Prior to the start of the season, Westgate Las Vegas Superbook released their over/under win totals for each NBA team, setting the bar at 24.5 wins for the Milwaukee Bucks, the second-lowest over/under.
Instead of succumbing to the under, Milwaukee has exceeded expectations, having already won 10 more games than the over/under. Even with the injury to Jabari Parker (torn ACL) and buyout of Larry Sanders, as well as other ailments, Milwaukee has been a pleasant surprise.
Even after the injury to Parker, hopes have been high for the Bucks as they went 17-11 until the All Star Break.
Intimidated by the looming free agency period when then-Bucks guard, Brandon Knight, will become a restricted free-agent, the Bucks shipped him out of town for Michael Carter-Williams, who still has two years left on his rookie deal. The Bucks also received Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee in the trade.
Some pundits felt that Milwaukee was still able to compete even with the drop in production from switching to Carter-Williams. They could not have been more wrong.
Although Carter-Williams posts higher traditional numbers than Knight, his game hasn’t manifested in wins.
|Michael Carter Williams (3-10 with Bucks)||Brandon Knight (4-6 with Suns)|
|14.5 points||14.4 points|
|3.5 rebounds||2.1 rebounds|
|5.5 assists||4.5 assists|
|1.8 steals||0.5 steals|
|0.6 blocks||0.1 blocks|
|40.5 FG%||37.6 FG%|
|12.5 3pt%||34.4 3pt%|
|82.3 FT%||85.2 FT%|
Initially, the Carter-Williams trade looks like an obvious win for Milwaukee, but the truth is both teams have been on a steady decline since the acquisitions of both of these players. Milwaukee has gone 3-10 with Carter-Williams in the lineup and Phoenix has gone 4-6 with Knight in their lineup.
Both players have combined to miss seven games due to injury since the trade.
The futility by both of these teams has negatively affected their playoff chances. Phoenix at one point was holding the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference standings; currently, Phoenix is on the outside looking in, trailing the Oklahoma City Thunder by 2.5 games for the eighth spot.
Milwaukee on the other hand is still in playoff contention holding the sixth spot in the East, but if it were not for their drastic drop-off, they might have been positioned in the top-four.
It’s becoming evident that Milwaukee, a team that never really had a chance at the Larry O’Brien trophy, is preparing for the future. Yes, this Bucks team was outperforming their expectations as well as Vegas’ but the future is where their eyes are set on.
Already mentioned was Carter-Williams’ rookie contract, but the rest of this Milwaukee roster will be intact for next season. All but two players are set to be on the payroll next season, Chris Johnson and Khris Middleton. Milwaukee does have figure the Middleton issue out as he improved his game drastically, surely to command a decent contract in the offseason. Jared Dudley holds an early-termination option.
With this roster nearly intact, it’s become more of a developmental period for MCW. Barring any catastrophic breakdown, Milwaukee will be playing late-April basketball. This is the key: Carter-Williams gets postseason experience.
Heck, who knows? Maybe they can pull off some miraculous series victory. Nothing is out the window yet.
Philadelphia and their 20-year rebuilding plan was the biggest opposition to Carter-Williams’ development. The amount of losing that Philadelphia suffered had to have taken a toll on his psyche. Remember, these men are professionals competing at the highest level and probably haven’t lost more than 10-games since back in modified basketball. The losing hurts.
It also helps to have one of the best point guards of all time as your head coach.
Albeit the winning situation isn’t as glamorous in Philly, the young talent in Milwaukee shows a bright future.
We already know about Giannis “The Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo and his accelerated development, but there are plenty of other highlights. John Henson is a young 6-11 center, providing the rim protection some teams desperately covet, and you can’t forget about the two other players acquired in the deal with Phoenix.
Ennis, a rookie, still has plenty of time to develop, taking constant trips to the D-League to hone his skills. Eventually, he’ll make his way on to the active roster. Plumlee was starting for a Phoenix team that nearly made the playoffs the previous season and he’s only in his second year in the league.
If Milwaukee can manage to retain Middleton, in two or three years, this can be a team that makes significant noise in the East. Also, we can’t forget about the return of Parker next season.
A question mark of a trade has merely become an extension of the rebuilding process. Milwaukee has its eyes set on the future, and the future is bright.