There are 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?
- Part II: Who plays the four if Jabari Parker isn’t ready to start the season?
- Part III: Can anyone other than Khris Middleton be a reliable outside shooter?
End-of-clock situations were an absolute disaster for the Bucks after the Brandon Knight trade.That’s not to say Knight was ideal as a late game or late in the clock player. He certainly wasn’t. His lack of vision and ability to only get challenging shots around the rim were particularly troubling when Milwaukee would isolate him at the end of games.
Those flaws aside, he was still Milwaukee’s best option given his ability to both get to the rim and pull up from three. Time and against they relied on him. Jerryd Bayless did his best to replace Knight over the second half of the season, but his shooting ultimately proved too shaky to be consistently reliable.
Michael Carter-Williams was close to a complete catastrophe at the end of the shot clock. He shot just 31% in “Late” (4-7 seconds left) situations and 24.6% in “Very Late” (0-4 seconds) situations, per NBA.com/Stats. The hope is that Carter-Williams takes enough of a step forward as a shooter that he’ll be able to generate better shots at the end of the clock. As the league’s tallest point guard, manufacturing clean looks off the dribble has never been much of a problem, but making them has. It sounds overly simple, but Carter-Williams just has to become a better jump-shooter if he’s going to be the long-term starter for a playoff team.
The outlook is much the same for Giannis Antetokounmpo. Entering a pivotal third year, he figures to be given a longer leash and should find the ball in his hands more often late in the clock. A preference for drives over jumpers is typically good – mostly for increased chance of drawing a call – but Antetokounmpo’s aversion to jump-shooting allowed defenders to sag off. The sagging was so extreme that not even his gigantic strides to the basket were enough to generate consistent, clean looks.
Not that Giannis hasn’t provided any hope at all. By the end of last season, he was looking a lot more comfortable in the mid-range, especially when he had the ability to catch and shoot. Given how often he’ll have the ball in his hands near the top of the key, he’ll have to make strides as an off-the-dribble shooter this season.
Once teams started playing him solely for drives last year, Antetokounmpo took the bait and was too often out of control, bowling over defenders or getting stripped in the lane. Those things are much less likely to happen if defenses can’t hang back and wait for him to enter a cluttered lane. If he continues to improve as a shooter, he could be a huge (no pun intended) asset for the Bucks whenever they need someone to create a shot.
Becuase that’s what this is all about. Who is creating shots for the Bucks in high-pressure situations? Bayless isn’t getting any better than he was last season. Greivis Vasquez is limited and isn’t the sort of quality of player you want to be deciding big games for your team. O.J. Mayo occasionally tried to be Milwaukee’s savior, but time has proven that he’s a better secondary piece than starring piece, even if he’s probably the Bucks’ best tough shot maker.
The wild card is Rashad Vaughn, who made a living off the dribble in his one year at UNLV. Milwaukee would be foolish to entrust much responsibility to the 19-year-old right away, but history suggests Kidd will at least give the rookie a chance to prove he’s capable of holding down a limited role in what will be a deep rotation.
The addition of Greg Monroe also provides a new dynamic. The option to dump the ball down late in the clock was not a luxury Milwaukee had last season. While Pachulia was a crafty finisher around the rim, he wasn’t of much use in a one-on-one, back-down setting. The same goes for Henson. That’s where Monroe thrives. He was especially effective late in the clock, converting 47.6% of his “Late” and 44.6% of his “Very Late” attempts. Those numbers stack up favorably against three of the league’s best low-post players:
Marc Gasol — Late: 43.8%; Very Late: 34.4%
Anthony Davis — Late: 52.1%; Very Late: 39.2%
Al Horford — Late: 50%; Very Late: 42.7%
The presence of a true post-up threat should take some off the pressure off of Carter-Williams and Antetokounmpo, not to mention the fact that Monroe is among the NBA’s best passing big men.
MCW and Giannis have both the size, vision, pedigree and potential to succeed late in the shot clock if they can start to shore up some of their flaws. Giannis often has a quickness advantage over defenders, especially when he’s at the four. For as bad as MCW is as a shooter, his shooting percentage in Milwaukee was 42.9% compared to Knight’s 43.5%. He got much better about not forcing threes and bad shots in Milwaukee.
So there’s reason to be hopeful that someone will take control of the Bucks destiny in the game’s most crucial moments next season. As is often the case with the Bucks team, that hope just hinges on the continued growth and development of the youth Milwaukee has cultivated.