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NBA PM: All-Time All-Star Snubs

Anthony Davis not making the All-Star team feels unfair, but not as unfair as these players missing out for their entire careers… Why Chicago needs to make D.J. Augustin part of their long-term plan…

Joel Brigham

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All-Time All-Star Snubs

Every year we have the same conversation about deserving players losing out on an opportunity to participate in an All-Star game, but while being slighted once is painful enough, getting passed over for the duration of one’s career can be borderline humiliating, as the players on this list discovered at the end of their time in the NBA.

A couple of these players still have a few years left to receive their opportunity, but as most of the other players on the list will confirm, time runs out really, really quickly in this league.

»In Related: Western Conference All-Star Snubs

Here are the best players that never were named to an All-Star squad:

Mike Bibby – Back in the early 2000s, when he was a member of the perennially awesome Sacramento Kings, Bibby was well-respected and generally accepted as one of the best point guards in the NBA. In 2004-05, for example, Bibby averaged 19.6 PPG and 6.8 APG for the Kings, which he followed up the next year by scoring a career-high 21.1 PPG and still dishing out 5.4 APG. Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic and Vlade Divac all made All-Star teams during Sacramento’s hot run at the turn of the century, but Bibby never did, despite the fact that he was as deserving as any guy on this list.

Damon Stoudamire – While Stoudamire did most of his winning with the Portland Trail Blazers, he definitely did his best individual work as a member of the Toronto Raptors his first few years in the league, where he averaged 19 PPG and 9.3 APG his rookie season and 20.2 PPG and 8.8 APG during his sophomore campaign. His numbers dropped off considerably after the move to Oregon, but an argument could certainly be made that one of his first three seasons in the league deserved All-Star attention.

Marcus Camby – A former Defensive Player of the Year, Camby has seen success pretty much everywhere that he’s played. In 2006-07, as a member of the Denver Nuggets, Camby averaged 12.2 PPG, 11.7 RPG and 3.3 BPG, and there were some earlier years with New York that resulted in plenty of double-doubles and game-changing defense, as well. Truthfully, he’s not all that different from Tyson Chandler, who mercifully was named to his first All-Star team in 2013 despite being one of the NBA’s all-time defensive game-changers at the position. The difference between Camby and Chandler, though, is that Camby doesn’t look like he’ll ever get his opportunity.

Andre Miller – He’s just a backup point guard in Denver now, but earlier in his career, Miller was one of the league’s nastiest point guards for the Cleveland Cavaliers, L.A. Clippers, and Denver Nuggets. Of course, the common denominator is that those teams were awful when Miller played for them, and that compared with his general lack of athleticism and flash didn’t make him a particularly exciting addition to the midseason exhibition, despite the fact that his numbers support him as an All-Star. In 2001-02, for example, Miller led the league with 10.9 assists while chipping in 16.5 PPG and 1.6 SPG. That’s an All-Star point guard’s line if ever there was one.

Josh Smith – The only guy on this list with any real chance of getting himself off of this list, Smith is also the player with the most impressive statistical support for the All-Star appearance that has always been just out of his reach. As the only player in NBA history to average at least 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal per game over the course of his career, Smith is a truly unique player, but for the majority of his career he’s been a forward that has been voted out in favor of bigger names at the position like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Chris Bosh. Chicago’s team success in recent years even resulted in Luol Deng making two straight All-Star teams from 2012 to 2013. Stats also aren’t everything, and Smith really doesn’t have the same star power as some of his colleagues. Whatever the reason, he’s still never been an All-Star.

Phil Ford – This is a guy from a different era, but Ford was the Rookie of the Year in 1979 and was actually named to the All-NBA Second Team that same season. His career sort of went downhill from there, but he’s one of only a handful of players in NBA history to have an All-NBA Team accolade to his name, but not an All-Star selection.

Rod Strickland – Despite the fact that Strickland said he wouldn’t show up for the All-Star game if he was ever selected to it, he unfortunately was never even given the opportunity to boycott the festivities. He made an All-NBA Second Team in 1998 and finished among the top 10 in the league in assists seven times in the 1990s. He was kind of a curmudgeon while he played, but was perennially underrated anyway. B.J. Armstrong has an All-Star appearance under his belt, but Strickland, clearly much more deserving, does not.

»In Related: Eastern Conference All-Star Snubs

While it hurts for some of the young guys that didn’t make the team this year, Andre Drummond and Anthony Davis clearly have several years’ worth of All-Star appearances ahead of them. Some equally deserving players, however, just never got the chance.

Augustin Could Be Long-Term Backup Solution in Chicago

Chicago fans were collectively rather sad when it became clear that John Paxson and Gar Forman would not be re-signing little-engine-that-could Nate Robinson last summer, but everybody seemed to understand that the money just wasn’t going to be there to pay for his return.

With Derrick Rose out for the entirety of the 2012-13 season, someone like Robinson was necessary. He showed how even a small point guard, if aggressive, could thrive in an offensive system designed for someone like Rose. He was, to put it bluntly, awesome in last spring’s playoffs. It was a perfect fit both for him and Chicago, and just having him around won the team a first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets they probably wouldn’t have won otherwise. But with Rose returning and Robinson looking for a bigger payday, it was inevitable that Robinson wouldn’t be re-signed.

»In Related: Chicago Bulls Salary Information

The Bulls had hoped that Marquis Teague would step into that Robinson role this season, but when that didn’t happen the team went ahead and signed D.J. Augustin about 20 games into the year.

People who know basketball rolled their eyes at the first 10-day contract because Augustin was a punchline in Indiana last season, but since joining the Bulls he has played some of the best basketball in his career. In 25 games this season, he’s averaged 13.7 PPG, 6.0 APG and 1.2 SPG, all of which are either career-highs or extremely close to career-highs. He’s also shooting 42.7 percent from three-point range, which has made him an invaluable asset for a team that is 26th in the league even with Augustin shooting so well.

Like Robinson before him, Augustin is undersized but capable and thriving in a system designed for a speedy point guard. Chicago is currently the fifth-best team in the Eastern Conference, only a single-game behind the third-place Toronto Raptors, but it’s hard to believe they’d be there without a capable point guard. Kirk Hinrich has missed about 20 percent of Chicago’s games this year due to injuries and Teague has been jettisoned off to the Nets. Meanwhile, Augustin has effectively kept the Bulls in contention for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs, which is something very few people saw coming.

Unlike Robinson, though, Augustin isn’t likely to expect the kind of payday that Robinson thought he’d ultimately get last summer, which means Augustin could actually be affordable (and apt) as a long-term solution for the Bulls as the backup point guard.

Everyone in the game would love to see Rose come back stronger than ever next season, but based on the issues Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade are having this season in the wake of their own meniscus surgeries, this really isn’t the time for optimism. Rather, it’s time for practicality, and since Rose makes so much money the Bulls will need to find an affordable but capable backup should Rose miss extended time at any point over the remainder of his massive contract.

Augustin, clearly, can shoulder that burden. He can perform in their system, he can play with this group and he can live up to this coach’s lofty expectations. The Bulls won’t likely be priced out of holding onto him, but based on what we’ve seen the last two seasons from Augustin and Robinson (and Rose, for that matter), whatever Chicago has to pay is probably going to be worthwhile.

As we’ve already seen, this core of Bulls players can be a perennial playoff team without their best player, but only if the backup point guard is someone who can hold down the fort. Augustin has proven he can do that, and Chicago can’t afford to let him go the same way they did Robinson.

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.

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NBA Daily: A Bright Future is Building in Oklahoma City

Tristan Tucker takes an in-depth look at what makes the Oklahoma City Thunder click and which players can emerge as future stars of the league.

Tristan Tucker

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34 draft picks from 2021-27.

A staggering treasure chest of assets, something that means nothing if the team that owns those assets can’t draft well.

Thankfully for fans of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the franchise has already shown that it can build a competitive and fun roster no matter the circumstances.

There’s no sugarcoating it, the Thunder is truly awful this season. The team boasts a truly atrocious 104.7 offensive rating, good for 30th in the league while pushing out a less-than-stellar 112.8 defensive rating, good for 22nd in the league. The team is dead last in SRS, a stat that factors point differential and strength of schedule while owning a league-worst -8.1 net rating.

But this team is so much fun to watch. So much so that it’s easy to neglect its horrible rankings and record.

The Young Stars

The team already boasts one of the game’s best young stars in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Gilgeous-Alexander is enjoying career-best numbers of 23.7 points and 5.9 assists per game while shooting 50.8 percent from the floor and 41.8 percent from beyond the arc. “SGA” is out indefinitely, but the team can rest assured in the development it’s seeing from its other young pieces.

Look no further than the team’s 2020 draft class composed of Aleksej Pokusevski and Theo Maledon, two players already making an impact. Entering the season, neither player looked to be significant contributors coming from overseas play and needing time to develop. In fact, “Poku” is the youngest player in the NBA, while Maledon is the sixth-youngest.

Maledon has 30 starts under his belt already at the age of 19, averaging 9.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. Maledon’s shooting splits don’t jump off the page but his instincts do. The point guard isn’t the type of player to give up on a play and it’s easy to see the offensive instincts carry over from his time with ASVEL in France.

Meanwhile, Pokusevski is on fire as of late. Since March 11, “Poku” is a full-time starter, averaging 31.4 minutes, 13 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. The Serbian power forward only turned 19 in December and it’s already clear to see his potential is nearly limitless.

Fan-favorite “Poku” has shooting potential, connecting at a 35.9 percent rate from deep on over six attempts per game. He can make plays, rebound, gather blocks and score at all three levels. He isn’t a marksman, he’s far from it at this stage of his career, but there’s no denying the finesse he puts on every shot. Pick-and-rolls featuring Pokusevski and Maledon is something Thunder fans have to look forward to.

The Thunder’s young talent doesn’t end there, the team is already proving it can find gems on a whim.

Two-Way Contract Development

Moses Brown played out last season as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers on a two-way contract and was mostly an afterthought. Brown spent most of his rookie season in the G-League before getting an opportunity with the Thunder in training camp, an opportunity he used to pick up another two-way contract opportunity and then a multi-year deal after stellar play.

In a game against the Boston Celtics on March 27, it was clear to see Brown had established himself as a staple of the Thunder’s young corps. In that game, Brown picked up 21 points and 23 rebounds, both of which are career highs. Shortly after, the Thunder converted Brown to a standard deal.

Since March 14, Brown has 12 starts under his belt in 14 games, averaging 11.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per game.

Oklahoma City has 10 players on its roster that have three or fewer years of experience, not including Pokusevski, Brown, Maledon or Gilgeous-Alexander.

Shortly after converting Brown, the team moved to sign Jaylen Hoard, who was on a two-way contract opposite of Brown in Portland last year. Like Brown, Hoard spent training camp in 2020 with the Thunder but was ultimately cut, unlike Brown. However, if early signs are any indication, Hoard already looks like another keeper.

In just three games, Hoard is averaging 11.7 points per game while limiting his fouls and playing with his head down.

The other two-way contract slot is held by Josh Hall out of Moravian Prep, a young player that is very raw but has limitless upside. Don’t hold his numbers against him, he has the athleticism to make fans regret that. Watching Hall is always a thrill because there’s always a risk of an explosive play to come. It’s clear to see that the end-of-roster development is just as skilled as the rest of the roster.

The others

Luguentz Dort and Darius Bazley became household names for NBA fans in the Orlando bubble last season and have continued their strong play into this season. Dort’s been a full-time starter this season while averaging 12.6 points per game. His shooting is pitiful but he’s a hard worker and he’s made strides as both a playmaker and a scorer. Bazley is also a full-time starter with poor shooting numbers but he’s close to being a nightly double-double. While these two haven’t jumped off the page this year, they’ve both already proven that they can contribute to winning basketball, as seen last season.

Isaiah Roby is another interesting case, he’s a big player that can play the three through the five on a dime. Roby was traded to the Thunder from the Dallas Mavericks for pennies on the dollar — and he’s making Oklahoma City thankful for their doing so. Roby’s averaging 8.9 points on very efficient shooting.

As if the OKC frontcourt wasn’t loaded enough, the team went out and acquired Tony Bradley from the Philadelphia 76ers in a trade that shipped George Hill away. The move looked great at the time and looks even better now, as he’s making the case to be considered a long-term piece. 

Bradley is still just 23-years-old and looked like a suitable replacement for Joel Embiid on the 76ers when the MVP candidate went down. The center’s best game came in a win over the Golden State Warriors in which he recorded 18 points and 11 boards.

If that wasn’t enough the team also has Svi Mykhailiuk, Ty Jerome and Kenrich Williams, who have all proven their worth in one way or another. Mykhailiuk and Jerome have the potential to be some of the best shooters in the league while “Kenny Hustle” is exactly that, the ultimate glue guy.

Overseas development

One of the most underrated traits a developing team can have is the ability to negotiate with overseas players and leagues and pick up professional stars. The Thunder is quickly showing its fans that it is more than capable of doing so.

Firstly, the team drafted Vit Krejci in the second round of the 2020 draft. Krejci didn’t come over this season but has the potential to be a good role player for the Thunder if he’s ever brought over. He also got experience playing in the NBA G League earlier this year.

Then, the team recently signed Gabriel Deck, who isn’t super young but is a winning player. Literal hours before the move went down, Deck scored 19 points to lift Real Madrid to the Euroleague playoffs.

The team is also reportedly bringing over Vasilije Micic next season, a star in Euroleague averaging 16.4 points and 5 assists per game in those games. Keep in mind that it’s much more difficult to notch assists overseas. Micic isn’t young either, but he’ll bring a lot of professional experience both on the court and in the locker room to aid a young Thunder team.

While Oklahoma City is constantly touted for its future draft picks, its current roster isn’t something to look over either. Combine that with the fact that, despite his massive deal, the team might be able to actually get something of value for Al Horford and has a roster spot to use once Justin Robinson’s current 10-day deal runs up.

In the NBA not many things are certain, but the Thunder’s bright future and strategic front office surely are.

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NBA

NBA Daily: Executive of the Year Watch

Front offices around the league have had their hands full trying to make the right moves in order to steer their organizations towards a championship. With one month of regular season basketball remaining, Basketball Insiders examines the intense race for the Executive of the Year Award.

Chad Smith

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There are three main areas where NBA executives face extreme pressure and scrutiny. Free agency, the draft and the trade deadline are all different avenues for teams to improve as they pursue the ultimate goal of a championship. Under ordinary circumstances, there are sleepless nights, make-or-break decisions and countless “what if” scenarios that run through their heads. During two seasons amid a pandemic, things somehow get even more hectic.

With a shortened offseason and limited access to players, executives were given the impossible task of drafting the right player, signing the best free agents and making the perfect trade just before the deadline. Some teams have done well while others — like Danny Ainge in Boston — have struck out looking. With the regular season heading towards the finish line, five contenders have separated themselves from the rest of the pack in terms of winning the Executive of the Year Award.

Sean Marks, Brooklyn Nets

Technically the biggest move of Marks’ career came two seasons ago when he signed Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan and traded for Kevin Durant. This set the table for everything else and, while some view it as Brooklyn simply lucking out, Marks still had to put the team in a position to make the deals work. He began collecting key role players like Bruce Brown, Jeff Green, Tyler Johnson and kept Joe Harris with a new contract.

Sean’s next move was to put together a package to acquire James Harden from the Houston Rockets. The deal had been rumored for quite some time but once it became official, Marks had put together arguably the greatest trio of superstars the league has ever seen. The Nets were also able to add Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge via the buyout market to bolster their already impressive roster.

Brooklyn has only had all three of their star players on the court for six games but they have also had the luxury of one or two guys carrying the load while the others get healthy. When you factor in the deals for guys like Nicolas Claxton, Landry Shamet, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Alize Johnson, it is easy to see why Marks is the clear frontrunner to win the award this season.

James Jones, Phoenix Suns

As a player, Jones was always associated with winning teams. Now, the same can be said for his career as an executive. When Jones was able to put the trade together for veteran point guard Chris Paul, he knew exactly what he was doing. The move was successful in three ways. The veteran leadership and talent acquisition is obvious, but it also prevented them from having to overpay Kelly Oubre. The third and probably most important, was proving to Devin Booker that they were serious about winning – and winning now.

With Booker under contact through the 2023-24 season, it removed any potential desire to request a trade in order to play for a winning team. This was becoming more apparent at the end of last season when the Suns went 8-0 in the bubble down in Orlando. The pieces were nearly in place, but Jones still had to work around the edges to make everything stick.

Jones got busy in free agency, signing Jae Crowder, Langston Galloway, Dario Saric and E’Twaun Moore. Crowder provides more playoff experience that their young nucleus can digest. Jones even picked up a talented young player like Torrey Craig for next-to-nothing at the trade deadline. From reclamation projects like Jevon Carter, Cameron Payne and Frank Kaminsky, to the player development of Mikal Bridges, Deandre Ayton and Cameron Johnson, the stars have aligned for Phoenix, who own the second-best record in the league.

Daryl Morey, Philadelphia 76ers

While the award is seemingly a two-horse race between Marks and Jones, Daryl Morey has quietly revamped the 76ers into serious title contenders. It began with drafting Tyrese Maxey, trading for Seth Curry and signing Dwight Howard. His biggest move was shipping out Al Horford and adding Danny Green. Morey, who won this award in 2017-18, has raised the ceiling on their offense by surrounding Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid with capable shooters.

Embiid has been one of the top candidates for MVP this season, though his most recent injury may hurt his case. When he plays, he is the most dominant player in the league. Though he and Simmons have both missed time this year, Tobias Harris has been able to step in and lead the team. Morey has his three stars under contract for the foreseeable future and Doc Rivers has this team playing exceptional defense.

Morey was able to acquire George Hill at the trade deadline, giving the team another ball-handler and an outstanding three-point threat. He has addressed their weaknesses and essentially turned them into strengths. By tweaking the roster since his first day in Philly, Morey has put his stamp on this team as they battle with Brooklyn for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Rob Pelinka, Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers have been sliding down the standings as they continue to play without their two superstars. With LeBron James and Anthony Davis still sidelined for weeks to come, the team has had to rely on their bench to fill the void. This is where Pelinka has improved the roster the most from last season’s championship team.

Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol have provided the depth and talent needed to make another title run. They upgraded at nearly every position while retaining key pieces like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Markieff Morris.

Signing Andre Drummond after his buyout should provide dividends in the postseason as they face guys like Nikola Jokic and Rudy Gobert. This means Davis can play his more natural position at the four spot. Pelinka’s biggest move was signing Davis to a multi-year extension, keeping the big man in a Lakers jersey through at least the 2024-25 season.

Jon Horst, Milwaukee Bucks

After a brutal exit from the playoffs last season, the Bucks decided to reload their roster. Horst was able to complete a deal to acquire Jrue Holiday from the New Orleans Pelicans. Much like the Paul trade in Phoenix, this move convinced their franchise player to stay. Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo signed his five-year, $228 million supermax extension to stay in Milwaukee.

The failed trade for Bogdan Bogdanovic did not set this team back one bit. Horst signed a couple of key free agents in Bryn Forbes and Bobby Portis, who have been solid contributors for the Bucks. The signings of Craig and AJ Augustin didn’t pan out but they did use one of them to acquire PJ Tucker in a deal with Houston.

Tucker is a perfect fit with this group, providing them with another outstanding defender that has led the league in corner three-point shooting each of the last two seasons. The Bucks had been one of the worst three-point shooting teams from that spot. Milwaukee should have no problem in tight games come playoff time. A closing lineup of Holiday, Khris Middleton, Tucker, Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez should give opposing offenses nightmares.

Honorable Mention

The popular pick before the season was Travis Schlenk, who assembled quite the roster in Atlanta. The Hawks stumbled out of the gate, as they navigated through injuries and a lack of on-court chemistry. After firing head coach Lloyd Pierce, Nate McMillan has guided this team to a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference.

Other notable names to mention are Tim Connelly of the Denver Nuggets and Dennis Lindsey of the Utah Jazz. Denver lost Jerami Grant in the offseason but the recent trades to acquire Aaron Gordon and JaVale McGee have turned Denver’s season around. While the Jazz didn’t make any significant signings before the season, this cast is one that Lindsey assembled and now is thriving with Mike Conley finally settling into their system. Lindsey should get more credit and praise for the Jazz continuing to own the best record in the league.

Winning this award is special, but the ultimate goal for each one of these individuals is to win a championship. Since 1996, only three executives (Ainge, RC Buford, Bob Myers) have won this award and the NBA Finals in the same season.

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NBA PM: Don’t Forget The Milwaukee Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks were one of the NBA’s three heavy favorites to win the championship just a season ago. not only are they a better team now than they were then, but they’re also putting it all together at the perfect time to make some noise in the playoffs.

Garrett Brooks

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It feels like a very long time ago that the basketball world discussed the Milwaukee Bucks as a top contender to win the NBA Finals. Despite being a consensus contender just one year prior, a fair few have already forgotten about the Bucks.

That’s a mistake many are guilty of. But it would be an even bigger mistake if any of their potential playoff opponents are overlooking them. That includes the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers, among many others out east.

Inevitably, the Bucks have gotten less love this season after failing in the bubble – in both fair and unfair ways. Add in the extreme roster additions of the Brooklyn Nets and it’s almost understandable why they’ve felt overlooked. Almost.

Sure, the Nets should be the Eastern Conference favorites but his Milwaukee Bucks team is capable of greatness too – ultimately, people have forgotten how much they’ve as well.

Improvement From Three-Point Distances

Last season, the Bucks were a middle-of-the-pack three-point shooting team in terms of percentage. Milwaukee shot the fourth most three-point attempts per game – but as a team only converted on 35.5 percent of them, ranking 18th in the league.

This season, they only trail the Los Angeles Clippers in team three-point percentage, jumping up the league rankings by bumping last year’s 35.5 number to 39.3 in 2020-21. More good news, it’s obviously not a fluke.

The changes the Bucks made to their roster in the offseason are the primary reason they’re a much better shooting team this season. Hugely significant as well, Milwaukee has seen internal development from Donte DiVincenzo.

After shooting 3.7 threes per game last year, he now leads the team with his 5.1 attempts. In addition to the increased volume, he has increased his success rate by nearly five percent.

Of course, the big move to bring in Jrue Holiday during the offseason has made a large impact. Holiday is much better (more on that later) and specifically is a better outside shooter these days.

But beyond adding undeniable talents, some under-the-radar moves like Bryn Forbes (45.7 percent) and Bobby Portis (47.7) have panned out as well. This team has more reliable three-point shooting than a season ago, something that’s been a thorn in their side for far too long.

Defensive Versatility

The Bucks have a plethora of versatile and talented defenders. While their defensive numbers have fallen off, in general, their roster and track record speak for themselves.

Both Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton are more than capable of matching up with the best guards in the game, even defending bigger players. Holiday especially is a hound on the defensive end, capable of single-handily disrupting an opponent’s entire offensive flow.

Of course, Brook Lopez is a solid option as a rim protector and, at the very least, will contest many shots as the anchor down low. But the big X-Factor is, naturally, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Wreaking havoc on the defensive end, the perennial MVP candidate does so regardless of his on-court teammates.

Finally, the last certified defensive difference-maker is the recently acquired P.J. Tucker. Tucker has long been known for his work on the defensive end, holding his own against bigger players and keeping up enough on the perimeter.

The Bucks will have a ton of options to use defensively if they’re healthy when the playoffs begin. Even when they face off against the most lethal offensive teams, they will make them struggle to grind out possessions on that end of the floor.

Jrue Finding His Groove

Somehow, in amongst the other spotlight-stealing NBA headlines, quickly, Holiday seemed like a forgotten addition.

Recently, he has found his groove and has shown mainstream fans exactly why the team was willing to invest so much. That’s in regard to both the trade assets they moved for him and the hefty contract extension the pair agreed upon.

But if Holiday keeps up his recent level of play, it could all be well worth it sooner rather than later. The defensive impact from the former Pelicans’ guard is never in question.

Since the NBA’s All-Star break, the menacing guard has averaged 21.4 points per contest while adding in 6.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds. Really though, the increased offensive production has much to do with an increase in efficiency.

During those 13 games, Holiday has connected on 54.8 percent of his field goals and 45.6 percent of his three-point attempts. It’s no coincidence the Bucks are 10-3 in the games he has played in since the break – a tread that will no doubt continue.

In the end, the Bucks have three players able to drop 20 points a night when the playoffs roll around – something they could not expect last year. That lightens the load on both Antetokounmpo and Middleton, but also the role players behind Holiday.

It will also inevitably create better looks for players such as Portis, Lopez, DiVincenzo, Forbes and Pat Connaughton.

The facts regarding the Bucks are simple: They’re a significantly better team on both ends of the court than they were last year. So, really, the Nets are hot and the Lakers are defending champions, but no one should be counting Milwaukee out.

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