How Far Can Jason Kidd Take the Milwaukee Bucks?


Head coach Jason Kidd and the Milwaukee Bucks are just about a month removed from the 120-66 drubbing they suffered at the hands of the Chicago Bulls.

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The defeat ended the Bucks season with a predictable 4-2 first round exit. However, the decisive ending can’t take away from a promising 41-41 turn-around season and the No. 6 spot, albeit in a weak Eastern Conference.

This year of resurgence came on the heels of a horrendous 15-67 season in which they landed the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft. That pick resulted in former Duke sensation Jabari Parker.

So how did the Bucks manage such a successful turnaround in just one season’s time? The answer is Jason Kidd, and he did it with a plethora of obstacles along the way.

Parker showed promise in his rookie season by averaging 12.3 points on 49 percent shooting while chipping in 5.5 rebounds. His season came to an abrupt end following a left ACL tear on Dec. 15, 2014.

Combo guard Brandon Knight was one of the main factors for the resurgence but was traded to the Phoenix Suns on Feb. 19 despite averaging 17.8 points, 5.4 assists and 1.6 steals. Although he was a restricted free agent he was likely going to command a max deal in the offseason.

Then who could forget the enigma that is Larry Sanders? The former Milwaukee Buck was waived on Feb. 21 after the two parties mutually decided to part ways. He averaged just 7.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in what was supposed to be a comeback season.

Oct 22, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd talks with guard Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Minnesota won 110-91. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Kidd took the league’s worst team last season and got them to play .500 ball with almost the same roster. He demanded tough defense and accepted nothing less. The Bucks became a top-five defense this year and that was no accident.

He got them to combine playing hard with playing smart and then executed that on the defensive end. Kidd also got them to play as a collective unit as opposed to individuals on the defensive end.

Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton all developed immensely under Kidd’s watch. This will play dividends down the road as these three guys will likely have to play big roles for the Bucks to get to that next level.

Ironically, the player that showed the most improvement was Knight. Before his departure, Knight nearly landed an All-Star bid in a crowded Eastern Conference backcourt that included John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving and Jeff Teague.

The Knight trade, although still highly debated, landed the team the 2014 NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams. Kidd did a solid job working with Carter-Williams in such a short period of time. MCW got off to a rough start, but Carter-Williams picked it up toward the end the season.

Mar 28, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd goes over a play with guard Michael Carter-Williams (5) in the second quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Kidd definitely turned the team around, but can he groom a winner? Can he develop the Bucks into a championship caliber team?

This is hard to say as Kidd does not have much of a track record to go off of as far as coaching is concerned. The one thing that can be examined is all that went down in Brooklyn in just one season and the possible foreshadowing that could potentially play out for the Bucks in a few years.

Kidd was an unproven commodity when he became the next head coach for the Brooklyn Nets. His coaching career got off to a rocky start with a lot of ups and downs, but the team managed to finish 44-38.

Part of the Nets early season struggles had a lot to do with Kidd’s transition as the vocal leader of the team. There was a disconnect between the veterans in the locker room and the coaches on staff.

It was generally assumed that Kidd would fit in seamlessly because there was so much veteran leadership on the team (Pierce, Garnett, Terry) that the Nets could basically coach themselves and Kidd would steadily grow into the new role.

This ended up hurting the team in the short term, and Kidd had a tough time winning over the guys in his role as head coach. It took a poor start for the team to realize that they should at least listen to what Kidd had to offer.

They went on to make the playoffs by playing hard but ultimately ran into the buzz-saw that was LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

Kidd then came over to the Bucks in both memorable and controversial fashion, but his transition as the head coach could not have been smoother. He gelled with the young core and had the backing of the veterans instead of their opposition.

This is where Kidd should be fine. The Nets core was already developed and had been upon his arrival. The veterans were reluctant to buy in and lost sight of the value a head coach provides.

The Bucks are different. Kidd has already left his mark on a young and talented team while continuing to develop as a head coach in this league. The Bucks are much more likely to stay loyal then the Nets ever were.

The players should recognize that Kidd helped them get to where they are from an individual standpoint and in turn be willing to buy in as long as they continue to see improvements in their game. That was never going to happen with the Nets and their veterans.

The process of grooming a winner is going to take a few years, but Kidd already accomplished the most important aspect of building a winner. He got the players to buy in to him and his system.

That being said, Kidd and the Bucks left a lot to be desired on the offensive end. If they don’t improve on that end of the floor they will merely stew in mediocrity.

Kidd and his staff will also need to continue to develop the young core and make sure they reach their potential or the Bucks will be looking at another rebuild in five years and Kidd will be looking for a new job.

Free agency is going to be a big factor in the climb to the top. The Bucks are going to have to add pieces that fit along the way as well as retaining their young core and that starts with Middleton this year.

Oct 31, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd talks with forward Khris Middleton (22) during the second quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It also wouldn’t hurt to add an impact center. As of right now it is the team’s most glaring weakness and they need to either address it in free agency or the draft.

Building a championship caliber team is an entirely separate process. However, Kidd accomplished one of the most important aspects of a championship team.

The Bucks played a brand of defense that should carry them to the top of the Eastern Conference. The conference is weak and will likely stay that way for the foreseeable future outside of any team that James plays for.

The Bucks also had veteran leadership which is important to any title contender. Zaza Pachulia and Jared Dudley played a key role in instilling what Kidd was trying to accomplish.

It certainly helped that those two veterans were the right kind of veterans. They weren’t disruptive in the locker room and cared only about the team success.

Every championship team requires guys like that, and it will be crucial to have those veterans when the team is ready to contend in just a few years if everything goes accordingly.

Kidd has all the tools to make this team a winner. He’s proven that in a very short period of time, but there is a lot of work left to do with far too many uncertainties to bank on anything in such a volatile league.

The Bucks also still lack that superstar talent that would elevate them to a championship caliber team. Parker has that potential at least on the offensive end and Antetokounmpo has shown flashes especially on the defensive end.

Kidd will ultimately play less of a role in winning a championship then the roster will. However, Kidd will have an important influence on developing that roster. He has the ability to get them there, but the rest will be up to the moves that management decides to make, or more importantly not make.

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