Loyal Milwaukee Bucks fans have been waiting patiently for a clear sign from the team that prospect development and acquisition will take on a higher priority this season, and on Saturday night against the Boston Celtics an encouraging message emerged from the mess that has been the 2013-14 Bucks [Note: Full Giannis highlights are here]. To be honest, most of the signs from the game seemed pretty clear and encouraging, as our own Eric Buenning noted in his coverage of the contest.
Here's the blueprint that emerged: Giannis Antetokounmpo played extensively during meaningful moments of an NBA game and generated a mesmerizing set of highlights while helping the team build a lead and sustain it. Brandon Knight flashed his athleticism and skill in the open floor and serendipitously found himself on triple-double alert by the third quarter (though he didn't quite pull the feat off). John Henson teamed up with Ekpe Udoh and Giannis to smother the opposing offense in zone sets and ripped down the rebounds that had tormented the Bucks through the first 15 games. What more could a Bucks fan ask for, right?
Well, yeah, the team did win (which is perhaps a controversial outcome in light of how the year started), but is anyone actually willing to argue with good results built on a foundation of strong play from the most important prospects on the roster? The outcome won't always be great, but the ideal process was laid out for everyone to see against Boston: Play the young guys and let the chips fall where they may.
Injuries to Caron Butler and Ersan Ilyasova forced Larry Drew's hand on Saturday night against the Celtics, and Nate Wolters was hit with another DNP - Coach's Decision, so the question now is: Can we trust Drew to play the young guys going forward? He did carve out a role for Khris Middleton at the expense of Butler prior to that injury, but considering the problems on defense, reliance on zone, poor rebounding and low three-point rate it's fair to ask whether Larry Drew has a strong grasp on what gives the team the best chance to win.
In the latest podcast episode, Frank Madden and Steve von Horn discuss the beauty of seeing strong play from Giannis, Henson, Knight and Middleton, and they ponder whether Larry Drew is anything more than a replacement-level head coach in the NBA. And, of course, they also confront the issue of "tanking" and whether it's okay to root for the Bucks to lose. Oh yeah, and more Giannis: