The Milwaukee Bucks are looking to build on last season’s success, but what should their key players be looking to do to take their game to the next level?
The Milwaukee Bucks had an active off-season where they hired new coach Mike Budenholzer and acquired several shooters to surround Giannis Antetokounmpo, including veterans Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova.
Something that won’t change, however, is the team’s heavy reliance on their starters. Although the bench is noticeably deeper this year, most of the wins earned by this team will be on the shoulders of the starting five.
So, what represent attainable statistical goals for each of the Bucks projected starters? What should those goals look like, considering if they’re realized, Milwaukee should end up striking fear into the hearts of their Eastern conference rivals?
Let’s take a closer look at what five of Milwaukee’s most important players should be looking to achieve.
PG: Eric Bledsoe – Have an assist to turnover ratio of 2:1 or above
Bledsoe’s 1.76 assist to turnover ratio last season ranked outside the top 100. While turnovers are a given for an aggressive, slashing point guard like Bledsoe, the Bucks’ starting point guard did have some costly ones.
Cutting down on the careless turnovers and limiting his contested shots early in the shot clock will improve this statistic and more importantly, result in more successful possessions on the offensive end for the Bucks.
SG: Malcolm Brogdon – Play in at least 75 games
Brogdon was held to only 48 games last year due to a partially torn quadriceps tendon. During the 2016-17 season, Brogdon missed seven games because of a back injury. These absences really hurt the team.
When healthy, Brogdon is arguably, the Bucks’ most consistent role player and a difference maker on both sides of the ball. Coming into the season strong and in shape is crucial, as the Bucks will be hoping Brogdon can stay away from significant absences in the months ahead.
SF: Khris Middleton – Shoot over 40 percent from three
Typically a lethal sharpshooter, Middleton shot 35.9 percent from three last season, a significant drop from his 43.3 percent conversion rate two years ago. Middleton improved in a major way post All-Star game, and took that even further in the playoffs, but now he’ll need to build on it.
A rebound in shooting will force defenders to respect his jumper even more, spacing the floor for the nearly unstoppable drives of Giannis. And who knows, he might just find himself playing in his first All-Star Game if he can deliver.
PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo – Average below 35 minutes per game during the regular season
Last season, Giannis broke out as a true superstar, averaging 26.9 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. While fantastic, Giannis accumulated these numbers while playing an unsustainable 36.7 minutes per game, which trailed only ironman LeBron James.
These minutes ultimately led to a chronic knee issue that kept him out for several games. Playing fewer minutes per game should allow Giannis to stay fresh for longer, keep those knee issues in check, and still maintain his MVP-esque stat-lines.
C – Brook Lopez – Average at least eight rebounds per 36 minutes
Although he’s seven-feet tall, Lopez has never been known as a premier rebounder. However, outside of Giannis, the Bucks lack rebounding prowess, so Lopez’s contribution on the boards will be essential to their success.
Eight rebounds per 36 minutes is just above his career average (7.8 per 36 minutes) and an attainable number for Lopez that, along with how his boxing out boosts team rebounding, would help cure one of the Bucks’ biggest weaknesses from last season.
If the starters achieve each goal without significantly regressing in other areas and the bench meaningfully contributes on a nightly basis, the Bucks will be a dominant force and have a chance to emerge as the number one team in the East.