Antetokounmpo enters MVP conversation after terrific season

Welcome to the 2017-18 edition of the Young Bucks Tracker. This year, we’re taking a different tact. With Milwaukee now having a G League franchise, the Wisconsin Herd, each Thursday we’ll either track the progress of the players who might be of help to the Bucks in the future or a current member of the Milwaukee roster. We’ll also give updates on the other young players from the previous week.

This is the 19th and final edition of the 2017-18 Young Bucks Tracker.

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SPOTLIGHT ON …

Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo

There’s a reason Giannis Antetokounmpo was serenaded by “MVP” chants at the Bradley Center by the home faithful all season.

The 2017-18 season isn’t going to be remembered as the year Antetokounmpo won the NBA MVP, but it might go down as the year he entered the conversation.

A year after winning the league’s Most Improved Player Award, Antetokounmpo took his game to yet another level. Playing in 75 games, he averaged career highs with 26.9 points and 10.0 rebounds as well as notching 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.4 blocks. His 52.9 percent field-goal percentage was also a career best.

While he didn’t lead the league in any category, Antetokounmpo finished in the top 10 in many: Fifth in points and points per game, 10th in rebounds and ninth in blocks per game. In the advanced stats set, he was tied for fourth in Player Impact Estimate (18.6), fifth in Player Efficiency Rating (27.3), sixth in win shares (11.9), seventh in Value Over Replacement Player (5.4) and 10th in Box Plus/Minus (5.8).

Antetokounmpo scored in double digits in every game he played and finished with 42 double-doubles — and one triple-double — on the season, tied for eighth-most in the NBA. He had 24 games with 30+ points, including four with 40+.

His season high in points was 44, done in the third game of the season against Portland, while he reached 20 rebounds at Washington on Jan. 15. Antetokounmpo recorded his ninth career triple-double vs. Denver on Feb. 15, with 36 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds.

It’s hard to pick out a best game — the triple-double came in a loss, after all — but we’ll point to a Jan. 26 win at home over Brooklyn in which he made 14 of 20 shots — including 3-for-3 on 3-point attempts — finishing with 41 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, two blocks and just one turnover.

With the playoff stage ahead of him and just turning 24 in December, we wait to see what Antetokounmpo is capable of next. Perhaps that MVP.

BUCKSHOTS

Jabari Parker‘s season totals might not be awe-inspring — 12.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game — but he finished with a flurry. In six April games, Parker averaged 19.5 points and 8.2 rebounds while shooting 49.5 percent from the field (including 45.8 percent from 3).

— Playing in all 82 games, Khris Middleton set career highs with in points (20.1) and rebounds (5.2) per game as well as made 3-pointers (146). Middleton finished ninth in the NBA in free-throw percentage (88.4).

— Center John Henson set career highs in field-goal percentage (57.2) and Win Shares (4.9) while his VORP of 1.2 was his second best (1.5 in 2014-15). However, his block percentage (4.7) was his lowest since his rookie year.

— A year after winning Rookie of the Year, Malcolm Brogdon, who missed two months due to injury, increased his shooting (48.5 percent) as well as scoring (13.0 ppg) and rebounding (3.3 rpg) production.

Thon Maker didn’t progress as many had hoped in his sophomore season. He averaged 4.8 points and 3.0 rebounds over 16.7 minutes and shot just 41.1 percent from the field.

— First-round pick D.J. Wilson played in only 71 minutes. He made 9 of 16 shots for 21 points with 10 rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block.

— Second-round pick Sterling Brown played nearly 33 minutes in Milwaukee’s regular-season finale, but his playing time dwindled down the stretch, with just two other games of 20+ minutes since March (and those were March 7 and 9).

— In 24 games with the Bucks after being acquired from Charlotte, Tyler Zeller had an impressive 13.6 offensive rebounding percentage. That would have ranked fifth in the NBA this season.

Shabazz Muhammad shot 55.2 percent from the field in his 11 games with Milwaukee, averaging 8.5 points.

Xavier Munford and Marshall Plumlee, both on two-way contracts, saw limited time with the Bucks. Munford played in 21 minutes over six games and Plumlee 52 over eight. Gone but (maybe) not forgotten: Joel Bolomboy (38 minutes in six games) and Gary Payton II (106 in 12).