What Has Happened to the Milwaukee Bucks During the 2015-2016 NBA Season?
Overview of Milwaukee Bucks During the 2015-2016 Season
What happened to the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2015-2016 NBA season? Before the start of the season at the end of October 2015, many fans and critics had predicted that the Bucks would improve on their 41-41 record in the 2014-2015 season. Milwaukee, after all, had signed premier free-agent center Greg Monroe in July of 2015, and the second overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Jabari Parker, was returning from serious knee surgery. The Bucks, however, to the disappointment of fans like me and the dismay of critics, have been playing bad basketball. As of March 6, 2016, Milwaukee's record is 26-37, and it is doubtful the Bucks will even make the NBA playoffs this year.
This article analyzes what went wrong with the Bucks in 2015-2016, and what Milwaukee must do to improve and return to the playoffs in the 2016-2017 season.
Optimism Going Into the 2015-2016 Season
Going into the 2015-2016 NBA season, the Milwaukee Bucks were very optimistic about improving on their 41-41 record in the 2014-2015 season. This optimism was primarily due to four factors: one, the signing of free-agent center Greg Monroe; two, the return of Jabari Parker from knee surgery; the long-term signing of guard/forward Khris Middleton; and four, the hope that the long and athletic key players of Greg Monroe, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Khris Middleton, Michael Carter Williams, and John Henson would give the team good defense and offense.
In coming up with the big dollars to sign Monroe and Middleton to huge contracts, the Bucks traded and hence freed up money by dumping the contracts of center Zaza Pachulia, power forward Ersan Ilyasova, and forward Jared Dudley.
By acquiring Monroe, Milwaukee was getting a center that could rebound and score more than Pachulia. Ilyasova had to be traded to give playing time to Jabari Parker, and Dudley was traded to free up money.
Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Henson had played well in 2014-2015, and Milwaukee hoped that Michael Carter Williams would develop into a good point guard.
As to bench players, in addition to John Henson backing up Monroe at center, O.J. Mayo, and Jerryd Bayliss as guards were returning. Milwaukee had also obtained point guard Greivis Vasquez in a trade with Toronto.
What Went Wrong with the Bucks in 2015-2016?
A gaze into the future of the Bucks during the 2015-2016 season was quickly revealed in the first game of the season at home against the New York Knicks. Milwaukee was blown out by at least 20 points. The Bucks lost that game and several more due mainly to bad individual and team defense. Other reasons for the demise of Milwaukee include poor point guard play, injuries, poor three-point shooting, and very little contribution from bench players.
Milwaukee played excellent team defense in the 2014-2015 season, and that certainly led to the team's 41-41 record and making the playoffs. The problem in the 2015-2016 season is that the Bucks have played awful team defense and rank as one of the worst teams in the league defensive-wise. The stellar defense of Pachulia, Dudley, and Ilyasova on the front time has been replaced with a porous defense played by Monroe and Parker.
Another big problem leading to the underperformance of the Bucks has been the play of the point guard. Michael Carter-Williams has been very inconsistent and his biggest liability has been his shooting. Greivis Vasquez who was brought in as a backup point guard has been injured most of the season, and others like O.J. Mayo and Tyler Ennis have not been very good.
Throughout the season, Milwaukee has ranked as one of the poorer three-point shooting teams. Khris Middleton and Jerryd Bayless have occasionally been two of the better three-point shooters, but other players can not knock the shots down.
The Milwaukee Bucks have not been able to overcome injuries like they did in the 2014-2015 season. Almost all of the bench players except for Rashad Vaughn and Miles Plumlee have missed a lot of games due to injuries. Greivis Vasquez has missed almost the whole season because of knee surgery. Jerryd Bayless and O.J. Mayo have missed many games with injuries, and lately, backup center John Henson has missed 10-15 games due to lower back pain.
Because of injuries, Milwaukee's bench players have contributed very little this year. While averaging 40 points per game in the 2014-2015 season, the bench is now averaging at best 10-20 points per game. In strengthening the bench, Coach Jason Kidd has resorted to having starters Greg Monroe and Michael Carter-Williams come off the bench in games.
How Can the Bucks Improve in the Future?
If the Milwaukee Bucks want to improve and make the playoffs in the 2016-2017 season, they must do the following: one, go with a different point guard; two, improve team defense; and three, strengthen the bench.
Since the end of the All-Star game break in February of 2016, the Bucks used Giannis Antetokounmpo as a point guard/forward who handled the ball and initiated the offense. Giannis responded with five triple-doubles and relatively few turnovers. Furthermore, Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton scored more. If the Bucks can't find anyone as good as Giannis in the offseason to run the point, they should use him as the point in the future.
Milwaukee's turnaround in playing defense has been the difference between day and night from last season until this. This has primarily been due to the poor defense of Greg Monroe and Jabari Parker as well as the team's inability to defend the three-point shot. Assuming that Parker will improve defensively, it might be a good idea to replace Monroe with a better defensive center. Milwaukee must also do a lot better in defending three-point shooters.
Finally, the Bucks must get better bench players this offseason. It would be wise to get rid of O.J. Mayo, Greivis Vasquez, and Tyler Ennis, and pay money for a good player who can play point guard. By letting Johnny O'Bryant, Miles Plumlee, and/or John Henson go, Milwaukee must pick up a better power forward/center who can back up Parker and a new center. Although Rashad Vaughn has been inconsistent this year, I would keep him because he is still very young and learning. I would also try to resign Jerryd Bayless if the price is right.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2016 Paul Richard Kuehn