When it was on, I watched the first quarter of Milwaukee’s loss to the Detroit Pistons on Friday night. It was identical to practically every quarter I’d watched of the Bucks this season. Uneventful and boring. Was this going to be the whole rest of the season?
Since Giannis had become less aggressive offensively, Milwaukee turned back into every Milwaukee team I’d watched for the last ten years. A boring group led by inconsistent veterans, young players with low ceilings and guys who have no NBA future. OJ Mayo was playing and shooting a lot. Jerryd Bayless was one of the guys getting the most touches. Rashad Vaughn ran around. Michael Carter-Williams. Greg Monroe. What’s compelling about a team like that? What was the reason to keep watching?
Saturday night, Milwaukee was a bit different. Against the Knicks, the team played better across the board in a 106-91 win. But most importantly, Giannis and Jabari Parker were heavily involved. Every time I looked up, Giannis had the ball on the perimeter or Parker was trying to dunk. Parker threw a beautiful cross-court transition bounce pass. He made a basket, then turned around and stole the inbounds pass and dunked it. Giannis had a spike block. The two-star hopefuls combined for 34 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists. In each category, Milwaukee’s duo was better than the lauded Knicks pairing of Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony.
So maybe there is some reason to keep watching the Bucks. But can fans trust that Milwaukee’s offense will continue to feature Antetokounmpo and Parker heavily? Maybe, as Jason Kidd seemed to think Saturday night that the Bucks found someone capable of getting more players involved.
With Bayless out battling an ankle injury, Tyler Ennis dealing with an injury that left him active, but limited and Greivis Vasquez still inactive, Kidd turned to Mayo as his starting point guard, electing to leave Michael Carter-Williams in a reserve role. The move paid off handsomely, and Kidd was glowing in his assessment of Mayo after the game.
“I thought he set the tone by running the offense and making sure that guys touched the ball,” Kidd said. “One turnover for a guy who you would say likes to shoot it. I think he showed what it means to be a true teammate and set the table for his teammates.”
The turnaround was drastic. Milwaukee was as aimless as ever on Friday night against the Pistons and Kidd apparently still hasn’t seen what he wants to see in MCW to hand the reigns back over to him. By Saturday, they looked like a different team. Playing a bad Knicks team on a back-to-back helped, but that shouldn’t have been the only reason Milwaukee seemed more balanced.
Even on Saturday night, when MCW played possibly his best game of the year, you rarely saw him making plays that set up his teammates for success. He did have one nice drive and kick out to Mayo, who hit one of Milwaukee’s two 3-point makes, but aside from that, MCW’s big night seemed to be just the result of more of his floaters going in. He was 9-16 FG and finished with 20 points, five assists, and just two turnovers, which is a strong statistical night for MCW. But it didn’t mean that he had a great night as a point guard.
Saturday night made it clear that the Bucks need a guard who can get more players involved. An offense revolving around difficult shots in the paint for a point guard and Greg Monroe post-ups isn’t going to be a successful one and certainly won’t be fun to watch.
But an offense directed by a guy who is looking to create shots and opportunities for its two best players, who also happen to be its two building blocks? That offense would be a blast. It seems impossible that the Bucks would be a worse team with Giannis and Parker taking the majority of the shots. So not only could this team be way more fun, but they could be more competitive, all while its two young cornerstones get more opportunity to develop.
So maybe the point guard answer in the short term is OJ Mayo. Maybe longer term this season it’s Vasquez. Maybe all odds will be defied and MCW will figure out how to take a back seat and only attack when the right opportunities present themselves. Regardless of which player rises to the challenge, Milwaukee needs to make a commitment to a lead guard that’s going to do everything he can to keep feeding Giannis and Jabari.
Saturday night made it clear: The Bucks need to be a Parker-Giannis centric team. Not just for our sake, but for their sake.