What Should the Milwaukee Bucks Do for the 2017-2018 NBA Season?
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Strengths and Weaknesses of the Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks finished the 2016-2017 NBA season with a 42-40 record. This was good for a sixth-place ranking in the Eastern Conference and a slot in the playoffs. In a first-round matchup with the Toronto Raptors, the Bucks lost the series 4-2. After leading in the series 2-1, Milwaukee lost the last three games.
The regular season and the playoffs exposed both the strengths and weaknesses of the Bucks. Throughout the regular season and playoffs, Giannis Antetokounmpo played like an all-star. He finished the season averaging 22.9 points per game and was unquestionably Milwaukee's best player. First-year players center Thon Maker and guard Malcolm Brogdon also emerged as competent starters. Finally, the three-point shooting and defense of Tony Snell were very good and an unexpected surprise.
Milwaukee also had weaknesses which kept it from higher achievements. Serious injuries hit the Bucks both before the start of the season and right before the All-Star break in February. Khris Middleton was lost for the first 50 games with a very serious hamstring injury requiring surgery. Then, in early February, Jabari Parker's season ended with the second ACL tear of his left knee.
With the absence of Khris Middleton, the Buck's best offensive and defensive player in the 2015-2016 season, Milwaukee's defense was inconsistent. Middleton's leadership and defensive play were sorely missed. Finally, the Bucks had no real playmaker when Giannis was not on the floor. Even with Antetokounmpo playing, no player could consistently step up and fill Giannis' void when he had a bad game.
Factoring in Milwaukee's strengths and weaknesses, this article attempts to answer the question of what the Bucks should do for the 2017-2018 season. It also examines future decisions that Milwaukee must make this year regarding the personnel matters of Tony Snell, Greg Monroe, and Jabari Parker.
Review of the 2016-2017 Season
The 2016-2017 NBA season was a series of ups and downs for the Milwaukee Bucks. Right before the start of the exhibition season at the end of September of 2016, Khris Middleton was seriously injured with a torn hamstring. Middleton was the Bucks's best player in the 2015-2016 season.
Milwaukee was initially able to compensate for Middleton's absence with the strong play of Tony Snell obtained in a trade with the Chicago Bulls for Michael Carter Williams. Reserve center Greg Monroe played much better than in 2015-2016, and Giannis Antetokounmpo played like an all-star. By mid-January, the Bucks had a 22-20 record.
During the latter half of January, however, the Bucks went into a bad skid losing nine out of ten games. The big problem was that the team couldn't play defense. It had problems defending corner "three-pointers" and the pick and roll. To make matters worse, Jabari Parker blew out his surgically repaired knee with another ACL tear in a game against Miami on February 8 of 2017.
At this time, Khris Middleton had just returned from his hamstring injury to the Milwaukee's lineup. With his strong contributions, and by putting Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdon into the starting lineup, the Bucks started to win again. Their record of 14-4 in March helped Milwaukee finish the season with a 42-40 winning record. This was good for a sixth-place finish in the Eastern Conference and a spot in the NBA playoffs.
The Bucks playoff hopes ended after the Toronto Raptors eliminated Milwaukee four games to two in the opening series. Milwaukee had, however, played outstanding defense in the two games it won. The problem once again was defensive inconsistency and the inability of other players to step up their game when Antetokounmpo and Middleton had subpar games.
Milwaukee Bucks vs Toronto Raptors Game 3 of Playoff Highlights
Bucks Needs for the 2017-2018 Season
The results of the 2016-2017 NBA season and playoffs revealed that the Milwaukee Bucks have the following three major needs: one, a stronger bench; two, more good three-point shooters; and three, a good play-making point guard.
In the 2016-2017 season, the Bucks bench relied primarily upon center Greg Monroe, play-making guard Matthew Dellavedova, power/small forward Michael Beasly, center John Henson, and shooting guard Jason Terry. Greg Monroe performed well in a reserve role while Beasly and Dellavedova were fair to good. Even at the age of 39, Jason Terry delivered a few good minutes of play. The problem was with inconsistent good defense and scoring. Mirza Teletovic, John Henson, and Rasheed Vaughn were generally disappointments. Most of the bench players were inconsistent three-point shooters and inconsistent defensively. The problems now facing the bench is that Greg Monroe might opt-out of the third year of his contract and Jason Terry may retire.
During the 2016-2017 season, the Bucks ranked sixth in three-point shooting. Dellavedova had a poor shooting year, and Brogdon, Middleton, and Tletovic were only fair. Tony Snell and Jason Terry turned out to be the best three-point shooters. Milwaukee needs a poor forward like Cleveland's Kevin Love who can shoot threes and a shooting guard as good or better than Snell.
Most of the Bucks offense in 2016-2017 was initiated by Giannis Antetokounmpo who functioned as a point forward. When Giannis wasn't on the floor, Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova shared point guard duties. Neither Brogdon nor Dellavedova can initiate the offense as well as Giannis. For this reason, Milwaukee needs to to get a more dynamic point guard who can score and take some of the burdens off of Antetokounmpo.
Decisions Milwaukee Must Make Prior to November of 2017
Prior to the start of the 2017-2018 season, the Milwaukee Bucks are faced with a number of important decisions which will affect the team in the future. Most of these are player personnel decisions which are as follow:
1. Should Milwaukee sign restricted free agent Tony Snell?
Tony Snell was a pleasant surprise in 2016-2017 because he filled in for the injured Middleton by playing good defense and shooting three-pointers. Nevertheless, if Snell gets an outrageously high offer from another team, the Bucks may op not to match the offer and let Snell sign with another club.
2. How does Greg Monroe figure in Milwaukee's future plans?
In July of 2015, Greg Monroe signed a two-year contract with a choice for him to either opt-in or opt-out for the third year. What will the Bucks do if Monroe ops-out of his contract, and if he ops-in, how does Monroe figure in Milwaukee's future plans?
3, Should Jabari Parker be given a contract extension before November of 2017?
Prior to November of 2017, 2014 lottery pick Jabari Parker will be eligible for a contract extension prior to the start of the fourth year of his rookie contract. Will Milwaukee be hesitant to extend Parker knowing that he will still be recovering from a second ACL tear and repair of his left knee? By not extending Parker, he will become a restricted free agent in July of 2018.
4. How can the Bucks improve through trades and acquisition of free agents?
Will Milwaukee trade some of its centers and power forwards for a play-making guard? If a trade isn't made, will the Bucks attempt to sign a free agent point guard?
5. Who should Milwaukee take in the 2017 NBA draft?
Knowing that the Bucks must improve its shooting and half-court defense, will Milwaukee draft another shot-blocker, three-point shooter, or a point guard?
6. Who should be the Bucks new general manager?
News that general manager John Hammond was leaving Milwaukee to become the Orlando Magic's general manager was surprising. This is because Hammond still had one year left on his contract. Who will the Bucks select as a new general manager, and how will Hammond's departure affect the future plans of coach Jason Kidd?
What Should the Milwaukee Bucks Do for the 2017-2018 Season and Beyond?
In preparation for the 2017-2018 NBA season and beyond, the Milwaukee Bucks should make the following decisions:
1. Sign Tony Snell with limitations
If Tony Snell doesn't receive any unrealistic high offers from other clubs, Milwaukee should definitely resign Snell to a three or four-year deal. He is too good of a defender and three-point shooter to lose.
2. Dealing with the future of Greg Monroe
If Greg Monroe doesn't opt-in for the third year of his contract, Milwaukee would be best to trade for or sign as a free agent a player who can be a shot blocker and also score as a bench player. If Monroe ops into the third year, the Bucks should consider trading him for a shot blocker or point guard, especially if Milwaukee decides to offer a long-term contract to Jabari Parker.
3. Resolving the future of Jabari Parker
Should the Bucks consider Jabari Parker to be too much of a risk due to the two operations on his left knee, Milwaukee should let him become a restricted free agent in 2018. This would allow the Bucks to determine how well his knee has recovered strength from the operation in February of 2017. Milwaukee would also be able to judge how well Parker plays during the last two or three months of the 2017-2018 season. If the Bucks can acquire a very good player to complement Giannis Antetokounmpo, Parker would be expendable due to his poor defense and uncertain left knee condition.
4. Dealing with trades and free agents
John Henson, Rasheed Vaughn, Mirza Teletovic, and center Spencer Hawes are all tradeable players assuming that Hawes ops into his contract. Perhaps two or three of these players can be bundled to trade for a good shooting point guard. If not, the Bucks should
5. 2017 NBA draft decisions
The Bucks should draft a couple of good shooting guards who can play decent defense.
6. General manager and head coach decisions
I would let Jason Kidd take over basketball operations and be both general manager and head coach.
© 2017 Paul Richard Kuehn