The 2015-16 campaign has been one of disappointment for the Milwaukee Bucks, especially coming off a season that ended in a playoff appearance. The Bucks reached the postseason in 2015 despite a season-ending injury to promising forward Jabari Parker and the sudden retirement of center Larry Sanders.
So when the club signed big man Greg Monroe last summer and welcomed a healthy Parker back into training camp, most believed the Bucks would be one of the teams on the rise this season.
The Bucks (30-44) sit 12th in the Eastern Conference standings with eight games remaining and are mathematically eliminated from playoff consideration. But in a season full of dark clouds, Milwaukee has a few bright spots to embrace heading into their summer.
First, Parker is developing into the premier scoring threat the franchise envisioned when they used the second overall pick of the 2014 draft to secure his rights. The forward is averaging 13.4 points on the season, but is averaging 18.6 points on 50 percent shooting since the All-Star break.
Secondly, the team may have found its point guard of the future. After experimenting with former rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams, Jerryd Bayless and O.J. Mayo at point for most of the season, Milwaukee may have found the remedy in third-year forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.
With Carter-Williams out for the season, Antetokounmpo stepped in and took over the floor general duties without missing a beat – averaging a whopping 7.3 assists in the 20 games since the All-Star break.
According to Bucks head coach Jason Kidd, the team is turning to Antetokounmpo on a more permanent basis not only for the remainder of this season but beyond as well.
“We’re going to go forward with him handling the ball,” Kidd said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “You can call him point guard, point forward, point center, however you want to look at it.
“With him having the ball and the pressure he puts on the defense and his ability to find guys, [it] has been a plus for us.”
The 6-foot-11 Antetokounmpo has proven to be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, posting four triple-doubles over the past month.
“I think Giannis has done a great job,” Bucks center Miles Plumlee said, according to the report. “He’s going to learn the looks, the reads. He’s going to understand the game better next year.
“It’s a lot to learn. I know the easiest thing is to put your head down and go score, which he’s great at. But he’s been finding guys. I don’t think he’s even realizing what he’s doing yet. When he really figures it out, he’s going to be really special.”
Antetokounmpo won’t turn 22 years old until December, which means the point forward is just barely scratching the surface of his potential. Paired alongside the emerging Parker, the Bucks may have a duo that leads to plenty of playoff trips in the future.
According to Kidd, the more Antetokounmpo and Parker gain cohesion and rhythm alongside each other, the better it will be for the franchise moving forward.
“He has a skill set that he can guard smalls and bigs,” Kidd said. “Being able to guard the fours or the wing players is something he can do. For Jabari and him, the more they play together, the more we can get answers of what they both can do on the floor, both defensively and offensively. We’ve got a lot of answers to some different questions.
“They’re going to get better over the summer. And it’s putting the pieces around them that can make them better and push them to become better.”
Kidd owns a 71-75 record at the helm of the Bucks, but missed significant time this season recovering from hip replacement surgery.
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