It’s an annual tradition like no other. It’s such a tradition that I opened last year’s piece with the exact same words. And we all enjoyed writing these last year, so we brought it back for a third year. The Bucksketball Over/Unders are back! As always, we made up some numbers that seemed reasonable and we’re trying to figure out whether players on the Milwaukee Bucks will fall over or under these pretend milestones.
I don’t know why, but we only did seven over/unders last season. TYPICAL LAZY BUCKSKETBALL. KL won the whole damn thing and celebrated by leaving us to write for some basketball team. So of returning Bucksketballers, Preston is our champion. Glad to see pessimism shine after such a positive season.
|Writer||Out of 7|
Khris Middleton: Over/Under 40% 3-Point Shooting Percentage
Nick Whalen: Over
A new contract brings new expectations, but with a strong supporting cast in play, Middleton won’t be asked to do much outside of his comfort zone. Coming off of back-to-back years of 40-plus percent shooting from three, the Bucks would like to see more volume, but Middleton isn’t the type to force shots. Last season, more than 98 percent of his made threes were assisted. As long as he’s doing most of his damage as a catch-and-shoot guy, clearing the 40 percent plateau shouldn’t be a problem.
Mitch Vomhof: Over
Middleton’s now gone two full seasons in Milwaukee shooting above 40% from deep, and it makes sense that he’d continue that trend despite being one of the few deep-shooting threats on the team. He mentioned during training camp that he’d be focused on taking better shots than in previous years; that probably won’t hurt either.
The past two years indicate it will be close, though. Last season, Middleton shot 35.1 percent from beyond the arc in the first two months before catching fire in January and February. The slow start could be attributed to what appeared to be an altered, quicker release.
He’s been great the past two seasons, but shooting 40% on threes is hard! Ray Allen is the only player in Bucks history to have done it in three straight seasons. I’m totally convinced at this point that Middleton is a pretty good player.
John Henson: Over/Under 20 Minutes Per Game
But not by much. I think Henson sits in the 20-22 minute range this season as the unquestioned backup to Greg Monroe. Finding additional minutes for Henson is probably something Jason Kidd would like to do on most nights, but given Monroe’s offensive limitations, he and Henson can only play together in short stints. Even as a backup, Henson should carve out a more consistent role this season. He logged fewer than 15 minutes in 16 games last season – that’s unlikely to happen again.
I would question the logic of paying a man $11 million per year over the next four years and not making him–at the very least–an integral part of your rotation. And if he doesn’t anchor the new #BENCHMOB, then who will?
The Bucks extended Henson’s contract for a reason – they view him as part of their core. With Zaza Pachulia and Ersan Ilyasova out of the picture, it seems like Milwaukee has cleared its frontcourt logjam, but the signing of Greg Monroe and existence of Miles Plumlee leave uncertainty. Henson will eat up 17 or 18 minutes as the backup five (and many more when/if Monroe is out), and Milwaukee’s centers could overlap for a few minutes.
The bar isn’t set very high here. It seemed like Henson figured something out by the time the playoffs rolled around last season. He started tossing around big rebounding number games again and was a magnet for the rim. Monroe will take a big chunk of Milwaukee’s minutes at the five, but whatever’s left will likely belong to Henson.
Rashad Vaughn: Over/Under 41 Games
I know it was only one game, and a preseason game at that, but in MIlwaukee’s exhibition opener against Chicago, Vaughn looked much more comfortable than I expected. Jason Kidd certainly won’t shy away from using a deep rotation, and I think Vaughn will be competent enough as a rookie to see some run in at least two-thirds of the Bucks’ games. If Johnny O’Bryant can start 15 games and play in 34, I don’t think 41 is too much to ask of Vaughn as a rookie.
On a team that’s known to be careful with its young players at a position that has a reasonable amount of depth–it would take a number of bad breaks or a dramatic change in the trajectory of the season for the team to start focusing on its youngest, already injury concerned player. I expect Vaughn to get plenty of time to acclimate to the league–but this year, it’ll be from the bench.
Last season, we saw Kidd’s egalitarian preference when it comes to minute allocation, especially for bench players. At low-leverage points of the season, the rotation went as deep as 13 players. Inevitable injuries will render Vaughn active throughout some of the season, and with how impressive he’s been in the preseason, he may suit up and play either way.
I have been beating the Rashad Vaughn won’t play very much drum since he was drafted, but I’m ready to walk that back, not because I was swayed by his stellar preseason effort, but because I’m less confident that OJ Mayo, Jerryd Bayless and Greivis Vasquez are good enough to hold him off.
Greivis Vasquez: Over/Under 4 Assists Per Game
Vasquez is more skilled as a passer than Jerryd Bayless or Tyler Ennis, but he was brought in more for his ability to score and, especially, shoot the three, a skill Michael Carter-Williams doesn’t offer. Assuming he ends up seeing a per-night minutes load in the mid-20s, he could certainly get to four assists, but I think he ends up falling just short.
In a strange way, Vasquez feels like this year’s Kendall Marshall. It’s not a perfect comparison, but he feels like his role will be the second unit point guard, the guy who keeps things moving when the starters are resting. Marshall averaged about 3 assists a game last year in 15 minutes, but I’m betting that Vasquez gets up toward 20 and nabs that extra dish.
His usual playing time may be suppressed a bit by Milwaukee’s guard depth and Kidd’s propensity to spread bench minutes equally.
Milwaukee doesn’t seem like a team that’s going to put up significant point totals or run up a high count of possessions. With Monroe in the fold, it looks like the Bucks are going to be posting up a lot more than they did last season, which could result in fewer possessions and fewer assist opportunities. I’m sure Vasquez will have a few nights where he manages over 10 assists, but on the whole, I’d expect his numbers to dip.
Jerryd Bayless: Over/Under 1600 Minutes
Capable of filling both guard spots, Bayless is a very nice option to have off the bench, but he struggled as a jump shooter last season, knocking down just 31 percent of his three-point attempts, well below his career average.
One of the reasons the Bucks brought in Vasquez was to shore up their outside shooting, and I think Vasquez ultimately ends up holding a bigger role than Bayless. The other factor at play is Bayless played in 77 games last season. That’s the second-highest total of his career, so he’ll likely regress back toward 70-ish games. Assuming he plays in 72 games, he’d need to average 22.3 minutes per game, give or take, to top 1,600 minutes. With Vasquez in town, not to mention Rashad Vaughn stealing a few minutes here and there, I think Bayless averages closer to 20 minutes per game and falls short of 1,600.
He played over 1700 minutes last year, but remember how sad we were for every single one of those minutes? Vasquez should play a bigger role (and ideally not get hurt), and if Vaughn proves that he deserves more playing time it will likely come at the expense of Bayless’ minutes.
He still has the same head coach and agent.
Between Vasquez and Vaughn, there’s enough actual competition in the backcourt that Bayless is bound to lose some minutes. The whole backcourt seems very up for grabs to me. Whoever can consistently string together good games is going to get the lion’s share of minutes right away, but given Milwaukee’s average to slightly above average talent levels among its guards, these guys will probably all have a few weeks with big minutes this season.
Part two and a podcast coming tomorrow.