The Milwaukee Bucks are finally back, and we could not be more excited to dive into the season. There are tons of questions worth asking, and we selected a few of our favorites to give you our takes. However, we also want to get your questions in the comments, and we’ll go through and give you our answers to them!
Can Giannis Antetokounmpo somehow improve on his Most Improved Player/All Star starter/Second Team All-NBA/Second Team All-Defense season?
Mitchell: For reference, Giannis scored 21.5% of the Bucks’ points (while taking 18.7% of the team’s shots), pulled down 21.1% of the team’s total rebounds, made 21.9% of the team’s assists, grabbed for 19.7% of the team’s steals, and accounted for 34.6%(!) of the team’s blocks.
To put it another way, Giannis accounts for one-fifth of the team’s total production* on a nightly basis. That is an absurd amount of work that only considers the top five counting stats. I’ve learned to not bet against Giannis, but what more is he supposed to do?!
Adam: Just like Mitchell said, I’ve learned not to bet against Giannis, so I won’t. While his rebounding, steal and block numbers feel like they may plateau a bit this season, I’m pretty confident he’ll become a 25-28 ppg scorer this season. That, along with tallying more assists would be enough to please me, but even Giannis noted during media day that winning is paramount to reaching the MVP level he’s aiming for. If he leads Milwaukee to 50 wins and puts up similar stats, he’ll ascend to the upper echelon of superstar. Shout out to StatMuse for illustrating Giannis’ growth by the way.
Giannis has improved every major stat, every year, since he came into the NBA. pic.twitter.com/GBttnUpO9L— StatMuse (@statmuse) October 3, 2017
Rachael: Yes! I believe he can. He has the motivation, strength, agility, awareness and intelligence needed to improve. Not to mention the extra drive Kobe has given him by challenging him to get MVP!
*insert several eye emojis*
Kyle: Absolutely. His assist numbers will increase as he is surrounded by more shooters in the starting lineup. He also has a full season to be THE guy, and a driven Giannis is someone I don’t want to bet against. His season will be so good maybe the “If Giannis develops a jumper he will be dangerous” camp will cease to exist.
Corey: I lean more with Mitchell here. I’m just not sure what else he can really do to add on to last year. His assist numbers may come up a tick starting the year with Middleton rather than Parker, but there’s only so much you can ask of the guy.
Gabe: Yes. I’m going to use Rachael’s reason as my No. 1 reason why I think this. When the Black Mamba challenges you to go get an MVP award, incredible things are set to happen.
Is this the season when the general NBA public fully recognizes the excellence of Khris Middleton?
Mitchell: I think a lack of exposure is the biggest thing keeping Middleton off of the minds of casual basketball fans. Missing a huge chunk of last season, an appropriately-slow return to his normal playing routine, and a relatively highlight-free approach to the game make him easier to overlook compared to his Eastern Conference counterparts.
Sixteen Eighteen national broadcasts will give people more of a chance to know Middleton as more just a Giannis running mate.
Rachael: I’m not sure if this is the season, or if casual NBA fans will ever fully recognize how great Khris is. Whenever a team has a superstar, it’s easy for the general public to focus entirely on the awe-inspiring, jaw dropping performance of that particular player (I don’t even have to mention it’s Giannis... even though I just did). I don’t know if he’ll get the recognition he deserves, but hopefully he does!
Adam: I tend to agree with Rachael. Middleton’s game is about as flashy as a rusty spoon, but his efficiency and effectiveness has never been in question. My one caveat is if Milwaukee makes it to the second round of the playoffs on the backs of a blazing Middleton performance. One streaky night in April can go a long way towards embedding someone in the public consciousness.
Kyle: I think he will start getting some recognition but I feel like the general NBA public will view Jabari Parker as the number two star on this squad. If Khris has a couple Klay Thompson hot streak moments, he has a shot.
Corey: Unlikely. He isn’t flashy. He isn’t making highlight reels. He just does his thing. How many highlights have you seen of the Memphis Grizzlies over the last ten years? Well, Khris Middleton is the human embodiment of the Grizzlies. His profile grows as the team’s grows.
Gabe: I’m going to take the optimistic side of this. I think he’s going to benefit from Giannis playing at his current level and will do so even more when he’ll by his for the entirety of the year. Call me overhyped, but I think Middleton could be an All-Star this season.
Who will take the biggest strides this year (relative to expectations): Thon Maker, Malcolm Brogdon, or someone else?
Adam: I don’t see Brogdon taking a significant leap in his game and while I’m hopeful the answer is Thon, I think expectations may be a bit out of whack for him this year after sporting that tantalizing but brief playoff potential. I’m expecting a modest leap from him this year which is why I’ll hold the shield before my body and bang the drum for Mirza Teletovic. Obviously he won’t be blossoming into anything more than a basic dandelion, but his expectations seem about as minuscule as I can imagine. I think he’s due for a far better shooting season and that’s all I need to see for him to wildly outperform what most people expect.
Mitchell: I’ve done a huge 180 on Thon Maker since he was drafted and am hopeful that he’ll close in on his sky-high potential, but I think D.J. Wilson might exceed expectations the furthest this season. His decent (for a 6’10” guy) ball skills, plus shooting, and transition foot-speed make him an interesting fit for non-Giannis lineups, and Coach Kidd isn’t shy about giving rookies who work on defense a chance to contribute.
Rachael: I’m really hoping it will be Thon. I think he has the most room for improvement and the best means to do so. We can’t forget that he didn’t even pick up a basketball until he was 14. His potential is sky high. He’s been working his butt off all summer on his game, as well as his body. I’m expecting to see some great development from him this year!
Kyle: Thon seems like the obvious answer just because potential wise, he has such a high ceiling. But I honestly believe Vaughn could take a leap from being a terrible basketball player, to a player that when he is on the court will be competent. He just needs to shoot in the mid 30’s from three and continue his not so bad defense and I think people will be pleasantly surprised.
Corey: I’m hesitant on both, frankly. I still have no concept of how high Maker can climb, and I have the same feeling for Brogdon but different reasons. One is rough around the edges, the other came in polished from the start. Malcolm made a living in college shutting people up, so maybe a step forward in his NBA development is coming. Thon came on late when Kidd got some handle on where he could fit. D.J. Wilson is a good choice here. He’s a bit of a Swiss army knife player that will be able to find a role.
Gabe: I both think and hope it’ll be Thon. There was one thing I remember watching him last year. It was mainly when he would take on larger opponents such as DeAndre Jordan and such. The main difference between Thon and Jordan? Their size. I hope Thon becomes more aggressive down in the paint and gains a tougher mind set. By doing that, I think he puts himself on the inside track towards possible stardom.
What’s the temperature of Jason Kidd’s seat as head coach? What should the temperature be?
Mitchell: Room temperature, like the same number of degrees as a normal chair, because Kidd is not and should not currently be on the hot seat. He has a comfortable amount of time on his contract, appears to have the approval of both ownership and management, has gotten a chance to work with GM Jon Horst for the entire summer, and is retaining a whole crew of players that seem to genuinely like him. It is as steady of a situation as any NBA coach could hope for.
There is also a hot plate plugged in and embedded in the cushion of his seat, and the temperature could rise very quickly. Kidd is in a perfect situation to meet the Bucks’ sky-high expectations. He has a team that is well-suited for his defensive system (including both of the Bucks’ recent draft picks), and veterans who will back him up when it counts. If the wins don’t come and injuries can’t be used as a shield, the first questions will be rightfully aimed directly at the coaching staff.
Adam: Probably a comfortable 60 degrees or so. If I were him I’d feel like I’ve bought plenty of good will with a strong playoff showing and an offseason whose instability turned to goodwill remarkably quickly once basketball took over the headlines from front office foolishness. As Mitchell eloquently put with his heating plate imagery though, the owners seem ready to flip his seat heater from low to high setting if he starts to steer this car the wrong way. Nobody’s shying away from expectations this year. Someone’s gonna take the fall if they fizzle out, and Kidd’s the most likely candidate.
Rachael: The temperature fluctuates. While sometimes it feels like a good chunk of Bucks fans are critical of Kidd, he has always appeared to have the support of the team. As long as the players have confidence in him, that’s all I care about. Oh, and the whole winning games thing.
Kyle: Lukewarm I suppose. Players seem to like Kidd and his track record on player improvements give him some wiggle room for now. Expectations have risen which is expected after last season and the pieces in place this season and If the Bucks get out to a slow start, questions will have to be asked on what is going on with the team. Kidd could still remain the coach after this season, but with this ownership group, he could be gone if progress stagnates in their eye like Marc Jackson in Golden State. Kidd’s seat is never going to be as hot as some on Bucks twitter want it to be and it necessarily shouldn’t be for now.
Corey: Hard to figure. If this summer told us anything, it’s the Bucks are, once again, dealing with turmoil at the top. We know the ownership triumverent disagreed strongly in the Horst debacle, with Kidd on the losing side of the equation. One person may have his seat cold; the other boiling. But with all the hemming and hawing those of us on the outside have done in regards to Kidd, there hasn’t been one whisper of trust issues from the team itself that have leaked out.
Entering the season, the seat is fine.
Gabe: Right now, I think he’s fine. But if frustration amounts (especially if Giannis becomes angry with how things are going), I’ll turn the temperature up. I think we’re all aware that Giannis is entering “win now” mode, and if he feels that Kidd isn’t manning the ship in a proper manner, he’ll vent a little. But yeah, currently? I think Kidd is lukewarm.
Continuity was the calling card this summer. If this is the general structure of the team for 2018 and beyond...what’s the team’s ceiling?
Mitchell: Until we know more about the current group that makes up Giannis’ supporting cast, we could be looking at a situation resembling the Atlanta Hawks of recent memory, where the team is successful in the regular season but struggles to “get over the hump” in the playoffs. A key difference is that the Hawks never had a transcendental talent as the Bucks have with Giannis, but the mystery surrounding the future development of Thon Maker, Jabari Parker, Malcolm Brogdon, and other young Bucks (combined with each player’s timeframe relative to the team’s salary cap) makes Milwaukee’s path to the Finals unclear.
Rachael: If I’m being realistic, this current team’s ceiling is probably Eastern Conference Finals. Like Mitchell said, it’s dependent on the continued development of this group of still fairly young guys.
Kyle: A lot can happen between a shock trade, injuries, or personnel changes. Right now, I would say the ceiling is the Paul George era Indiana had from 2012-2014. Each team has a superstar on the roster with some nice pieces surrounding him but there wasn’t the fire power to compete with a team with two stars . It’s possible the Bucks could make the finals, but is it likely? That might depend on the development of Boston and Philly. Right now I would say no unless Jabari comes back and not only maintains the offense he was providing pre-injury, but providing average defense.
Corey: Conference Finals. Even if you assume that Parker comes back as his old self (which is a dangerous assumption), they’ll need either another step or two forward from Brogdon or an additional piece to the backcourt to contend with Boston. You can get to the Finals without a proto-typical center these days, but you need more than one plus point man. Giannis, Middleton and Parker will do work, but more will be needed for a legitimate conference championship run.
Gabe: I don’t think there’s a chance that the Bucks can get by the Cavs. Could they get to the conference finals on a hot streak in the playoffs? It would be tough and I don’t think they’ll do that this year, but I think that’s what I’d label their ceiling. I still think they’ll make their first conference finals in the new arena.
Adam: I’ll agree with the consensus and say Conference Finals, due mainly to the continued depletion of the East. I think there is and will continue to be, barring an unforeseen leap from a player or star acquisition, a considerable talent gap between Milwaukee and the host of teams vying for the Finals.