Monday, November 17, 2014

I'll Take It

Before getting to the Bucks' invigorating victory in Miami on Sunday, let's get the pessimist's items out of the way:

-Three of the Bucks' five wins have come against teams with major injuries (Pacers without George Hill or David West, Thunder without Russell Westbrook and Heat without Dwyane Wade).

-One of the Bucks' five wins came against the winless 76ers.

-The other Bucks win came against a Memphis team that was playing its third road game in four nights.

(There are extenuating circumstances for the Bucks' losses as well.  Two of them were in a three-in-four-nights situation, one was on the ass end of a back-to-back and the opener in Charlotte featured some questionable officiating.  This is the NBA.  A win is a win and they all have value.)

-Twelve players got minutes, including three for Henson and ten for Dudley.  The rotation continues to be ad-hoc, which usually bodes poorly for a successful season.

-Brandon Knight struggles with court vision continue.

-Jabari Parker -- though his effort was better -- continues to struggle with rebounding.

-Zaza Pachulia continues to be the Bucks' best big man.  (Which is good for Zaza, but bad for Larry and Big Ers.

-Giannis can't shoot.

All of these things were evident.  All of them are worrying.

But, enough with the pessimist's view.

The Bucks won in Miami!

The Greek Freak continues to improve.  It's beyond the point of making the author look bad for advocating that the Bucks trade Giannis for a top draft pick.  It's beyond wondering what this guy's ceiling is.  He's a menace.  He has a scary competitive streak.  He is starting to realize what he's good at and what he should stay away from.  He is a disruptor on defense.  It's great.

In the past yours truly has compared the Greek Freak to Darius Miles.  The comparison was part criticism and part compliment.  Miles was an incredible athlete at a thin, sinewy 6' 9".  He could run the floor, finish and be disruptive on defense.  He could not shoot a lick.  Giannis has all of those traits, with an extra inch or two.

Darius Miles (along with Lamar Odom, Corey Maggette and Quentin Richardson) made the Clippers the young, hot team in 2001.  I vividly remember them blowing out the eventual World Champion Lakers in the middle of the season; Odom was nearly in tears of joy during his postgame interview.

Darius Miles's stat line as a 19 year old rookie was:

-9.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.6 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 50.5% shooting in 26.3 minutes

Giannis Antetokounmpo's stat line so far as a 19 year old sophomore is:

-11.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 52.2% shooting in 25.3 minutes

Giannis is better than Darius Miles was as a rookie.  Though the defensive stats favor a 19 year old Miles, Giannis's awareness and ability to defend with a team is better.  On offense Giannis and Miles are almost identical with the exception of Giannis being a better free throw shooter.  Neither can make jumpers, both have a knack for finishing inside and both show flashes of great court vision and passing.

Ultimately, Darius Miles wasted his considerable talent.  He, unlike Giannis, did not improve in year two.  He was traded prior to year three and in year four a Cavs team featuring a rookie named LeBron James dumped Miles on the Blazers for journeyman point guard Jeff McInnis.  He was essentially out of basketball after two more seasons.

The Bucks have a checkered history of developing talented young players, but with a new regime in place things are changing.  Giannis, along with Brandon Knight, was the Bucks' best player on the floor in Miami, and might need to be again tomorrow if the Bucks are going to beat an improving Knicks team at the Bradley Center.

Khris Middleton was the other notable item in Miami.  After receiving the dreaded DNP-CD in three of the last four games, Middleton finally got out of Coach Kidd's doghouse and played well in twenty minutes.  There were even a few minutes that Middleton played on the wing with two other guards, which made for one of those three guard lineups that I believe best supports this year's team.

The Bucks surely know that a difficult December schedule awaits them.  They are 5-5 right now, which is a good enough winning percentage to contend for a Playoff spot.  If they play defense and get timely buckets like they did in Miami, then their game in March against the Heat may mean even more than this nice win in November.

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