Milwaukee Bucks: Players Who Will Play In Future All-Star Games
The Milwaukee Bucks broke a 12-year streak this season and sent Giannis Antetokounmpo to the All-Star Game. Can Milwaukee continue sending players to the league’s biggest stage?
The NBA takes a week off this time each year to catch its breath, taking a break from the grind of the regular season to both relax and recognize their very best at All-Star Weekend. For the first time since 2004 when guard Michael Redd made the squad, the Milwaukee Bucks will be represented in the All-Star Game by Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The “Greek Freak” is well deserving of the honor, putting up career numbers in his breakout season. Antetokounmpo leads the Bucks in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Pull up a Milwaukee stats page and it reads like an homage to a player, not a team.
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He has been the conductor and engine for the Bucks this season, and if they recover to the make the postseason it will be because of his excellent play. The fans, media, and players who voted him as an All-Star Starter have been validated since, and will be through the end of the year.
Milwaukee had its drought broken with a rushing flood this season. But how long will the wet season last? Can the Bucks expect representation next season – and beyond? And will anyone else currently on the roster join the mix of players considered for the All-Star game?
The Greek Freak burst onto the scene his rookie year with adorable quotes about living in America, and each season continued his ascendancy to All-Star status. Now that he has a starting berth, he is unlikely to give it up anytime soon.
Antetokounmpo is just 22 years old, by far the youngest All-Star this season. As both a late bloomer and a latecomer to basketball, it seems incredibly likely there is still room for him to grow. He’s a 6’11” physical marvel who looks like “Gumby” and can play point guard on offense while defending centers on defense. If that player gets even better – adding a three-point shot, growing as a shot-blocker – the league, and the All-Star voters, should be on notice.
Historically, players who start in the All-Star game often return to play in subsequent years, even past when they’ve necessarily earned the honor. After a solid run through his prime that sees Giannis make another six or seven All-Star games, a graceful decline into his early 30s – and no major injuries – means Antetokounmpo has the upside to make 10 or more All-Star games by the time he retires.
It’s not a lock that those things will happen; Antetokounmpo has only played one season at this level, and it’s possible he will regress next season and this year will appear as an outlier in his career. But more likely his growth is just beginning, as are his run of All-Star game appearances. Milwaukee fans will most likely avoid such a drought for many seasons to come.
It is not unreasonable to think Jabari Parker could have made the All-Star game next season. Eastern Conference All-Stars such as Paul Millsap and Kyle Lowry may switch to teams in another Conference, while Kemba Walker or Kevin Love may not have the same quality of season next year.
But Parker went down with a torn ACL, and the near and distant future changed for Parker. His recovery is expected to take 12 months, which will put Parker’s return to the lineup around All-Star Weekend next year and thus unable to realistically factor in an All-Star appearance down the road.
Two variables swirl around Parker’s future candidacy. The first, of course, is how he looks physically after returning from his injury. Parker may have been close to an All-Star berth, but he will need to reach those same levels again, and perhaps higher, to make the roster in coming years.
The second is the success of the Milwaukee Bucks. If Parker is scoring 20 points per game and they are positioned at the fourth seed, then he may be considered for a reserve role. If he is scoring 20 points per game on a team out of the playoff picture, then it will be much more difficult to get two Bucks into the game.
On talent level alone, Parker could make three, four, five or more All-Star games. He is a versatile offensive player with a high motor and the physical gifts to dominate for years. Whether the strength of the East around him and his own physical fitness will allow him is a question for the future.
In a league of stars, the concept of a solid but not flashy wing making an All-Star Game is outlandish at best, unhinged at worst. But there is a future where Khris Middleton could make an All-Star game.
Middleton is the epitome of a 3-and-D wing, locking down the opposing team’s best perimeter scorer while splashing in shots from beyond the arc and at the line. Already his return from injury has lifted the Bucks leading into the All-Star Break.
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With the rise of Antetokounmpo and the clicking together of the Milwaukee depth pieces, the Bucks could – and perhaps should – continue their rise towards contention in the Eastern Conference. With winning comes exposure, and the opportunity for recognition on the biggest stage.
If Milwaukee finds itself in the years to come with a strong start to a season, and midway through the year are leading the East, then they should expect more than one All-Star. The 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks won 60 games and saw four players make the All-Star team, including two who will most likely never sniff the game again in Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver.
If Middleton puts up impressive numbers and the Bucks are soaring, then he could be rewarded for his role in their strong play. If players such as Korver and Jameer Nelson can make the team for their part in dominant teams, then Middleton isn’t an unusual selection at all. His chances are slim, but they are certainly there.
The Australian big man is the wild card, the near-unknown in the All-Star equation. With only a handful of minutes under his belt, the raw prospect is still working through basics. However, he is also showing range from deep (3-for-5 on three-pointers in a win over the Indiana Pacers) and growing in his defensive instincts.
There is a path for Maker to tread where he steadily increases with each passing year, able to protect the rim and set up anywhere on the court for offense. His length would allow him to bother opposing shots no matter the angle, and his increased feel for the game can help him pick up the specifics of a new system.
This road for Maker shows not only All-Star, but also MVP candidate. He has the potential to be that good. Despite the glut of centers in the East – Kristaps Porzingis, Al Horford, Myles Turner, Joel Embiid – a player dominating on both ends of the court will be valuable.
The other side of the coin has to be mentioned as well, that Maker could struggle to take the next steps and grow very slowly or not at all. He does appear at first glance to be a lanky collection of tent poles. But his teammates and coaches rave about him, and Milwaukee has earned the role of cultivating this player into one who reaches his full potential.
All of this speculation shows that the Bucks have a great young core ready to lead them for years to come. Whether they send one candidate or four, this team’s expectations and dreams are not decided by the media but by their own count.