Question Week: Who plays the four if Jabari Parker isn’t ready to start the season?

Posts on consecutive days! As we wrote yesterday, there are a variety of questions the Milwaukee Bucks will have to answer heading into what should be an exciting 2015-16 season. We’ll tackle one a day the rest of this week in a five-part series as we begin thinking about next season. – JS

  • Part I: Will the addition of Greg Monroe hurt the Bucks defensively?

Seven months (it seems like more, doesn’t it?) have passed since Jabari Parker underwent surgery on January 5 to repair a torn ACL. The Bucks have provided plenty of updates in the way of photos and videos of Parker’s rehab process. But as of early-August it’s still unclear when he’ll actually be cleared to play in an NBA basketball game. Opening night may be a stretch, especially considering how (justifiably) cautious the team has been, and it wouldn’t be a major shock if Parker misses the first month or two of the season.

If that’s the case, Jason Kidd will have to get creative with his rotations up front.

Kidd proved last season that he was not afraid to empty his bench on any given night. So Chris Copeland, Damien Inglis, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Johnny O’Bryant, bless his heart, will compete for playing time at the four.

What’s most likely to transpire is a situation in which Copeland, Greg Monroe and Giannis see most of the power forward minutes in what could oftentimes be almost a positionless system.

It’s not hard to imagine Kidd trotting out a lineup of MCW-Middleton-Giannis-Copeland-Monroe, where the shooting guard and both forward spots are virtually interchangeable. This seems like the most likely to be used lineup. The Bucks don’t want Middleton operating as a power forward for extended minutes, but his size allows him to switch onto bigger players without being completely exposed. Giannis can bounce around across a few different positions and Copeland can guard whichever forward is slower. That hypothetical lineup poses mismatches on the other end, too, with all three players capable of hurting defenses from either the three-point line (Middleton and Copeland) or off the dribble (Antetokounmpo).

But that’s the lineup we all expect to see the most. What about a lineup that would be even less traditional?

Last year, Kidd showed some creativity when he opted for Jared Dudley at the four for big minutes. No one would have predicted Milwaukee’s most effective lineups would include the plodding, undersized Dudley playing power forward. This year, he could lean even more heavily on undersized lineups if he’s looking to shake things up in Parker’s absence. Giannis played 41% of his minutes at the power forward position. If Monroe and Giannis grab the spots up front, Kidd could opt for all sorts of wacky pairings on the rest of the court. Any of MCW, O.J. Mayo, Jerryd Bayless, Greivis Vasquez, Middleton and even Rashad Vaughn could play together.

MCW’s size gives the Bucks a versatile player that could theoretically stick with most wings. Pairing him with Mayo and Vasquez could give the Bucks two more shooters on the court. Or placing Vasquez alongside Mayo and Middleton gives Milwaukee three shooters and three guys with fair size fo their position. Kidd showed last season he isn’t afraid to play small ball, and we could see him take that to another extreme with Parker out.

If playing small ball ends up killing Milwaukee inside, the Monroe-Henson pairing is an option. We didn’t see much big with big lineups last season, but if the right matchup comes along, perhaps the Bucks will look to go big when their competition is going small.

A two-center lineup doesn’t feel ideal from a defensive standpoint, as noted in yesterday’s piece about Monroe, and the Bucks would probably only use it in short stints. While Monroe’s best fit is at center, he would likely be asked to reprise his role as a power forward given Henson’s limited offensive repertoire and superior rim protection. The Henson-Monroe pairing would put the Bucks in the same predicament the Pistons were in last season with Monroe and Andre Drummond, but there could be circumstances where they may not have much choice.

Parker’s absence is going to force Milwaukee to be creative at times, but if last year is any indication, that doesn’t seem like a task that’s too daunting for Jason Kidd.

  • Part III: Can anyone other than Khris Middleton be a reliable outside shooter?

Categories: 5 Questions

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  1. That’s a good question, Nick. Inglis seems the most obviously talented but summer league sure didn’t look good for his foot rehab. JOB probably is not ready for such a big assignment so soon in the season. And Copeland isn’t really starter material.

    I suspect this is where Henson (with new contract in hand) sees a bulk of minutes swinging back and forth from the 4 to the 5. He’s the best player of the above mentioned group and the most experienced. The other guys will see time but Henson could be in the 25 plus minutes role early in the season.

    Personally, I would love to see what Inglis actually has. It’s been impossible to evaluate him with all of his injury probs. He seems strong and fairly quick in his limited court minutes.

  2. Inglis is definitely the wild card, but he’s still a little bit undersized for the power forward spot. I think Copeland will end up playing more than most people think, just because he’s a better fit alongside Monroe as a guy who can stretch the floor.

    Like I talked about in Part 1 yesterday, the Bucks will probably want to avoid the Henson/Monroe pairing as much as possible, but if Parker isn’t ready to start the year, they’ll likely have to go it more than they’d like to. Henson is a vastly better defender than Monroe around the rim, but those two guys playing together means one of them is stuck chasing around stretch-fours. Like Van Gundy said on the Lowe Post, that killed Detroit last season and really exposed Monroe’s slow-footedness.

  3. I agree Henson/Monroe is not ideal for some of the reasons you mentioned. But I think it may the best option the Bucks have right now for the short term. Also, I think Henson will spell Monroe at the 5 fairly often and play a variety of smaller ball lineups until Parker comes back.