Here are some notable things that have happened since last we broke down the Bucks. We also recognize that recaps have gone missing lately. It’s a long season.
Here’s a recap of stuff that we’ve missed:
The Bucks Have At Least Three Good Players
Since the All-Star break, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton have averaged 26.9 minutes per game together. Across 22 games, that’s 592 minutes. Milwaukee is +54 or 2.5 points per game when they’re out there together. Given the volume of minutes and positive point differential, it’s safe to say that’s Milwaukee’s best three-man lineup.
That’s great news! Those three guys are the guys Milwaukee is building around. It’s beautiful when a plan starts to come together. I say “starts to come together” because they still have a long way to go. Other three man groups over the same date range:
- Curry/Thompson/Green: +175
- Aldridge/Leonard/Parker: +104
- Durant/Westbrook/Adams: +104
- James/Love/Smith: +89
Those trios aren’t just better than Milwaukee’s core right now, they have much better supporting casts. That explains the mounting losses, despite a generally positive vibe that’s blossomed in the second half for Milwaukee. No one claims the Bucks have arrived just yet, only that you can see something taking shape.
One fun fact: Giannis/Parker/Middleton all rank in the top 16 in drives per game among players 6-7 or taller in the second half. No other team has more than one player in the top 16.
If Giannis and Parker can shoot threes at even a 30% clip next season, Milwaukee’s offense is going to be very versatile, given that combination of penetrating and shooting skill. That’s a HUGE if right now, but it’s easy to imagine because both guys are so young and dedicated to improving.
Make no mistake; these three will continue to evolve as players. The next challenge in Milwaukee is building a better cast around them.
Tyler Ennis Is Maybe Okay?
Oh man, is Ennis one of the guys that can take shape alongside the new big three? Who saw that coming? A lot of digital ink has been spilled bemoaning Ennis on this website, so it’s only fair that he receives some credit. In his ten games previous to Tuesday night’s drubbing at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Ennis averaged 8.5 points, 3.6 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game in just under 22 minutes.
Ennis hasn’t set the league on fire the way Giannis has, but it seems clear that Ennis can, at least, be a functional NBA player. He’s hit a few floaters and had enough success at the rim that it seems legit, rather than lucky. Evidence that he was even just okay didn’t really exist earlier this season. With Michael Carter-Williams, O.J. Mayo and occasionally Jerryd Bayless out, Ennis has received consistent minutes for the first time in his career, and it has done wonders for him.
Being a young player seems tough. You never know when you need to be ready and when you’re thrown into a game, the margin for error is slim. Ennis has taken advantage of the extra rope he’s received of late. He’s already under contract for basically nothing next season. It’d be a shock to see him fail to make the roster come October. Whether he’ll be Milwaukee’s backup point guard or backup backup point guard is probably going to be up to him. I’d still bet on the latter, but not as confidently as I would have a month ago.
I’d still bet on the latter, but not as confidently as I would have a month ago.
Rashad Vaughn Has Left Lots To Be Desired
It hasn’t been all dunks, Euro-steps and player development in the past month. Here’s the bottom half of a list of Bucks rookies that played at least 820 minutes in their rookie season, ranked by PER:
The second last player on the list of 38 had a PER twice that of Vaughn’s. Not good. A few guys on this list made major improvements over the course of their career, specifically Giannis, Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova. Alton Lister carved out a long, productive career with a three-year peak that was above average.
Everyone else? Pretty bleh. Milwaukee picked Vaughn knowing that he was a younger than average prospect and would need some time to develop. Hopefully after a full season and an off-season of experience he’ll be able to come back next season and make an impact.
Right now, his future doesn’t seem so promising; as I was writing this, he air balled another three. He played 45 minutes against the Cavs and scored 10 points on 4-17 shooting.