“The Right Direction”: 2015-16 Milwaukee Bucks Season Preview

Greg Monroe (center) could end up being Milwaukee's missing piece. (Gary Dineen/Getty Images)
Greg Monroe (center) could end up being Milwaukee’s missing piece. (Gary Dineen/Getty Images)

Last season: 41-41, 3rd, Central Division (6th, Eastern Conference), Lost 4-2 to CHI in Quarterfinals

Notable Acquisitions: F/C Greg Monroe (free agent, DET), G Grievis Vasquez (via trade w/ TOR), F Chris Copeland (free agent, IND)

Draft Picks: G Rashad Vaughn (UNLV, 17th overall)

Notable Losses: F Jared Dudley (WAS), C Zaza Pachulia (DAL), F Ersan Ilyasova (DET)


#DogTags:

Star UnderDOGs: Khris Middleton, Greg Monroe

TDIT (Top DOG In Training): Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker


Burning Question: Is Michael Carter-Williams the long-term answer at point guard?

MCW Bucks

Milwaukee made a bold splash at the trade deadline last season, dealing Star UnderDOG Brandon Knight to the Suns in a three-way trade for MCW. A tall PG with a knack for making plays on both ends, he has the talent to develop into a top-flight commandeer under Jason Kidd.

MCW’s main flaw is his extremely inconsistent stroke (career 25% 3FG) from outside. In 25 regular season games after landing in Milwaukee, he attempted only 28 treys and made just 4 OF THEM. If MCW can shoot close to 35%, he is a difference-maker in the East.


Storyline:

Raise your hand if you pinned the Milwaukee Bucks as a playoff team in 2014-15. Ok, put it down, you’re lying. Milwaukee silenced doubters all year long and kept themselves highly competitive even after star rookie Jabari Parker went down with an ACL injury in December.

During that period, we learned a few things:

  • The Bucks are extremely tough, focused and active defensively (Milwaukee finished 8th in opp. PPG at 97.4)
  • There are 4 potential All-Stars on the roster (Michael Carter-Williams, Jabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton)
  • Jason Kidd is a helluva coach

Jason Kidd’s schemes and lineups ended up making the difference as the Bucks blasted their way to a playoff berth. He had tremendous success going big and relying on length to make plays in passing lanes and frustrate shooters into contested looks. The only starter who won’t return in 2015-16 is Zaza Pachulia.

However, Milwaukee is very happy to move forward with their free agent acquisition, Greg Monroe, a talented hybrid 4/5 man with skills on the left block. Monroe spurned offers from the LA Lakers and New York Knicks, among others, to build with the emerging Bucks and Coach Kidd. That, alone, says a great deal about the job Kidd has done to change the team’s culture almost overnight.

Sweet-shooting Khris Middleton (re-upped for 5 yrs./$70 million), MCW, Jabari and Giannis round out the starting five with Monroe to form a scary lineup. Though Middleton is the only deep threat in the bunch, this five has great upside on the interior.

Giannis Antetokounmpo & Greg Monroe could both become All-Stars in 2015-16. (Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports)
Giannis Antetokounmpo & Greg Monroe could both become All-Stars in 2015-16. (Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports)

Giannis’s length and finishing skills are starting to produce tangible results, MCW is learning how to use his size for easy buckets on the block and Jabari Parker was a terror from the foul line before his ACL injury. Once Parker is fully healthy (MIL expects him back a few weeks in to the season), Coach Kidd’s ideal lineup is poised to do damage.

Off the pine, former HS sensation turned exceptional role player, OJ Mayo returns as a Sixth Man and handy spot up shooter. Grievis Vasquez, Jerryd Bayless and rookie Rashad Vaughn all add guard depth and are versatile enough to play multiple positions.

The most important reserve, however, is John Henson, who recently inked a contract extension to remain in Milwaukee for the foreseeable future. Henson, at 6’11, will be counted upon to cover for Monroe’s defensive mistakes (led the Bucks in defensive plus/minus last year) and protect the basket. He’s much more agile than Greg and can hedge out & recover on the pick and roll.

All in all, Milwaukee is a young squad ready to make the monumental jump in the conference standings. Beyond that, who knows?

Not many teams are prepared to withstand a gauntlet of attacks in the short-term whilst cultivating talent for the future. The Bucks are banking on that rare combination to carry them to great heights.


Projected Starting 5:


Depth Chart:

PG: Carter-Williams-Vasquez-Ennis

SG: Middleton-Mayo-Bayless-Vaughn

SF: Antetokounmpo-Copeland-Inglis

PF: Parker-O’Bryant

C: Monroe-Henson-Plumlee

-Giannis is one of the most versatile players in the Association; he could realistically start at all five positions throughout the season

-Jerryd Bayless was a valuable scorer and playmaker off the bench last year but could get lost in the shuffle with the additions of Rashad Vaughn (6’6; versatile scoring guard) and Grievis Vasquez

-Second-year forward Damien Inglis has impressed during the preseason and could steal some minutes in the front court


Khash Money:

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks-Media Day

Despite leading the Bucks in scoring during the playoffs (21.1 points/game), hitting klutch buckets and signing a $70 million contract extension in the offseason, Khris Middleton is not a household name. The most accurate perimeter threat on Milwaukee, he will greatly benefit from the attention given to Greg Monroe down low.

Middleton can score in a variety of ways but loves shooting the three ball from either corner (52% a year ago). Check out his career night versus the Wizards back in March:


Key Number: 49

MCW Ball

49 wins is what it took for the Toronto Raptors to secure home-court advantage during the first-round last season. Milwaukee scratched and clawed their way to 41 victories but will need to take care of two main areas if they want to climb higher.

Securing boards (24th in total rebounds) and taking care of the ball (29th in turnovers) will be preached by Kidd all year long. Henson (rebounding) and MCW (ball control) are the two players who should take point and lead the way.


Milwaukee’s Best Case Scenario: Milwaukee’s length causes insane matchup nightmares on both ends of the floor, Jabari, Giannis, MCW, or Middleton makes the All-Star team and the Bucks reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

J. Kidd

Milwaukee’s Worst Case Scenario: Milwaukee’s poor shooting is too much to overcome. They take a step back and lose in Round 1.


Season Prediction:

3rd, Central Division (4th, Eastern Conference), Second-Round Exit

“I think we’re going in the right direction.” – Jason Kidd

#DOFGAME #DOG

-Jabari J.

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