The most tumultuous stretch of the NBA offseason is behind us, meaning the agonizingly long in-between time is upon us. Now we start scouring the internet for transient trade rumors and updates from USA Basketball, counting the days until training camp opens. Bucks fans also have arena news to keep up on, but that's a long way off. So for now, we'll open up the mailbag to address the truly pressing questions from our readers!
Bryce: Any word or insight on the system Kidd wants to run? Through summer league interviews I heard him talk about the young guys learning his system, but I wasn't able to watch the games. Offense, defense, pace, lineup size...any thoughts on that?
It's hard to predict the specifics of what system Jason Kidd is going to install in Milwaukee, and not just because we have such a limited track record to go on. Kidd started off with a veteran-laden Nets team that had a lineup set in stone, only to suffer a crushing setback when Brook Lopez was lost for the season with a foot injury. However, that bump only seemed to bring out the best in the team, as Kidd shifted to more smallball strategies that performed better than anything the Nets had tried early in the season. Whether he wanted to use such strategies is a matter of debate. Jeremy broke down Kidd's coaching job at Bucksketball, and in terms of raw metrics, here's how the Nets broke down relative to the rest of the league, via Basketball-Reference.com:
So Brooklyn was one of the slowest teams in the NBA, but also one of the best shooting teams in the league. They launched a ton of three-pointers, took a lot of free throws, and employed a high-pressure defensive system late in the season that forced turnovers at a fantastic rate. I think most people expect the Bucks to play faster than the Nets did under Kidd, but adopting those other traits would be just fine.
Kidd won't have the same veteran expertise and leadership to lean on in Milwaukee as he did in Brooklyn, and the most important consequence might not be how they play, but what they play for. As Kidd himself has indicated, the young roster means player development is going to be more of a priority than winning games. So to that end, I think Kidd's apparent flexibility and inventiveness should serve the team well--he's not afraid to try new things, and he wants to get guys in position to succeed. If nothing else, he's not afraid to give guys strict restrictions in hopes of aiding their development.
Tactically there's been talk of Kidd potentially employing elements of the Princeton and triangle offenses in Milwaukee, two read-and-react systems that rely more on movement rather than standard play-calling. Assistant Eddie Jordan implemented the Princeton offense during Kidd's days in New Jersey, and the Rick Carlisle"flow" offense that Kidd quarterbacked in Dallas similarly relied far less on strict play-calling than most offenses.
In other words, Kidd's coaching scheme is something we'll definitely explore in more detail later this summer.
Benjamin: What do you think is a reasonable expectation for the Bucks to place this season? What is the goal of the front office for this season?
The Bucks will be better, because how could they not be, but the flattening of the Eastern Conference just means there are more teams better than them, even if the best teams aren't as good.
Realistically, I only see two teams with a "good" shot at being worse than the Bucks this season: the 76ers and the Lakers. Kobe's return should help LA win a few more games by default, but the rest of their roster is...well, look at it! And as for the 76ers, they were arguably a worse team than the Bucks last season, and they haven't done a whole lot to get better, though Nerlens Noel will make his debut for the team this season.
As for longer shots, the Celtics, Jazz, and Magic are reasonable options. Each was bad last season, but they've all added impact pieces that should help them improve. As with the Lakers, the Jazz might get knocked down simply due to the Western Conference being ridiculously stacked. The Timberwolves might also fall hard if Kevin Love is traded, though they're reportedly looking to fast-track any subsequent rebuild and might try to get a few veterans in return.
I'm going to put a poll at the bottom of this post to see how others feel about the Bucks' team outlook this season. Be sure to vote!
Ander964: What are reasonable expectations for Giannis and Jabari's per-game averages?
Reasonable? I think mid-teens scoring on average to slightly-above-average efficiency (buoyed by free throws) for both, which is arguably the most important feat for each. Efficient high-volume scoring is the name of the game for Parker, while improving his own scoring will be important for Giannis to break into the ranks of the NBA stars. Here's my guess for each guy's per-game line and a few key stats for each:
Jabari Parker: 18 PTS, 8 TRB, 2.5 AST, 2 TO, 6 FTA, 52 TS%, 24% USG
Giannis Antetokounmpo: 14 PTS, 6.5 TRB, 4 AST, 2.5 TO, 1 BLK, 53 TS%, 19% USG
Matt: Do you buy Parker as a 4? What is the likelihood the Bucks can keep both him and Giannis long term?
Yes, I absolutely buy Parker as a 4, and I think he has a chance at pairing beautifully with Giannis. In today's NBA, your nominal PF basically "needs" to be able to rebound, guard the post somewhat effectively, and rotate all over the place on defense. Parker can definitely do the first thing, should be able to do the second, and can hopefully improve in the third. And then offensively, he can stretch the floor from the 4, which is a huge plus, to go with a pretty solid post game. The big thing for him, aside from efficient scoring, will be developing his court vision to counter the double-teams he'll (ideally) draw near the basket with passes out to perimeter shooters.
As for co-existing with Giannis, I think the attacking style of both guys could be a great asset when paired together, and they're both strong rebounders. That gives the Bucks a pair of great weapons to quickly turn defensive stops into easy buckets on the other end. Their synergy can work in multiple ways: With Giannis occupying a more unique facilitator role, Jabari could be a great go-to scorer. Conversely, Parker could be a lethal pick-and-roll partner for Giannis, allowing one to get good shots as the defense reacted to the other.
Essentially, if each reaches his considerable potential, the only obstacle to keeping them together would likely be financial.
Ted: How do you see the backcourt rotation shaking out?
The big question that needs answering is this: Where is Brandon Knight ultimately going to settle in with the Bucks this season? He's the presumptive starter at PG right now, but Milwaukee's addition of both Jerryd Bayless and Kendall Marshall gives the team a lot of options at the lead guard position, and a lot of flexibility to play Knight alongside another ballhandler. But as Frank reminded us in his recent breakdown of Knight's role, even when Knight played next to such a player, he still did point guard-ish things, for the most part.
The question of Knight's future is critical enough that he's virtually guaranteed to see heavy minutes no matter what, regardless of which "position" he's actively playing. Beyond that, there are suddenly a lot of mouths to feed. Nate Wolters, Bayless, and Marshall all look much more like PGs than SGs, while O.J. Mayo (he's still here!) leans more toward the 2 on the combo guard continuum. There's some pretty significant contrast between those players--the Bucks will surely look very different with Marshall playing the point versus Knight--that will necessitate a lot of lineup micro-managing. Wolters played well enough last season to earn his fair share of minutes this season, while the Bucks will surely try to get something out of Mayo, if for no other reason than to try to dump him on another team. Bayless is probably next in line for PT, with Marshall picking up minutes wherever possible.