With Jason Kidd and the Bucks still hovering around .500 nearly halfway through the NBA season, it's a good time to pause and take stock of the team. We've already covered the intricacies of the Larry Sanders situation and the unpleasantness of Jabari Parker's ACL injury in long-form podcast discussions, so this episode revolves around the general direction of the team heading into trade deadline season.
It's time to adjust expectations. The overwhelming stink of the 2013-14 season allowed us to feel really good about watching a competitive team again, but just as the quick start washed that stench away, it also raised the bar for the remainder of the year. When Jabari and Giannis were logging big minutes and making meaningful contributions, it felt effortless to enjoy any outcome. But now that Jabari is out (and Inglis on the shelf), it's becoming a bit tougher to celebrate an unshakable .500 status. I propose a moratorium on all "compared to this time last year, the Bucks ... " analysis. It's great that this team is better than the worst squad in franchise history, but that's not a proper measuring bar for a veteran-laden team. Let's move on from that mess.
On a related topic, is Jason Kidd starting to resemble Scott Skiles? The clear bump in quality from (interim) Jim Boylan to Skiles is as undeniable as the bump from Larry Drew to Kidd. The high-end upside of a Skiles/Kidd isn't really at issue; it's the way a collection of unremarkable individual defenders can be combined to limit the downside of a team to roughly a .500 level. The Bucks utilize depth to their advantage and outwork opponents on the defensive end under Kidd in a fashion similar to what happened under Skiles. Furthermore, there are signs that rotations are merit-based in a way that favors veterans who understand and execute defensive assignments consistently. It's not a perfect comparison, but the Kidd/Skiles thing is something to consider for anyone struggling with getting excited about Bayless/Mayo/Dudley/Martin(?)/Pachulia-type lineup combinations in higher leverage situations.
With the NBA trade deadline roughly one month away, it's only natural to wonder how the Bucks can best position themselves to "Own the Future." The value of quality veteran players shifts higher during this period when contenders assess adding a piece to put them over the top and fringe teams with GMs on hot seats make panic moves, because the pool of available options is limited in comparison to the full draft and free agency buffet. Could someone like Jared Dudley or O.J. Mayo or Zaza Pachulia bring back a long-term asset and clear the way for a younger player to soak up more minutes/responsibilities? Should the Bucks stand pat or add a piece? These are all complex issues. The possible answers aren't likely to satisfy everyone at once, but Frank and I offer up our thoughts on what it all means and what can be done. Note that we recorded this along with the rest of the past week's podcasts on Sunday the 4th, so before the addition of Kenyon Martin and release of Nate Wolters.