The Bucks this year were suppose to make the next jump this year. They were young and led by a coach with an extremely high basketball IQ that we have seen on display on and off the court. They grabbed a guy known to be able to work down in the low post with Greg Monroe, and they were getting Jabari Parker back who had endured a season ending injury last year. Many sport outlets had them as the team to watch for the next 5 years as they have the 3rd youngest core in the NBA and after last year looked like they were in prime shape to continuously improve each and every single year. Instead, the Bucks are currently 20-28 and 13th in the East and seems to virtually have no chance of making the playoffs this year. So what happened? What has made such a dramatic difference that they went from the surprising upcomer to a bottom of the barrel team? Well that is what I hope to show.
First let’s look at some of the interesting things I found. Where I believe the downfall started was not the beginning of the season or even the off season. It dates back to February 19 of last season. That day is when the Bucks traded Brandon Knight and received Michael Carter-Williams. The Bucks were 30-23 which was good for the 4th seed in the East at the time. After that trade, the Bucks went 11-18 through the rest of the year having as bad as 3 wins in a 16 game stretch. While Carter-Williams is a rookie of the year and has shown flashes of promise; his inability to shoot, score, or do anything offensively besides pass hurts the team tremendously. Knight was averaging 17.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 5.4 assists during his time with the Bucks. Not only that, but he was shooting a tremendous 40.2% on almost 5 three point attempts a game. They traded that player for a guy who had not even had a season shooting 30% from that range and his shooting percentage only got worse with his time in Milwaukee shooting 14.3% from downtown in his 25 game stint there last year. The dynamic of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Michael Carter-Williams became painful to watch. Defenses dared them to shoot and that became an ongoing story with the Bucks. Carter-Williams is better defensively, but Knight was never bad and going out of the way to get a guy that does not fit your needs was a huge fumble by the Bucks organization.
Then there is another fumble by the organization, and that is the acquisition of Greg Monroe this offseason. Many saw it as a stepping stone for a great future and they were applauded by most for going out and picking up the 25 year old who has shown a knack for being able to score down low. Greg Monroe is a player that I have always had nothing but good things to say about, but he was the worst fit possible for this team. He has cement feet that remind me of Al Jefferson in Charlotte which was a downfall for that team for many years, but Big Al is much better than Monroe at this point in time. Monroe does nothing good for your spacing on offense, and defensively he is just atrocious. I went to look at lineups the team has had and none of the 5 man lineups with Monroe yield good results. The Bucks last year had a defensive efficiency that ranked 2nd behind the Warriors. That is above San Antonio, Memphis, and Washington. This team was extremely elite on that end of the court. Where do they rank now? 28th. The only teams they are better than on defense are the Phoenix Suns and LA Lakers. They took the phrase of falling off a cliff to a whole new meaning.
Another thing I wanted to dive into was Jabari Parker. He was the 2nd overall pick in the draft and is currently averaging 11.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.4 assists this year on a healthy 48.6% from the field. In college, in a system that is known to bring down numbers and forces guys to buy into a system at Duke, Jabari Parker averaged 19.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.2 assists on only 2 more minutes a game. So of course it is never right to expect players to do what they did in college, but the thing that stands out to me more is the lack of obvious skill in a certain aspect of being used. At Duke, Jabari Parker shot 35.8% from the 3 point line averaging 3.0 attempts per game. Today Jabari Parker is shooting 0% from 3 point range. Wonder why that is? Well he averages 0.1 attempt per game. In 43 games he has taken 6 which have mainly been heaves down the court or end of the clock type of situations. This is a complete disregard for Parker’s ability to shoot and it is simply unacceptable. I have no clue what is in Kidd’s mind, but they need Parker’s ability to shoot out on the floor. The Bucks have four players shooting 30% or higher from three point range. That is a very low standard, for context the Golden State Warriors have nine players that shoot 35.7% or higher. The league average is 35.1% and the Bucks only have two players that even reach that mark. There is absolutely no reason for the blatant disregard of obvious talent that exists there. It is not a reason for their downfall, but it is an issue I have noticed and many more should take notice of.
The Bucks have made a lot bad moves and I am not sure if they can recover from it. Trades need to be made and off season moves are needed. The Bucks organization has shown intiative these past four years and I believe they can do what is necessary. Hopefully they can make better decisions that fit into the core of the team rather than blow it into one huge confusing mess where there are so many problems that you have to rebuild the entire franchise.
(All stats from NBA.com/stats and http://www.basketball-reference.com and are accurate as of 1/17/16)