In the past year and a half, the Milwaukee Bucks have been on a hell of a roller coaster ride. Armed with young, hot coach Jason Kidd and an incredibly young, but talented roster, they took everyone by surprise and were a straight-up good team, heading into the All-Star Break seven games over .500 with a stingy 99.3 defensive rating. Then Kidd, armed with executive power for the first time, traded point guard Brandon Knight in the middle of a career year for Michael Carter-Williams. The Bucks limped to the finish line and bowed out meekly in the playoffs. Nevertheless, they had obvious talent to build around and the future looked bright.
The offseason was even more encouraging, with the Bucks beating out bigger-market teams for coveted free agent center Greg Monroe, who they signed to a three-year, $51-million contract. With Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Carter-Williams providing length on defense along the perimeter, Monroe’s low-post offense would tie the team together, and his poor defense would be compensated for — or so the thinking went.
Instead, Monroe’s defense has been even worse than advertised, Carter-Williams remains the limited offensive player and unfocused defensive player he’s been since he’s entered the league, and the offense hasn’t improved. Part of the defensive regression — and lack of offensive improvement — also rested with Jabari Parker, who had only played 25 games of his rookie season before tearing his ACL. He was inefficient offensively and a complete liability on defense. It’s been a frustrating sophomore campaign for Kidd and company.
Now, all of a sudden, the Bucks are on another upswing, one that only confirms just how much potential this group has. At its center is the tinkering of Kidd, and adjustments from Monroe, Parker and Antetokounmpo.