This season, the Milwaukee Bucks are going through a significant identity change as they put more of an emphasis on outscoring their opponents. They have had to rework both their offensive and defensive philosophies under new head coach Adrian Griffin around the talents of Damian Lillard, who is a prolific scorer but a mediocre defender.
But Lillard isn’t the only Buck carrying heavy expectations this season. The team has also brought in a litany of new pieces to supplement their comeback effort this year, which only means the new-look Bucks will need some time to gel together while also being on a bit of a shorter timeline due to their contending nature.
That being said, expectations are heavier on some players more than others, given their circumstances, reputation, and playing history around the league. Gauging just how much each player has to prove this season is obviously a subjective endeavor, but we’ll try to provide as much context as we can for each player.
Here are five Milwaukee Bucks who have the most to prove this NBA season.
5 Milwaukee Bucks with the most to prove in the 2023-24 season: Malik Beasley
After a relatively up-and-down career in the NBA thus far, Malik Beasley’s reputation has cycled from athletic scorer to blue-collar defender to, most recently, one of the association’s better long-range shooters. As a result, he’s found himself signing a veteran minimum prove-it deal with the contending Milwaukee Bucks to show what he’s really worth in the open market.
Eyes from all around the NBA are on Beasley to see if he can shed this reputation. After all, he is coming off a down season in which he averaged 12.7 points per game in 2022-23 but on a shooting efficiency that had drastically dipped from previous seasons. He shot just 39 percent from the field and hovered around the 35 percent mark from 3-point range in his two separate stops that season. The Bucks will need Beasley to be more efficient on offense this season if they want to make a deep playoff run.
Consider, too, the contract Beasley signed with the Bucks. After signing multi-year contracts worth up to $28 million, Beasley is in town on a minimum deal worth $2.7 million for just one year. His reputation as a shooter has been shaky at best, while he hasn’t really done anything remarkable to prove his skill on the defensive end.
Beasley is also trying to prove that he can be a reliable defender. He has been criticized for his defense in the past, but he has shown signs of improvement in recent seasons. According to PBP Stats, Utah’s defensive rating was better by -2.98 points given up per 100 possessions when Beasley stepped off the court. If he can become a more consistent defender, he will be an even more valuable player to the Bucks.
Add to that the fact that the Bucks are banking on him to be their fifth-starter and Grayson Allen replacement, and you have a whole lot of lofty expectations on Beasley’s shoulders.
Fortunately for us, he’s shown thus far that he’s willing to take on the challenge head-on. In Coach Griffin’s own words: “He’s going to have to take the toughest assignments most nights.”