Welcome back to the Brew Hoop Round Table, where we ask that everybody use coasters and please don’t feed the pugs from the table, thanks. Today, our staff takes one last look at their 2017 Bucks calendar (before they get tossed in the garbage) to see what we liked (and didn’t like) about this past year.
What was the biggest story for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2017?
Adam: Giannis Antetokounmpo becoming a legitimate MVP candidate. Not only has it somewhat crystallized what was a nebulous roster construction plan to this point, but it thrust Milwaukee into the national media this season far more than ever before. Most importantly, it’s created heightened expectations for the franchise not just to succeed, but also to ensure their superstar is content with their process. With that comes added pressure on all facets of the front office and ownership. Given the penchant for media to discuss shifting superstars constantly, how Giannis’ tenure in Milwaukee proceeds in the years ahead will be the franchise’s biggest story line for their biggest star since Kareem Abdul-Jabaar.
Mitchell: For specifically the Bucks, the story is always going to center around Giannis, but the biggest story around the Bucks is the crescendo of #FireKidd. A large portion of fans here on Brew Hoop, as well as those on Twitter, RealGM, Reddit, and elsewhere, have put the blame for Milwaukee’s lackluster performance squarely on the shoulders of Coach Kidd for a while now. Fans’ fury has only intensified to the point that each and every loss is laid at Kidd’s feet, and even wins are “in spite of” his coaching. With so many reasons to be positive about the team’s future, it’s disappointing that the overarching theme of the year has been so negative...but it’s also the most prevalent.
Kyle: I would say it’s the widespread attention the Milwaukee Bucks are getting in the state of Wisconsin. There are people in Eau Claire who used to never care about the Milwaukee Bucks who now are wearing Giannis shirseys. Wausau bars willingly playing Bucks games on the TV. In Madison at the farmers market, people openly shout “Fear the deer!” and “Bucks in 6!” Growing up, the Milwaukee Bucks felt like a team only people around the Milwaukee area cared about, and even at college in Eau Claire there wasn’t much talk about the Bucks either (besides the funding of the new arena). Having a successful playoff run and having a superstar in Giannis helps, but for me that was eye opening.
Greg: The biggest story was the ownership group having a light shined on its dysfunction and the potential impact that has on the franchise going forward. Wes Edens overruling Lasry and Dinan in not wanting Justin Zanik as the GM was strange because everyone figured Zanik was the heir apparent to John Hammond’s throne. The ownership group (read: Edens) finally settled on their guy, Jon Horst, after much hand wringing and head scratching from all of us. This has lead to nearly every positive article written about Giannis coming with a “the jury is still out if the ownership group has their act together enough for the superstar to stay” caveat. The owners and other front office staffers have huge decisions to make with Jabari Parker’s contract negotiation looming and what should be done, if anything, with Jason Kidd.
Dean: To me, 2017 shall always be the year that the word “expectations” superseded the word “potential” for the Bucks. The accelerated development of Giannis Antetokounmpo, the emergence of Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon, as well as the positive signs shown by Thon Maker and some of the Bucks’ role-players have changed the perspective around the team; factor in Eric Bledsoe and John Henson being a significant plus early in the 2017-2018 season, and the Bucks seem like a team that’s underperforming its talent level.
What was your favorite Brew Hoop item from this past year?
Adam: I hate to be self-aggrandizing, but I had a load of fun putting together this piece comparing Giannis to various species of birds and determining whether flight is possible. The fact the head of the Cornell Ornithology Lab even deigned to speak with me for this story was ludicrous.
Mitchell: Adam, that post was exactly the perfect amount of “dumb.” For myself, the entire Crossroads 2017 series that we did last summer helped focus everybody on the site to take part in the larger conversation about what the Bucks are, what they want to be, and how they can get there. The team didn’t end up doing much, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t make major decisions this past offseason.
Kyle: I have two that are a tie. The first was the Block Party from the summer. It was pretty cool meeting Gabe, Rachael, and Greg, and it was a fun day. Going on the Lakefront Brewery tour before and getting sunburned was pretty great. The other was my Giannis ticking clock piece. It was one of my first solo pieces for Brew Hoop and it felt cathartic to write. To see it get the response it did and also just look to see “Best of SBNation NBA,” it made me feel like I’m not doing too bad.
Greg: My favorite item is the recap of Giannis’ game winner at Madison Square Garden. I moved to Milwaukee in November of 2016 after spending the previous five and a half years west of the Mississippi River and being disconnected from the Bucks. Those five and a half years saw my fandom wane from when I was in middle and high school, but that game, coupled with my Milwaukee move, made it so much easier for me to dive right back in. It served as a sort of slap in the face for me to start paying a thousand percent more attention to the team.
Dean: As I have yet to publish content of my own, there is only one correct answer.
Which Buck had the best 2017? Which had the worst?
Mitchell: John Henson, and I honestly don’t think it’s close. Call it recency bias, but Henson had been all but written off by the majority of the fanbase. Trading Greg Monroe away to Phoenix gave J-Hook yet another opportunity to be a major contributor, and for whatever reason Henson finally came through. I would say Rashad Vaughn had the worst 2017, but Mirza Teletovic having to deal with a terrible medical condition is much, much worse.
Adam: I’ll go with Tony Snell as the Buck with the best 2017. Short on words, but no slouch on the court, Snell’s emergence as an elite 3-point shooter this entire year has been nothing short or remarkable. Looking solely at this calendar year, between what’s roughly a full season (49 games last season, 27 this year), he’s shooting 44.9% on 3.9 attempts per game. It’s netted him a deserved salary bump too. Good on you Tony. Jabari had the worst year, with another devastating injury that likely cost him a significant amount of career salary.
Kyle: I will say Malcolm Brogdon had the best 2017. He won ROY and for the calendar year was the second best player on the roster. He was valued highly enough by the front office to not even be considered a part of the Bledsoe trade. Despite the questionable rotations minutes he has gotten since the Bledsoe trade, Thursday night being a prime example, Brogdon has been professional and hasnt publicaly raised a fuss. For worst, Jabari seems like the obvious answer a second ACL tear in the same knee knocking him out of what was a career year for him. Lingering questions on if you can come back again and the scrutiny that his defense brings. that’s not how I would want 2017 to be remembered.
Greg: I believe that Khris Middleton had the best 2017. The first four months saw him sidelined and then slowly getting back into basketball form. He is entering his prime and averaging 20 points per game on a career best 57.4 true shooting percentage. He still has room for improvement, but we are starting to see Middleton blossom into a legitimate sidekick. Jason Kidd probably had the worst 2017. He went from the average fan thinking, “Hm, he was a great player and he seems to be doing okay as a coach, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt,” to, “Ah, so he is what is holding this team back and is actually a frustrating human to get a read on.” The tone around Kidd definitely shifted negatively throughout the course of this year.
Dean: I would agree with Greg. Khris Middleton had a tremendous stretch of games following his return, during the 2016-2017 season. Despite playing generally poorly during the Playoffs and starting the 2017-2018 season unable to score with his usual efficiency, Middleton is a fundamental part of the Bucks’ team, and it’s not coincidental that the majority of the players are a net-negative when Khris is not on the court. As for the worst, Mirza Teletovic went from having a very poor showing during the second half of the 2016-2017 season, to returning with improved efficiency, and having his season (most likely) ending with a very serious health issue.
What do you want to be talking about in 12 months, when 2018 is coming to a close?
Adam: Whether Milwaukee’s roster has enough supplemental talent to reach the heights expected of them. There will be a lot of noise heading into next year surrounding Milwaukee’s (warranted) ballyhooed entrance to their new arena, but the hullabaloo that will surround that and Giannis’ MVP campaign can’t distract from the fact this roster needs to continue developing and plucking supplemental talent to make up for the oversized contracts they’re potentially shelling out.
Kyle: How the front office and ownership was able to regain the fan’s trust again. First with the head coaching change, then how they handled the Jabari extension. The moves will hopefully be viewed positively, considering the GM search and the tail end of 2017 left a sour note.
Greg: How new head coach, Stephen Silas, has elevated the Bucks to bonafide Eastern Conference contenders. I also want to be talking about how the new arena and surrounding development has laid the groundwork for a positive community impact and how hosting an NBA All-Star game may not be so far fetched.
Mitchell: I actually want to talk about what we have been talking about for a while: expectations. I want to talk about how the team is meeting expectations, and how much higher those expectations have been than years past. I sure don’t want to be talking about how the Bucks took another step back after making some progress, that much you can count on.
Dean: I’d be happy to talk about how the Bucks have taken the necessary steps to change the outlook of the team. Be they a change in personnel or the development of a more comprehensive system to maximize their on-court performance, it would be refreshing to have the positives from a season outweigh the negatives.
Any other New Year thoughts?
Adam: It’s felt as if the overriding opinion about 2017 is depression. That pall of sadness has hung over culture like a gray Wisconsin winter day all year and seemed to permeate this franchise as well. Amidst the warranted scrutiny, incessant hand-wringing over porous defensive schemes and bland as broccoli offensive sets, I’ve sometimes found it hard to appreciate the blissful moments of pure fandom. I don’t think there’s been a more joyful Bucks moment this year than the Eric Bledsoe to Giannis alley-oop that lit Twitter ablaze in their first game together. So that’s my resolution: try and peer through the darkened hedges more often and better appreciate the moments of wonder we’re granted from having a one-of-a-kind player. Sports, at their core, should be joyful after all.
Kyle: I started writing at Brew Hoop late spring early summer, I am glad to have spent the past six-ish months with all the writers at this site, the people in the comments, and twitter. You have all been accepting and I truly appreciate it. I hope 2018 will bring more joy to Bucks fans and that you still tolerate the subpar tweets I will send during takeovers.
Greg: The MECCA game was a fantastic event that was executed without any hiccups. I’m glad the game was able to bridge generational gaps and that a national audience was able to soak in a unique part of the franchise’s history. Oh and before I forget, Bucks in six, baby.
Mitchell: Brew Hoop has been lucky enough to add a number of quality contributors in 2017, and the site’s growth is very much due to their energy and effort. Our masthead looks very different than it once did, but I’m confident in our ability to continue to support this platform to obsess about the Milwaukee Bucks with like-minded fans.
Dean: Being new to the team, I hope that I’ll be able to provide quality content for all Brew Hoop readers and that someday I’ll be able to produce an article that would match Adam’s objet d’art about birds and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
That’s a quick glance at the past year from us, but as always, we want to hear from you. Let us know what you liked (and disliked) about 2017, both from the Bucks and from Brew Hoop, in the comments. And most importantly, stay safe out there, and Happy New Year!