The Milwaukee Bucks made a habit of winning games without key players in Jason Kidd's first season in Wisconsin, and the start of the new season is unfortunately feeling rather familiar.
As expected, neither Giannis Antetokounmpo (league suspension) nor Jabari Parker (knee) will suit up in the Bucks' season opener against the New York Knicks on Wednesday, a rather disappointing starting point for a team hoping for big things from its two 20-year-old cornerstones.
Still, the BMO Harris Bradley Center figures to be rocking on Wednesday night, and with good reason. Coming off a surprise 41-win season, the Bucks had an action-packed summer: Greg Monroe was the highest-profile free agent signing in franchise history, approval of a new arena financing deal sealed the franchise's future in Milwaukee, and those new jerseys look fantastic. So whether you're expecting 35 wins or 50 wins from this year's team, there's plenty to be excited about, much to be thankful for, and ample reason to get stoked ahead of the the team's first true home opener in three decades.
Scouting Report: Knicks
Coming off an ugly, injury-plagued 17-win season, Derek Fisher and the Knicks have nowhere to go but up.
The Knicks' hopes of improvement begin of course with 31-year-old Carmelo Anthony, whose long-term future may not be in New York despite the four years and $100 million owed to him on the deal he signed just over a year ago. I'm not saying Melo's on the trading block already, but...well, let's just say Phil Jackson should probably keep an open mind about things. Melo shot just 8/32 (25%) over his final exhibition games, though it's worth noting that he scored effectively at the start of the preseason. In other words, it's probably best to assume we'll see the same old Melo on Wednesday.
The good news for Knicks fans is that the cupboard around Melo isn't as hopelessly bare as it was last season. With Monroe defying conventional wisdom by signing with the Bucks, Jackson saved face by adding the likable Robin Lopez and bargain-bin special Kyle O'Quinn at center, the maybe-washed-up Arron Afflalo on the wing, and the who-knows-if-he's-useful-at-all Derrick Williams to the forward rotation. Not the sort of haul that will get the Big Apple media gushing, but at least the Knicks have actual NBA players to trot out on a nightly basis, which is more than we could have said at the end of last season.
More interesting for Knicks fans was draft night, which delivered a pair of guys who should see rotation minutes on Wednesday. The skilled and enormous Kristaps Porzingis will start at power forward, and while the 7'2" Latvian will likely dwarf whomever the Bucks put on him defensively (Chis Copeland?), that might not be too problematic for the time being. He's much more interested in picking and popping than mixing it up on the block, so going small probably isn't a bad idea. To wit: in the preseason he hit a healthy 38% of his threes but just 37% overall from the field. On a sidenote, I'm not sure how a guy that big doesn't eventually play center, right?
Former Notre Dame standout Jerian Grant, acquired on draft night for Tim Hardaway, could also see minutes at backup point guard. He delivered his share of highlight reel plays during the preseason, but his overall numbers (35% shooting, 0/4 from deep) don't exactly jump off the page. One rookie you won't be seeing: 2014 second round pick Thanasis Antetokounmpo, whom the Knicks released this week after only a handful of preseason opportunities.
First off let's start with good news: the Bucks expect Parker back in the not-too-distant future.
"He looks great. He's done everything," Kidd said after the team's workout Tuesday. "Hopefully, in that first couple of weeks of November, he can come back and start his process, his journey, of playing 10 to 15 minutes a night and hopefully getting his load bigger as the season goes on."
I won't belabor the Jabari question much further; as long as he's practicing and not suffering any setbacks I'm happy. If that means he's back soon, even better.
The absence of Parker and Antetokounmpo would seem to guarantee Copeland a starting spot against his former team, though the Bucks' forward rotations beyond that are up for grabs. Khris Middleton seems likely to slide down to small forward with Giannis out, though the loss of O.J. Mayo (out with a sore hamstring) and potentially Rashad Vaughn (sore shoulder) limits Kidd's options in the backcourt as well. Kidd could go with Jerryd Bayless or Greivis Vasquez at shooting guard to plug those holes, though I'd also like to see Damien Inglis grab some minutes at forward while Giannis and Jabari are out of commission. I'm not saying the 20-year-old is going to be a Melo-stopper in his NBA debut, but his combination of size, length and mobility at least give him a chance to make Melo work for his inevitable buckets.
For the Knicks, Afflalo (hamstring), Kevin Seraphin (knee) and Lou Amundson (back) are all listed as doubtful.
|2015/16 NBA Season|
|October 28, 2015|
|BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI|
|FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|Michael Carter-Williams||PG||Jose Calderon|
|Jerryd Bayless||SG||Sasha Vujacic|
|Khris Middleton||SF||Carmelo Anthony|
|Chris Copeland||PF||Kristaps Porzingis|
|Greg Monroe||C||Robin Lopez|
|2014/15 Advanced Stats|
|102.7 (26th)||ORtg||99.9 (29th)|
|102.2 (4th)||DRtg||110.0 (28th)|