The Milwaukee Bucks are 3-1, hold second place in the Eastern Conference (behind the 3-0 Washington Wizards), and have quickly become the feel-good story in the NBA. Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have taken on some tough competition and not only held their ground, but taken charge and earned victories. Giannis was a dark horse candidate for MVP before the season, and after four games has become the favorite for the award, according to some Vegas oddsmakers.
Giannis Antetokounmpo isn't fair. You're not supposed to mix heavy usage and extreme efficiency quite like this. pic.twitter.com/6G6lvwFZmF— NBA Math (@NBA_Math) October 24, 2017
But despite his general awesomeness, Giannis is still just one guy. Let’s quickly check in with his teammates to see how they’re starting off their 2017-18 season.
Khash has been short on funds to start the year. Overall, his per-game averages of 15.3 points / 6.0 rebounds / 4.3 assists is about what we expect from him, but he has started the season in a major slump. Of 59 field goal attempts, Middleton has only made 23, including a dismal 2-for-16 from behind the arc. His TS% (0.471) is a full ten percent below what it was last season (0.570), and his 3PAr is the lowest it has ever been (27.1%).
To paraphrase Giannis during post-game interviews on Monday after the Bucks beat the Hornets: Khris will be fine. Middleton is a historical slow-starter, and his misses have mostly come off of open looks, which is pure chance. He did press the issue a bit during the Charlotte game, but ended up with 20 points despite his poor efficiency. Some Bucks fans might be concerned, but I prefer to view it through the lens of being excited for when Middleton bounces back to his normal levels of excellence.
Snell experienced a mini-renaissance last season, after coming to Milwaukee in a straight-up trade for Michael Carter-Williams (who is currently injured, and on a minimum contract with the Hornets). So far, he seems to be sticking to his new normal with the Bucks. His role is to play tough defense and hit open shots, which is precisely what he’s done: Snell is shooting 59.3% from the field, including 46.7% from three, which comes out to an absurd 72.2% eFG. All the while, he continues to work his tail off on defense and force opponents into tough positions on the floor. He’s not flashy, and likely never will be, but he’s the ideal wing player for the Bucks (as currently constructed), and appears to be comfortable in his role.
We knew this was the case, so this should not be a surprise: Thon is not yet ready for NBA primetime. His minutes-per-game are up from his rookie season (16.0 vs. 9.9 last year), but all of his normalized stats have remained static...except his rebound rate, which has plummeted from a bad 11.8% to an even worse 9.1%. Some of that is small sample size, but most of it is due to Thon’s size/strength disparity against some of the players he’s been competing against (Dwight Howard, Tristan Thompson, Al Horford, and Jusuf Nurkic, to name a few.)
Like with Middleton, Thon’s struggles are understandable and, in his case, to be expected. He’s still 20 years old, he’s still developing his body to withstand the rigors of the NBA center position, and he’ll come around. He continues to show flashes of why the Bucks drafted him in the first place, and as long as his energy and effort refuses to wane, Thon’s place in the Bucks’ pecking order will remain intact.
Raise your hand if you expected to see Good John Henson this early in the season. I’ll wait.
J-Hook has been a pleasant surprise for these first four games. He has comfortably stepped into his role on both sides of the court; hitting only the shots he needs to take on offense while setting screens for others, and blocking shots on the other end. His historically-woeful rebounding has experienced an uptick as well, currently sitting at 18.9%, the highest it’s been since his rookie season (19.3%).
This version of Henson is a welcome addition to the Bucks; when he stops communicating on defense and moving his 7’5” wingspan out of position, he quickly becomes a fixture on the bench and an albatross on the cap sheet. Will it stick this time? At least one of our staff members thinks so:
John Henson redemption campaign, pt. 263849291948473929292 starts tonight— Riley Feldmann (@RileyFeldmann) October 19, 2017
This was just a quick look at some of the Bucks’ supporting cast, and what they’ve been up to relative to expectations. Who has impressed you so far? Who did we miss? What developments do you want to see in the coming weeks? Let us know in the comments!