The Milwaukee Bucks have impressed in the 2016 portion of the 2016-17 season, and they closed it in style with a win over the Chicago Bulls.
For all of the inconsistencies, it would take a particularly dour (and unrealistic) Milwaukee Bucks fan to be anything other than pleasantly surprised at how the team has fared through the first 32 games of the season.
Without a doubt, consistency remains an issue, which isn’t all that surprising for a young team. On the other hand, the development the Bucks have seen from key young players has exceeded what seemed plausible only a few short months ago.
Not only are the Bucks playing .500 basketball without Khris Middleton, but they’re frequently doing so with a confidence, style and swagger. This is a team that’s starting to believe.
The Chicago Bulls already knew that, of course. The Bulls had already found themselves on the receiving end of Milwaukee’s progress twice in the month of December before the Bucks rolled in to leave a further mark on them to close 2016.
On a night where Malcolm Brogdon recorded his first career triple-double, Giannis Antetokounmpo threatened a 5×5 and a quadruple-double, and Jabari Parker scored at ease back in his hometown, all was right in the world of Milwaukee Bucks basketball.
Let’s take a look at the key talking points and takeaways to bring forward from this game into 2017.
As an organization and a fanbase, the Milwaukee Bucks have been waiting a long, long time for a special talent. In a league where the value of exceptional individuals is incredibly high, the Bucks have had their fair share of good and even great players over the years.
What they haven’t had, though, is a truly transcendent player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar left for Los Angeles over 40 years ago. The likes of Sidney Moncrief, Marques Johnson and Ray Allen can certainly bring you to the precipice of glory, but it can take an even rarer talent still to complete the mission.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is looking like that kind of player.
As Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to victory with a tour de force performance in Chicago on Saturday, it was hard to stop yourself from taking a moment to ask what he can’t do.
The Greek finished the game with 35 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, seven blocks and two steals having threatened to join the NBA’s elite 5×5 club from very early in the game. Although it didn’t materialize on this occasion, it’s only a matter of time.
On another night, not only could Giannis have had a 5×5, but maybe he’d have racked up a quadruple-double too. I’m not even sure a quintuple-double would be completely beyond him on a night where everything went his way. That seems unfathomable, and it should.
Giannis is not like any player the Bucks have seen before, though. At this point he may not be like any NBA player we’ve ever seen. When all is said and done, I’d expect the record books to show that too.
Although a triple-double in only his second professional start is understandably going to fuel the conversation about a more permanent starting role, by looking ahead and anticipating his next step like that, there’s a danger of not appreciating just what Brogdon is doing in the here and now.
Whether it was on a night where he showed his incredible intelligence, positioning and control to complete an outstanding triple-double, or on any of the plentiful occasions where he’s offered a quieter, steady presence to propel his team to victory; what really matters is that Brogdon is making everyone around him better.
To be able to say that for a rookie not even halfway through his rookie season is remarkable.
In many ways that’s the missing element in discussions about Brogdon’s role at present too. The former Virginia Cavalier is doing enough to prove that he’s suitable for any role in the team, but where he’ll fit best is where he can best help his teammates to maximize their performances.
At this point Brogdon has shown he can make the starters and the bench better. He’s giving his coach no shortage of options, and for a 36th overall pick that must be beyond the team’s wildest dreams.
The prime example of how Malcolm Brogdon’s influence stretches far beyond his own contributions is Greg Monroe. The rookie has built an outstanding understanding with the once maligned Bucks center, and the results have been extremely positive for both men.
So much so, that when Brogdon stepped up to the starting lineup for the first time on Friday in Matthew Dellavedova‘s absence, Monroe didn’t look quite the same, and coach Jason Kidd noticed.
Bucks coach Jason Kidd said Malcolm Brogdon will start again tonight vs. Bulls. Kidd said he would try to get Brogdon more time w/Monroe.
What the Monroe and Brogdon connection has proven is much of what we already knew. Greg Monroe has plenty of skill, but he just needs things tailored toward him to maximize it. In Brogdon, he’s found an effortless match and the Bucks are all the richer as a result.
Whether it’s a blowout win or a blowout loss, there’s at least a source of some joy for Bucks fans this season when a game comes down the stretch with the score not so close.
The end of bench crew get a chance to get some minutes, led by 10th overall pick Thon Maker.
As Maker knocked down a triple on Saturday, and Steve Novak scored only his second field goal of the season (on back-to-back nights too, talk about red-hot), it occurred to me that there seems to be much more success for that group in a Bucks win.
With the whole team riding positive momentum, Maker, Novak and company signal the start of the party, and in fact bring the energy up a notch again.
Of course it’s a small sample size, but Thon’s numbers back it up. Maker averages three points per game in a win, as opposed to only one point per game in a loss. Even better again, he’s now up to four made triples on the season, all of which have come in wins.
In conclusion, nobody seems to enjoy a Bucks win more than Thon Maker.