Giannis Antetokounmpo was the talk of the NBA after the All-Star break. That's when Jason Kidd moved him to point guard, where at 6'11", he averaged 18.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.9 blocks. (In September he signed a four-year, $100 million deal.)
But if the Greek Freak is officially the team's cornerstone, then 2014 No. 2 pick Jabari Parker showed he is a substantial building block. As he recovered from a left-ACL injury that cut his rookie season short, the 6'8" forward also blossomed after the All-Star break: Parker lifted his average from 11.3 points to 18.9, giving Milwaukee a true offensive threat on the wing.
Parker's scoring spiked as his stroke became more reliable. As he continues to build his game out to the perimeter, he can become an übersmooth throwback scorer next to the Bucks' futuristic point forward.
Milwaukee will struggle without the shooting of Khris Middleton, who is out until at least the All-Star break with a torn left hamstring. (The trade of Michael Carter-Williams to Chicago for Tony Snell should help.) Antetokounmpo will undoubtedly be a star. If Parker can grow alongside him, it won't matter that the present is complicated. The future is bright.
PROJECTED LINEUP | 2015--16 stats
COACH JASON KIDD (3rd season with Bucks)
2015--16 RECORD 33--49 (5th in Central)
PG MATTHEW DELLAVEDOVA*
7.5 PPG; 4.4 APG; 40.5 FG%; 41.0 3FG%
SG RASHAD VAUGHN
3.1 PPG; 1.3 RPG; 30.5 FG%; 29.3 3FG%
SF GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO
16.9 PPG; 7.7 RPG; 4.3 APG; 50.6 FG%
PF JABARI PARKER
14.1 PPG; 5.2 RPG; 0.9 SPG; 49.3 FG%
C GREG MONROE
15.3 PPG; 8.8 RPG; 0.8 BPG; 52.2 FG%
PF MIRZA TELETOVIC*
12.2 PPG; 3.8 RPG; 42.7 FG%; 39.3 3FG%
SF TONY SNELL*
5.3 PPG; 3.1 RPG; 37.2 FG%; 36.1 3FG%
SG KHRIS MIDDLETON†
18.2 PPG; 4.2 APG; 44.4 FG%; 39.6 3FG%
*NEW ACQUISITION †INJURED, EXPECTED TO MISS SIGNIFICANT TIME
TELLING NUMBER 18.9
A rival scout sizes up Milwaukee
It is very unfortunate for them that Khris Middleton got hurt [out at least five months with a torn left hamstring]. I don't know if he's as good as some of the advanced metrics rate him, but what is clear is that the Bucks are terrible when he's not on the floor—nowhere near a competent NBA team.... Hot take for you: Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to average, like, 19 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, and make the All-Star Game. And the team's gonna stink.... Jabari Parker can't shoot threes, and neither can Giannis, and it's really hard to play with more than two guys who can't. So, if they're gonna play Giannis and Jabari, they should use Mirza Teletovic as a de facto center, since he can shoot threes, and he's kind of strong.... But it'll be hard for them to do that lineup because they have, literally, $40 million per season tied up in [centers] Greg Monroe,Miles Plumlee and John Henson.... If you don't have enough shooting, it's really hard to be good on offense in the modern NBA. Especially in the half-court. If you do a good job pushing the ball and getting out and running, you can score in transition. Maybe they'll be able to do that with Giannis, which will make up for some of their issues.... [First-round pick] Thon Maker plays really hard, he's pretty mobile, but he has very little feel for the game and poor strength. He can't make shots at game speed yet. I hope they're not expecting him to play.... It's hard to figure out how the team makes sense as currently constructed. Jason Kidd's had a lot of influence in personnel moves, and I don't think that's been a good thing.
A return to the playoffs is likely a year away. But what a fun year it will be.