The Milwaukee Bucks are a franchise with a plethora of talented young players eager to impress, and thus far this season, they’ve done nothing but this. The Bucks currently sit in an admirable fifth place in the Eastern Conference, right amongst the thick of the competition, and they hardly look to be slowing down now.
Just like their Western Conference counterparts, the Minnesota Timberwolves – who also boast a copious amount of young, budding superstars – the Bucks had high expectations going into the 2016-17 NBA season. Their futures both looked bright, but for whatever reason, the Timberwolves just haven’t gotten out of second gear yet, while the Bucks have shot out of the barracks at full speed.
The Milwaukee Bucks’ Time is Coming
But just how, and why, have the Milwaukee Bucks rose to basketball prominence in such a short amount of time? How have they sky-rocketed from a team that amassed a total of 33 wins and finished in a lowly 12th place in the East last year to a legitimate playoff contending team?
The stars are finally beginning to align for the Milwaukee franchise. Their time is fast approaching, and the surrounding teams should heed this statement of intent.
Freaks and Greeks
Giannis Antetokounmpo, better known as the ‘Greek Freak’, has emerged as one of the league’s most improved players, so much so that he’s now considered to be one of the most underrated players in the NBA. His dominance this season has helped carry the Bucks to some vital wins. Additionally, his performance at the pivot has turned his squad from Eastern stragglers to one of the better teams in the conference.
But if you take a look at the stats, the Greek Freak’s emergence hasn’t just appeared out of thin air. Many expected the 6″11 forward to really step up this year and lead his team. Over his four-year NBA career, Antetokounmpo has gradually improved across all aspects of his game, including points per game, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and field goal percentage. As impressive as this feat is, it only gets better. Not only has he gradually improved on all these aspects, he’s bettered himself in each consecutive year. So, in hindsight, Antetokounmpo’s emergence is something we all really should have expected.
Currently averaging 23.2 points, 8.8 boards, 5.6 assists, and 2.1 blocks per game, the Bucks star has surfaced as a shoe-in to win the Most Improved Player accolade. If Antetokounmpo continues to dominate and put up the numbers he currently does with this level of growth and consistency, it won’t be long before he becomes a key player in the league. And with 963,110 All-Star votes as of the latest returns, the second-highest for frontcourt players in the East, the fans are starting to recognise this, too.
Squad Full of Potential
Coming into this season, not many would have expected the Bucks’ roster to make headlines, with the addition of NBA champion Matthew Dellavedova an obvious highlight. This could not be further from the truth, however.
Jabari Parker and Antetokounmpo, to name a couple, have emerged as the most invaluable members of the squad, with the two averaging a combined 44 points per game.
Parker’s progression and evolution as a player exemplifies the Bucks’ growth from last year to now. Prior to this season, the former second overall pick in 2014 was an extremely ordinary four. He was decent on the glass and had good shot selection but not much else. This season, however, he’s added a three-point shot to his arsenal, and it’s helped him start to wreak havoc.
Much like Antetokounmpo, Parker has seen his scoring average gradually rise, culminating in a respectable 20.8 PPG thus far this season. This is no doubt that he’s put in a lot of work on his outside shooting. Last year, he shot just 25.7 percent from three-point range, making 0.1 per game, on average. This allowed the opposition to rotate off of the former Duke power forward with no damaging repercussions. But as the game has evolved, so should the players, and that’s exactly what Parker has done. Not only has he increased his three-point attempts per game (from 0.5 to 3.5), but his accuracy has risen significantly, elevating to the dizzy heights of a 42.1 percent success rate. The forward has certainly increased his skillset, and the results have been exceedingly fruitful.
When Malcolm Brogdon was selected by the Bucks with the 36th pick of the draft in June, many expected him to be merely a utility player. Evidently, the 24-year-old point guard from Virginia didn’t read the script.
Brogdon challenged Dellavedova for a starting spot earlier in the season. Not only that, but he’s now surpassed Dellavedova on the depth chart, currently starting at point guard. The last seven games have been especially successful for the rookie guard. Milwaukee has won five of those seven, including Ws against the San Antonio Spurs, the Chicago Bulls, and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Brogdon has averaged 14.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game over the last seven contests. He also became the first player in his draft class to record a triple-double. He had 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists in a dominant New Year’s Eve victory over the Bulls. If it weren’t for Joel Embiid‘s excellence thus far, Brogdon would definitely be the favorite to claim Rookie of the Year.
With a solid core of young, high potential players to build the franchise around, the future looks blindingly bright for the Milwaukee Bucks. And with a loaded arsenal of talent at his disposal, coach Jason Kidd may well lead his team to an Eastern Conference playoff berth. The possibilities of success are endless for this young, up-and-coming team.