Yesterday we published both Part 1 over our annual Over/Under column and Part 1 of our Over/Under podcast. We’ll get to the second podcast next week, but in the meantime, here’s part two of our Over/Unders.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: Over/Under 100 3-Point Attempts
If he’s going to take the proverbial next step in Year 3, Antetokounmpo has to become dependable from three-point range. He doesn’t have to shoot 40 percent (or even 35 percent), but he has to be enough of a threat to prevent defenders from sagging five feet off of him on the perimeter, as was so often the case last season. Improving his outside shot was a primary point of emphasis this summer – he shot it pretty well at EuroBasket – but I’m not convinced Antetokounmpo will make it a major part of his game. That said, I think he reaches 100 attempts fairly easily. He took 44 threes last season and did not register an attempt in 48 games.
The real question is how many shooting sleeves will he wear, am I right? His coach seems to have given him the green light, and this is how we determine if Giannis is ever going to be the heart-stealing superstar we desperately want him to be.
Giannis attempted 118 three-pointers (1.5 attempts per game) his rookie season, and if he has even mild confidence in his jump shot this season, that seems like a reasonable starting point. It’s all about confidence.
He’ll shoot more than he did last season, but I think he’s going to still be limited as a shooter and as long as he’s limited, the Bucks won’t press him to keep shooting threes.
Michael Carter-Williams: Over/Under 40% Shooting
Carter-Williams’ field goal percentage jumped five points after the trade to Milwaukee last season, and he finished the season shooting 43% from the floor in 25 games with the Bucks. Considering that included a, brace yourself, scorching 4-of-28 showing from beyond the arc, I think Carter-Williams clears 40% this season with relative ease. He’s not going to shoot under 20% from three-point range again, but my only concern is that a higher three-point volume at mediocre (by his standards) efficiency (say, 27%) could end up damaging his overall field goal percentage.
The “MCW sucks at shooting” meme has become so prevalent that I was initially taking the under on this one out of habit. Even though he’s still a “career” (two-season) 25% three-point shooter, his overall shooting percentage jumped up to over 42% after he was traded to Milwaukee. And though he is, still, most likely, a below-average shooter, he’s not going to shoot 14% from deep like he did post-trade last season. Combine that with less pressure to score due to added weapons and a full NBA offseason of training (I’m still holding out hope!), and he should at least hit 40% again next season.
Despite shooting just 14.3 percent from beyond the arc with Milwaukee last season, Carter-Williams upped his field goal percentage substantially (from 38.0 percent with Philadelphia to 42.9 percent). His three-point shooting should rise (slightly), and he will continue to have far less offensive responsibility with the Bucks than he did with a blatantly tanking 76ers franchise. Shooting more than 40 percent from the field, a fairly low bar for any NBA player, should be sustainable.
This was a bad over/under number. I think I’m still scarred from Brandon Jennings. 40% shooting shouldn’t be a benchmark, it should be a given. The only way he falls under 40% is if he shoots three or four threes a game, like he was doing in Philly. The Bucks aren’t so hell-bent on his development that they’ll let him be that loose with a broken shot. And we don’t even know how broken his shot is anymore, so maybe he’ll hit more threes and continue to see his shooting percentage rise overall.
Jabari Parker: 25 Games As The Team’s Leading Scorer
Parker led the Bucks in scoring only four times in 25 games last season. Even though he looks to be slightly ahead of schedule in camp, he’ll likely be eased back into a full minutes load, and I think that hurts his chances of putting up big scoring numbers, at least early in the season. Plus, Milwaukee added another primary scoring option this season, so Parker won’t be tasked with carrying a heavy offensive burden on most nights. Even with that addition of Monroe, however, the Bucks will again be among the most balanced scoring teams in the league, so I can understand the argument for the “over” here, as some nights it may only take 17 or 18 points to lead the team.
Monroe. Middleton. Antetokounmpo. The Bucks now have three other threats to carry their scoring load on any given night, and I’m wagering that a conservative usage scheme in the early stretches of the season will cost Parker a few numbers in this particular category. Had he finished out a complete rookie year, I’d have a better sense of where this number will fall, but the uncertainty has me picking conservatively here.
Presumably, Parker will be on a minutes restriction at the season’s onset, limiting his opportunities of leading the team in scoring. Milwaukee lacked a primary scorer last season, so it’s possible Parker (but more likely Monroe) fills that void. Yet, Parker is more or less entering his second rookie season, and rookies rarely score efficiently. I’d hold off high expectations until the 2016–17 season.
25 games isn’t that many games. I think by the end of the season Parker will have taken over as Milwaukee’s primary scoring option, with Monroe falling right in line behind him. Parker is going to start the season slow, as the team tries to avoid rushing him back too quickly after last season’s knee injury. But by the All-Star game, I think he’ll be Milwaukee’s most reliable player at creating quality isolation scoring chances.
Greg Monroe: Over/Under 16 Points Per Game
Monroe has reached the 16 points per game plateau only once in his career (2012-13), and with a better supporting cast around him, I think he ends up somewhere in the 14-15 per game range.
Here’s a guy who got near that total the last two years while sharing a clogged frontcourt with Andre Drummond. Freed of splitting time with another featured big and (hopefully) more room to operate, Monroe should put in some work.
Last season – while sharing the court with a combination of Brandon Jennings, Reggie Jackson, Josh Smith and Andre Drummond – Monroe managed a 23.9 usage percentage and 15.9 points per game. He’ll have more opportunities, particularly toward the end of the shot clock, with an offensively challenged Bucks team.
He’s definitely going to be heavily featured in the team’s offense, but I think there’s going to be enough of a balance that he’ll finish between 15 and 16 points per game. I don’t expect his minutes to rise much over where they were at in Detroit either, as Jason Kidd has to find minutes for John Henson and traditionally likes to use a big rotation.
O.J. Mayo: Over/Under 10 Points Per Game
Mayo quietly enjoyed one of his more productive seasons, on a per-minute basis, in 2014-15. While he returns in what should be a very similar role off the bench, he’s said to be in excellent shape and is in a contract year, so the incentive to perform is certainly there. I think he could approach 12 or 13 points per game if things break the right way, but the additions of Greivis Vasquez and Rashad Vaughn could pose minor threats to Mayo’s workload, especially if he gets off to another slow start.
Contract Year O.J. needs to find someone to pay him in free agency, which means I think he’s going to ball out as much as one can as a backup on for the Milwaukee Bucks.
There’s nothing particularly consistent about Mayo’s game other than his scoring rate. He’s averaged between 15.5 and 17.5 points per 36 minutes in each of his seven NBA seasons. As long as he plays a bit north of 20 minutes per game, he’ll get his double digits.
This is the year of the Great OJ Mayo Collapse. I think he’s been a little underrated throughout his tenure in Milwaukee, primarily because he appeared to gain quite a bit of weight during the season two years ago, but his numbers have actually been fairly consistent and okay. He’s surprised as a passer and occasionally stood out as a shooter. But he takes a lot of tough, midrange shots and that sort of offense seems like the type of style that won’t age well. If he loses just a little ability to create space or if he’s just a little slower coming off screens, shots will be more difficult for him and his shooting percentage will dip. I think he’ll have fewer minutes this year and in general be a little less effective, taking him under 10 points per game.
Wins: Over/Under 42 Wins
The Bucks may have overachieved last season, but adding on one win after a 41-win campaign doesn’t seem like too much to ask. Monroe’s addition brings an interior scoring dynamic that Milwaukee didn’t have last season, and with Antetokounmpo and Carter-Williams both expected to improve as all-around offensive players, the Bucks’ win total could fairly easily climb into the mid-40s. Getting Jabari Parker back may not be as much of a boost as most think – he was a major defensively liability last season – but Milwaukee is even deeper than last season and Parker’s return certainly won’t be a negative on the offensive end. I’ll say the Bucks get to 44 wins.
Giannis. Healthy Jabari. Just Got Paid Middleton. Big Greg. MCW might possibly get better. Jason Kidd might be a wizard. Fear the Deer, y’all.
PS: Cautiously over.
While an improved record seems like a safe bet, recall the 2010–11 season. Fans scoffed at the loss of veterans Luke Ridnour, Kurt Thomas and Jerry Stackhouse after the “Fear the Deer” season, only to see Milwaukee’s chemistry crumble the following year. Casting aside Zaza Pachulia and Jared Dudley introduces chemistry questions.
I think there’s a bit too much hype around this team right now. Greg Monroe was a splash, as big a splash as the Bucks have ever made in free agency. But the Bucks were a bad team after the trade deadline. I think Giannis and Parker are going to lead the Bucks in a great direction, but I’m not sure they’re both ready to take the team to another level this season. I think those two will improve individually, but I think the team will be below .500. It isn’t easy to rise from the bottom of a conference into the playoff picture, but it’s even tougher for a team to move from the bottom of the playoff ladder to the top. I’m penciling the Bucks in for 38-39 wins.