With the new season almost here for the Milwaukee Bucks, it seems like a good time to pause and appreciate just how much can happen in a year.
It seems so long ago now that the Milwaukee Bucks played the Chicago Bulls in the 2015 NBA Playoffs, but let’s pause for a moment to ask what exactly what has happened since then?
The summer of 2015 was supposed to be a magical summer for Bucks fans. who were feeling the hype of the previous season. There was a great joy in seeing the team in national headlines for making the jump from 12 regular season wins in 2013-14, to 41 in the following season.
With that being just Jason Kidd‘s first year in charge, the possibilities for the team to kick on from there seemed endless.
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Aside from national headlines, the Bucks also played in front of a national audience against Derrick Rose and the mighty Chicago Bulls (how things have changed). Even better than that, the Bucks were competitive. They attempted a furious comeback in the hope of just maybe becoming the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-0 deficit, and even though the final game of the series was a crushing blowout loss, there was little shame in the overall 4-2 scoreline.
Then came the 2015 NBA Draft. Although names like Bobby Portis and R.J. Hunter were on the tip of many Bucks fans tongues, as was the possibility of trading the pick up or down, the Rashad Vaughn selection wasn’t difficult to come to terms with. Billed as a sharp-shooting guard, perhaps Vaughn could alleviate some of the team’s floor-spacing woes.
The trade for Greivis Vasquez was another key moment from that night. From the outset there was little debating that the Bucks paid too high a price for the Venezuelan, but with a veteran floor general added to the mix the hope was that it would work out for the best.
After the draft came free-agency and no shortage of reasons for Bucks fans to feel giddy. With enough cap-space to go after a max contract guy, many believed they could land a big-ticket.
The first whisper of that came with reports that DeAndre Jordan was going to meet with the Bucks. When he eventually decided otherwise and Milwaukee was then linked with Greg Monroe, fans could have been forgiven for thinking the team was better served focusing its attention on more realistic targets.
Then it became a reality and the sense of excitement really set in. When I imagined a line-up of MCW-Middleton-Antetokounmpo-Parker-Monroe, like many Bucks fans, I firmly believed that the Bucks were going to be a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference. Maybe they were going to be just one LeBron James ankle tweak away from the 2016 NBA Finals.
How wrong we all were.
When the year started out 0-3, it was easy to excuse poor results as an element of the players still having to get to know each other and mesh together. However, by the time the pages of the calendar turned to a new year, it was clear that this franchise was going to suffer another year in the lottery.
With a record of 13-21 to start 2016, the failures of the Bucks could no longer be blamed on a learning curve, it just didn’t work. Hoping to rejuvenate the season, coach Jason Kidd threw a curve ball right before the All-Star break by starting Miles Plumlee and benching Greg Monroe. All success is relative, but this gamble worked as the Bucks showed clear signs of improvement.
Heading into the All-Star break, there was renewed excitement, plus two of their players were participating in All-Star Weekend activities. Jabari Parker took part in the Rising Stars Challenge and had a lot of highlight worthy dunks, including an absolute monster of a dunk on the unicorn that is Kristaps Porzingis.
Khris Middleton also participated in the Three-Point Contest, acting as a long overdue opportunity for him to showcase his skills to a wider audience. However, it didn’t click for him on the night and in finishing last, it was something of a mirror image for how Milwaukee’s season had fallen away in spite of the excitement.
After the All-Star break came to an end, Jason Kidd, further experimented with lineups or more specifically positions. From there, the Point Giannis era began.
Many Bucks fans forget that Giannis played the point in his first Summer League back in 2013. Regardless, that experiment wasn’t such an instant success as to prompt the youngster being thrust into that role immediately, but in 2016 it was finally time for Coach Kidd to let the beast loose. Point Giannis caused havoc around the league, posting numbers that had rarely been seen before. He also matched the franchise CAREER record of five triple-doubles during this half season stint.
Making fewer headlines was the emergence of Miles Plumlee, a skilled rim-runner and a key figure in allowing Point Giannis to be so dominant. Originally a throw-in in the Brandon Knight-MCW deal, Plumlee provided his services as an effective screen setter, roll man, and lob-catcher.
With increased roles for Plumlee and Antetokounmpo, there was also the mini breakout of another young Buck. That’s right, Major Cat himself, Jabari Parker. Parker finally started to live up to his draft hype of being the next Carmelo Anthony-type scoring four. Essentially scoring a lot from cut assists and one dribble moves, Baseline Bari was born.
It’s safe to say that after the All-Star break, the pre 2015-16 hype had returned to Milwaukee. When the season ended in the lottery once again, fans felt Point Giannis was now positioned to take them to the promised land in the coming years.
And so, as Milwaukee’s fans watched the Cleveland Cavaliers win the NBA Championship, the thoughts of our own point forward dominating the league like King James tantalized the basketball regions of their brains.
The 2016 NBA Draft was very promising for the Bucks. Sitting in a decent position at 10th overall, Bucks fans were excited for this pick as they hoped it was going to be their last lottery pick for a long time. With names like Henry Ellenson, Wade Baldwin IV, and Domantas Sabonis still on the board at pick number ten, the Bucks chose 19-year-old Thon Maker, the first prep-to-pro player since the league implemented their new draft eligibility regulations.
Like many others, the first time I heard of Thon Maker was about a year-and-a-half before the draft. I saw a viral video of a seven-footer crossing over a defender and hitting a three. When the Bucks working him out it seemed like a case of due diligence, rather than there being any real chance of it happening. However, when the news became official, it was hard to hate the pick.
John Hammond took his chance in drafting a much hyped wild-card, and the Bucks also took a proven defender and shooter in Malcolm Brogdon.
Free agency was where it started to get interesting for the Bucks. There was a sign-and-trade completed with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the inimitable, Matthew Dellavedova.
Delly was picked up to be a complementary piece for Point Giannis as an off-ball shooter/point guard defender and all around guy that you hate if he’s not on your team and love when he’s wearing your team’s jersey. With the addition of three veteran shooters in Mirza Teletovic, Jason Terry and Steve Novak; the team’s business was done.
Now here we are, on the cusp of another Bucks training camp with new expectations, new faces, hopefully some departing faces (I’m looking at you Greg Monroe), and a new arena on the way. As you’ve seen here, Bucks fans have been through a lot since the end of the 2014-15 season, and it would be a mistake to expect any different this year. They are the Bucks after all.