This Friday is one of the most special and meaningful games of the season, as Jabari Parker returns. This Milwaukee Bucks team can finally be complete. This team can make a big jump from “owning the future”, to, owning the present. About a year ago, Parker tore his ACL for the second time in his NBA career. The game Parker tore his ACL was also the same game Middleton came back from his hamstring injury. So this may beg the question. What was the team like the last time Middleton and Parker played a full 48 minute game together?
Well, we will have to look back on the 2015-16 season. If we look at the rosters from then and now only five players are on both, Giannis, Parker, Middleton, Henson, and Vaughn. Players that were on the roster then include, O.J. Mayo, Jerryd Bayless, Michael Carter-Williams, Greivis Vasquez, and even Steve Novak.
That team went on to go 33-49 and 12th in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks averaged 99 points per game and allowed 103.2 points per game. Offensive ranking was 104.3 which ranked 26th in the NBA. The defensive rating does not look much better, 108.7 ranked 23rd in the NBA. 10 games were lost by 20+ points and had two 5-game losing streaks in the season. No one was averaging over 19 PPG. This was a struggling young Bucks team with a 24 year old Khris Middleton, 21 year old Giannis Antetokounmpo, and 20 year old Jabari Parker trying to lead the way.
Looking at the development from then and now is outstanding. Middleton has improved in points, rebounds, and assists. As of right now he is averaging over 20 points which, if he finishes over that mark, will be the first time in his career. Middleton’s FG% is also been a career high at .466. He is becoming a high scorer which all Bucks fans have been looking for from him. This year Middleton was the only player to average at least 20 PPG, 5 RPG, and 4 APG and not make the all-star game. He also just won the Eastern Conference player of the week for the first time in his career.
The development from Giannis has been nearly incomprehensible. He has gone from 16.9 PPG to 28.5 and 7.6 RPG to 10.3. He has clearly become a dominant NBA player. Giannis was not apart of any events in the All-Star break in 2016, but he is now a two time starter in the All-Star game. Last year he won most improved and now he has become part of the MVP conversation and has a good chance of winning it. As for Jabari, he averaged about 14 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game in the 2015-16 season. He was also shooting just above 50% from the field. His return will come with limited minutes but minutes nonetheless. Seeing Jabari back on the court will have all of Milwaukee rejoicing. If his development can be anywhere near what Giannis has done, things could get interesting. So, hopes are high for a strong comeback.
While Giannis and Middleton have improved from the 2015-16 season, many new add-ons have come along in that time. The Bucks now have a ROY Malcolm Brogdon, Eric Bledsoe, Tony Snell, and Sterling Brown. Brogdon was a 2nd round pick with not very high expectations coming into the league, but when you dunk on Lebron, Kyrie, Nerlens Noel, and Hassan Whiteside, you get noticed. Sadly, he was recently hurt and will most likely be out 6-8 weeks.
Eric Bledsoe is scoring over 16 points per game and over 2 steals a game. It is safe to say with Brogdon and Bledsoe, the Bucks PG position is doing pretty good. Tony Snell has been a go to for three pointers while coming off the bench with 8 PPG and 43% from three point land. Not only did we acquire Snell, but we lost Michael Carter-WIlliams in the trade as well. That’s a huge win-win for the Bucks. Sterling Brown has been a solid rookie the last few games. Defensively he is very good and can even knock down threes. In today’s game the three ball is a must if you want to make a run for the championship. How DeAndre Liggins was getting more minutes than Brown earlier this season is baffling.
Lastly, one of the most important differences from then and now is coaching. Jason Kidd was fired from head coach and has set the team back this season. It seemed as though Kidd could not send the Bucks over the hump to becoming a team that is one to be afraid of. Now with Prunty as head coach, the Bucks have been playing better defense and have had smarter rotations. With Parker coming back Friday, it is going to add on to the success the Bucks have been having for the past few games. So finally, the Bucks can start owning the present.
By: Derek Bergasse