Milwaukee Bucks: Rookie expectations need to be managed

TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 11: (Photo by Brian Babineau/Getty Images)
TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 11: (Photo by Brian Babineau/Getty Images) /

After big contributions from rookies last season, the Milwaukee Bucks need to be wary not to ask too much of D.J. Wilson and Sterling Brown.

For the second straight season, the Milwaukee Bucks will likely have to turn to rookies for meaningful minutes this year. After the success that strategy led to last year, it’s important that both the team and the fans don’t lose sight of just how great an ask that is.

D.J. Wilson and Sterling Brown, the 17th and 46th overall picks in this year’s draft respectively, both possess real potential, and would seem to have certain skills that make them obvious, tangible fits for the Bucks.

With the departure of Michael Beasley, and Jabari Parker‘s injury, the Bucks will be a little thin at the power forward position for much of the season, and Wilson’s versatility on both ends makes him an appealing option.

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Likewise, Milwaukee isn’t exactly loaded with options at the wing positions of shooting guard and small forward, and Brown’s 3-and-D reputation makes him a logical component of the rotation at those spots.

Still, adjusting to the NBA isn’t always easy for a rookie, in spite of how it looked in Milwaukee last season.

After being seen as something of a long-term project when he was selected with the 10th overall pick last summer, Thon Maker worked his way into the Bucks’ starting lineup by the end of the season, and ultimately offered some standout defensive contributions in his team’s first round playoff series with the Toronto Raptors.

Malcolm Brogdon looked like a polished professional ready to take up a significant bench role coming out of Virginia as a senior and the ACC Player of the Year, but there was no indication that he would go on to claim the starting point guard spot as his own, making a number of clutch plays down the stretch in the regular season, and ultimately being named Rookie of the Year.

In the wider NBA context — and for much of Milwaukee’s recent draft history — Maker and Brogdon are much more of an exception than the rule, though.

Bucks fans don’t have to cast their mind back too far to remember the struggles of Rashad Vaughn in his rookie season, and indeed, now entering his third year in the league, things haven’t become significantly easier for the UNLV man either.

Wilson and Brown will hold an obvious excitement and appeal as they feel like two picks very much in a similar vein to the selections of Maker and Brogdon, but that doesn’t necessarily mean lightning is about to strike twice.

In other words, the Bucks need to remain patient. The NBA development process isn’t one that is generally completed overnight, and although Milwaukee may find themselves in a spot where they’re forced to rely a little more heavily on their rookies, it doesn’t change the fact that their seasons are likely to be filled with both ups and downs.

Perhaps, Wilson and Brown can replicate the incredible success of Milwaukee’s draftees last year, but their importance to the future of the franchise needs to stretch beyond judging immediate impact.

With Milwaukee’s cap situation already far from ideal, they desperately need to make the most of rookie scale deals for as long as they have them.

In other words, as much as hitting the ground running could be incredibly beneficial to the Bucks, a first season of adjustment for Wilson and Brown which leads them to be better prepared players in year two would not be a bad thing by any means.

The Bucks are now in a place where they’re having to balance the pressures of high expectations, and developing a young high-potential team simultaneously.

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Although the Bucks may take a big step forward this season, the journey is still about more than one season. As such, Wilson and Brown’s play as rookies needs to be measured by their own improvements, rather than against the rookie contributions of Maker and Brogdon.