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Five Questions for the Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks will need to make strides in certain areas in '17-'18; Can they take the next step?

October 07, 2017 - 11:15 am
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As the Milwaukee Bucks embark on the 2017-18 NBA season, a season that carries the highest orgizantional expectations in a decade and a half, they have several questions that need to be answered in order to fulfill those expectations.  Current Bucks' ownership has made huge strides in providing their players with every thing they need to compete at the highest level, namely the Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center, a state-of-the-art team training facility right next to the new arena that's on schedule to open next fall. 

“We expect to win a championship. That’s what we said the first day we showed up in front of you guys and that hasn’t changed at all," said Bucks' co-owner Wes Edens on Bucks Media Day. 

The Bucks players themselves were open about their expectations to succeed in a weakened Eastern Conference and advance well past the first round of the playoffs in '17-'18. Jason Terry, who became a natural leader of this young team last year (and hit some big shots for the Bucks last season), is back and says they have some lofty goals: “A big goal for us is Eastern Conference Finals, top five in defense, top five in assists. We know those key stats mean we’re going to win a lot of basketball games, or have an opportunity to win.”

In order to come close to those demands the team has bestowed upon itself these are just some of the areas they'll need to address as soon as they can:

1. Can the defensive scheme hold up?

Head coach Jason Kidd and assistant coach Sean Sweeney came under intense scrutiny last year for a defensive system that seemed to invite teams to shoot wide open corner threes, the NBA's most deadly offensive weapon, as the Bucks fell further and further under .500 after the All-Star Break and sat at 26-33 after an embarrassing 110-98 (Bucks were down 63-37 at the half) loss to the Denver Nuggets at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on March 1. Then, the team, one way or another, was able to stop the bleeding enough to get hot and rattle off one of the best months worth of basketball in team history, going 14-4 in March to really solidify their playoff chances last season. This year, the added continuity should help the Bucks as they return the overwhelming majority of their 42 win roster a year ago. Kidd implores his team to bring energy and effort every night in order for the defensive scheme to be effective but they allowed the Bulls to shoot 17/34 from deep in last night's loss in Chicago. Will that be a problem on certain nights during the regular season? We shall see. 

2. Who else will step up on the second unit?

Adjusting to a primary bench role was not a problem for Greg Monroe last season as he played in 81 games, all off the bench, and averaged nearly 19 points and 10.5 rebound (per 36 minutes) a game. While his minutes may have gone down a bit and not a great fit with the starting five, Moose was able to be effective in providing a spark off the bench against other teams' second unit and/or defensively challenged centers. Michael Beasley was acquired right before the season started a year ago and was effective in his role off the bench but Beasley gone, the question becomes who else will fill in off the bench for Milwaukee? Can Rashad Vaughn finally take the step the Bucks and fans alike have been waiting for him to take when the team took him in the first round back in 2015? Can Mirza Teletovic be a better shooter than what he showed last year? He certainly can't be worse...I don't think. Would Jabari Parker fit in that role when he comes back from a second knee surgery? I, for one, would love to see what Parker can do if Kidd and the gang were to completely unleash him on the second unit especially, if Monroe is moved or the Bucks choose not to re-sign him beyond this year. 

3. Can Thon Maker take the next step?

Many in #BucksTwitter and around the league feel that a huge X-Factor in the Bucks' success this upcoming season hinges on the strides Thon Maker takes this year. Much like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Maker showed moments of extreme promise in his rookie season. His ability to knock down an open three at the center position was his biggest asset a year ago and is becoming a booming trend in Association. Maker shot nearly 38 percent from beyond the arc last year (but just 20 percent in the postseason). He also showed some ability to protect the rim, especially in the playoffs last year against Toronto. If he can spread the floor even more effectively and run with Antetokounmpo on offense and protect the rim enough on the other end, the Bucks will be in business. 

4. What new heights can Giannis Antetokounmpo reach?

Los Angeles Lakers legend, Kobe Bryant, now retired from the league has been giving advice (and his opinions on many different things), offered up some intriguing advice Antetokounmpo this offseason. The Greek Freak asked the Black Mamba via Twitter what his next challenge was and Bryant responded "MVP". Pretty high praise from the NBA's third leading scorer all-time for the 22 year old Antetokounmpo. However, it's not out of reach for him and frankly, what is? Antetokounmpo finished eighth in MVP voting a season ago and with any improvement in his jumpshot, his numbers should go up and so too should the Bucks win total in '17-'18. Of the challenge, Antetokounmpo had this to say: "You can’t be MVP if your team doesn’t win, so I’ve got to do whatever it takes for our team, the Milwaukee Bucks, to win."

5. What's in store for Jabari Parker?

As of October 7, the Bucks have not extended forward Jabari Parker but they do have until October 16th to do so. Reports came out from WSSP Basketball Insider, Gery Woelfel, that the 22 year old forward is looking to get paid.

"This is where I want to be, but at this point, it’s not my choice,” Parker said cryptically on Bucks Media Day.

One can only take this as Parker and his agent, Mark Bartelstein, have their number and have dug their heels in and the ball is in the Bucks court. There's no question Parker has talent and is extremely gifted to be able to move with the agility and athleticism he does at his size. He has shown the ability to score the ball effectively in the NBA for stretches, however, should the Bucks back up the Brinks truck for a guy who's had two torn ACLs by the time he turned 22? On the other hand, you need stars to win in the NBA and Parker has shown glimpses of All-Star potential in the relatively small sample size when he's healthy. Remember, star free agents aren't lining up to play in Milwaukee so the Bucks have to choose wisely in what they decide for their future with Parker. I think all of us in Wisconsin would love to see Parker back at a fair price but it only takes one team with cap space to take a bigger risk than perhaps Milwaukee is willing to take, should the extension not happen and Parker chooses to head to restricted free agency. 

The Bucks are 0-3 in preseason follwing their 114-101 loss in Chicago last night. Fan Fest is tomorrow at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. It begins at 10 am and is open to the public. The regular season begins on October 18 in Boston against the new-look Celtics. 

By Mitch Ross

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