shoulder within the last week. Each warranted a second look. Even if some of these passes become turnovers, Parker is throwing passes he would have never thrown two months ago, which suggests a more confident player seeing the game at a higher level.
On the other hand, development is removing certain passes from your repertoire. While Parker is making passes he’s never made before, Khris Middleton has started to rid his game of some of the bad passes that made him a poor pick and roll player last season. Figuring out to manipulate defenses has certainly made Middleton a much stronger offensive player.
Take more shots. Take less shots. Make more passes. Stop making other passes. Shoot threes. Don’t shoot threes. Player development is the base of any great franchise, yet the benefits of “proper” development cannot truly be reaped until years later. So, the Bucks’ young players may be developing, but they might also be toiling away on useless skills. By the time we figure out something different should have been done, it will be too late.
Clip of the Week
Against the Miami Heat, the Bucks opened up the fourth quarter with a set I absolutely adore: the 4-5 Elbow Pick and Roll.
After the game, Miles Plumlee explained why the play is so tough to cover, “Giannis is a great playmaker. He has the length and vision. He can come off (the pick) and score. (Defenders) have to make a decision and that’s a tough place to be in the pick and roll on the elbow.” A play perfectly leveraging Antetokounmpo’s diverse skill set? Yeah, I’m a fan.
Feel free to scroll through the rest of his fantastic performance against the Heat. You’ll likely enjoy it.
What to Read
Diagnosing the Bucks Defense: NO, YOU’RE NOT HELPING! – Over at Brew Hoop, I took a closer look at the Bucks awful defense and just how poorly things are going for them on the defensive end.
Bucks Beat: Is a major shakeup coming? – As the trade deadline approaches, Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times suggests that Michael Carter-Williams and Greg Monroe are available on the trade market.
Rebuild and Retain: Milwaukee Bucks – Austin Peters at Upside Motor examined the members of the Bucks roster still on their rookie contracts and attempted to figure out whether or not the organization thought each player would play a significant role in the future.
Week in Review
Friday – Antetokounmpo went off for 28 points, six assists, and four rebounds. Parker took Dwyane Wade into the post and dominated multiple times throughout the game on his way to 17 points, but Wade got the last laugh hitting a fadeaway jumper in the game’s closing moments to help the heat close out the Bucks 107-103.
Monday – For the second time this season, the Kings’ All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins missed playing the Bucks. For the second time this season, the Kings beat the Bucks. The Kings have lost the other seven games Cousins has missed.
Tuesday – For a second straight night, the Bucks came out with a lackluster effort on the road, losing to the Portland Trail Blazers 107-95. Jerryd Bayless added 16 points from the bench, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Bucks in the game.
Next Week’s Preview
Friday – The Bucks end their three game road trip in Utah against the Jazz, who have won four straight games, including wins over two Eastern Conference playoff teams. The Jazz have been hanging around the 8th spot in the Western Conference, despite a month long injury to shot-blocking center Rudy Gobert.
Tuesday – After a three game road trip, the Bucks will make their way back to Milwaukee for their final two games before the All-Star Break. The first game will be against the Brad Stevens-led Boston Celtics, who have won six of their last seven games and currently find themselves third in the Eastern Conference standings.
Thursday – In the last week, the Washington Wizards have given up 51 points to Stephen Curry and 40 points to James Harden, so Middleton and Antetokounmpo will have a high standard to match. One thing to watch: THE JARED DUDLEY REVENGE GAME.
Stats of the Week
108.4 – The Bucks aren’t particularly good on defense (referenced above), but they are somehow even worse on defense on the road that at home, giving up 108.4 points per 100 possessions.
72.3 – The defense is broken and the rebounding is just as bad. The Bucks are dead last in defensive rebounding percentage at 72.3 percent.
41.2 – Khris Middleton is somewhere around 25th in the league in three point shooting percentage at 41.2 percent, but the NBA still wants him to be one of eight players that participate in this year’s Three Point Contest during All-Star Weekend in Toronto.
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, where he would like to hear your best suggestion for a musical act to play during one of the Bucks theme nights.