Giannis leads Greece with 15 points in exhibition loss to Belgium
The Greek national team still has a few weeks until the start of the EuroBasket on September 5, but they kicked off their exhibition schedule on Sunday with a 64-59 loss to the not-so-mighty Belgians. Don't blame Giannis Antetokounmpo -- the Bucks' forward started and led Greece with 15 points (4/7 fg, 0/1 threes, 7/10 ft) and added four rebounds in just under 18 minutes of action. Above you can see his complete video highlights (thanks to LF in the comments for the link!), and you can check out a couple pics from the game here. Perhaps most impressively, Giannis drew nine fouls -- better than one every other minute.
Greek star point guard Vassilis Spanoulis didn't play and no one saw particularly big minutes, though losing to Belgium isn't a good look even if the latter have had one or two more games under their belt. Thankfully there's plenty of time for the Greeks to find their rhythm as they have a slew of exhibition games over the next few weeks, so no there's point making too much of this. Greece next play Bosnia and Turkey on August 14-15.
Pelton: Cleveland Cavaliers alone atop Eastern Conference title contenders
Kevin Pelton has the Bucks outside his top seven in the East, lumping them in with Charlotte, Detroit and Indiana as battling for the final playoff spot:
While the Bucks are building an intriguing young core, there are reasons to believe they might take a slight step backward in 2015-16 despite the addition of Greg Monroe. After all, Milwaukee made an even bigger leap than Atlanta, winning 26 more games than 2013-14. And of the four full-season Bucks with the best net ratings on the court last season per NBA.com/stats, only Khris Middleton returns. (Dudley, Ilyasova and Zaza Pachulia were the others.)
While I appreciate the general sentiment, note that Kendall Marshall (+8.0 pts/100), Pachulia (+6.9), Middleton (+6.9), and Michael Carter-Williams (+6.4) were actually the team's top four net rating guys, followed by Dudley (+3.7), Ilyasova (+1.8) and Giannis (+1.1).
NBA.com: Second- or third-year player ready to rise the ranks?
Not surprisingly, both Giannis and Jabari Parker got some love in this NBA.com roundtable discussion about young players expected to make big leaps this season. Here's Lang Whitaker:
It seems like people maybe sort of forgot about him, after he suffered a season-ending knee injury, but I think Jabari Parker is going to have a big year once he gets completely healthy. With a big man (Greg Monroe) behind him, Parker’s defensive deficiencies will matter less, and his ability to score isn’t going anywhere. And coach Jason Kidd has shown time and again an ability to put players in positions to be most successful.
Lowe: Welcome to Extensionville: The NBA’s Next Big-Money Community
This is a week old and was already mentioned in my post from Friday on the Bucks six-man core, but in case you missed it Zach Lowe wrote last week that John Henson's rumored extension is still in the works.
The two sides are still on course, per several league sources, and Henson will probably get a payday in the eight-figure range that busts past the "sneaky" label. Bigs get paid. Hell, Aron Baynes just got nearly $20 million over three seasons, and every agent repping a moderately talented big man is ready to wave that deal in a GM’s face. Henson found his NBA niche by scrapping post-ups, slicing down the lane for pick-and-roll finishes, and keeping those condor arms spread wide on defense.
The idea of a Henson extension has seemed somewhat polarizing, though I can't bring myself to feel too strongly either way. On the one hand, there's going to be an absolute ton of free agent money chasing relatively few big men next summer, so a young shot-blocker and rim finisher like Henson is the kind of guy who could easily get an eight digit offer sheet from a team with cap money to burn. At a minimum, he shouldn't be an immovable cap object even if he's making $10-12 million when the cap leaps past $100 million in 2017.
On the other hand, he spent the last two years unable to beat out Zaza Pachulia for the starting center spot and has shown zero progress offensively over the last three seasons, so we've probably reached the point where we know he's never going to be a high-level starter. What's the value of that kind of guy given the evolving landscape of the NBA's salary cap? Should the Bucks just try to trade him before they have to pay him major dollars? The comments section is open for business...
JS: Defensive-oriented John Henson's star is rising with Bucks
Speaking of Henson, Charles Gardner writes that Jason Kidd expects to play the fourth-year big man next to presumptive center Greg Monroe at some point this season. Don't expect to see the Bucks go big too often; Kidd barely played two-man combinations of Henson, Larry Sanders, Zaza Pachulia and Miles Plumlee together last year, and the main reason Monroe left Detroit was so that he wouldn't have to play power forward anymore. But the Bucks will be thin at the four spot until Jabari Parker returns, so necessity could lead to some jumbo lineups sooner rather than later.
"For me, I can play anybody," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said of Henson's projected role. "He'll find some time throughout the year. Henson and Monroe will be on the floor. Henson can play 5 (center) and 4 (power forward). We can go with two bigs or Henson can be out at the 5 with all smalls."